Marketed as a carving system, the CarveWright (CW) does that remarkably well. Its other capabilities, such as cutting parts to shape, come along as bonuses. It’s intended for home shop rather than production use.
As a turn-key system, virtually everything about the CW is proprietary — CAD-CAM software, controller software, the machine itself and the bits it uses. Its advantage is that it is easy to use. Everything you need, except a computer, is in the box.
The CW doesn’t look like the archetypal CNC router. To me, it resembles an obese lunchbox planer — a sculpted box with fold-down infeed-outfeed tables and a substantial crank at one end. But in its operation, it mimics an inkjet printer. The spindle zips side-to-side on a stationary gantry, while a friction drive mechanism moves the workpiece beneath it.
Because the workpiece, rather than the cutter, moves in the X-axis, the machinery can be enclosed by a housing, keeping fingers away, dampening the noise and containing most of the dirt generated. A clear lid allows a view of the action; opening it interrupts the operation.
The CW doesn’t use a router. Mounted beside the gantry, the motor drives the cutter by way of a flexible shaft. Standard router bits are used, but to fit the quick-release collet, a bit must be inserted in an adapter. The bit must extend a precise distance beyond the adapter (the required extension varies from bit to bit and is specified in the CW manual) and the adapter’s setscrews cemented with Loc-Tite to prevent the bit from working loose.
The cutting specs of the bits — including their extension from the adapter— are embedded in the Designer software. Using a bit that deviates from the specs will result in an imprecise cut.
With the basic package, you get a 1/8″ up-spiral bit and a tapered carving bit, each mounted in an adapter. If you buy a set of profile cutters, you’ll get each bit mounted in an adapter. There are adapters for both 1/4″ and 1/2″ shanks. In all, the system has 15 bits.
Though the machine itself virtually fills the box, you should rummage first for the CDs with the CarveWright Designer software and the instructional videos. The software runs on both PCs and Macs. After installing the software, try the projects on the tutorial CD. It won’t take you long to develop a project for carving.
CW Designer has a “clip-art” orientation. The program includes a library of about four dozen patterns, ranging from rosettes to shells to leaves and filigrees. Many, many more can be purchased online from the “Pattern Depot” at the company’s website. After opening a new project and specifying the workpiece dimensions, you select a pattern, place it on the workpiece, then alter it by enlarging or reducing it, stretching or compacting it, rolling, flipping or duplicating it.
You never directly connect your computer to the CW; it doesn’t even need to be in the same room, ever. When you are ready to carve, you load the project files onto a memory card using a peripheral that plugs into the computer’s USB port. (The card is proprietary, so you can get additional cards only from CW.) Take just the card into the shop and plug it into the special slot for it in the machine.