In previous articles of this website, I mentioned that I had purchased a used Compucarve Woodworking CNC Machine. Over the past year or so, I have been designing and carving projects that could only be made on one of these machines, and it has become invaluable to my shop. I had wanted one of these amazing machines for quite some time, but was put off by the initial cost, and the fact I had heard about numerous problems encountered by the original owners. Continual mechanical breakdowns occurred and durability was severely questioned by some of the original purchasers. Sears Roebuck Company had originally sold the machines, but after several years of dissatisfied customers, quit selling and backing the product, although they still sell most of the service parts through their online parts department.
My particular machine is a Sears Craftsman Compucarve and is considered an A Model being one of the originals. When I purchased it, only 17 hours of use were accumulated on the digital counter. After purchase, I learned that the accompanying software would not load into a non-registered computer, and I contacted the company directly. The rights to the machine are owned by a company named LHR based in Texas. They informed me that I would have to have the original registered owner contact them and transfer ownership to me before I could use the software that came with it. I contacted the people I purchased it from, and they notified LHR. The software used to design carvings that is sold with the machine is proprietary and can only be updated through a licensing process conveyed from LHR. The machine has progressed through the A, B, and now C Models. Several mechanical enhancements have been made through the progression, and all models can be upgraded to the current C Model with replacement parts.
The Designer Software has a steep learning curve, but after some intense study on my part, some obtained information from the website forum, and several trial and error carvings, I gradually began to understand it, and the mechanical workings of the machine. Both skills have to be mastered or the operator will soon become frustrated and abandon the attempt. The company website forum has numerous dedicated followers whom are happy to help newcomers overcome the machines initial difficulty. The forum is: www.forum.carvewright.com/forum.php. Without the extensive information contained in this forum, I would have easily joined the ranks of dissatisfied owners that give up using the machine out of frustration.
The title of this article reveals that new software is being made available for the existing machines, and can also be purchased with a new machine. The old version of the design software will end with 1.187. The new software begins with 2.0. LHR says that 2.0 is written with a different programming language and will not be compatible with the old version. They will not update 1.187 but will continue to give it away free with all new machines purchased. The 2.0 version will be offered as an upgrade for $200.00 to old users and new machine purchasers. I intend to stick with 1.187 for as long as possible. The old 1.187 version has several add on features that can be purchased separately. Some of these are:
The Centerline Text Feature adds an additional Rout Mode for the Text Tool feature. This feature is designed specifically for use with the 60° and 90° V-groove bits which carve text with pin-point accuracy. Centerline text carves point-to-point in vector mode following the center of the letter. $99.00
The Pattern Editor Software allows the manipulation of a scanned or imported image on a pixel by pixel level. It is also used in conjunction with the Scanning Probe which allows you to turn your machine into a 3D scanner and make your own patterns. $199.99
The Conforming Vectors Feature allows for v-bit routing along a carved surface. Without Conforming Vectors, these types of routs can only be made on flat surfaces. You can apply the conform feature to Centerline Text, lines drawn with the drawing tools, the Outline tool, and importer DXF files. $49.99
The DXF File Importer Feature gives you the ability to import 2D vector files saved in DXF (Drawing eXchange Format) file format. Manipulate the files with the DXF Importer software and save to a format that can be carved on your CarveWright. $199.99
The STL Importer Feature allows users to convert 3D STL models, created from any 3rd party 3D graphics program, and slice them into patterns for the use in the CarveWright Designer software. $199.99
The Vector Drawing Suite (2D Advanced) Feature allows you to use very advanced drawing tools & image tracing abilities that before were only available from 3rd party software packages. $199.99
The Keyhole Function allows for plunge cutting keyhole shaped mounting slots in items such as picture frames and plaques. It comes with a special keyhole bit that is mounted in the machine. $39.99
The Pattern Modeling Suite (3D Advanced) Feature allows the modeling of 3D relief patterns in the CarveWright Project Designer software. $199.99
As you can see, the add on software alone at a price tag of $989.93 collectively, is almost as expensive as a new basic carving machine ($1399.99) to purchase. The good thing is that you don’t have to purchase any of the add-ons for the machine to carve most of the items you desire. I have not purchased any of these add-ons and I accomplish beautiful wood carvings including signs, of all types. Once you learn the work around, for the various types of carvings, the machine will accomplish almost anything using only the basic software. The key is understanding how the software and the machine work together to carve an item.
Version 1.187 is a result of years bug fixes and added on features. There are literally thousands of patterns available on the web that you can import into the designer software, and utilize in your carvings.
Machine maintenance is crucial with the Carvewright Machine. The manual tells how and what to lubricate, and how to keep your machine in good working order. Several maintenance tips are included in the company website, as well as how to install various components and mechanical upgrades.
In the weeks to come I will write new articles about my use and care of my machine. My Etsy site has an example of a Oak Trivet that I carved using my Compucarve.