Buying an x-carve


duckkisser
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So I have been contiplating buying a CNC router ever since my friend bought one for his company.  Only thing stoping me before was price I had thought about buying the x-carve before but from what I could tell it had a lot of flex to the frame and had some major flaws that they have since worked out. I am currently reorganizing my shop and dust collection so that I can have one to run while I'm working on other projects or just around the house.  The idea is that I can set up a project to run by itself that I can sell at craft sales on its own and I can make projects for myself.  This is what I was thinking to make to sell at craft/music sales to pay off the machine

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=YxywZyLg&id=76F47B01810DB2825ED21A144FE7FE9F7D79F0E9&thid=OIP.YxywZyLgHAB9Ur4l5o6E8AEsEe&q=vyinl+record+cut+images&simid=608005819889813130&selectedIndex=12

So anyone that has a CNC can you give me some advice and if you have x-carve what do you think of it

1-what accessories do I need for it

2-how did you set up your stand for cnc

3- do you use a lot of jigs and fixtures

4-does x-carve need to be baby sat or can I leave it alone for a couple hours

5-after they updated the machine is there any flaws in the x-carve

 

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That's the stands I built for mine. Nothing fancy.

 

Get the dust collection shoe for it. I do suggest making side brackets for the Y axis rails out of 1/8" aluminum plate.

 

Get the precision 1/8" collet

 

Get the touch plate kit

 

Get a lot of bits. 1/32 is the smallest I usually use. It's for really fine detail. There's really only 4 bit sizes you need 1/4 if you're doing a lot of stock removal, 1/8 this will be your main bit for for most things, 1/16 when the 1/8 is just a bit too big, 1/32 for all things with lots of detail.

 

Buy a lot of 1/32 bits, they will break after a while.

 

Make yourself some cam clamps and adjustable sliding clamps. I made my own waste board instead of buying there's, bought a bunch of threaded inserts, and got 1/4 20 bolts for all my hold downs and clamps.9fd03b13a56812427baef27c5932fdf4.jpgf39cb5b42fb3fc4576b3424084a7a670.jpg5d36604eff10850e5e740c40d41f3835.jpg74169e41295ac370aed201ff452c1d9d.jpgdaca44510976c7f0e841192bbe0be976.jpgfaae564f67225215a6ce5265ba8e2880.jpg

 

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Nice I especially like the clamps very helpful for making signs

think I'll build two drawers one for bits and one for clamps and wrenches just because you mention clamps and bits.

Where do you buy your bits from?

any suggestion on clamping down vinyl records?

how long have you had machine? Have you paid it off with projects yet?

how well does it run without you "baby sitting"it?

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I buy my bits from http://drillbitsunlimited.com/

I've had the machine for 11 months. I had the previous version and then bought the upgrade kit. Because I bought the old version a week before the announcement of the new machine Inventables gave me a credit towards the new machine upgrade kit. 

I've paid for my machine twice over. I've made a good number of plaques and signs for people, which got me an order for 42 plaques. 

If you build it right and take your time and pay attention to tuning it properly it's a very reliable machine. I don't babysit mine anymore. It took about 6 weeks to learn the right feed speeds and depth for each bit. Once you get accustomed to the machine and you set your project up, I usually just set a timer and check on it periodically. 

For holding down vinyl records, I would suggest using a screw down clamp, they look like this. I suggest maybe gluing a bit of cork or some sort of high density foam to protect the vinyl so you don't mar it up. 

maxresdefault.jpg

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I'm a CNC owner and builder, actually 6 of them. I did not owned a X-Carve personally, but I know comparable machines, and structure and mechanics principles applies to any CNC. Before answering your questions, I must talk about some generalities in the CNC world. First, a CNC is a tool and, as a tool, it must match your needs or your workshop program. You won't need the same machine if you plan to cut, to mill or to carve, and not the same machine if you want to machine MDF or boards, than if you want to machine hardwood. The X-Carve is an entry model to the CNC milling machine world, as a small palm router is to the router world. Despite of few ameliorations on the V2, the X-Carve is a cheap and light CNC router. All the encountered issues haven't been solved yet, and the machine pays the tribute of a budget oriented conception. If your needs are low, like light carving, no long run machining, it should be OK as it is. A lot of users are mostly satisfied. But if you're used to woodwork with serious tools or if the perspectives of CNC machining push yourself to do more serious work on it, the limits are shown quickly.

A little bit of history. At the start, the X-Carve had a too light structure with issues, especially with the double beam gantry. But as it used a very small spindle you could not notice. But the small spindle can only mill with thin passes and any average job could take hours, with a noticeable overheating of motors and electronics. So people wanted to upgrade the little spindle to a router to be able to cut deeply into the wood on a single pass. But the result was not as good as expected : as you cut deeply into a material, the forces applied to the cutting tool increases, and the structure begins to show its limits. Frankly speaking, the X-Carve could not hold more than half of the capacity of the same router hold by hand. People did some custom upgrades to fix the two beam gantry, and it helps a bit, without being able to fully exploit the router power (400-1000w). So the feed and speed of the X-Carve remains low. Inventables took in consideration users upgrades on the V2 with an 1 piece gantry and the dust shoe as major improvements. Now the structure is a bit better, but users encounters new issues. As the feed and speed can be raised a bit, now it's the transmission that lose steps.

If Inventables keeps on doing minor upgrades on its initial structure, this will be an endless suite of issues and fixings on a machine which is not engineered for heavy duty work anyways. Inventables needs to do what have been done with the actual Shapeoko III : a full new study for a step up machine. So my advice is to understand what you buy. Buy the X-Carve for what it is, and what it can do, but don't expect much, and above all don't ask it to do much. Actually, in the entry range, the Shapeoko III represents a better value for money. But if you want to work as fluently as with your 10" table saw, you need an even better CNC machine. For a first step into the CNC milling world, light machines is a good start. But as you don't buy an excellent tool, it will probably shows more limitations than possibilities. In a way, the X-Carve is not a good ambassador of the CNC Milling world. But if you buy a proper CNC mill, it will probably change the way you will engineer your pieces, you will do a better job much faster. Same for your workshop setup. Definitely.

A fiew about CNCs. A CNC can simplify your work in a way, but it also requires a lot. Especially with wood, you need to know a lot about wood to succeed. Especially wood grain, tear-out issues, and so on. You need to learn about feed and speed and tool profiles which is the heart of CNC machining. The CNC will be more precise as you can ever be, and repeat operations with a perfection human hand can't provide. Definitely. And believe me, with a proper CNC, the perfect job is done fast. The point is, the engineering time of your piece can be much longer that the time needed for your CNC to do the job. But as the CNC do the job, you can engineer the next one. That said : never let a CNC working alone, you need an operator around permanently.

41xGLqv5HML.jpg

Answering your questions :

1-what accessories do I need for it ?
Well, the X-Carve is delivered with all the necessary in the box. Just connect a Shopvac and you're good to go. But plan to buy good endmills collection. Carbide ones are for experienced users because they're quick to crash, but nice HSS ones will be ok. Don't buy cheap, your cut quality depends mostly of your endmill quality. Through, as a good blade for a saw, a good end mill helps a lot perfectible machines. A good machinist clamping helpers set is also a must.

2-how did you set up your stand for cnc
A good base is a must for any CNC, and especially for a twistable thing as the X-Carve. Build a steady base like a workbench. I must be dead flat with adjustable machine feet.

3- do you use a lot of jigs and fixtures
Definitely not ! A CNC is about precision an repeatability. It's all about no more jigs ever. This will make sense along the way...

4-does x-carve need to be baby sat or can I leave it alone for a couple hours
Already answered : no indeed. Never leave a CNC working alone. Definitely. But this is a CNC, so you can stop the job and start it over a week later, no problem. A machine with endstops is able to take the XYZ zero origin, then it knows where to start. Making a custom origin by hand is a risky business, because you loose one of your best feature : repeatability.

5-after they updated the machine is there any flaws in the x-carve
Already answered : it's a sad yes. Even with upgrades, machining takes time on a X-Carve and you won't change this. You must stay low in your expectations. Have a look to the Shapeoko. It's in the same range price and the overall machine is a step further. Don't focus on milling area. As I said, repeatability helps you to do larger jobs on a smaller machine. Like with a 10" jointer, you can make a whole table by gluing pieces together. Remember parts are perfectly machined, so you can potentially make the Empire State Building in scale 1, puzzle style. Through, this is your first CNC buy, maybe it's not your lifetime CNC.

6-any suggestion on clamping down vinyl records?
For thin, light or soft materials like plastic sheets, the best is a vacuum table (your CNC can mill one). Some double sided tape can make the trick but this is not 100% safe. If you plan to make records, I mean playable records, you must watch your CNC resolution and the precision of the overall machine. A better machine will probably produce better results.

7-how long have you had machine? Have you paid it off with projects yet?
I'm into CNC technology since 2009. If you plan to make money with your CNC, you'd better have an exceptional product, very attractive, and be the only one to produce it. Or maybe an interesting formula for people, like Tom does. I can't advice you on this, it should be your way, according to your neighborhood needs. Otherwise, it's the rat race for production and low cost, which is not really interesting because you cannot be competitive. Some companies already have a much productive machine and can do better prices. Keep in mind that hobby machines are far away to be production machines. End mill bits don't last that much, which is an expense, and you may destroy your hobby machine in a few. Through, you can't imagine a business with a single machine. An operator pays his salary managing at least 6 machines.

8-how well does it run without you "baby sitting"it?
Hmm, same question coming frequently. If you want to plan running the machine on the morning before going to work, or by night when you sleep, just forget it. My bigger CNC machine is an heavy duty full sheet CNCs with AC encoded servo motors. The AC power is regulated. Understand I cannot loose steps, and the machine is as safe as a machine can be. BUT, you need to watch your machine permanently. Despite your machine quality and all the care you'll take, issues can happen, and they happens suddenly. A beakdown, a bit exploding, released tensions in the material, a clamp failure... Let me say you, there's a huge amount of situations that requires your help quickly. If you don't, the issues can be from pittyfull (you destroyed a bit or your material), to dramatic (your shop is on fire, it could happen to me). Two rules : 1.Don't let a robot working alone. 2.Never derogate to rule 1.

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27 minutes ago, duckkisser said:

do you have the free program they give you? how well does it work for speed control like you said
 

Easel is a web based application. It's really easy to use and great for getting started. Makes doing inlays really easy, as well as most other "2D" cutting. If you want to do 3d carving, you're going to need to use an application that can model, and generate GCode for this. I prefer Autodesk Fusion 360, it's free for hobbyists. It has a bit of a learning curve but there is tons of online learning for it via youtube and cad/cam websites.

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I'm just looking for short work to pay off machine and make little extra for material and supplies in the shop.  what sells at craft shows, music shows, ect  is the lower price repeat items like necklaces or small boxes.  but to make any money on it I have to batch out projects  which is boring to make. I'm not looking for a 8-12 hour company to pay off house.  so I wont be using for production. but I would like to come home for work and run cnc a hour or two in shop while I turn or work on a project for the home. so if I can make one sign or one record a night I would be happy with that.  and for the same reason I'm not buying a 100 thousand dollar production machine.  

you are talking about buying a shapeoko compared to a x-carve what makes shapeoko a better machine or is it? I was looking at the x carve for the foot print , it comes with a dust collection system and it comes with basic software which would work for what I'm initially planning on using machine for. 

 

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^^^^^ Agree with Jean. Specifically to the question of leaving the machine unattended - No, no, no. I've replaced more than a few CNC routers because they were left unattended. Motors stall while the tool is in the material, the tool sits in one place and spins at 20,000 rpm and you have a fire.

On a side note, my router table (not cnc) has a 1" thick phenolic top that I salvaged from a burned up CNC.

Tom - what alloy of aluminum were you cutting in that photo? Also, what tool were you using and were you using any lubricant?

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1 minute ago, duckkisser said:

you are talking about buying a shapeoko compared to a x-carve what makes shapeoko a better machine or is it? I was looking at the x carve for the foot print , it comes with a dust collection system and it comes with basic software which would work for what I'm initially planning on using machine for. 

 

The shapeoko has a stronger gantry, the axes on the shapeoko use linear rails versus v groove rails and rollers. The shapeoko and the Xcarve both use belts for moving the axes. 

I've run my Xcarve for 12 hours straight, 30 minutes at a time between switching out blanks for the plaques I was making. I did this for 2 days, then another hour for cutting keyholes on the backs for hanging the plaques. It's not as stiff laterally as I would like it to be. However for my use it's sufficient. If I'm cutting big items, I'm gonna use my 5 HP bandsaw, Tablesaw, and I'm gonna flatten boards with my jointer and planer. 

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5 minutes ago, Mick S said:

Tom - what alloy of aluminum were you cutting in that photo? Also, what tool were you using and were you using any lubricant?

6061. I was using a carbide ball nose 1/8" bit. It was recommended that faster shallow passes be used for the aluminum. I tried one while using a lube and it actually cut worse. Most people recommended cutting it dry. I wound up settling on using a dry bit lubricant but not a spray. That first section I cut, I made a mistake and plowed the bit into the side of the piece messing it up. That's a lesson you learn quickly not to repeat. 

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now I'm thinking I should make a shapeoko xxl about the same size os x carve comes with a basic program to get me started stronger frame so I can cut deeper so it guess it wont take as long to cut I'm going to have to look at some side by side comparisons

any thoughts?

 

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Tom - I figured that one galled cut was an oops. I notice in your video that you're cutting in a conventional direction. 6061 generally cuts better with a climb cut. If you look at the offcut side of the blank and compare the edge quality to the edge on your part it will tell you.

As a rule, I agree with the advice you got about faster, shallower passes. The faster speed gives you a higher chip load which reduces friction.

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I'm leaning more towards the shapoko

same price range, stronger gantry and rails, larger thicker belt (don't know if that will make a difference) both come with basic software, I have to build a dust boot to put on it but more importantly it comes with the option to expand with longer rails which means I can do longer projects

 

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Thicker belts make a huge difference. The belt type should correspond at the torque to be hold by the transmission. The X-Carve keeps its original belts which was properly dimensioned for the small spindle of the V1. There's a story about Edward Ford, the creator of the Shapeoko and his divorce with Inventables, that leads to the X-Carve on a side and the Shapeoko III on the other side. Engineering conflict. E.Ford wanted the next Shapeoko to be stronger while Inventables wanted to keep a best seller with raising profits...

@duckkisser, don't focus on size. Most of beginners think the CNC milling area is always too small. The truth is, most of the time we use a quarter or a half or our CNC machining area. Keep in mind you can always mill strong and complex (decorative?) joinery with perfect fit, with no effort.

A dust shoe is pretty easy to build once you own a CNC. It should be one of your first project. Some CNC owners are superstitious and think the first projet should be for the machine for a good future ^_^

joinery-detail-custom-fit.jpgIMG_6909.JPG

@Tom Cancelleri and @Mick S there's a lot of feed and speed calculators or charts available online. This is all about formulas. Generally the serious bit manufacturers gives the tooth capacity of your bit, and it's all you need to calculate the best feed and speed. In your video Tom, we can see the X-Carve aluminium milling capacity which is very low. It only allows to grind a shallow layer of aluminium with a low quality of cut. This is not criticism, but this is not the best you can expect of a CNC in this price range. The following video shows how a 1200€ ($1400) Wood CNC kit mills a 15mm (0.6") thick aluminum in real time. That's what you should expect or a proper CNC mill. Note the DIY dust shoe, lol !

As you can see, the cut quality is just perfect, and the machine allows deep passes.

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12 minutes ago, Jean [Fr] said:

Thicker belts make a huge difference. The belt type should correspond at the torque to be hold by the transmission. The X-Carve keeps its original belts which was properly dimensioned for the small spindle of the V1. There's a story about Edward Ford, the creator of the Shapeoko and his divorce with Inventables, that leads to the X-Carve on a side and the Shapeoko III on the other side. Engineering conflict. E.Ford wanted the next Shapeoko to be stronger while Inventables wanted to keep a best seller with raising profits...

@duckkisser, don't focus on size. Most of beginners think the CNC milling area is always too small. The truth is, most of the time we use a quarter or a half or our CNC machining area. Keep in mind you can always mill strong and complex (decorative?) joinery with perfect fit, with no effort.

A dust shoe is pretty easy to build once you own a CNC. It should be one of your first project. Some CNC owners are superstitious and think the first projet should be for the machine for a good future ^_^

joinery-detail-custom-fit.jpgIMG_6909.JPG

@Tom Cancelleri and @Mick S there's a lot of feed and speed calculators or charts available online. This is all about formulas. Generally the serious bit manufacturers gives the tooth capacity of your bit, and it's all you need to calculate the best feed and speed. In your video Tom, we can see the X-Carve aluminium milling capacity which is very low. It only allows to grind a shallow layer of aluminium with a low quality of cut. This is not criticism, but this is not the best you can expect of a CNC in this price range. The following video shows how a 1200€ ($1400) Wood CNC kit mills a 15mm (0.6") thick aluminum in real time. That's what you should expect or a proper CNC mill. Note the DIY dust shoe, lol !

As you can see, the cut quality is just perfect, and the machine allows deep passes.

The bit size has a fair bit to do with the ability to remove that much material. If that were a 1/8" bit it would have broken before the first pass. However given what I was making, the bit size was appropriate for the holes. Also, I don't think that qualifies as a dust shoe :)

Again, depending on what you're doing with a CNC depends on how much machine one person needs. My needs in my shop where 99% of my building is done via hand and power tools. The random inlays or maybe cutting small parts for making a hand full of jewelry boxes while I work on other things, the XCarve is sufficient. The majority of people using them and assembling them don't know their ass from their elbows. If you want to go one step further, forget the Shapeoko and look at the CNC Shark. Again, for what Duck was looking to do, etching images into vinyl records, even the cheap Chinese CNCs on ebay would be sufficient for cutting that. 

 

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speaking of ass from my elbos I'm still here :) using sketch up to plan out some simple tables. ill probably use mine for about the same as you repeat projects to sell, inlays and using to make my own projects better like using the joints that jean is showing or simple inlays. but I am thinking I might want to get shapeoko the flex in xcarve always bothered me and I cant afford cnc shark in the size I want. and honestly I realy like the idea of upgrade length of shapeoko down the line when I have a project I need to make that is long like custom shutters on my house :) 

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Tom Cancelleri said:

The bit size has a fair bit to do with the ability to remove that much material. If that were a 1/8" bit it would have broken before the first pass. However given what I was making, the bit size was appropriate for the holes. Also, I don't think that qualifies as a dust shoe :)

Again, depending on what you're doing with a CNC depends on how much machine one person needs. My needs in my shop where 99% of my building is done via hand and power tools. The random inlays or maybe cutting small parts for making a hand full of jewelry boxes while I work on other things, the XCarve is sufficient. The majority of people using them and assembling them don't know their ass from their elbows. If you want to go one step further, forget the Shapeoko and look at the CNC Shark. Again, for what Duck was looking to do, etching images into vinyl records, even the cheap Chinese CNCs on ebay would be sufficient for cutting that. 

 

I agree. Cut quality is the result of many factors. Regardless of the tool size, there are some general do's and don'ts that contribute to the cut quality. For instance, the smaller the tool diameter, the faster the rotation speed. With some exceptions, the harder the material the more likely it is to cut better with climb cuts, etc. 

I did some tests cuts a few years ago for a manufacturer of aircraft seat frames in 1-1/8" aircraft aluminum. I used a 3/8" diameter cutter at 32,000 rpm at 225 inches per minute taking 3/8" deep passes. The router had a 16hp spindle and cost $200,000. Not talking apples to apples, but the same physics are at play.

The chips in Jean's video are what you should focus on. If you pause the video and look closely, from the end the chips look like the number 6. You won't get that from a round nose bit, but with a straight bit, that's what you're looking for in aluminum.

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3 hours ago, Tom Cancelleri said:

The bit size has a fair bit to do with the ability to remove that much material. If that were a 1/8" bit it would have broken before the first pass. However given what I was making, the bit size was appropriate for the holes. Also, I don't think that qualifies as a dust shoe :)

Again, depending on what you're doing with a CNC depends on how much machine one person needs. My needs in my shop where 99% of my building is done via hand and power tools. The random inlays or maybe cutting small parts for making a hand full of jewelry boxes while I work on other things, the XCarve is sufficient. The majority of people using them and assembling them don't know their ass from their elbows. If you want to go one step further, forget the Shapeoko and look at the CNC Shark. Again, for what Duck was looking to do, etching images into vinyl records, even the cheap Chinese CNCs on ebay would be sufficient for cutting that. 

Yeah, the dust shoe is so trash !

The CNC Shark is not in the same price range. We were talking about $1000-1500 machines. But actually you should be able to enjoy a comparable machine in the range we were talking about. Even if the bit is adequate for the aluminum job, you can't do this on a X-Carve with the same bit. That's the point. If some machines in this price range are able to do this, why would you buy an inferior tool at the same price tag ? The Holzfraese (means WoodBit in German) is a kind of plywood kit, like a Build your CNC stuff, maybe better engineered (better transmission, less hardware).

As I said earlier, a lot of X-Carve users enjoy using it, just like you. Some people are also aware the area of expertise of the X-Carve is really limited. I understand it matches your needs. Hopefully because the X-Carve won't allow much more. IMHO, that's what's wrong with some budget CNC mills: it gives you a taste of what a CNC can do, but it do not allows you to fully take advantage of that technology. A proper CNC mill allows you to take deep passes in most of the materials, so it is as efficient as a good workshop tool. It's not meant to do only what conventional tools can't do easily, it's meant to reduce the time needed to make most the operations the other tools can do, plus what the other tools can't do. All with a high precision level. If you have to produce by numbers, a CNC is just unbeatable. You can also start over the same job a year later in a click. But if you buy a too light CNC mill, a simple operation should take 3 times what you can do it with conventional tool. That's why 99% of what a X-Carve owner builds is done with conventional tools.

Well, not exactly. Because you also need to allow yourself to change all the work habits. The whole piece must be engineered for a CNC job. Don't get me wrong, you can do exactly the same pieces with a CNC than with conventional tools. But you need to optimize the machining to be done in a single pass. This is the major difficulty for woodworkers : changing the habits. You will use probably more floating tenons and dowels than by the past. But you are able to make all the pieces you want, even classic ones.

Sure a lower quality CNC can carve vinyls which is the actual requirement. Will it be the same few months later ? You can't sell a X-Carve at a close to new price tag. You'd rather buy a tool that offers a wide range of applications than a limited one. Anyways, you just want to make the best deal. A light CNC mill, like the X-Carve, is probably not the best value in the same price range.

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The OX CNC from OpenBuilds is another option to look at in that general size/price range. I built on with my son as a little engineering project. I looked hard at the Shapeoko, and still think it's a great option, but decided to go with the OX and a 400W spindle instead of a router. I can't tell you if I made the right decision, but I've really enjoyed the OX. It's a very capable machine.

 

Sent from my SM-G930P using Tapatalk

 

 

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I realy do think ill get the shapeoko 3 cnc ill mostly be using it for smaller project, inlays, decorative sighns ect but I like the fact that I can have a solid machine for less flex and deeper cuttings and I can expand it with a expansion kit so I can do longer projects would like to do room screens or custom cupboard doors. 

anyone want to talk me out of it?
 

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Not really, the Shapeoko 3 is a good value for the price. But there's a lot of available options to get a CNC within that price range. Ready made industrial CNC from China to 100% DIY CNC plans you can adapt to your needs. Just to have a look around, you should probably take a bit of time to compare different options :

GarageWorx CNC, a very affordable kit with multiple options and a growing comunitty.

https://www.smw3d.com/ox-cnc-kit/

CNC Router Parts

Joe's CNC kits

100% DIY CNC Router (a budget option)

Despite reputation, China is a serious challenger for low cost industrial machines.

MechMate : Hundreds of professional grade budget DIY CNCs making money around the world, if you know how to weld...

Those are only a few examples of the huge variety of possible options. If it don't show you what you want, it should shows what you don't want, and maybe what you would be interested in.

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