What is the maximum material thickness I can use with the X-Carve?

Many people are curious about the tallest material they can use with the standard X-Carve. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a complicated question because it depends on the length of the bit you are using, the type of spindle you have, and the thickness of the material.

Here are the basic machine stats:
  • The maximum clearance from the top of the waste board to the bottom of the DeWalt 611 spindle collet is about 67mm. However, this measurement does not account for the length of your bit. This is not the same as saying that you can fit a piece of 67mm thick material into the machine. 
  • The travel of the z-axis along the drive rod is about 90mm.
  • The maximum bit length you can install is 38mm. Keep in mind that using longer bits will result in more bit deflection and potential errors. You can counteract deflection by using a bit with a wider cutting diameter (say, 1/4" instead of 1/8"), but using longer bits is difficult to do effectively.
One way to approach the question of maximum material thickness is to use this approximate equation:

(Material thickness) + (length of bit) ≤ 67mm

It's important to make sure that the length of your bit (which will be the same or greater than your depth of cut) and the height of your material are less than or equal to 67mm. In other words, the maximum material thickness you can use correlates with how deeply you want to carve into the material. Here are two ways to conceptualize this: 
  • Engraving your material: If you are engraving your material, you may be able to get away with a piece of material that is ~57mm thick if your cutting depth and length of your bit is no greater than 10mm.
  • Cutting through your material (cut-outs): The maximum height for a cut-out is approximately half the total 67mm work area, or ~33mm tall. The cut depth needs to be the same as the material thickness in order to cut all the way through it. To be safe, your material should be 31mm (1.25") thick or less for thru-cuts. Keep in mind that this will also take a considerable amount of time to cut through a piece of material this thick.

The X-Carve is it is an open source machine and we've published all the engineering files online. If you are interested in making modifications to your z-axis, we suggest bouncing ideas off our awesome forum community. Many forum users have undertaken this challenge already, and they will likely save you some time and roadblocks!

We sell MakerSlide and you'll need to figure out some other things like the clearance of the tool holder and the gantry. Some people have looked at solutions where you take out the waste board. If you have ideas, please post them to the forum: we'd love to see them!

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