CNC Desktop Machines.....Worth Buying??

harpone

Harpone
User
For several years I have been intrigued by CNC routing, particularly when comparing my scroll saw Christmas ornaments with those done with CNC. A son-in-law and grandson just bought a large table CNC for their welding business which renewed my interest. I am looking for advice. I started doing craft work (nothing bigger than a dollhouse) after I retired but I still consider myself a novice in most woodworking areas. I have read quite a bit about desktop routers kits and finished machines: some seemed to be considered junk and a waste of money, others too complicated for the uneducated. I have no CAD training, and my mechanical skills are suspect as documented by the Navy OCS qualifying exam. I have an Apple iMac but not a PC. I do have a Bosch router. My budget is $1500. I will still be making small stuff. Is there anything out there that would meet my limitations?
 

Southern_Canuk

Scotty
User
If your looking for a Mid Size CNC. I have put together a couple of these for friends now and they are a good system (OpenBuilds LEAD CNC Machine 1010 (40" x 40")), very customizable and will fit your router. They are capable of aluminum and any type of wood you can toss under it, just a bit of a learning curve about cutting speeds.
If you want to go cheap like $500 then I would suggest building one of these: (Specifications | V1 Engineering Inc) Lighter weight machine has a huge community around it that cutomize and upgrade parts.
Here's the $500 one doing Aluminum
 
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riggsp

Phil
Corporate Member
My opinion...I would look around and check with someone that has a CNC router already...see if they will spend some time with you going through the process of design to set-up to cutting...you will have to learn some type of CAD software or be able (learn) to write programs by hand...all machines, whether it's a table saw, scroll saw, or CNC machine will have a learning curve...your ability to produce a part will depend on you being able to work through that curve.
 

harpone

Harpone
User
My opinion...I would look around and check with someone that has a CNC router already...see if they will spend some time with you going through the process of design to set-up to cutting...you will have to learn some type of CAD software or be able (learn) to write programs by hand...all machines, whether it's a table saw, scroll saw, or CNC machine will have a learning curve...your ability to produce a part will depend on you being able to work through that curve.
Thanks for the advice. I clearly remember when I bought a job site saw and with no experience or training was afraid to use it. A friend's husband is a commercial cabinet maker and he got me started. The virus has put a halt to my outside contacts. I have thought of checking with the local woodworking store, Mann Tool, or the area technical schools once I get the vaccine and things calm down.
 
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tri4sale

Daniel
Corporate Member
You'll be able to get a small CNC setup in that budget, like the Shark SD110 ($1529 at Woodcraft right now) or if you do a self build kit could get a larger CNC but more of a learning curve to build and get running. Not sure if they'll run on a Mac, I run Aspire for design and ShopBot software to run the machine, and both are PC only. With the smaller units and the kits, depending on the router you use, it'll mostly affect how fast you can cut. I have a 4'x8' ShopBot with a 3.5HP porter cable router, and I can cut pretty fast, but a buddy with a step up from me running better motors and a spindle can cut faster than me. Does speed matter that much for a hobbyist system, not really in my opinion, but others may disagree. As for learning, plenty of tutorials on YouTube, and ShopBot has a class in Durham that's very affordable and great even for non-Shopbot users. I think someone here was offering a class they won in the raffle up for sale.
 

riggsp

Phil
Corporate Member
Mann tool would probably be a better option rather than one of the tech schools...If Mann tools sells CNC routers (and I'm pretty sure they do), they should have someone on staff that can give you a demonstration or at the very least refer you to someone that can...Tech schools will typically have a CNC machining (metal working) program that will take you a few semesters of work before you actually take any CNC classes and then it would be geared to production metal working...I'm not trying to discourage contacting a tech school but unless they have a high end woodworking program, CNC operations aren't usually available...another option would be to check to see if there is a Makerspace in your area. Sometimes the active ones have CNC routers available.
 

harpone

Harpone
User
Mann tool would probably be a better option rather than one of the tech schools...If Mann tools sells CNC routers (and I'm pretty sure they do), they should have someone on staff that can give you a demonstration or at the very least refer you to someone that can...Tech schools will typically have a CNC machining (metal working) program that will take you a few semesters of work before you actually take any CNC classes and then it would be geared to production metal working...I'm not trying to discourage contacting a tech school but unless they have a high end woodworking program, CNC operations aren't usually available...another option would be to check to see if there is a Makerspace in your area. Sometimes the active ones have CNC routers available.
Thanks again for your advice.
 

mkepke

Mark
Senior User
It doesn't need to be quite as daunting as it first appears. Hobbyist CNC machines have really exploded in popularity and thankfully there has been a ton of simplification of the software processes needed to go from concept to cutting. As Daniel said, there is also a ton of user-community created and manufacturer-created educational content.

As for your budget - yes, I'm sure you can find something, but think about your needs. If all you plan to make is Christmas ornaments, maybe all you need is the ability to cut a 12x12 area in 1/4" plywood? Do you plan to cut aluminum? Make big stuff? Make 3D stuff? The bigger the cutting area and the more rigid the machine, the more expensive it gets.

There is unfortunately a lot of $stuff you need to run a CNC router but may or may not be included with your CNC router purchase, like CAD/CAM software, the router itself, various cutters, a work table/platform, dust collection,... Keep track of that $stuff if you are trying to stay under budget.

Just to give you something to chew on, take a look at the Shapeoko 3. Very popular hobby machine. It includes all the fiddly bits (power supply, cables, motors, etc etc) but needs a router. The folks that make it offer a free intro to CNC course (sign up on their website) and even offer a good basic 2D CAD/CAM package for free (CarbideCreate) - and it runs on a Mac. Carbide 3D

FWIW, I would have bought a Shapeoko 3 if one of the other members here hadn't turned me onto the Onefinity CNC..but the latter is in the $2500 range. My CNC is due to arrive next month. In the meantime, I'm working up some projects in CarbideCreate.

-Mark
 

Skymaster

Jack
Senior User
Just a thought for you. You say your needs are small, BELIEVE ME I dont own cnc but once you get it up and running,in a very very short time, the I WISH syndrome is kicking in. Go as big as you can afford even if you need to take payments,or up your budget. Software is the bugger, I have terrible issues with it for my laser,however once learned it doent matter how big the machine is.WAY WAY easier and cheaper to upgrade software than hardware. Same issues in my cabinet shop, only need has bitten me more times than I want to say.
 

tri4sale

Daniel
Corporate Member
Just a thought for you. You say your needs are small, BELIEVE ME I dont own cnc but once you get it up and running,in a very very short time, the I WISH syndrome is kicking in. Go as big as you can afford even if you need to take payments,or up your budget.
This is very very true! I'm so glad I went with larger table for my CNC, I know I would have quickly wish I had gone larger. And it's really easy to make money with a CNC machine, especially if you're good at finishing (painting, staining)
 

Herdfan2005

Jason
Senior User
I have a Shapeoko XXL and upgrade to the ZPLus. I am very happy with the machine and continue to learn more and more about CNC-ing. Huge community support and outstanding customer service will keep me with them until I upgrade to larger bed maybe down the road. I use vCarve for CAD and CAM.
 

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