The Rockler Shark Pro and the Carvewright/Compucarve CNC Router Wood Carving machines are the two machines targeted at the mass market entry-level woodworking users, so it's only fair to see how the two rack up against each other with regards to carving area, work piece size, cutting system, machinable materials and software.
Rockler Shark Pro CNC Router
Carvewright CNC Router
Carving area comes first because size is king but remember that there is a difference between maximum work piece size and maximum carving area. The Shark's gantry is a much wider than both the worktable and the carving area so in effect, you will not be able to carve the full width of the work piece if that is essential to you.
For the Carvewright on the other hand, focus is placed on the work piece size which includes being able to carve up to the edge of the work piece itself, so you've got a carving area of about 14" x 11" which, from the carving area perspective at least, has the Carvewright taking the lead from Rockler.
Work Piece Size
When it comes to the work piece size, the Carvewright's specifications clock in at allowing a board sized with dimensions 14 ½" W x 12" L while the Rockler allows for a max of roughly 18 ½" width boards which gives the Shark a clear edge.However, both machines allow for the board to stick out so the board length issue is essentially something of a non-issue and while the Cavewright's conveyer system does have a weight limit, in terms of length the two are essentially the same. Both machines can also easily handle stock piece thicknesses of up to 3 1/2" thickness which will be more than plenty for the targeted userbase.
The Carvewright uses a flex shaft, proprietary motor and a quick change collet system to drive their bits. The company feels like using any other bits besides Carvewright's (1/16" tapered bit and 1/8" straight bits are included in the package, both with ¼" carbide shanks) might cause the system damage and null the product warranty. Suffice to say, we didn't decide to test out the theory. A pair of adapters are included for usage of the bits with the quick change system.
The Rockler Shark Pro on the other hand does not impose the same non-third party bit manufacturing deal as the Carvewright, allowing for other attachments to be included. What is in the box is your standard ½" diameter carbide 60 degree V-bit with a ¼" shank. It uses both the motor and ¼" collet of a Bosch Colt Router which gives it a lot more flexibility than the Cartwright.
Rockler Shark Pro CNC Router:
Carvewright CNC Router:
The Carvewright's documentation explicitly advises using the machine on any material outside of soft materials: wood, plastic and foam. The Shark Pro on the other hand cuts through pretty much everything, whether wood, plastic or metal although we were advised by Rockler to stick to etchings and engravings on hard metals, while softer metals like aluminum can easily be used with the Shark Pro. Using a small tipped bit to lessen the lateral stress on the on Colt bearings and travel drives during more stressful work, was also some good advice by the company that serves us well. The general idea being: let common sense guide you.
Both pieces of software that come bundled along with both the Cartwright and Shark Pro run in different ways: the Cartwright has some of its system features built directly into the machine, while the Shark Pro collaborates with the PC. This last is useful since it manages and all set up and carving operations, giving you a detailed run up without having to squint for all the details. The Shark's Vectric VCarve Pro is a third party software that generates tool path files in G-code format which most standard CNC machines can process. The Shark is also compatible with any other third party software that can read and generate G-code.
Cartwright has its own software which is great, reliable and very flexible. In a feature comparison, the two probably come neck to neck with the Cartwright's software compatible with both PCs and Macs. However, some of the features already provided in VCarve Pro are available in an add-on program called "Centerline Text" for the Carvewright.
So there you have it: a step by step feature comparison between both the Rockler Shark Pro and Cartwright CNC machines. From our perspective, the Shark Pro withstood its competition in nearly every sphere, but we'll leave the final conclusion to you.