Brand new to CNC, looking for what is really needed

Hey All,

I am new to the world of CNC, and am looking for suggestions on what is truly needed to be a successful CNC hobbyist. I am looking at the journeyman X-50, as I figure for $500 get the upgraded size and not wish in 6-12months that I would have bought this size from the beginning. But as far as controller, display, dust collection, joystick, etc what is crucial? Is the V Carve pro worth is since it is offered at a discounted rate? Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

1 Like

Controller is crucial, and without it the machine will not work.
Most people think the joypad is essential and we’d agree, it makes things 100% easier. Display is essential if you don’t network the controller.
Dust collection is essential so you don’t end up with destroyed ball nuts from dust.
90% of our customers are using Vectric.


I agree with the mentality if you have the means, however you should know there is no difference in the work area size (32.25" x 32.25") between the X-35 Woodworker and X-50 Woodworker. The upgrade is in the axis motors and the size of the rails (see here).

The display can be done without IF you have a laptop available to connect with the machine. Dust collection is a must. The joystick is a convenience, anything you can do with the joystick you can do with the controller (albeit not as quickly). You can test drive the VCarve software to decide whether it is worth it for you.

are you sure on the work area? the Journeyman X-50 shows 48x32’’ cutting area, and the Woodworker X-50 is 32x32’’

Oh, X-50. I mis-read your original post.

I edited my original response to include correct information, which doesn’t apply to your case.

Hey Daniel,

you will appreciate the Triquetra 3-Axis Touch Probe, as it is a method of adding acceptable positioning repeatability to the machine. The stall homing method that the machine offers is considered by many users as not repeatable with sufficient precision and use a method with the Touch probe instead of it. It is however possible to retrofit inductive proximity sensors as limit switches, the Onefinity CNC supports it, but you would need some 3D-printed parts to attach them to the machine.

The Touch Display connected directly to the CNC Controller that Onefinity offers is rather small, okay for younger people who have no presbyopia yet :slight_smile: and who have rather small fingers. Many people use much larger displays.

Note that many people dislike the magnet mount for this touch display because if you hit the display accidentally it can fall off and be broken. In the case you want to give this magnet display mount a try anyway and prevent to break it the first day when you hit it with your hips, don’t forget to secure it with a cable tie as shown here. Also the magnet itself can fall off on temperatures below 4.4 °C. UPDATE: The manufacturer doesn’t ship this magnet monitor mount anymore. You get a spring-loaded arm mount now.

Some people use other touch displays and stronger aftermarket display arms. For search criteria to find a touchscreen compatible with Onefinity and Buildbotics Controller see here;

But neither you need to connect a display directly to the Onefinity Controller nor is it mandatory to use a Touch Display. You can use a mouse and a keyboard instead and any old HDMI (or DVI-D or DVI-I which is compatible to HDMI) computer monitor connected to the Onefinity Controller. Using a Touch display on a CNC Router comes from the desire to have a display directly at the machine where there could be wood dust which normal keyboards and mice don’t like.

But you don’t need to attach a monitor to the controller directly at all. You can operate the CNC Controller from remote over Ethernet or WiFi from another computer and it has the advantage that you can see the CAMotics tool path simulation that is not shown on a display directly connected to the controller.

And of course you can have this other computer directly besides the CNC too :slight_smile:

Powerful dust collection is mandatory since the ball screws are not sealed (industry machines have convoluted rubber gaiters or bellows covers to seal them) and oiled mechanics are generally incompatible with wood dust, as can be seen here, and also here:

For the difference between a workshop vacuum cleaner and a dust collection system, see here.

Most people like the ability to control the machine by hand. If you don’t like the gamepad aka joystick, then see here.

Note that in contrast to other CNC routers, the Onefinity CNC is a machine that comes without some essential parts: It lacks the milling motor which you have to buy separately and secondly the machine comes without machine base. It assumes that you either have a sturdy machine table with a table top of accurate coplanarity and that you are able to trim the machine for rectangularity (see here and here), or you have to buy the QCW Frame with it. In this case, don’t forget to order the Any Surface Leveling System with it! EDIT: The Any Surface Leveling System is now included with the QCW Frame.

If one day you find that your Z-axis moves up and down as it pleases and ruins your workpiece and your wasteboard, you might find that it’s because the connectors can make problems (see also here), which may be caused by the fact that you did not yet retrofit strain relief to your machine, which the machine unfortunately lacks. In this case you may want to procure what is needed to make new cables yourself. The same applies if you want custom length cables which would be the case if you want to mount the controller further away.

After having assembled the machine and pressed “home” for the first time, you may wonder if it’s correct that the Z assembly bumps the Y rail. In the case you don’t like it, you may want to know that Bill @Machinist found a simple solution here. This is also convenient on the Y axes in order to prevent that buildup of wooddust-oil mix gradually shifts your homing point backwards with time during stall homing.

1 Like

as far as the programming to cut, depending on the software, can I import 3d modeling files from solidworks?

As far as VCarve goes…
You have to export a .stl from SolidWorks.
You can import that .stl to VCarve Pro. However, you can’t do much more than adjust height and move it around. You need Aspire to get the full host of 3D tools. If you are comfortable with doing ALL of the 3D in SW and only using VCarve to get the toolpaths it can work.

I use SolidWorks with my robotics team’s Onefinity.
Check out these posts for more info.

Since I posted that original reply, I have cut a few parts using SW + HSMExpress and it’s working quite nicely. Keep in mind these are 2.5D parts, nut full 3D. You need the “pro” version of HSM (HSMWorks) to do 3D machining.

What exactly are you planning on cutting?


If you intend to really use your machine with ease I think these are essential:

Dust collector, not just for cleanliness and machine life bit for quality of cut as well esp items/projects using small bit like 3mm or 4mm

Controller is the brain of the machine, better off buying OF as it is already plug and play, you can buy other controllers but you need to fix some settings before you can use the machine

Joystick for me is essential. Operating the machine is way easier if you have a joystick esp if you run short programs and make frequent set up of materials

Wifi and laptop is essential, file transfer, file editing, control, everything is again way easier although you can use the OF without laptop or wifi, operation is more seamless if you have wifi and laptop. You can just use the small touch screen on the OF as is anyway you would most time will prefer to interact with The OF via laptop.

Journeyman size is my dreamsize for OF just because I do projects that is about 1.2M long, I have ax X35 Woodworker, it takes a lot more skill to to set up and program if your material is longer than your machine but it can be done. Its just tiring if you do a lot of the long ones on a small machine.

Spindle watercooled for me is essential if you run regularly like almost 8 hours a day everyday and if you want less noise, automatic Gcode control of spin ( you need to learn first the right speed and feed for the bit, based on wood type, and your design quality finish needs). Spindle is life but then again Im not a hobbyist, I run a small production operation and I have time and some basic knowledge to set up the VFD so Spindle can run on GCode plus the collet is E typ, hold is tight and centering is accurate plus no carbon brush.

Lighting under the router/spindle is essential, those shadows and poor lighting will slow you down when setting up the work piece esp if you use the same Workpiece location.

Cable management is essential, although you can run your machine as is, dangling wires is dangerous and may cause you damages even to your product is the machine stops or malfunction during a cut.

I use Carbide Create, works for me but it all depends on what you will cut. I mainly cut just 2D.

Air filtration system is essential for health and cleanliness


Mainly looking to get this to make cutting boards, wooden trays, name plates, etc. More 2 dimensional that for 3d carving initially.

I appreciate everyone being so helpful. I have been on other forums where it is not nearly as positive or helpful with beginner questions like this!

1 Like

If you are just going 2D/2.5D you should start off with Carbide Create. Super easy and straightforward.

Most, if not all my 2D work is done in CC. More complex stuff along with aluminum parts for my robotics team is now done in HSMexpress (has more toolpath options and strategies).

Here is an example of something I designed in SolidWorks for a friend, and cut using CC before I started using HSM. I had to export each face/depth as DXF from SW and import and arrange them in CC. HSM is nice because it’s a plugin for SW, allowing you to CAM in the same environment as you design, much like F360.

FYI, HSM and F360 CAM use the same CAM engine.

This forum is a great place to learn and share your knowledge, tips, questions and mistakes!
Keep posting your questions and things you have learned. I have picked up a lot from simply reading random threads.

What do you plan to make? If it is all-around 3D stuff then consider Fusion 360. It’s free for hobbyists and very powerful. Tons of YouTube tutorials as well. The other thing you need is “patience”; CAD/CAM takes a while to fully grasp and fixtures can be an art of its own…

I see, if you want, just get the basic set:

Dust Booth Pro
Oops Clamp
Touch Probe
Basic bits (use the cheapest ones for now)

Carbide Creat free edition (easy to learn and make your own design) can use on OS and MS

Makita router

Thats pretty much what you need, connect to wifi with ur present laptop

Start using the OF and learn then as you use it you will know what you need to upgrade, but the very basic you got it.

That will require a table with threaded inserts. Another thing to setup and learn to make. I’d go with a pin or brad nailer (or even a drill or impact driver and brass screws) or blue painters tape and super glue for hold-downs. That’ll be fine until the OP can figure out how they’ll use the table and see if they want to go the threaded insert route. (I had them on the Shopbot but ended up using the pin nailer or blue tape/superglue so I’ll have clamping capability with the QCW when I set that up, but only because I will be doing some brass & aluminum milling)

The other things I’d add to the list is a piece of 4x4x3/4 MDF and a flat surfacing bit. The bit isn’t really necessary because these things are pretty good out of the box and MDF is pretty flat but it won’t hurt to learn how to flatten a spoilboard because it’s also a good tool to have when pocketing out large areas or thinning down stock if you don’t have a planer.


Hey Jim,

There is also the possibility to use Oops clamps with the Oops Clamp Hand Nut for 1/4-20 T-Track (4 Pack)

Also something the newbie won’t likely have and doesn’t really need :slight_smile: I’m of the “I have a CNC, I can make my own clamps” school of thought too. A purchased set can be useful if you don’t use one of the other hold-down methods, have the appropriate wasteboard and need the material held down while you’re machining your own clamps. But with the blue tape/superglue method, I think everyone should mill their own.

(I’m also of the mind that every CNC needs to cut a weapon of mass destruction before it’s fully broken in - something like a desktop trebuchet or ballista or even a rubber band gatling gun. :slight_smile: When I was teaching CNC operations I had waiting lists because the classes would fill up so fast.)

Jim, please show photos of these WMDs. Sounds like fun

I’ve been modeling in Fusion 360 for awhile and am pretty comfortable with it’s CAD functionality. But am just starting out in CAM. Because of my experience with Fusion, my inclination is to just stick with it and learn the CAM part of the program. But I’m finding it really daunting. Would I be better off learning Aspire or some other for carving on my Journeyman?

For CAM, in addition to learning the software you’ll also have to learn about machining and cutting parameters which the software doesn’t usually do for you. There’s a lot of info out there on cutting speeds and feeds to help you get started. YouTube is your friend. Some bits come with a sheet that has speed a feed recommendations. I usually look at the chips coming off the bit. If you’re getting dust your router is spinning too fast or your feed is too slow, unless you’re carving with a ball endmill. It’s always better to be safe and go a little too slow. The only penalty is time.

1 Like