How can I improve our first project?

My wife and I took on our first project! It was a lot of fun and some headaches along the way while, figuring this thing out. We used Vcarve Pro, 60 degree 1/2 bit, on some cheap pine and set the router to 2.5. We’re trying to figure out how we can improve on this. The edges are not very clean and the round shapes not so round… I’ve seen y’all’s work so I know this machine can do much better. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Please let me know if there is anything other info you might need in order to help us out. Super noobs here like I said first project!!


Hi @Miguel,

Good to see you are up and running! The issues you are seeing are very typical, and it should be fairly easy to fix them.

  • How fast is your feedrate ? 2.5 on the Carbide router is about 15.000 RPM, for a Vbit I would probably try and use around 45ipm in pine.
  • pine…is surprisingly not the best material for beginners in my opinion to feel good about the results. It tears out too easily, and carving soft wood is not always easier than carving harder wood with a tight grain.
  • what quality is your V-bit ? I remember doing my first V-carves with a very cheap chinese Vbit, and it gave horrible results no matter what, it was just not sharp enough. I then switched to Carbide3D’s #301 and #302 and immediately got excellent results.
  • what depth per pass are you using ? You may want to dial back on that bit while addressing the other points.

This comes down to tuning the machine:

  • you need to check that all your eccentric nuts are tightened just right against the rails. Check ALL of them, it’s easy to miss one. When you hold the corresponding axis, you should not be able to make then spin freely.
  • how tight are your belts ? they all need to be “guitar string tight”, as in, you should not be able to slip a finger under the middle of the belt easily.
  • did you do the machine squaring procedure during assembly (I guess you did), and how much out of square is it afterwards ? i.e. how much space is left on either side when you bring the gantry all the way to the front plates, or to the back ? You may need a little shimming.

EDIT: the first thing to figure out would be those:
Unless the curves looks like that in the design (I doubt it), this looks like strong vibration is causing the Vbit to oscillate along its path ? So dialing down depth per pass and feedrate may be an interesting test


Purty darn good for starters! (Not that I’m an expert or anything. :smiley: )
Looks like you are Vcarving that design which might go along with @Julien comment on “depth per pass”. Vcarving is always going to go as deep as it needs to cut to the two vectors it is using.

You might want to use two toolpaths (using the same vectors) where the first one has the depth limited; so its a roughing pass in effect. Then the second one could be your finishing pass without the depth limited. The machine wouldn’t be working the wood so hard, and you could get away with using that pine.

Personally, I would use 1/2" MDF for that project. You might could switch to a 90 degree Vbit, also.

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If you are using Vcarve, then you can set your tool to automatically create roughing and finishing passes by changing the values in your cutting parameters. This is my basic setup for the same style tool.

Also, are the round vectors round? It looks like there may be a slight scallop pattern on the outside of the vectors that your tool path is following. I’m not sure it is an machine issue. You can try the “Fit Curves to Vectors” tool and try to clean them up easily. It may take more work than that tool, but it would be worth a try.


I will be going over everything here in a few mins. I want to tighten the belts look at the machine squaring and the eccentric nuts. My bit is CMT orange tools seems good to me but I’m a noob. I’ve attached pictures of my bit and my current settings. I’ll post the cut later tonight so we can compare a before and after. One thing I’m curious about is this “Finishing pass” I don’t see the option in Vcarve. I’ll google it later to see what I find.

I used CMT bits for a while on a hand routers/router tables; they are decent quality and gave me a pretty long serviceable life so I don’t think that is your problem.

I would follow @Julien 's recommendations; also I don’t mean to sound condensing… but “day” is spelled incorrectly… chuckle.

:open_mouth: Thanks for catching that!! I’m going to run it exactly how it is after I go through @Julien‘s list. I want to see how much better it looks after I make sure everything is tight and running how it should be! Again thanks for pointing that out!!

Well found 3 eccentrics not tight. The left belt was pretty loose. I think I figured out what the issue with this particular vector is. I used the auto convert feature in Vcarve. So essentially the issue is a poor vector file. Since it’s just converting preview image is definitely not the best quality!


Great, maybe retry a V carve with the same tool/settings on a clean vector and with those eccentrics and belts all nice and tight now, and post a close-up picture of that ? Vcarve jobs are usually a good indicator of whether the machine is tuned correctly (except for squaring & belt calibration, that’s another story and you will have to cut circles/rectangles to check that)

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I would like to reiterate that pine is a very difficult material to cut cleanly. A hardwood such as cherry or walnut will give much better results with the same machine and gcode file.


Not 100% yet but I think this came out pretty sweet! I need to get my table under control it moves way to much still. The machine got into a lot of detail here this thing is only 8” in diameter. I’m going to this same care a few more times. I figured that if I can get this dialed in the rest should be cake. This this is pretty intricate. It also got me started on designing my own version based on Pan’s Labyrinth!


Nice ! I remember doing one in MDF too, about 16" wide, spray painted it with copper paint, then applied black paint everywhere and swiped the top surface clean before it dried, the result is very cool (not to copyright owners it isn’t…) and it made for a happy nephew.

My shapeoko rests on a cheap Ikea table, but I screwed large MDF panels on the left/right/front of it, and then bolted the table to the wall: it’s now very, very sturdy and won’t move at all. Also, consider removing the feet of your Shapeoko and laying it directly on a nice flat surface, with a little something to dampen vibration: it goes a long way.

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