View Full Version : Where to begin???

Dave Norris
02-24-2008, 11:37 PM
Hi to Everyone,
I'm not sure where to begin with this... I currently have a small woodshop with the usual machines (TS, jointer, planer,shaper, etc). I do mostly smaller projects for family and friends like a kitchen here, or a bathroom there. Only a couple a year right now, as I still work fulltime. I'm looking to retire from my "dayjob" in the next 5-10 years or so, preferably 5 years if I can ramp-up the woodworking to supplement a bit. Lately I've been doing my designs in "Sketchup", which allows me to get things designed better, and to show folks what I'm thinking they are asking for.

I find the idea of a Shopbot to be extremely cool, and based on the websites, I have yet to really find anyone who regrets getting one (I'm sure they're out there, I just haven't run across them). I don't have the cash for one now, but I think I'm going to start saving in that direction. Which brings me to my questions...
1. Realistically, to get a Shopbot that will allow me to work as a one man fairly custom shop (making cabinets, kitchens or other??), how much cash would I probably need to get started?
2. Given that I'm at least a year away from purchasing, what can I do now to start developing my skills further?
3. Is a Shopbot even the way to go with a cabinet type business?
4. I see lots of posts about using a 'bot to make signs. Are you folks making wooden signs as I see some of the pictures, or are these other types of signs?

I love the idea of a 'bot, but I really don't think my wife will... any tips there? She's a "save for retirement" kind of person,, where as I'm a "spend to earn in retirement" kind of guy. She's ok with a $2k saw, but I'm guessing the cost of this is going to earn me a resounding "are you out of your mind?"

Thanks for any help you could offer. I'm in Western PA if that helps.

Keith Outten
02-25-2008, 7:35 AM

1) Send a Private Message to my wife Jackie and ask her how she feels about me purchasing my ShopBot three years ago.

2) "Think Signs", the rewards for high end commercial sign work are incredible.

3) Stay away from the general public if you expect to make a serious profit.


George Myers
02-25-2008, 1:37 PM
Hello Dave

To get the “wife factor” on the bandwagon it may pay to start with a small machine in the $2,000-3,500 range. This way you will have a few years to get to know what you can do or want to do with a cnc router. (plus a lot of fun)

My wife had no concept of what a cnc router could do or what I wanted one for. I did a lithopane of our wedding picture and now she is driving the “bandwagon”.

Now when I say in passing I would like to get a 4x4 Bot or EZ router down the road, I do not get a flat out “no”, but a “we will see”. (That is almost a Yes from her).

I have a Romaxx http://www.romaxxcnc.com (http://www.romaxxcnc.com/) and really like it but there is also the CNC9000 http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/9171 that I have read some good comments about . You could always sell the small one when you get a bigger one or keep it to do the smaller side work.

Dave Norris
02-25-2008, 6:46 PM
I don't think the wife factor is insurmountable right now. RIght now though it would go like this... Me: "I was thinking of looking into a CNC router" Her: "Oh? Why?" Me: "Well, it seems like it could really help making cabinets and improving the quality" Her: "I thought we just bought a shaper to make cabinets?" Me: "Well... we did. But the CNC could speed it up and improve the quality" Her: "I thought the power feeder helped make it faster and it improve the quality" Me: "But it seems a cnc also can make signs" Her: "I didn't know you wanted to make signs" Me: "Well, it could help make things more profitable" Her: "If you make a kitchen now, it takes three months and you make a $1000. You get to keep the $1000. If we buy a cnc, how long will it take?" Me: "I would guess two months till I get it built and installed" Her: "and you will use the $1,000 to make the cnc payment..." LOL

Dave Norris
03-03-2008, 11:08 AM
Hi Again All,
Ok, I’ve done A LOT more research, including downloading some tutorials on vCarve. I think I have a much greater understanding of the basics now. In essence, with sign carving, you draw a two dimensional graphic, then cut away “everything that isn’t sign”, using various bits. “Toolpathing” literally tells the machine where and how to move the particular bit to remove what it is supposed to move. It seems as if vCarve does that automatically, is that correct? I was also pleased and interested to read on the Shopbot forum that it seems that Sketchup Pro can be used as a CAD program to further develop Shopbot files.

Also been doing a lot of researching on signs and sign making. In a discussion, I think it was Ken who said that avoiding dealing with the general public is the best way to go to avoid frustration.

So , my new shortened and somewhat more specific list of questions is:
1. Does vCarve actually do the toolpathing for a project?
2. It seems there are a few sign companies in my area who offer a wide array of signs including sandblasted, vinyl, window lettering, and sign foam. Given they are established, and I would be part-time offering carved signs only, would it be really reasonable to assume I could compete?
3. How do other ShopBot folks fill in the “down time” between jobs? My thoughts were to develop some “crafts” products for those times. In this area, anything with NASCAR or hunting motifs would probably sell pretty well, but I would have to find somewhere to peddle my wares. In a small area, how much “walk-in” CNC’ing could one expect?
4. If I stay away from public sales, who would be my customers?
5. Does anyone use Sketchup successfully with their ShopBot?

Steveo O'Banion
03-12-2008, 10:33 AM
Sounds like you need to do the kitchen first! :)