Make beautiful, durable, and functional objects from wood and plastic with our Carvey desktop CNC machine.

The Carvey uses a variety of bits to precisely carve, cut, and engrave material up to 0.9″ thick. Create your design in Easel, a free, cloud-based program, then come in to carve it with staff assistance during our Makery open hours. Ready to explore on your own? Visit, create an account, and dive in!

Need inspiration? Check out a sampling of projects from Inventables, makers of the Carvey.

How it works

The Carvey is a fully enclosed, desktop CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine. As a subtractive manufacturing tool, the Carvey takes solid blocks and carves away material to make an object. A set of motors move the cutting tool and work surface in three directions—side-to-side (the x axis), back-and-forth (the y axis), and up-and-down (the z axis)—to physically duplicate a digital design.

The Carvey uses a metal bit to carve, cut, and engrave material. This bit is similar to one found in a drill, but it is designed to cut while moving laterally, carving a path along the material, instead of plunging down to make holes. By making multiple passes, the bit can carve to varied depths, allowing the machine to do everything from very shallow engraving to complete cuts through a thick board.

Easel is a free, cloud-based program used to operate the Carvey. It allows you to create projects and interact with the machine. Designs can be drawn directly in Easel, imported as SVG files from other programs, or traced from raster images (JPGs, PNGs, or GIFs).

Easel also allows you to set the material and bit to be used for each design. The needs of your project—type of material, level of detail, and depth of cut—will determine which bits are most suited to the job. A fuller explanation of bit selection can be found below, and staff can also assist in making this determination.

Materials & Bits

What size material can the Carvey cut?

  • The Carvey can accommodate material up to 12″ long x 8″ wide x 0.9″ thick.
  • Very thin materials may not be carvable. We recommend materials no thinner than 1/16″ (0.0625″).

Where can I get material to use with the Carvey?

  • The library currently offers the following for purchase:
    Material Dimensions Thickness Price per piece
    Hard maple 6″ x 12″ 1/8″ $3.99
    Hard maple 6″ x 12″ 1/2″ $5.49
    Hard maple 6″ x 12″ 3/4″ $5.49
    MDF 8″ x 12″ 1/8″ $2
    MDF 8″ x 12″ 1/4″ $3
    MDF 8″ x 12″ 1/2″ $6
    MDF 8″ x 12″ 3/4″ $7
  • Maple is a solid hardwood suitable for finished projects, and MDF is a versatile material good for both finished projects and prototyping. Both can be sanded and painted, and maple can also be stained.
  • Other materials which we can carve include: cast acrylic (extruded acrylic is not suitable for milling), expanded PVC, HDPE, linoleum, hardwood, plywood, and MDF. We recommend purchasing these materials directly from Inventables, as these are pre-cut to a suitable size and have been tested with the Carvey. We do not currently allow the use of metals, stone, wax, or other materials. All materials to be cut must be flat and of even thickness.

What bits do you have available?

  • The choice of cutting bit depends on material, level of detail, level of finish needed, and depth of cut. A good primer on bits can be found at the Inventables website.
  • It’s helpful to keep in mind the capabilities of each bit when designing your project, but we can help you select a bit if you are not sure which to use.
  • The bits we currently have available are:
    Bit diameter Type Maximum depth of cut Good for
    1/8″ 2 flute straight 0.866″ Wood, plastics, linoleum, MDF, plywood; cuts without fine detail; thick to very thin materials*
    1/8″ 1 flute spiral upcut 0.866″ Plastics, linoleum, hardwood**; cuts without fine detail
    1/8″ 2 flute fishtail upcut 0.394″ Plastics, linoleum, hardwood**; cuts without fine detail
    1/16″ 2 flute fishtail upcut 0.315″ Plastics, linoleum, hardwood**; cuts with detail
    1/32″ 2 flute fishtail upcut 0.12″ Plastics, linoleum, hardwood**; cuts with detail
    1/8″ 2 flute fishtail downcut 0.3″ Hardwood, plywood, MDF**; cuts without fine detail; thin materials
    1/16″ 2 flute fishtail downcut 0.3″ Hardwood, plywood, MDF**; cuts with detail; thin materials
    1/32″ 2 flute fishtail downcut 0.2″ Hardwood, plywood, MDF**; cuts with detail; thin materials
    0.01″ 30° engraving bit 0.01″ Wood, plastics, linoleum; very shallow cuts with very fine detail

    *Straight bits, downcut, or compression bits are better than upcut bits for very thin material, because upcut bits pull the material up and away from the cutting surface.

    **Upcut bits pull up on the material, creating a slightly rougher top edge/surface on plywood, MDF, and hardwood. This is less noticeable with hardwood, but plywood and MDF are very likely to tear, and we do not recommend using upcut bits with these latter two materials. However, upcut bits are an excellent choice for plastics.

    Downcut bits push down against the material. This can prevent chips and dust from being removed from the cutting area, thereby increasing the chance that some plastics may begin to melt. Downcut bits are a better choice for wood, plywood, and MDF than plastics.


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