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Thread: Router Choice Considerations for DIY CNC Build

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    San Jose, CA

    Router Choice Considerations for DIY CNC Build

    I am considering building a DIY 4x4 machine. Right now I'm pondering either a Joe's or a RouterCNCparts build. I'm torn between the large support network on the Joe's machines vs. what looks like more straightforward bolt-together approach on the RouterCNCparts build. Anyway, I digress...

    I'm wondering what factors I should consider when choosing the actual router for the machine. I've been very happy with my Milwaukee routers (I have three!). I especially like my 5625 I have in my RT, so I was considering buying another one in whatever machine I go with, but I'm wondering whether the weight of the motor itself might be an issue. Judging from what posts I've read, seems like there's a lot of diversity in what people use (DeWalt, Hitachi, PC, Bosch, etc.).

    What factors are important to consider (runout for sure)?


  2. #2
    I have built a Joe's. It's a nice system. The forum is worth the $100 entry fee. However, there's no central set of directions. The plans are a set of drawings that are not particularly enlightening. Thus, you spend many hours reading everyone's build threads. It's interesting, and you learn a lot, but just be prepared for that.

    Is weight of the router something of a concern? Definitely yes! The stock Joe's design uses one piece of 8020 which is roughly 2" x 4".. If you use a beefier gantry, you will get better performance (More accurate cuts, ablilty to cut faster). There's a host of other mods to stiffen up the machine as well.

    People criticize the Hitachi router for runout.. there's aftermarket collets which help, but I think that's around $60-100 ( I can't remember), which kind of negates the cost savings of the Hitachi. A lot depends on what you are going to use the CNC for.. A lot also depends on your budget for the machine.
    You can spend as much as you want on a DIY machine lol.. Whatever route you chose, read as much as possible before buying a single part.
    If you have any other questions about the Joe's, let me know.

  3. #3
    Here is the thing.
    Both the Joes build and the CNCRouterParts CNC's use 8020 for the main gantry. The problem with 8020 is that while it does not flex much, it does twist fairly easily. A gantry beam that will give you a 4' cutting area will twist alot and makes the use of large routers problematic. When I designed the KRMx01 router I ran into the same problems. I did two things on my build. First my cutting area along the X axis was reduced and second I added enough room on the Y carriages to add a second beam.

    Dont let anyone fool you. IF it uses 8020 the beam will twist. That said there are some after market addons to the Joes build that will fix this probem. However they cost almost as much as the original build.

    As far as weight of the router. On my KRMx01 build I am currently using a 2-1/4" Dewalt. My Z carriage is steel so that adds weight as well and even with 5-start AC?ME screws I dont have any problems lifting the router and carriage with a 350+ motor.

    Personaly I would go with the CNCRouterParts build as I think it will be a more staight forward build. The Joes build uses steel angle for the rails and I have not ever had any luck with this stuff.

    One other thing if you are going to build your own CNC. Make sure you purchase a quality electrics kit. Its the most expensive part of the build and can be used over and over on many builds if you arnt happy with your current.

  4. #4

    One thing to comment on about the 8020 beam twisting, on the CNCRouterParts kit it uses a 3060 beam which is stronger and on top of that, the .25" CRS is there to act as a rail but also keeps everything from twisting. That's one of the main benefits of using it as a rail system on the gantry.

    As for a router choice, look into the Chinese spindles. Rumor has it, if you find one of the buyers who has a "make an offer" option on eBay, you can save $50-100.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Simpson Virgina View Post
    Here is the thing.
    Both the Joes build and the CNCRouterParts CNC's use 8020 for the main gantry. The problem with 8020 is that while it does not flex much, it does twist fairly easily. A gantry beam that will give you a 4' cutting area will twist alot and makes the use of large routers problematic..
    I agree with what Michael is saying here.. He explained it better than me.
    I did a double 8020 beam (the 2" by 4" size of 8020) Still got way too much twist.
    Upgraded to Bosch 90 X180H.. that did the trick. It may have been overkill, but I wanted something that would work without another rebuild.
    But yes, it was expensive.
    Whatever design you chose, it will benefit from having the stiffest gantry possible.

  6. #6
    @ Ross
    I did testing with 3060 as well. Even with dual .25 steel attached it still twitsts. Not as much as the smaller stuff. FYI the added .25 rails did very little to stop the twist. The best I have seen is a double beam put together with cross braces. This is the only thing I have seen that nearly reduces the twist.

    Please note the twist is not a killer. Just slow the router down and you can make accurate cuts all day long. It just means without a serious upgrade an 8020 machine is not going to be a production machine.

    I still vote for the CNCRouterParts machine. My KRMx01 build has many componets from CNCROuter Parts.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    N.W. Missouri
    Precise router collets are available for Porter Cable and Bosch. Beyond that the selection gets slim fast. If you are on a budget, consider using a variable speed router to start with. You can upgrade to a spindle later.

    In the past, the Chinese spindles have had problems with quality control with the VFD. Documentation was poorly translated, too. There is a lengthy thread about this in the DIY Router Table section at


  8. #8
    I have had zero luck with porter Cable routers. Its not just the collets that are junk. I have had to return every single one I have purchased in the last couple years. Lets see the total is up to five. I will not purchase another. Go with the Bosch. I have owned 3 of these and all ran as smooth as silk. Personaly I am a Festool man and ran my Festool trim router on my CNC machines for the longest time. Currently I have a Dewalt DW618 and while it works ok, it does have runout.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Upstate South Carolina, USA
    I am now on my third machine which is a Joes Hybrid with a CastCNC top end, and I like it a lot. I made my machine smaller so it would fit in my garage shop - the table is about 32 by 44. Also added the steel rails to avoid using angle iron for rails. I agree with a previous poster, that you have to do a lot of reading on Joe's website to understand all the details of the build, whereas the CNC router parts machines (from Fine Line Automation) are more straightforward - just a bolt up. The Joe's machine uses v bearings and the v rails - and these are a much better way of guiding the carriage IMHO. There are ways to make way scraper/brushes on the CNC router parts machine, but you always have to keep an eye on the ways to make sure they are chip-free.

    In terms of routers, I use a Makita - it has lived on the last two machines and has done a good job. The downside is that there are no precision collets for it that I can find. But that hasn't been a big deal.

    I have read a lot of comments about the gantry twisting, but that is not an issue for me, as I keep my machine below 200 ipm.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Tampa, FL
    I have a Joe's machine and am running a hitachi router. I did upgrade to the precise bits collet set and love it.
    - Shane

    Shenhui SH-G350 60W, Joe's 4x4 CNC, V-Carve, Corel, Mach3, Laserwork and tons of woodworking tools!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Bloomington, IL
    I am a castcnc Joes R&P hybrid owner. I also run a hitach M12VC and stock collet. I use Vrail and 8020 25S5010. I have a 62"X50+" cutting area. I even use a xtreme router bit extension to make chaning bits happen in about 3 seconds. Everyone elses machine may be better than mine. My paying customers can't tell. I have paid for the machine and all my upgrades in less than 1.5 years with zero advertising. Sometimes we are our own worst critics. A mentor once told me "Mike quit thinking so damn much". A lot of truth in that. I love the Joes support network. Heck a deal I found there on bearings made it free to join as the group told me about 1/2 off T2 v bearings (I should have bought more and resold them).

    If you do go Joes consider V rail. I flattened a spot on my angle iron on my Z and swapped it out for V rail. I now own a K2 8" Z-axis on my cast build.

    The cncrouterparts looks fun. I would love to build one. Remember that price does not include electronics though.
    Glad its my shop I am responsible for - I only have to make me happy.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    San Jose, CA
    Thanks all... I'm still undecided both in terms of which router to get, as well as which build option is right for me. I'm leaning more towards the cncrouterparts 4 x 4 for a couple of reasons. I hope to make a decision this weekend though.

    I've been meaning to pull out my dial indicator and check the run out on my Milwaukee 5625. I like the 5yr warranty on it, but I wonder if its really larger than necessary? What say you? should I go with a "3.25hp" model or downsize to a "2.25hp" one?

    Maybe one day I could upgrade to a real spindle... but not right now...


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