Does using the VFD spindle complicate the process by much for a beginner?

I was reading in another thread people were talking about various spindles, and someone mentioned the simplicity of learning with just the router as opposed to the VFD spindle.

If someone is a COMPLETE beginner (as I am), learning as they go, does starting out with the VFD spindle from Shapeoko make it much more complicated for someone who is new to all of this? Is the process a little more simple with a router, or are both ways pretty close? I know it cost more, but I’m only interested in the complications of learning.

I will do mostly acrylic shapes, so it will be the same process and parts over and over, so I’m hoping that the repetition will get me comfortable and familiar with everything as I go along, using mostly the same settings on everything. I’m under the impression that with the spindle I can adjust the speed and find the right setting that will leave me with the best finish for what I use as a cutter and what I use for material, so ideally I’d like to start out with the VFD spindle package right from the start if the difficulty level is even close to the router.

I would argue that in terms of workflow, a VFD+spindle is actually easier to use, because starting/stopping the spindle and setting the RPM are taken care of automatically (while when using a trim router, unless you have a bitrunner you need to turn it on and off manually, and you need to adjust the RPM knob too, which means you need to remember the RPM value you set in the file you are about to run, and not forget to set it…)


Context is everything.

It’s only within the recent past that C3D began to offer spindles as an option.

I suspect most of the “router vs spindle” discussions you’ve seen come from the “mod my Shapeoko” side of things. The machine only came with a router, no spindle available (from C3D). It made sense to learn to use the machine before undertaking any sort of modification. Or spend the $$ for a spindle.

The folks that then did the upgrade to VFD spindles with huge success did, I think, a lot to convince C3D to begin to offer spindles as an option.

Truth be told, a router is great for most Shapeoko jobs. And, much cheaper.

The learning curve for the spindle is not much different than that for a router. The benefits of power and capability/flexibility are huge.


This thread:

has some discussion of the potential additional complications that the spindle could introduce for a completely new user. If things go well for you, then I agree that a spindle is actually easier to use than a router but it can introduce other problems that you’d have to work through.

Indeed, but as a newb you’ll be working through a boatload of problems, just swap the spindle opportunities in place of router.

There have been quite a few complaints in other threads about issues with the VFD in the last couple of weeks. Maybe those are aberrations but it does give one reason to be concerned.

Aberrations or not, I’m pretty confident C3D will address and resolve any issues. Provided the folks with the issues continue an informed dialog with the folks in support.

1 Like

Sure. But a person getting a new machine that that they can’t use for a while is disappointing.

I’m not advocating one way or the other really. I bought a used Pro that has the C3D router and then added the BitRunner. I would love to upgrade to the spindle at some point or maybe a 5 with spindle.

I’m also of the opinion that the spindle is better for a new user.

A - Yeah, you take 10-20 more minutes during assembly for the spindle. But you save time in the long run.

B - The additional “complications” are absolutely minimal. Like you have to mount the VFD enclosure and run a wire to the main control box amount of complication. If 20 extra minutes is too much “complication” then I got bad news for you about running a CNC router in general. :smiley:

C - It reduces complication while running. Once you program the RPM, the machine does the RPM control and stopping/starting. That’s less you have to mess with each job. So in the long run… like after a week, you save time.

D - Machine controlled spindles are safer. You can’t forget to turn them off/on if you don’t use the spindle disable button. But the spindle disable button also gives you one more layer of safety during running too.

E - Not having to worry about brushes and bearings that are not meant for long term running. Granted I’ve only changed brushes 3 or 4 times and had 2 sets of bearings die in 7 years. But spindles are purpose built and more industrial with far better bearings and no brushes.

F - Less noise does make the user experience better. The better your experience, the more likely you are to be out in the shop.

And I’ll admit, I used to think that spindles were overkill. But now that I have them, I don’t want to run routers again. :slight_smile:


VFDs are cool when they work my second power box went out yesterday so… buyer beware.

That is using Carbide’s VFD or another one?

Your question has been asked several times before in other threads with various answers given. I converted to the Carbide VFD a few weeks ago, I was using a Makita. The issue of the VFD being better because it shuts on and off can easily be overcome for a router by using the Bit Runner which does the same thing for $80. The router is noisy while on and not cutting and runs hot including the Collet and Nut which is not a good thing when cutting acrylic. The VFD spindle can barely be heard when running at idle and stays cool when cutting.

You can control the speed on the router while running whereas you must change the speed in the tool path file in CC to change the speed of the spindle. I am hoping Carbide is working on being able to adjust the VFD speed externally while on the run. You can not change the speed in the file for the router. To change and determine the RPM on the router you turn the dial with a cross-reference to the numbers on the dial. To determine the RPM on the VFD you observe the meter. On my VFD the actual RPM can vary by 9% from the RPM in the file. The lower the RPM the less variation i.e. it is right on at 8k RPM with my box, the variation is consistent but not linear. To achieve 18,000 RPM I need to set it at 19,700 in the file. While this is apparently within acceptable carbide tolerance limits, there is no way to compensate for the difference other than changing the file RPM. I personally find this ridiculous for what is supposed to be a precision machine and hope that Carbide is working on it. The controls on the box are dummies and do nothing.

I can not talk about maintenance and longevity as I have not had either long enough. Theoretically, for reasons mentioned in previous responses, the VFD should be more reliable. You are looking at about $210 including the Bit Runner for the router and $775 for VFD and new sweepy. Technically you could buy 5 Makita routers ($130 now on AMZN) for the price of the VFD.

I prefer the VFD for it being precision during voltage variations, low noise, running cool, and being able to control the speed within the tool path. That being said, they both work so would choose based on your use, if it is casual, or low use, or don’t know if you are going to stick with it, you may want to select a router.


Carbide’s for the second time

my quick answer: The VFD/spindle solution is (in my opinion far) superior to a router in every respect save for cost. It will not add complication or additional time to your Shapeoko learning period, so I believe the decision can be boiled down to one of cost considerations only.


This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.