3d software for carving

Is there a free 3d program out there that will create shapeoko g-code? I am on a limited income but would like to explore 3d carving without breaking the bank.
Luckily I have a wood mizer and 320 acres to loot for wood material so it is my retirement activity.

Carbide Create Pro is free for a year:

List of other options at:



If you’d let us know what sort of work you wish to do and how you wish to approach it, we’ll try to better advise.

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with Carbide Create Pro you can do Cutting STL models with Carbide Create Pro (nearly-2021 edition) kind of things
(and if all you want is just carve STL files you can even skip that, but for including 3D in a bigger design you want Carbide Create Pro)


I have the free pro license but it wont let me open or import svg.

sorry,I meant .stl it wont open


There are some steps you need to do, I think, in order to get an STL to import properly in carbide create pro, see the link above for the guide/steps (thanks, @fenrus!) …

reading it now, thanks

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Printed it out, got some lernin to do. Now to pick an stl and a piece of stock. Do you have any experience with white cedar and how it carves? I have some nice pieces and it should be soft enough if I make any mistakes.

the big thing for 3d carving wood is to try to avoid wood that is very “stringy”… ball nose endmills don’t do so well on stringy wood.

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That’s why I decided against basswood (even when sawing it on the sawmill there are strings hanging on it). But white cedar usually finishes up nice as long as it is dry. Anyway, I have plenty of wood to try, and this is an experiment to start. Thanks for the help.

also a small but flat endmill can get “ok” results on stringy wood… just not as nice as a ballnose.

if you don’t have one yet, try investigating a tapered ball nose endmill … those tend to be nicer than straight ones (but note that they often advertise radius, not diameter) in that they are more sturdy for small diameter… which means it goes faster.

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I just have a couple straight ball nose bits that I never used. A1/8 and a 1/4, but I will definitely check out the tapered bits.
I also have some 1/16 flat endmills that I haven’t had the “guts” to try.


How are you drying your wood. I have some air dried mesquite but want to start milling green wood and have seen plans for solar kilns. Do you air dry or use a kiln?

I am going to look at a tractor tomorrow in anticipation of getting a milling operation going.

I had thought about building a solar kiln a few times, but life got in the way. I have a bandsaw mill and have been cutting lumber for about 20 years now so I have a good supply. I air dry my wood under a roof with free air flow. As far as how long it takes, Basswood dries in a few months, whereas oak or maple take about a year/inch of thickness. Cedar takes about 6-9 months.
I prefer to air dry as a solar kiln can dry your wood too fast and cause warping, twisting, or splitting. It can be done, but you have to tightly band and stack your wood in a way that it can’t move at all. I do get some waste by air drying, but after a couple of summers of cutting, I have more wood than I can use. I do trade for equipment now and then when the woodworking store that I deal with needs more lumber to keep up with demand. In the end, once you start milling your own wood, it gets in your blood and you can’t stop. Whichever way you get there, the end result is all that counts.

PS: one other benefit of milling your own wood is that you get access to many types of wood that you could never go buy at a lumber yard. I have used “ironwood”(I am told its real name is hop-hornbeam) which cant be bought anywhere. It’s hard to work, but anything built with it will last forever.

Happy woodworking

so in my experience, flat endmills can do great in 3d carving for some type of designs, like artificial designs where you have several flat areas. Ball nose does better if you have smooth curves etc…

If you’re worried about cut quality or stringyness of the wood… do your roughing pass with a smaller flat endmill THe flat endmills cut through the strings better than ballnose, and the smaller the roughing bit, the less there is for the ballnose to remove (and thus less that can string up on you)

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