Carvewright/Compucarve Machine Update

I have written other posts about my Compucarve Woodworking Machine in the past, and thought it was about time to do an update on what I have accomplished with it, as well as the upgrades I have incorporated into it, since it’s purchase almost two years ago. I have written in other past posts that it is an “A” Model having been built in 2007. Since the Compucarve – as it was then called – was created, it has had a constant progression of updates and upgrades resulting in the newest Carvewright – as it is now called – with machine, as well as software advances.

When I purchased mine off of Craig’s List, I found that it had barely been used with only 17 hours of carving time on it. It now has over 188 hours on it. So even though my particular machine is over seven years old, the original warranty would still have been in place as far as usage hours are concerned. The original warranty was carried by Sears, and was two years or 200 hours which ever came first. These machines were notorious for mechanical breakdowns, and the user frustration levels are still quite high based on forum entries in the Carvewright Forum even today. The posts are in large part questions from perplexed users about what they believe to be insurmountable difficulties encountered during some aspect of the carving or designing process. The forum is an extremely valuable resource in solving just about every conceivable problem that the user can incur. The people answering these perplexed users have been there done that, and know from practical experience the best and cheapest way to solve their dilemma. It’s like having thousands of consultants on call 24/7 to help you solve whatever problem that comes your way.

Over the years, probably the most consistent problems that have arisen in the mechanics of the Compucarve/Carvewright System has been from the Quick Change Chuck used for holding the router bit that does the actual carving. My machine originally had one on it, and although the usage hours were quite low, the chuck was rusted internally and caused me some difficulty until I learned how to operate and maintain it properly. The system allowed for a bit with a built in collar to be popped into the bit holder and snapped into position. This was incorporated by the designers to speed up bit changes, and to ensure that the router bit was held in a consistent, secure fashion so that ease of use and repeatability was achieved. The Quick Change Chuck was a sleeve with retainer springs, bearings, and numerous working parts that were subject to rusting and wearing caused by high heat, wet sawdust, and humidity. After some intense cleaning and lubricating I was able to free up the mechanism and used it for several months. It was difficult to use, and required that I frequently lubricate it during use. I decided to upgrade to the newest chuck, the Carvetight as the company calls it, and purchased the updated parts which included a new circuit controller board and a new ribbon cable as well as the chuck itself. After some difficultly I was able to change out the parts and get my machine back into working order. I never looked back. The upgrade has made it much easier to change out bits and secures them very tightly while also reducing noise and vibration. It also eliminates the need for the press fitted collars on the bits so conventional router bits can be used.

Another upgrade that I have made is a dust extraction attachment that hooks directly to my Shop vac. Although the original Compucarve was advertised as not really needing dust extraction, it was claimed that the mechanism would sustain severe dust conditions and continue to operate. That was true to a certain extent but the machine works much better with dust extraction incorporated into it. I am able now to complete numerous carves without extensive cleaning in between. The machine functions much better when the internal parts are not enveloped in the fine dust created from carving wood. I also believe it will increase it’s longevity.

I have had to replace the sandpaper belts that propel the wood back and forth inside the machine since I have owned it due to my own stupidity. I was carving an item on a sled to economize the use of wood, and used screws that were too long to secure the item on board the sled. The screws protruded through the bottom of the sled, and caused the sandpaper belt to tear prematurely. One of the advertised upgrades is the inclusion of rubber belts to replace the sand paper ones, and I considered upgrading to the new belts when this occurred but the cost of the upgrade was prohibitive. You can replace the normally long lived sand paper belts three or four times compared to the cost of one set of the rubber ones.

The design software has also been upgraded over the years, with the newest version now listed as 3.0 at a cost of $300. The progression was 1.0, 2.0, and now 3.0. My version is 1.187 which was the last version given freely with each new machine. You can get version 2.0, when you buy your new Carvewright but currently you must pay extra for version 3. I have done quite well with version 1.187. It has severe limitations which require workarounds but I have been able to get it to do just about everything that I have wanted to do with it. There are also numerous software upgrades that you can buy individually. I have listed some of them in other articles on this website.

Take a look at my photo gallery to see some of the items that I have created with this machine, and currently sell in my online store, and what I offer for sale at the Apple Shed in Tehachapi.

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