Revell 1:48 AH-64 Apache – Paint Scheme: Green W/ Minor Weathering and Damage

This kit was the most irritating model to put together. I had numerous issues with parts being warped, not fitting, or having terrible seams. I have tried my best to fix them, but it does not look great. As a result, this will be a short blog post because almost all of my effort was towards fixing issues with the kit.

Step Zero – Taking note of the instructions and the sprue:

The the instructions were surprisingly clear on what needed to be done, but the sprues were warped I sprayed the sprues with gray primer.

Step One – Assembling and Painting:

I ran into numerous issues with parts not fitting together properly and, when the did, there were usually really bad seams. I painted the base of the cockpit a dark green, the panels and the chair black, and dry brushed the panels with white. To practice controlling my hand shaking, I hand painted the cockpit frame. I airbrushed the rest of the helicopter that dark green. I hand painted the rotors black.

Step Two – Weathering and Final Thoughts:

By this point, I had spent 3-4 days and my back had been getting increasingly more painful as I worked on it. I used a black wash on the vents. I used a pin vice to make bullet ricochets like it had been ambushed on one side with  some small arms fire. I dry brushed some aluminum paint on the areas to make that effect more apparent. This most certainly isnt my best work, but I am proud of the cockpit frame, given that it is hand painted, and I decided to avoid buying Revell models in the future, unless they are the only ones who make a specific model.

 

Monogram 1:72 P-82G Twin Mustang – Paint Scheme: FQ-377 W/ Minor Weathering

This was a fairly easy and fairly quick kit to put together, though it does have a few fit issues. It comes with 2 variants, the P-82F and P-82G.

Step Zero – Taking note of the instructions and the sprue:

The the instructions were mostly clear on where everything went, but I wish that there were a few images depicting how certain things were supposed to go together , like the fuselage and cockpits. There were 2 different variants to chose from, the P-82F variant with that had a large radar nacelle and a P-82G that had a rocket rack. I opted to make the “G” variant, but only put on the drop tanks, not the rockets or bombs. I sprayed white primer on the parts while still on the sprue.

Step One – Assembling everything:

Everything fit into place nicely, but I could never get  the landing gear doors to have a strong enough connection, the plastic connection was just too thin.

Step Two – Painting:

I taped off the cockpit any overspray. A large portion of the the aluminum flakes and acryilc, about 1/4th of the bottle, had dried and basically thickened beyond use at the bottom of the bottle, but I thinned it with some airbrush thinner and. It came back, at least most of it, and after a quick stir it was fine in my airbrush. I sprayed the entire body first with the aluminum, then I taped off the parts that needed to be red. I forgot to tape off the part where the Boom ID String  goes, so I had to hand paint that part with some aluminum after I was done. I also hand painted the dark green section in front of the cockpit. I sprayed it with a gloss top coat then put on the decals. I then glued on the painted landing gears. After the decals had dried, I sealed them in with another gloss coat. I do need to pick up a paintable jar of flat top coat, because some parts, like the green panels, should be a flat color.

Step Three – Weathering and Final Thoughts:

I decided to only do minor weathering on this model. I used a thick mud wash for the wheels, a thin black wash for the exhaust and the grime, and a thin lighter brown wash for hydraulic fluid and to give some parts depth. I liked this model and overall there were no major issues when building it.

 

Revell 1:48 P-38J – Paint Scheme: Damaged Bare Aluminum

This is actually the first model kit I bought, but I put it off until I had done several models and I had more practice under my belt. This kit, unfortunately, has several issues.

Step Zero – Taking note of the instructions and the sprue:

The the instructions were very fairly clear and they had 3 different variants to chose from, the Night Fighter, The Fighter Bomber, and the “Standard” P-38 flown by Richard Bong. This is the largest build I have done, but it only has about a half dozen more pieces than the Churchill Tank. I sprayed everything with a grey primer.

Step One – Assembling the cockpit:

This was pretty easy to do. The instructions were clear on what needed to be done for everything to come together, however there were a couple alignment issues which became a problem later on while building. I painted the interior corrosion coating, then the electronics, then finally the pilot. The pilot took a fair bit of time for something you don’t really see at the end.

Step Two – Assembling the core wing and fuselage:

First I glued in the cockpit and the landing gear bay. Next I glued together the wing, but the plastic was somewhat warped, so I had to anchor several points with tape while I glued everything.

Step Three – Assembling the engines, the elevator, and weapons:

I first put together the two engine nacelles, but I kept the engine cowling and prop off so they would be easier to paint. I then assembled the weapons and painted them. The nacelles were somewhat warped, but nothing that could not be overcome.

Step Four – Painting:

I taped off the cockpit and the guns to prevent any overspray. . I initially tried to airbrush aluminum onto the gray primer, but the dark primer was too overpowering and I was not getting the color I was looking for. I opted to spray it again with white primer. However, I did not mix the primer enough and I ended up with a grainy texture on part of it, more on that later though. I decided because I could not get rid of that texture without losing all of the raised panel lines, which also proved to be a problem when painting. The raised lines prevented the tape from sticking correctly and I got overspray on some parts. I decided that I was going to use this model to practice hand painting, so I hand painted invasion stripes and the dark panels, with the aid of tape. A section of the right wing had really bad paint issues, so I opted to remove it and paint it dark like it was damaged. I opted for a similar paint scheme to Richard Bong’s P-38, but with invasion stripes. I also decided not to do decals, partly because of the paint issues, but also because I wanted to focus on practicing painting. The cockpit canopy was probably the hardest thing to put on because it didnt fit and the plastic was so thin that it could barely grab onto the cement OR the solvent.

Step Five – Weathering:

I noticed that most of the graininess was focused on the right wing, so I decided, in an attempt to help cover up the paint issues, to weather it like it had been shot in its right wing and the engine was blown. I started with a thin black wash for the general damage, I then dry brushed on some aluminum acrylic, then a thicker black wash for the heavier parts and crevices, then a brown medium viscosity wash to give it some depth.

Step Six – Final Thoughts:

This model has its share of problems, but I didn’t help with the paint issue. It is an alright P-38 kit, but there are better ones out there for sure. This kit had several fit and seam issues. I had fun doing the weathering and painting, but I would not make this kit again.

Sprukits Master Chief (Level 2) – Battle Worn Weathering

I saw this model kit several months ago and, being a longtime fan of the series, I knew I had to get it. I never got the chance until the holidays came around. I didn’t take any photos of the construction since it was all color plastic and didn’t involve any painting. If you want a review of the actual construction, here is a good article on it. I’m just going to go in depth about how I did the legs, since that is what I took the most pictures of, but I used all of the same techniques on the other pieces.

Step Zero – Taking note of the original colors:

The actual base colors of the plastic were very accurate to the game, so I decided not to paint it. I did, however, spray it with some lusterless clear-coat while still on the sprue since the plastic was fairly shiny.

Step One – Putting mud on the boots:

I mixed some Vallejo “Flat Farth” with Vallejo “Black” and thinned it with some water. I brushed it on the bottom of the boots, let them sit for about 10 seconds, then wiped off the excess.

Step Two – Applying the grime:

I mixed some Vallejo “Black” with a touch of Vallejo “Gunmetal” and thinned it with some water. I did each section of the leg one at a time. I brushed it on, let them sit for about 3 seconds, then wiped off the excess. I repeated this process about 3-5 times. After this, I reapplied the mud, but covered more of the feet.

Step Three – Dry-brushing the scratches:

I took some Testors “Silver” metallic acrylic and dry brushed over the legs. I may have done a bit too much, but I liked the look it gave it. After this, I reapplied the mud again.

Step Four – Repeating the grime and scratches on the rest:

Not much to say here, I repeated the grime weathering and the scratches dry-brushing on the rest of the model kit.

Step Five – Painting the guns:

I hand painted the guns and that took up a large chunk of the time getting the coloring right and all the little details, but I am satisfied with how they turned out. The lighter part of the assault rifle is Vallejo “Natural steel” darkened with some “Gunmetal”. The dark part is Gunmetal darkened with a little black. The Green is a Testors acrylic green that I forget the name of. The white is Testors Acrylic “White”. The Red on the pistol is Testors Acrylic “Gloss Red” and the silver is straight Testors Acrylic “Silver”.

Step Six – Final Thoughts:

I loved the way the model came together and it is still fairly posable. I do wish the pieces fit together a bit better, the ball joint that connects his torso and hips is particularly loose, but it isn’t that noticeable.

Bonus – Zvezda 1/100 Panzer IV Ausf.F2 I Painted and Weathered

I was a bit too heavy with the grime on the turret, but otherwise it was a nice tank to paint and build while I was waiting for my brother to finish his bi-plane.

Dragon 1/72 Churchill Mk. III, Dieppe 1942 – Paint Scheme: Dieppe Muddied

The model kit I actually bought was the “MK. III Fitted for Wading” edition, but I had intended to build the “Dieppe 1942” edition model since they use the same sprues. I managed to find a semi-high quality scan of the “Dieppe” instructions, but the two instructions were almost identical, save an extra step or two. This is my first time putting in decals and my second time weathering, although my first time with the knowledge of proper techniques. Someone I met through Patch Gaming paints miniatures and he taught me some weathering techniques and tips.

Step Zero – Taking note of the instructions and the sprue:

The the instructions were very clear and mostly concise in what I needed to do. The sprue did have a few issues, but all the parts seemed to be fine. I noted some parts that would be an issue, mainly the headlights, antennae, and exhaust pipes. I ended knocking off 1 of the headlights, all of the antennae dozens of times, and the exhaust pipes 5-6 times.

Step One – Assembly:

This was pretty easy to do. The instructions were clear on what needed to be done for everything to come together, however I did adjust the order of several things. I painted under the track guard before I glued it on to ensure it had some color of I could not reach it once it was glued on. I attached the rear track “wells”, but I held off on attaching the tracks until the model was painted and I forgot to attach the headlights until after the side walls were connected, so I had to angle and force them in. The front left gear/side panel never fit  right, so it is a little bent and does not freely move like the other one. The rear gears are another story though, the instructions have you gluing a tiny piece between the side panned and the frame, but the issue is there is no good place for it to glue to, the is not even a pin that it slides into. I finally was able to attach it, but I needed my brother to help me hold the model.

Step Two – Painting the Base Coat:

I sprayed the entire model in a medium gray primer. I mixed a red-brown that closely matched the color on the instruction guide using a base of Vallejo “Flat Earth”, a drop or two of Vallejo “Black”, and some Testors “Gloss Red” since that was the only acrylic red I had. I thinned the mixture with some water and airbrushed it on the model as the base coat. For the tracks, I added some Vallejo “Black” to a Vallejo ” Natural Steel” and airbrushed them. The tracks took a while to dry, but came out fine. I painted more mud on the track guides using almost equal parts Vallejo “Flat Earth” and Vallejo “Black”. Next, I dry fitted the tracks to see how they fit in the guards and I found out that the right rear track guard had slumped down some, preventing the track from fitting. I took an X-Acto knife and was able to remove it and reattach it properly.

Step Three – Detailing and Weathering:

My main Detailing paints were Vallejo “Desert” for wood and Valejo “Natural Steel” for exposed metal & tools. Almost all of my detailing was done with a 00 brush. Although my medications can cause severe tremors, especially doing fine work while writing, I was able to paint the fine objects like tools without any issues and limited overlap. I painted a dab of Vallejo “Flat White” on the headlights. Before I weathered, I sprayed Model Master “Lusterless” rattlecan top coat all over the model. Once this set, it made weathering much easier and I was able to apply washes with almost no issues, unlike my first attempt with the ME-262. I used 2 different washes, a heavily thinned Vallejo “Black” and a moderately thinned version of my Mud mixture. I first applied the black wash to the top, then each side. When I applied the black wash to the turret, I ended up putting it on a bit too heavy. I applied the mud wash to the side panels, bottom, idlers, front, and rear. I let it dry somewhat before wiping it off. I decided to try weathering before I applied the decals mainly because I was trying a lot of new things and I did not want to ruin my decals.

Step Four – Adding Decals

Before applying decals, I applied Model Master “Semi-Gloss” acrylic top coat to the areas where the decals needed to be applied. Applying decals was fairly straight forward, but some of the smaller one ripped or fell apart before applying. I tried to cut the left side flag in half after putting it on, but it fell apart on one side. I had much better luck with cutting them before I applied them. One of the “Betty” decals and one of the number decals fell apart or ripped, one on the left side and the other up front. Before I finalized weathering, I did another coat of the Lusterless rattlecan top coat.

Step Five – Finalizing Weathering and Final Thoughts:

Using the same mud and black washes, I weathered the decals to make them match the rest of the vehicle and I applied a bit more mud weathering before attaching the tracks. I encountered no issues weathering on the decals, however there were a few parts related mishaps. All of the antennae finally fell off the top and I decided it was too much of an issue. The exhaust pipes were a pain and kept falling off. The tank tracks were actually very easy to glue together because the tank tracks could be glued using the solvent glue. This model was very easy to assemble, however there were several problematic parts, such as the antennae and the exhaust pipes. I was able to cover up some of my decals mishaps with weathering, particularly using a natural steel wash where one of my “Betty” decals ripped and fell apart. The overall quality of the model and instructions is very high, however I had several issues with the tiny parts, but that was probably due to the shaking in my hands and general clumsiness.

 

Revell 1/72 Me 262 A-1a – Paint Scheme: German Desert Spotted

I was a moron and I forgot to take any pictures of my model when building until I had painted the base coat and put on the masking tape; because of this, I will be dedicating this post to how I did the camouflage and what I learned along the way. I am using these pictures as reference for the pattern and I ended up making a combination of the two patterns. I know that the camo pattern is not historically accurate, I just wanted to do something a bit different. For reference, I use a Paasche Model H Single Action aurbrush.

Step Zero – Before I started documenting:

There were some problems with this model, particularly, the female fuselage was warped, but it corrected itself once it was glued on. One minor issue was that the holes for most of the antennae were never fully cleared, so I ran into issues putting them on and ended up scrapping them. I did not want to bother with trying to clear them with an Exacto and risk either hurting myself or the model. The cockpit was painted prior to attaching it to the plane, but I put it in the plane backwards. By the time I realized my mistake, the glue had set and it had to be carefully cut out with an Exacto and reattached. Thankfully, the wings were not on, in which case I would have been screwed.  I covered the cockpit with a piece of trimmed masking tape and painted on the light gray base coat, but I am not entirely pleased with it because I think it is a bit too dark.

Step One – Protecting areas with tape:

This step was probably the easiest, I taped up every area I did not want to get paint on with at least one strip of making tape. I would then place more tape on the overhanging sticky parts so there was no open adhesive and they were thick enough not to get caught on a pair of scissors. After that, I trimmed them down with a small pair of scissors.

Step Two – Painting the upper base coat and camo:

After deep cleaning the airbrush numerous times, we had previously made the fatal mistake of trying to spray Vallejo Model Color paints thinned with rubbing alcohol, all blockages were cleared and we used a Vallejo Model Color “Desert”(?) thinned with water for the tan secondary coat. For the pattern color, I used Vallejo Model Color “Flat Earth” with a drop of “Flat Black”, thinned with water. For each dot, I had the nozzle almost completely choked back on the needle and lightly tapped the trigger. I would clean the nozzle of dry tip every 2-3 dots.

Step Three – Weathering and Detailing:

At the point that I did this, I did not know about applying a protective layer before applying the weathering, so I applied it directly on the acrylic. I originally used an oil paint thinned with thinner, but that removed the acrylic on some test pieces that were attached to the sprue. I ended up carefully using highly water thinned “Flat Black” and a “Flat Earth” w/ a drop of “Natural Steel” acrylic paints to weather certain areas. I used Vallejo “Natural Steel” for the engines and the guns and I used “Flat Earth” for the cockpit seat. There was a casting/packaging issue with one of the engine nacelles that lead to it twisting and bending part of the plastic. Rather that trying to fill it or re-bend it to the right shape, I left it as is, filed away some paint, and weathered it to appear slightly damaged. I tried to also make a small hydraulic leak on the bottom by the right gear and one by the right horizontal stabilizer, but I am not fully pleased with it. I used a Vallejo “flat white” to dry brush the cockpit instruments to bring out colors.

Step Five – Finishing the camo and final thoughts:

I had a very hard time attaching the cockpit using “plastic weld” solvent “glue”, as can be seen at the edges of the cockpit. I have since learned that Testors makes model cement for clear parts that should fix most of my issues. I used some of the leftover base coat color and the camo color to touch up areas. I have also since learned several things about weathering, mainly to apply a protective coat, that you use opposing types of paints (you use oils or enamels if your base coat is acrylic), and that you need to be careful when you are removing it so you don’t rub off any paint. I will probably do decals later, but I am waiting to do those for when my hands are more steady and I am more confident in my ability. I would greatly appreciate any feedback or tips you could give me.

The X-Carve: 2-ish Months Later

NOTE: This article was meant to go live mid March, but medical issues delayed that until now.

It has been 2 months since we built the X-Carve. It has been a very eventful couple of months, We have both done a lot and learned a lot since then.

What we learned along the way:

  • It is always best to go stock before adding anything to it, even if what you are doing has tons of evidence behind it.
    • The “30 Minute Stiffening Mod”, despite the 75+ posts about it, lead to our rails being improperly spaced and caused our V-Wheels to jump while carving, which lead to issues with machine drift. Removing the mod fixed the jumping, for the most part. Now we just need to really clean the V-Wheels and Rails. We are also going to adjust how tight the wheels are to the rails to see if that affects anything.
  • The G-Shield seating is very delicate.
    • We have run into several issues where just bumping a cable or the power supply/enclosure will unmount the board. While this is easy to fix,  we did end up removing the strip of wood on the front of the shelf because we found that lifting the supply to put it back in after reseating the board can unseat it.
  • Your X-Carve will not cut perfectly flat to the stock wasteboard.
    • Because this is still a DIY kit, there has to be some room for error. We have never cut anything, especially something that is milling close to the bottom of the material, without having a secondary wasteboard under it. One solution for a “perfectly even cut” is to resurface the Inventables wasteboard or to create your own resurfaced secondary wasteboard.
  • Adjusting the potentiometers is inevitable.
    • Within the first 3 weeks, we found the need to adjust the potentiometers. We were not having a huge amount of issues, but they were still one thing we had not done and it helped somewhat.
  • Threadlock is important, especially on the pulley set screws.
    • The set screws on the X-Carriage pulley did not hold and got stripped. This lead to the stepper motor shaft slipping and causing machine drift. We ended up having to buy these longer set screws and Threadlock.
  • The Inventables Community is Indispensable!
    • The Inventables Community is a great resource for when you need help or inspiration. They have almost always been able to help me fix any issues that I have encountered with the machine. They are very helpful and knowledgeable

Some of what I have created:

  • Carpe Diem Wood Text Sign to hang over our doorway. This was made using Poplar and a dark stain.
  • LED Signs for to put on a desk or a shelf.

What I am currently making (as of March 12th, 2016):

  • I am testing ArtResin inlays for coasters I am making for my brother. I am using scrap test pieces that are in various stages of production.

What is Next (as of March 12th, 2016):

  • Adjust and clean the V-Wheels/Rails.
  • Finishing all of my brother’s coasters.
  • Trying my hand at prop making by replicating the Oblivion Iron Dagger.
  • Working on some picture engravings.
  • Finding more projects to do.

If you are interested in a wood sign or an LED sign, here is the Etsy store. Once I finish my brother’s coasters, I will add custom coasters as an product to the Etsy store. I am also going to work on picture engravings.

EDIT 6/3/16: The coasters are completed, here is the store page.

Building the X-Carve: A Journal of Our Experiences

Day 1: 3 1/2 Hours

Unpacking – 1/2 Hour: Everything arrived very neatly packed, and basically on time, there was a minor delay on UPS’s end, but Paul over at Inventables worked with us to figure it out. Every type of component came in its own bag that was clearly labeled, but, as a side effect, this creates a lot of wasted plastic. I would highly recommend getting the toolkit, mainly because you are guaranteed to have tools that fit and it is a good backup just in case.

The X-Carriage – 2 Hours: I will say right off the bat, the instruction guide’s pictures are not that great. They are at weird angles, show things that we have not even neared starting, and it is very difficult to discern how things are to be assembled. The videos are even harder to understand, which led to an hour of fiddling with the V-Wheels to arrange them so a maker slide could actually slide through them. Since I am already talking about the V-Wheels, I have encountered another issue. The instructions do not mention at all how tight the V-Wheels need to be to the MakerSlide and how easily it needs to slide along it. We were able to put on the Smooth Idlers, the terminal blocks, and the NEMA 23 motors without incident and those instructions were very clear on how they were put together. We decided to hold off on putting on the Drag Chains because the connectors were already attached and, while trying to remove it like the instructions said, it felt like they were going to break. We also held off on putting on the Limit switches because they look and feel very fragile, we did not want to break them before even starting the machine and we want to pick up some shielded wire for the limit switches.

The Y-Plates: Part 1 – 1 Hour: After the learning on how to assemble the V-Wheels correctly, we were able to assemble the Y-Plates without any major issues. We did run into an issue where one of the pulleys would not smoothly slide onto the NEMA motors, so we had to tap it with a screwdriver handle to get it into place. Again we skipped the drag chains and the limit switches. We were not able to get the terminal block on tonight because we ran out of time. As I was writing this post, I realized we might have forgotten to mirror one of the Y-Plates, so we need to fix that tomorrow.

Day 2: 4 Hours

The Y-Plates: Part 2 – 2 Hours: We did forget to mirror the plates and we had the motor cabling facing the top instead of the bottom. Fixing that took up most of our night. After we fixed our mistakes, assembling the Gantry.

The Gantry – 1 Hour: The gantry, was fairly straight forward, it just took a long time to build because we had to slowly put in all the self tapping screws. After we assembled everything, we realized that we would not be able to attach the limit switches with the Gantry Assembled.

The Limit Switches – 1 Hour: We took off one of the Y-Plates and slid off the X-Carriage. We were able to attach the limit switch, but in the process, we lost one of our M2 nuts. This brings me to a huge issue we have run into, there are 0 spare parts and many of these parts are extremely tiny. We had to go buy an M2 nut before we could continue adding the Y-Plate Limit Switch. We were able to remount the Y-Plate to the gantry without any issues.

Day 3: 6 Hours

The Limit Switches: Part 2 – 2 1/2 Hours: The Y-Plate Limit switch itself was not hard to put on and we were able to put it on without incident, but we had to drive to 4 different stores to get an M2 Nut, Shielded Security wire, and a few parts for basic stiffening mods.

The Drag Chain Clips – 1/2 Hour: The drag chain clips were very easy to install, but it we felt like we were going to crack the clip trying to remove it from the chain.

The Y-Axis – 1 Hour: The Y-Axis end plates went on much smoother than the Gantry plates and we had little issue with them. We also started building the basic framework and now it is fairly rigid. There is some bowing in the gantry, but the stiffening mod should fix that.

The Pulley Belts – 1 Hour: The Pulley belts only took ~15-20 minutes, but we were at a standstill waiting for an answer to a question we had. The instructions do not say how long we had to cut the belts down to, so we had to post on the forums asking for help. We received a response in ~30-40 minutes. We used thin zip ties to lock the teeth into place and we got the belt tight while only having the nut flush with the end of the screw. This is to allow the belt to stretch, while still having enough of the screw to calibrate it once it has been broken in.

The Z-Axis – 1/2 Hour: The Z-Axis went on very easily. The drive rod bearing was very easy to lock into place and the Maker Slide appeared to be pre-tapped, which made the thread forming screws basically slide on. The main issue with instructions at this step is they do not show a picture of the front of the X Carriage when you were sliding the Z-Axis assembly on, so it is very hard to tell how high up it needed to to be locked in. The Z-Axis limit switch was very easy to put on, with the whole Z-Plate acting as a nut for it.

The Drive Rod – 1/4 Hour: The drive rod was probably the easiest part of this entire build so far, but it definitely is easier to do with 2 people. You have to hold the pulley in place, the rod in place, and screw in the set screw, without messing up the alignment of the pulley.

The Z-Motor – 1/4 Hour: Putting the Z-Motor almost requires 2 people, not only do you have to line up the motor, you have to hold it in place, and tension the Closed Loop Z-Belt, while screwing it in. We tried to attach the motor first without the belt, like the instructions described, but we could not get it over either pulley. We had to put it on before hand and tension it while screwing it in.

Day 4: 5 1/4 Hours

“30 Minute Stiffening Mod” – 1/4 Hours: I used a variant of this stiffening mod using M4x50mm screws, flat washers, wide washers, and nylock nuts to stiffen the Gantry. Now there is no flex to it, but the X-Carriage is a bit harder to move by hand. We will probably end up fixing that during calibration.

Wiring – 4 Hours : The wiring took a lot longer than expected, mainly because we had to add color coding to all the wires, ferrules to the ends of the wires, and strip & solder shielded wire for the Limit Switches. There were no real outstanding issues with wiring. just that it got a bit cramped under the motors, by the terminals. In the middle of soldering the limit switches, we had to make a run to Home Depot for more shielded wire because I did not get enough.

The Gantry Drag Chain – 1 Hour: The Gantry Drag Chain was mostly easy to put on, with a few exceptions. You had to take off the female end, which does not have the specific tabs for removal or reconnection, so it felt like you were going to snap it at every moment. A major issue is they have you remove the 2 of the self tapping screws in the MakerSlide so you can put on the drag chain mounting bracket. This makes you run the risk of breaking a screw head while removing or adding it.

Day 5: 5 3/4 Hours

Spindle Mount – 3/4 Hour: I used a variant of this Z-Axis stiffening mod using M5x40mm screws, flat washers, hex nuts, eccentric nuts, and nylock nuts to lock the V-Wheels in place and make them easier to adjust. The order is Screw, Washer, V-Wheels, Nylock Nut, Hex Nut, Washer, Eccentric nut (only on the eccentric side), and another Nylock Nut.  I tried using M5x50mm screws, but there was not a lot of clearance. The 30mm washers that were used in the original post do not work because the DeWalt Spindle plate is a few Millimeters thicker. The router is much easier to mount with 2 people, one to check the height and to hold it while the other clamps down the mount with screws. The top of the router housing has almost no clearance with the Z-Plate. It moves fine, but there is less than 1 Millimeter of space between them.

Work Area – 4 Hours : The instructions for the work area caused a lot of problems. The instructions call for the extrusions that you mounted to the Y-Plates, however, the instructions have no mention of removing them from the frame and I was worried doing so would harm structural integrity. We called support, but we caught them in the middle of the meeting, so we turned to the forums for help. We waited about an hour and a half for a responses. In that time, we debated and put on the inserts on the back of the board. We managed to get the board mounted by mounting the center extrusion to the board and the outer 2 short extrusions loosely to the frame. We inserted all the preassembly nuts beforehand and we slid the board on at a tiny angle with the fulcrum on the back screws of the machine. We slid the front board mounting screws into place, carefully removed them, lowered the board into place, and reinserted them. We then aligned the side mounting screws and slid the extrusion inward until the screws were at the end of their respective holes. we tightened the screws down until the wasteboard was held firmly into place. With 4 people, we carefully lifted and moved the machine onto our rolling cart. By this point, the machine weighs 70+ pounds. We tightened the middle and the outside short extrusion brackets to the long extrusions by hanging ~6″ off the edge of the cart and using the short side of the Allen wrench. We mounted the Y-Axis Drag Chain after feeding the X Axis, the Y-Axis, and the Z-Axis wire bundles through the chain. We ran into another issue with not having spare parts, we lost one of the screw to attach the female Drag Chain end, so we had to run to Home Depot to pick up the closes sized one. We mounted the DeWalt router cable to the Gantry Drag Chain using Zip-Ties. This did add a few pounds of weight to the drag chain, but otherwise there are no outstanding issues. The wasteboard itself was slightly damaged in shipping, a minor scuff/crack on the bottom of one of the mounting holes, but it was packed full of foam and bubble wrap, so it is not a packaging issue.


The Electronics: Part 1 – 1 Hour: We did not do much to the electronics tonight, we just attached the interface, the case, and the Arduino board. The video for the electronics says to use nylon washers, but the written instructions say they are not needed.

Day 6:  8 1/4 Hours

The Electronics: Part 2 – 7 Hours: The electronics have arguably been the single longest part of constructing the X-Carve. One reason it took a long time is we had to attach terminal blocks to a board, strip 4 3′ shielded wires, attach ferrules to both ends and the ends of the stepper tables, and clamping the wires to the board. Soldering the connectors did not take long. The biggest issue we encountered was was connecting the wire clamps that went into the connector for limit switches. The clamps would not fit the wires inside the shielded cables, so we soldered some of the black and white wires to the ends of our shielded cable wires. We still encountered an issue where the clamps would not fit on the black and white wires and the connector were very loosely fitting. We started the machine, but my windows laptop was unable to even connect to the X-Carve. We eventually ended up using my brother’s Macbook Pro and were able to jog it.

Calibration Part 1 – 1 1/4 Hours: While jogging the X-Axis, we realized that we Zip-Tied the cable to the drag chain the wrong way. The way we originally Zip-Tied it so it would pull on the cord as it moved down the gantry. We ran into an issue where the motor would not move the spindle above the halfway mount on the Z-Axis. Loosening the wheels helped, but we are still encountering the issue and the instructions say to tighten them so they can not be moved by your finger. We jogged the X-Axis and the Y-Axis. We noticed that the V-Wheels were hitting some of the Zip-Ties, so we had the ends facing the inside of the machine. In the end, we might end up using heat shrink once the belt finishes stretching.

Day 7: 6 3/4 Hours

Calibration Part 2 – 6 Hours: We were able to track down the Z-Axis issue to the Stiffening mod we used on the Z-Axis. We remove the 2 nuts between the V-Wheels and the Spindle Plate and we replace them with the aluminum spacers. We also removed all the washers. after we did this, the Z-Axis moved without any issues. we did keep the Nylock nuts on the ends of the M-5x40mm screws just to help secure the eccentrics in place. We encountered issues getting the Limit Switches to work, but that was tracked down to 2 issues, the connector not fitting correctly and us wiring the ground into the connector like the diagram shows, but the ground in the connector is for the spindle control. Once we connected the Ground to the G-Shield ground, removed the clamps from the connector, and placed the clamps directly onto their corresponding spots, wrapping them with electrical tape, the limit switches partially work. They will stop the Z-Axis, but they do not continue to testing the other axis. After we came back from lunch, we were unable to jog the Z-Axis down, both buttons were jogged it up. after a reset, none of the Axis moved at all. we were able to track it down the the G-Shield being unmounted during fixing the limit switches. We ended up not activating the limit switches because we were still having issues with them.

The First Cut – 3/4 Hour: Using a 1/4″ High Speed 2-Flute bit, we cut a gift box with a bow into a sheet of pine plywood. We had to use the Macbook b/c we still have not figured out how to fix the Windows problem. The cut is very clean, aside from some splintering. I did hear some chattering. The cut only took about 7 minutes, but we had to arrange our secondary wasteboard, clamp down the plywood to it, design the carve file, and check all the electronics.

Final Thoughts – 39 1/2 Hours Total

The Good:

  • The machine is very well built, sturdy, and everything fit snugly.
  • For an uncalibrated first cut, it cut very cleanly.
  • The machine itself did not require a lot of finicky calibration after building

The Bad:

  • The Machine comes with almost no spare parts to speak of, especially no spare parts for the tiny nuts and screws.
  • The Limit Switch Connectors don’t seem to snugly fit the supplied wires and G-Shield Pins.
  • The instructions are woefully vague and the pictures are taken at weird angles

Parting Tips:

  •  You can buy most screws, nuts, bolts, and parts at Home Depot and ACE Hardware.
  • Some people refer to security cable as in-wall speaker wire.
  • place your zip-ties as close as you can to the Y-Plates because the Smooth-Idlers can hit them.

 

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a free X-Carve From Inventables. This review is based on the Version available on 11/27/15.