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Thread: Looking for advice on a first CNC router

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    East Rochester, NY
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    Looking for advice on a first CNC router

    Something small I think....not too big. I make a lot of boxes. I'm not sure where to start. I would need something that includes the software for running it. I was looking at one at Woodcraft that had a Bosch Colt router....that size looks good.....advice?
    Thank you
    Ray

  2. #2
    Ray,
    we have CNC subforum. Look there. Maybe moderator will move your question there.

    Ed.

  3. #3
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    You need to establish a maximum price that you are willing to pay. That will dictate what choices you have. I spent about $7800 for a Camaster Stinger 1 and I am extremely pleased with it. It was more expensive than what I wanted but I have no regrets -- except that I didn't buy a bigger, more powerful Camaster. I have seen a lot of nice small projects that have been cut with a CNC Shark sold by Woodcraft. It is listed for $4000 but you have to buy a router to go with it. It would still be cheaper than my Stinger but it isn't even in the same league with respect to capability. I looked long and hard at building my own with a kit supplied by CNC Router Parts. If you are good with mechanics, you can build one for less money than the Woodcraft and it will be a lot more capable. I talked to them several times and was very impressed. I talked to a couple of builders and they only had praise for the machine I was looking at. When I am in the market for a bigger machine, I will definitely give them another look. These are the only machines with which I am familiar enough to offer any opinion. Here are a couple of links.

    http://www.cncrouterparts.com/bencht...s-c-59_60.html

    http://www.camaster.com/product/

  4. #4
    Whatever price point you choose you need to consider pricing for dust collection, workholding, endmills, CAD/CAM software (unless planning on using only free/opensource), &c.

    Another option is to consider a kit or DIY or opensource option.

    The Shapeoko was one of the first to encompass all three of those options. It's since moved on to the Shapeoko 3, which is available as a kit from Carbide 3D (though the plans are available, and one could adapt it for self-sourcing) which is an amazingly capable machine w/ a default 16" x 16" cutting area for around $1,000. (ob. discl. I got one and and XL upgrade for free as a thank you for volunteering on the forums)

    The Shapeoko 2 was a neat little machine and I've always regretted selling mine (ob. discl. I got it for free for doing the initial version of the assembly instructions) --- it has a 12" x 12" working area, and is quite capable --- it has since been forked and is available from Inventables as the X-Carve --- the changes are cosmetic mostly, or as in the case of the custom extrusion for the carriage, to simplify the kit / reduce parts count. Still mystified that they haven't worked up a way to fasten the two X-axis rails together, or that they don't offer a 500mm (X) x 1000mm (Y) standard option.

    A recent development is the MillRightCNC, a small MDF machine (but the designer is planning an upgrade) --- it's about as inexpensive as they can come.

    Anyway, you may find the Shapeoko wiki of interest --- I'd like to think that everything one would need to know to select and run a hobbyist CNC router is there --- if there's some question you're not finding an answer to let us know and we'll work it out.

    There's also a list of hobbyist CNC machines on a wiki page at the /r/hobbycnc subreddit on reddit.

  5. #5
    You want to make boxes on the CNC? What types of joints do you use?
    There are probably better ways to make boxes than a CNC router.
    Gerry

    JointCAM

  6. #6
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    To be clear....I do NOT expect to make boxes with a CNC machine. I expect to do inlays, lettering and the like. :-)

  7. #7
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    Here is an example of a simple maple inlay I did using my CNC router on a Cherry box.
    EWM box 01.jpg

  8. #8
    Just about any machine will do what you're looking for. As others have mentioned, it all comes down to how much do you want to spend. You definitely get what you pay for when buying a cnc machine, but there are also overpriced machines out there that will get you less.
    Gerry

    JointCAM

  9. #9
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    This thread on the Camheads forum is a good intro and at least will help refine the questions you need to ask before you make a decision, especially if you are going to use cnc in a business.

    camheads.org/showthread.php?t=3904&highlight=nema+motors+torque
    Last edited by Bruce Page; 08-30-2016 at 5:25 PM. Reason: Removed active forum link per TOS

  10. #10
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    What's your budget?


    Look through this thread. There's a lot of good info in it, although some of it is dated.


    Affordable CNC...
    Please help support the Creek.

    My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."

    - Steven Wright

  11. #11
    Mr. Seward,
    I had the CNC Pirnha available on Woodcraft (through a different vendor) had it for about month before returning it very dissatisfied with the quality of the machine. Since that time Axiom Precision has released a 12x12" machine also using a Bosch Colt. That machine is solid, table is steel, arms and cross beams are aluminium. It runs about the same has the other machine.

    Respectively,
    Nathan
    Universal VLS 2.30 25Watts
    Hobby Laser User
    Machinist & Welder for 10 Years
    Still Serving Veteran

    After Ten years of making things, never would have known how much it got in my Blood. Till I could cannot make things any more.

    -Me

  12. #12
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    Wow....lots to consider. Thank you for the suggestions and links! :-)

  13. #13
    Options for future expand-ability should be considerations IMO.

    Some of the small routers are now being offered with an optional rotary axis. With that and some clever programming you have a CNC lathe too.

    Another option that's becoming popular are laser heads. Low power, mostly good for marking wood and other soft materials. They'll cut paper, but not much more.

    I notice the above options are not available for all the models Rockler and Woodcraft sell. The rotary axis needs a controller capable of 4 axis motion plus enough height under the cutter to mount it and be able to do reasonably sized work. The laser is much easier to add, it only needs ON/off capability in the control.

  14. #14
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    I would find a used machine. I think it was James that has posted previously that many do not truly figure out what they need until they buy their second machine. Having bought one not too long ago I am seeing that there is a lot of truth to that. Watch the Camheads or shopbot forum for a machine. It is fairly common for guys to upgrade from the desktop size to larger machines.

    If you are set on new, there is a detailed discussion by Gary Campbell about the first CNC purchase at the camheads site. It is very helpful regardless of the machine size one is looking for. I found deciding on a CNC was far more difficult than any of the other woodworking machines I have bought due to all of the electronics and moving parts.

  15. #15
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    One other point to consider is support. I was lucky to find a lightly used Camaster machine, and one of the things that led me to buy it was the active Camheads forum, where I have found considerable help. Shopbot also has a very active forum, as does the software vendor Vectric, which partners with both both Camaster and Shopbot. There are certainly many other capable manufacturers, but if like me you are a relative novice in the digital world, it is invaluable to be able to ask for help from folks who are using the same hard and soft systems.

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