CNC Machine Newbie

I am new to CNC and would like to purchase a CNC. I have looked at Xcarve and the Nomad. There is some difference in price but both within the money range for me. Xcarve is driven by belts, has a larger working area and is an open to the environment while the Nomad is screw driven, has a much smaller working area and closed to the environment. The Xcarve is expandable and the Nomad is not. Will the reduced space and the restriction to expand be a problem? I feel that the drive mechanism on the Nomad is superior. I like the fully-enclosed machine. is there anyone out there that would share their opinions about my concerns. Thanks!

Don’t have any experience w/ a Nomad, but the Carbide 3D equiv. (actually it’s a successor to the Shapeoko 2 which the X-Carve was forked from) is the Shapeoko 3:

Conversely, if you wanted to compare the Nomad to an equivalent product from Inventables, that would be their Carvey.

I had a Shapeoko 2 (which I got for free for doing the instructions), and it was a nice machine — the problem is, scaling it up is a bit involved, and best done only on the Y-axis — that Inventables doesn’t offer a 500mm (X) x 1000mm (Y) machine, and that they haven’t built into the machine a way to fasten the double Makerslide X-axis is inscrutable (to me at least). See their forums for a lot of discussions on how the community has attempted to address this in ad hoc fashion. See for a discussion of how increasing the size of the SO1/2 was handled.

Thanks Will, I appreciate your input.

I am in basically the same boat as you are Roger. I love the X-Carve but there is also a Shapeoko XXL ( which is slightly larger than the X-Carve. The Shapeoko XXL cost more and I’m not sure what features (if any) you get for the extra $$$. I’m in the process of making a Pro/Con chart for both machines now. From what I’ve seen so far I don’t think you can go wrong with either machine.

This article should be a good starting point on what one gets w/ an SO3, vice an SO2 or X-Carve:

esp. note this image:

For a new user,I totally recommend belts over ballscrew unless accuracy is the first priority,You crash a belt machine and it gets noisy briefly just before you stop it,crash a ballscrew machine and it gets expensive just before you stop it.

The SO3 wins it for me,purely for size and capability.

Also,on a side note,people shouldnt look down on belt drive,some Bridgeports are belt driven…


Thanks for the reply, interested in your pro/con chart, if you don’t mine sharing when complete.

Thanks for the article.

Good point about the belts vs the screw. Thanks

For the spindle maybe but I’ve never come across a mill that has belt driven axis?! Which model?

The comparison is pretty straight-forward:

  • X-Carve is essentially a forked Shapeoko 2 — the only engineering point of difference is the custom extrusion which they use for the X-axis, and which they try to pass off as improving rigidity, not for the cost-saving, part-reducing, kit-simplifying measure which it is — and oddly, they didn’t pass on any of the savings in their pricing. It’s also bizarre to me that they didn’t resolve the matter of fastening the two X-axis extrusions together — still quite a lot of discussion / wasted effort on that in their forums. It’s also sold by a company which has managed to secure (and is beholden to) millions of dollars of venture capital.

  • Shapeoko 3 is the logical successor if one wants more than the 500mm x 500mm size which MakerSlide makes reasonable (granted, one can extend the Y-axis to any arbitrary length), or if one needs greater rigidity than is possible w/ MakerSlide. It instead, is sold by a company founded by a small group of partners, who aside from a Kickstarter have entirely self-funded their company.

The only other issue is the license which the two machines are available under, and the X-Carve being fully opensource is pretty much meaningless if there’s only a single die for the Z-axis carriage extrusion.


I have a Nomad Pro and a Shapeoko XXL.

Think of the Nomad as a +/- 0.001 to 0.003" accuracy machine for small parts.

The Shapeoko is more like a +/- 0.005 to 0.010" accuracy machine that can make larger parts than the Nomad. With the Dewalt router it can remove material about 10-20x as fast as the Nomad which makes it my go-to machine for most parts.

The Nomad’s spindle is way underpowered so you have to take very small cuts compared to the Shapeoko.

I still use my Nomad for small intricate parts but I like using the SO3 much more. Others may like using the Nomad better. It really depends on what you need the most.

With that said, I ran a 17"x17" test square on my SO3 and it came out 17.000x16.997 which blew me away. However, I’ve had some features off by as much as 0.010". I’m still trying to figure out what variables affect tolerances. I love being able to cut out large wood parts with a 1/4" bit running 0.25" deep and 120"/sec though. With the Nomad you are practically limited to a 1/8" cutter or smaller and about 5% to 10% the of the material removal rate of the SO3.

Feel free to ask more questions if this spurs any new thoughts.


Thanks for the info, it is really enlightening. I was wondering how well the power got transferred in the Nomad spindle. I like the accuracy but disappointed with the spindle power and the milling space.

Thanks everyone for their input. I am now undecided as to which way to proceed. I was concerned about the problems people were having with the Xcarve and that lead me to the Nomad. Under-powered spindle also concerns me as well does the size of milling. I guess I will have to look into the Shapeoko in more detail. I have not watched the Xcarve vs Shapeoko video comparison above, but will do so shortly. Thanks everyone.

I’m pretty sure the SO3 beams are a LOT larger and more rigid than the XCarve.

I believe that the Nomad and the SO3 are both very good machines for the price. You have to spend 4x as much just to get to the next level machines which don’t provide 4x better performance.

Even with a low power spindle, the Nomad does a great job. For many jobs it’s spindle is not a limiting factor. I hope I didn’t overstate that issue. I’ll try to carve out some time to do an apples to apples comparison of the two machines.

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The Nomad Pro is my first milling machine. From my personal point of view the nomad got the best accuracy/price relationship on the market.
I started with exact zero experience in milling, cnc-operation and CAD/CAM whatever. It is no sort of magic learning the steps you need for a smooth operation. But you will made a series of mistakes. With a nomad you can be 99% sure the error is on your site.
So i would recommend a Nomad Pro if the working area is big enough for you.


Thanks Tony for your input and look forward to your apples to apples comparison.

The spindle on the Nomad is a custom unit — while it may be perceived as under-powered in relation to the much larger DWP611, it’s well-suited for the scale of work which the Nomad can do on materials which it is suited for.

How about the power or lack of power of the spindle. It look like a big stepper motor driving the spindle with a belt.

As I noted, it’s a custom unit:

Spindle Motor Brushless DC with closed-loop speed control. 50 Watt max

• 10,000 RPM
• Sealed ball bearings
• ER-11 Collet
• Brushless DC motor
• Custom drive electronics

There’s a bit more on it on the Kickstarter page:

There’s a bit in this post: