Computerized Carving — from Sears Craftsman

Craftsman CompuCarveWell, the face of woodworking is changing.  Technology has officially invaded the workshop.  It started in the 80’s with the Sears Craftsman digital radial arm saw.  Then it was lasers on the tools.  Next came CNC (computerized numerical control) machines like the ShopBot.  But it’s pricing is out of league with most home woodworkers. 

Now, Sears is making available the Craftsman CompuCarve Compact Woodworking Machine.  It’s a computer-controlled machine that’ll carve in 3-D on workpieces up to 14-1/2″ wide by 5″ high and almost unlimited length.  And it’s priced at around $1,900.  It requires a PC hookup.  Think of it as sort of like a 3-D printer for your computer.  Except you’re carving wood.

The CompuCarve is made by LHR Technologies who makes the CarveWright machine.  It was developed by a couple of NASA robotics engineers (wouldn’t you know it) who happen to love woodworking.

I can already think of uses for it like sign-making and carving panels for cabinet doors.

The Sears product page says it’s temporarily out of stock.  But there’s a link where you can have them email you when the product is available.

49 Responses to “Computerized Carving — from Sears Craftsman”

Jim Cooper said,

I am interested in more information regarding the compucarve Is there somewhere that I might see a working demostation or vidieo. etc.

Jim Cooper

Randy Maxey said,

Hi, Jim…

I’m not sure where you go for a demo or videos other that the LHR Technologies web site. You might try giving them a call.

Thanks,

–Randy

JAMES RIDDLE said,

CAN IT CARVE SIGNS
CAN IT CARVE BOWLS-3-TO 4.5 H 11-TO 14 WIDE
AND 14-TO 20 LONG
ANY MORE INFORMATION YOU HAVE
THANKS
JAMES

Randy Maxey said,

Hi, Jim…

Unfortunately I don’t have any more information than what I could get from the links in the post. We’ll see if we can get one in here and perhaps cover it in a future issue of Woodsmith or ShopNotes.

Thanks,

–Randy

larry burchfield said,

I would like to know if it can do other material then just wood. I would like to know if I could use on solid surfaces like corian?

JP said,

Is the machine able to carve a shape like a duck decoy? I need something that will do a 360.

JP

Bill said,

Jim,
Well I looked at the Sears add but I do not see anything to buy additional/replacement bits or different size/types all I see is “Set includes CompuCarve machine, (1) 1/16 in. carbide carving bit, (1) 1/8 in. carbide cutting bit” Seems like all it has is a V bit no other styles. Bill.

JR said,

There are specialty bits available separately. It does work on acrylic. Design what you want with the software on the computer. It works just like a dot matrix printer, scrolling back and forth on the x-axis as the wood moves through the machine.

Wood Chuck said,

I think I own every tool known to man.
I have sears Computer radial arm saw.
I have Sears regular radial arm saw.
I have Dewalt’s bigest compound miter saw.
I have Sears biggest table saw with dado blades.
I have Sears bigest Drill press, Mill.
I have Ryobi Power Shop Plainer.
I have Ryobi hand door plainer.
I have Dewalt 5 horse veriable speed plunge routor.
The question That I have is can this Craftsman CompuCarve Compact Woodworking Machine do any or all jobs that other machines usto do before it?
If not witch machines should I keep in my colection and why? As this lifestile has been a expensive one. Do you have any was to get any discounts on the machine please respond. where can Iget all my questions answered with in the next few seconds?

Rusty said,

Can you carve only from the software provided with the machine or can I use a computer generated image and carve this as well?

Peter said,

The http://www.carvewright.com website has an extensive “FAQ” page and a “Product” page that answers nearly all of the questions you ask. The carvewright is exactly the same as the Craftsman CompuCarve.

Happy New Years!
Peter

Woody said,

I took the time to go through the carvewright (compucarve) site which pretty well demos what this machine can do and where it’s limitations are… This is a first generation machine which I am sure will get bigger-better, yet.

From what I can see, the potential of this machine exceeds the imagination of some who will own one; well beyond engraved cabinet doors and boxes with cool lids. I can see applications beyond this for making molds and three dimensional carvings by “layering”.

Among my collection of ancient tools is a machine used by pattern makers which resembles a 3D pantograph. A router/cutter on one side and a pointed probe on the other. It is manually operated by moving the probe over a relief and the cutter following. Slow going but thats all they had 60 years ago.

I see they offer a “probe” which replaces the router bit, used to digitally scan a relief in 3 axis from an existing object. If someone is into ornate antique restoration, this feature would be essential. Once scanned, it could easily be reversed/mirrored. Likewise, plaster, or wax casts could be scanned from just about anything.

4-5 years ago, I saw a mantle face with a very intricate relief carving 10″x6′ long; a rural scene with trees and a millhouse and covered bridge…detailed down to leaves on the trees. It was cut into a 2″ slab of dark walnut… Carved by hand? HA HA HA. If someone had a couple years to spend on a project and was a master. It was done on a CNC machine, probably in a few hours.

Sold on demand. Cost $1500, (take it or leave it.) And they were selling like hotcakes.

All it takes is a little imagination. It wouldn’t take much to make a machine like this pay for itself in a couple weeks time.

Mike said,

I hear this carver takes an average of 2 hours to carve even the simplest of designs. If anyone hears anything different or can confirm this, please email me at MikeBandLoriP@aol.com. Thanks!

keith brazie said,

I was concerned as well, but I thought about it a little more (not true I couldnt stop thinking about it). Even if it takes four hours, how long would it take you to carve it by hand? Would you accomplish the same symmetry? Are you even capable of the same intricate detail? What about creating the same design multiple times – exactly the same? That’s five hours I can spend on doing or working on something else. In the end I belive it will still save time and I can make it work with any material that won’t coat or damage the bit, such as foam, cardboard, bondo ect… Its a tool, and as Woody’s list of them illustrates so well, there isnt any “All in one-do it all, Swiss army shop tool.” Each, though limited and specialized, does what it does well. The Compucarve being no exception has its limitations and its up to you to determine (as with all tools) its value and benefit. All tools are worthless in the wrong hands. Entry level CNC $6,500+, Hmmmmm.

Chad said,

After seeing the Commercial I think its a great machine, but I need to see more before I even think about purchaseing it.

sharon said,

the home machine embroidery industry started with really sized and limited useage in the formats. These problems have been met and the industry is growing. There are many web sites for sales of designs. This looks to be a craft
this machine will support also. How do you get the software to try it out?

brazie said,

Go directly to LHR technologies(link is above)and at the bottom of the home page you can download a trial version. Im actualy impressed,Ive used a wide variety of design software(softimage,maya,adobe,macromedia,autocad,ect…)and really expected all the common limitations of low end software-not so. I expected it to at least be vector driven accepting only cad type files…again,not so. It turns raster images(your basic jpeg) into the mathmatical perameters it needs to create your image. Learning curve – very minimal, almost dummy proof. This is done in very much(if not exactly) the same way flash converts raster images to vector. Anyways, it couldnt be easier. The drawing tools are (in my opinion coming from someone spoiled with professional software)clumsy and limited, I recommend an external drawing program such as illustrator,freehand,canvas,corel draw ect. But,no worries, you can also grab whatever you can get off the net. For the more demanding user to achieve more organic convex shapes, your gonna have to use 3d program or finish it out by hand using traditional methods.I dont like that your forced to choose from a limited selection of settings such as “1/4 , 3/8 ,3/4″ only, instead of a more sliding parameter allowing for that everything in between setting. I look forward to software updates.

Patrick J. Donnelly said,

Where can I buy one of these Compucarve machines. Went to my local Sears Store and they said they were out of stock with no indication of when they will be restocked.

Thank You

Patrick J. Donnelly
732-245-0679

Joel Hess said,

Patrick,

From all indications, the Craftsman Compucarve machines have been wildly popular (even at over $1900!) and from what I understand the people who manufacture the machines at CarveWright are being swamped with emails and phone calls. They’ve updated the FAQ site to answer questions on availability, so I’d keep an eye on their site if I were you.

Or, as you’ll see if you clicked the link to Sears website above, there is a way to recieve an email notification when they’re back in stock. One other thing I would do — consider reading the reviews on the Sears website BEFORE buying. -Joel Hess

Fran Moe said,

They said it would work with a Macintosh( i have a new one) do you know what software comes with it? Thanks Fran

Craig Brown said,

I just ordered my carver yesterday and sears indicated that it would be in by March 6th. I did have to pay up front and they would not sell the floor machine.
From what I have read and seen about this machine I think it could be a great addition to a small home shop.
I would be happy to send in a review in a couple of weeks once I get some play time.
I have a small woodworking business and think this will help me add some great options and products to my catalog.
We will see.

pat tosky said,

I would like to buy one of these machines for my husbsnd and I. We are both avid wood workers. Can they be purchased in Canada.

Jon Jantz said,

I would like to say that I have been very happy with my Carvewright/CompuCarve machine. I have had very little problem with it and have decided a lot of the problems are people buying them and expecting it to be as easy to operate as an inkjet printer. After all, could these same people operate a ShopBot out of the box??

According to Carvewright, they’ve sold over 4,000 machines in the last few months and are expecting to sell 20,000 this year.. the vast majority of the people do not post on these forums if their machine is working perfectly… the only ones you hear from are the ones having problems…

Anyway, I’ve started a forum for the machine as well, so feel free to jump over and check it out… http://www.AllCW.com

Joel Hess said,

Thanks Jon,

I’ll check out your forum and website later. I appreciate the positive feedback on the Compucarve. I can’t believe a product that’s as hot as this one doesn’t deliver in at least some way! Good to hear you’re having a positive experience.

-Joel

Myrna Faria said,

The personnel at the Sears store I went to check the Compucarve had no idea of how it works. How can I buy? What if I am unable to figure it out on my own?

Joel Hess said,

Myrna,

Try using this link to the Sears Craftsman tool website: Compucarve. You’ll find another link there for getting an email update when the item is back-in-stock at their online store.

As far as learning how to use it, Jon Jantz has started his own website (http://www.AllCW.com) to answer questions. It includes a forum and tutorials.

-Joel

Jesse Wallace said,

I build custom mantels and many other wood products. This product would be an asset to me but I wonder has anyone done any repetative carved mouldings and will this machine do that?

David Allen said,

I went ahead and bought one, after reading the forums at the Carve Wright website and learning as much as I could about the machine. Within an hour, I had my first carving under way.

The software that comes with the machine is pretty nice, and makes layouts easy. It will make a 3D carving pattern from any digital image by converting it to a greyscale image. The darker the color, the deeper it will cut (up to 1″). My first carving was a scan of an old postcard that turned out pretty nice.

I’ve also worked up some designs in CorelDraw as greyscale images, and have been able to carve a business logo, a 3D swan, and a Volkswagen New Beetle.

There are some websites out there that offer free patterns, and some that sell patterns. I’ve been doing pretty good with the free stuff and patterns I make myself.

The latest model of the machine that is now shipping seems to have some modifications over the first generation (the forum mentions a few design problems that mine doesn’t seem to have). It’s also pretty fast, with the most complex stuff taking about 30 to 40 minutes. I read about extremely long carving times with the first generation machines, but I think that’s been fixed. I set it up, give it a board, run through all the settings to avoid human error (the most common problem reported on the forum), and let it go. I’m off doing other stuff, so I really don’t care how long it takes.

It’s a bit pricey, but I could never carve the things that I’m making with it. Everyone I show it to comes up with a list of things to make, so I don’t see it’s usefulness slowing down any.

The software and instructions show that it can edge route a board, trim pieces to size, do miters and bevel cuts, and such as that. I think I’ll continue to do those on other tools that are more suitable for those tasks, and faster. So for the fancy boxes they show, I’d carve the top and sides in blanks, then trim and joint with other tools.

But it’s SO COOL!

Wheat From Chaff » Closing in on Desktop Manufacturing - Trends, Events, and Business Strategy said,

[…] It’s a bit pricey (as you’d expect) at around $1,900, but it moves us that much closer to the day when we can dream up a product and manufacture it on our desktops.  At first glance it appears to be simply a carving machine (although a pretty nifty one), but as you can see by some of the comments to this article, with some imagination it can become much more.  This is a first generation machine and as it is improved it will get easier to use and more capable.  You can read more about the Compucarve here. Another sign that the huge trend toward customization and personalization isn’t limited to the digital world.  […]

Paul McWhirter said,

Would it be able to carve a persons face from a photo jpeg?

Mike said,

I worked with a CNC machine in my high school engineering class, and this seems to be a really good step forward, at least from what I’ve read so far about it, because with the CNC machine I worked with you had to input each line of code, which if anyones worked with the same machine knows that it takes literally 100’s of lines of code to do a simple picture, so it’s nice that all you have to do is create a greyscale image to carve whatever you desire, I can see photoshop being used extensively with this tool.

Jerry said,

Has anyone used the CompuCarve to cut plastic? I understand you can cut polycarbonate with it. Also is the speed variable?

Ed said,

If it takes a scanned image and changes it to grey scale to carve it how does it know which is further away and which is simply darker? Is a person with dark hair not going to come out looking very strange, and if you have to make the appropriate changes yourself how do you do it? I also did not see anything about typing in letters and numbers to have them carved also, will it do this as well?

mike lapsley said,

Im insterested in getting to know more of the machine and how you have to hook it up to a computer to have it work I have a little shop at home but my computer is in the house (I guess I might sound stupid) So be it, But Iam serious about the question Thankyou for a reponce

Michael T said,

Hello Mike,

Just to clarify – the machine does NOT require a computer hookup.

There is a memory card and card reader included in the package. You design your project with the “Designer Software” (also included), then save your project to the memory card (which is plugged into the card reader attached to the USB port of your computer).

Then you remove the card from the card reader, walk to your garage (or wherever the machine is located), plug the card into the slot on the side of the machine, load your wooden board and start carving.

In short, you keep the machine in your garage and your computer inside the house – you do NOT connect the two together. Rather you transfer data between the two via the memory card.

Hope that gives you a better understanding of how it works.

The machine is a ton of fun and can be a very useful addition to any woodworker’s shop.

Hurricane Hugo said,

I am interested on inputing photographs.
can the machine make it come out 3D.
has any one else tried it in this manner.
Portraits and such.
can the probe, probe hands?
or is too dangerous?

can the sears store have one for display and people bring in a project and use the machine?

Brad said,

Saw this machine at the Portland Oregon Woodworking show today. I was struck by several features:

It utilizes a metal stylus probe to “scan” a model for 3D (up to 1″ deep) duplication.

It looks like a cross between a Subcompact Planer and an Office Jet Scanner /Printer.

The unit feeds stock using a sanding belt conveyor for long stock, or remains stationary for small items that are clamped in place with internal vices.

The model/workpiece theoretical length with current software is 20 feet, more if the pattern repeats, I’m told. Software limitations, I guess. Still far more than adequate. A major plus for long shallow mouldings.

Somewhat limited width, I think 12″ capacity, anything wider would have to be pieced together. Supposedly capable of 3D work, within the 1″ limitation and assuming careful stock repositioning.

Unable to “scan” (probe) larger, more complex, or deep base-relief carvings.

Duplication feature allows carving after the stylus unit (an additional $249.00) is used to make a binary image of the model, then removed and replaced with the cutterhead, basically an OEM collet with one of several 1/4″ shank router bits with from 1/2″ to 1/16″ inch flutes. The machine “tells” you when to change cutterheads (router bits) during the carving process. The model is replaced with a suitable piece of raw stock, either wood or carvable plastic, anything you can cut with a router bit I assume. It is clamped in place with two separate vices integrated into the base of the machine,

My Opinion: A good, maybe great idea with numerous drawbacks that should be worked out, and may be with time:

1) The probe may (will) damage wood or rubber, plaster, wax, etc. patterns. Why a read/write laser scanner head has not been implemented yet is a serious puzzle. The steel probe scraping over the original model is like fingernails on a blackboard. Cant be good for the bearing surfaces of the machine either. At least the cutter (router) bit “lubricates” the action when cutting. The probe is anachronistic. The duplication models at the show were all made of various metals, not wood. Worse, they showed signs of serious scratching, even the cast iron items. Granted, these models have to endure hundreds of demos, but it doesn’t inspire confidence in the machine to see them so beat up by the probe.

2) The cutting action is limited to 1/16″ diameter at the smallest. I’m told they’re working on a smaller bit (burr), which would provide much greater detail. The current bit creates a carving that is, well, somewhat crude-looking.

3)The memory card is only 8MB, proprietary, not PCMCIA, and so must be read in a card reader with a USB dongle. Very cumbersome for those of us who are accustomed to laptop computers. Heck, why not just use a Thumbdrive? These will be around for some time to come. This interface is outdated and easily upgradeable by the manufacturer, but not the end user once purchased, as the memory card slides into a permanent socket built into the machine. This should remedied ASAP.

The software screen looks like Ashlar or Corel but isn’t, this is no big deal, though. Easiest to upgrade at their website and a plus, in my opinion. . You can carve any pattern that you can produce on a PC. Don’t know if it’s compatible with MAC.

Conclusion: This machine is good for turning out low to mid quality machine carvings – that LOOK like machine-made carvings, even from a distance of 15-20 feet or more. It does a fair to poor job of reproducing existing carvings, and this will not improve until the company springs for a real no-touch scanner head. This is a no-brainer. It seems the machine design allows for them to build one of these for later sale as an accessory. Why the heck doesn’t it come with the machine now? I’ve had a portable battery-operated Canon (BJ-50) scanner/printer for my laptop since 2001. The scanner head on that 7 year old dinosaur (it has a SERIAL port!) is half the size of the clunky probe accessory on this brand new machine. Fix this, and the machine will be a serious winner!

karel said,

i would like to know , if there is in the software program , i possibility to make name plates for boats (on the stern and side )
mabe a stuped qeustion ? my boat s nane is ruwach
can annybody give me an example how it looks , with a dove on the side of the plate name of city is ithaca , new york ,
kind regards karel

Ngoc said,

I am from Vietnam. I wonder how can I buy one from Vietnam.

Thank you

Terence said,

Has anyone tried to use this machine on leather?

Teply said,

anyone that has the Carvewright…can you tell me if you can scan an image and convert it to a pattern? I do a lot of art work and much of what I have done I would love to transfer it onto some of my cabinets. Is it possible?
Thanks

The Lyles said,

My wife is a tole painter can anyone tell me if it can take a line drawing like of a bear and then cut it out. I cut her wood shapes out now with a scroll saw. All we are seeing is 3d and carved rather than cutting simple shape. We cut some time 50 to a 100 of the same design for art shows and this would be nice if the machine could do it for us.

wood carver said,

Gee I suggest people to buy two! One to use while the other is at LHR for repair! Of course you can buy a real CNC for the price of 2 CW’s and not worry about down time!

Seriously the machine works well when it is working. You will clean the machine more then using it and need to maintain it often. Otherwise it will break down. Plus it’s slow and can not be set to carve faster.

I do really like the designer it is user friendly. If it was more reliable I would still have one in my shop today. I decided to buy a K2 CNC and a Shopbot.

If and when LHR makes the machine reliable I will buy another one. But until then I suggest anyone interested in one wait until that happens

Unwilling Beta Tester said,

Do NOT buy this product. It is a hobby toy and it does not do what the manufacturer says. After you have spent $2-GRAND for a complete set of desk dodads in the shape of your grandkid’s names, you will put it away and never use it again because it is so frustrating. You will burn through lots of wood with no results, and buy maintainance tools you will never need again. It took me a month to learn the software. It’s a sweet idea but unless you have time and money to burn, wait. Let them work out the problems, not you. You will see machines on ebay, etc why do you think they are selling them?

Steve said,

I heard that Sears is getting a new shipment of Compucarves sometime in November 2008. These are supposed to be manufactured much better with many of the original problems solved, but I also heard that the number is limited. Sears is supposed to have improved their service as well. Are these machines better now?

anna said,

I have been cutting out letters for names to hang on walls. I’ve been using a bandsaw. I was wondering if this machine could cut the letters. I use fiberboard that is 1/2″ thick.

SRakes said,

I have a carvewright machine, it is junk. Never worked correctly.I waited past the 30 days to return it, they will not refund my money. They never return my emails. I find them very difficult to deal with. Now they want to charge me to fix it. I do not recommond wasting your money on this junk.

John Makepiece said,

This machine is not ready for sale to the public. Its fraught with issues that should have been solved before it went on sale in 2006. Mine went back twice and still does not work. Repairs shipping have added more than $400 to the original cost of $1800.
Save your money your buying a big problem if you get one of these

bruce said,

2010 I have noticed alot complaints about this machine from ones purchased from carvewright but not from sears. has anyone bought one from sears with a maintanence agreement and had a problem lately???
rubinsguitars@yahoo.com