Choosing a software for CNC

So again, the Ronin does what it does. I can only speak to my experiences and with software I really think that is a no brainer. No one is going to go out and buy them all and figure out what is best.

With that said I studied and studied before making any choices and well… still probably didn’t get it right. Maybe I did, I don’t know. Here we go.

  1. Easel
  2. Fusion 360
  3. Vectric VCarve Pro

Background, I run a Onefinity Journeyman X50 and primarily use Mac as a computer system. The Onefinity goes great with all three of these softwares and is TRULY plug and play with Easel. I really don’t think it could be easier.

This was actually my second cut, but I designed and cut it on Easel days after getting up and running. (L7 is a business I work with sometimes; had to show off)

I started with the Easel and was able to cut a project with it the day I got the CNC set up and software running. You can design stuff on a 2D palette very easy. It is the most rudimentary G-code producing software I have seen. You can import files like the SVG which can be found on places like Etsy or other free sites. Once its brought in you are damn near ready to export to cut. It’s that easy. Seriously. Some basic knowledge of depth of cut, feed and plunge rates and you are good to go. Another nicety about Easel is that they have per-registered data for all this (it’s not always dead on). You can know very little, and make something.

Another 2 cents that is noteable about Easel is that it is kind of an App based software. You choose what you want to make based off little “apps” or “Plug-ins.” It’s intuitive and pretty easy to navigate. The inlay carve app works especially well.

With that said, I give Easel like 2.5 stars (of 5). And you are like why? Your review sounds pretty good.

Well, it is because Easel has limitations. It is 2D and it is very hard to make complex things with.

A cabinet door prototype that led me to Fusion 360.

I stumbled into a job to build cabinet faces for a company primarily because they could see that what their client wanted was actually kind of complicated. And in retrospect, it was! Once I figured it out it was easy. The road to get there was tough though!

I tried to make these rails for the cabinets on Easel, but what that software really lacks for me is precise measurements in ALL areas of the cut. Designing a perfect 45 on easel, may be (I’m not sure) impossible. You can get close for sure, but perfect is a different animal.

The other thing that really irks me is that you are very limited as to what files you can produce as an end product. If you make an amazing box file and want to sell it on a site like Etsy, you can’t.

So I went to Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 is another Mac friendly software that I had heard was amazing, but hard. Real hard. I thought, naw can’t be that tough. But it is. For reals.

The thing to remember about F360 is that you can actually design a real space ship with it. It IS CAD/CAM software. It will pretty much render whatever you can imagine (with enough knowledge and experience). I tried, and quit.

And tried again a few days later. Little by little and with copious help from forums, I got it. Now I absolutely get it and love it. Truth be told it pushed me to go back to school for CAD.

So lets all jump on that F360 wagon, right? Well. No. It’s probably not for everyone. If you are looking to either purchase 3D files or create your own simple files. F360 will just slow you down.

A note that I would be remiss if I didn’t share, F360 will download permanently to your computer, so you can work on it while offline. I actually love that because I can work away from the house.

My logo. Created on Easel.

That brings us to Vectric VCarve Pro. Get ready to spend some money… but. I really believe this is the winner for most people. It doesn’t run on a Mac so you will have to either do a (bootcamp) partition or get a PC. I just went with the PC as I find partitions annoying.

VCarve Pro is the bee’s knee’s. You get the ease of Easel with the complexity of F360. Now you can’t render a space ship, but you can do so much with it you will likely never get bored.

I also think the V carves (like the name) are the best in the business. The tool paths and error control just seem beyond the other programs.

So what do I use? All three. But I am not a genius… and waste money way more than I should.

If you are beginning, I recommend Easel.

If you are a serious CNC miller, Vectric VCarve Pro.

If you want ultimate power and are willing to put in the work, Fusion 360.

Last notes. Interesting thing I love about both Vectric and F360 is that you can actually download several bit manufacturers suggested settings for their products. That is a super handy option.

Make sure to check out the rest of my website and blog!

Have a great one!


Hill Country CNC & Woodwork

Below is a link to James Dean’s CNC software video. Super informative and a great place to start.

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