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Thread: cnc machines for newbies

  1. #1
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    cnc machines for newbies

    Hi folks, I am in the process of looking for an entry level cnc. Understand that I do not have 8K to sink into a cnc.
    I am looking at the xcarve, dwc1824, and onefinity and also shapeoko.

    Would like to converse with someone who has already went thru this and could give me advice and why they chose. Also looking for other options. I really
    to stay under 3500 bucks.... This is just entry level, if I stay with it and make some money ill upgrade later when I have the funds to.
    "To me, there's nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don't know, that's what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird." - Ronnie Van Zant

  2. #2
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    I'm in the same situation. I don't want to start out too small with a machine that will frustrate me, but I also don't have $5000 - $10,000 to spend on a serious hobbby/light commercial unit. I have spent a lot of time looking at the Onefinitity, X-Carve, Longmill, Shapeoko and the various Workbee offerings. I think there are at least three different vendors selling their own versions of the Workbee. My neighbor built a couple of small CNCs more or less from scratch, then bought the no motors Reforzell WorkBee kit on Amazon and added his own motors and controllers and is operating it with Mach3. He seems happy with the setup, but I need to have a more in-depth conversation with him now that I'm a little better educated. I'm looking for something with screw drive capable of being controlled with Mach3/4 or better, and, preferably running a spindle rather than a trim router. I'm in no hurry, and not adverse to putting it together from pieces, since I have someone close who has already done it and can probably keep me from making any serious mistakes. Right now I'm looking at something a maximum of about 36 x 36" due to space constraints, but later I could repurpose my wood storage area and fit in a 4 x 8' model, although it would involve a major upgrade to the shop, as my wood storage area currently has a gravel floor and is open on one side to the weather.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cav View Post
    I'm in the same situation. I don't want to start out too small with a machine that will frustrate me, but I also don't have $5000 - $10,000 to spend on a serious hobbby/light commercial unit. I have spent a lot of time looking at the Onefinitity, X-Carve, Longmill, Shapeoko and the various Workbee offerings. I think there are at least three different vendors selling their own versions of the Workbee. My neighbor built a couple of small CNCs more or less from scratch, then bought the no motors Reforzell WorkBee kit on Amazon and added his own motors and controllers and is operating it with Mach3. He seems happy with the setup, but I need to have a more in-depth conversation with him now that I'm a little better educated. I'm looking for something with screw drive capable of being controlled with Mach3/4 or better, and, preferably running a spindle rather than a trim router. I'm in no hurry, and not adverse to putting it together from pieces, since I have someone close who has already done it and can probably keep me from making any serious mistakes. Right now I'm looking at something a maximum of about 36 x 36" due to space constraints, but later I could repurpose my wood storage area and fit in a 4 x 8' model, although it would involve a major upgrade to the shop, as my wood storage area currently has a gravel floor and is open on one side to the weather.


    The thing that bothers me about xcarve is that i am told I can use different software.... that is fine, the side rails are not as rigid as id like but they can be reinforced. The reviews I have read say the upgrade to the dewalt 611 router is nice. I have to wonder if it is as nice as a spindle. can the xcarve be upgraded to a spindle? these are things I have to find out...I like the working size of the xcarve and it should cover most everything I want to do as a beginner.
    There is a workbee close to me for sale... 1200 bux... say he just bought it for 1700 for the cnc and 200 more for upgrades and accessories.... says he cant figure out how to use it and gave up on it... but I know nothing about workbee..... here we go again...lol
    "To me, there's nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don't know, that's what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird." - Ronnie Van Zant

  4. #4
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    You might want to look at the Mega V as well. I've seen complaints about the owner and customer support but it's hard to get a feel for if it's a real problem or not. I get why some people want to push new people into an expensive machine. It's no different than people pushing to upgrade to a slider vs a cabinet saw. But some people are not interested in using a cnc to make money, or at least not as the main tool to make money. I can see the argument about time (loosing step count on the motors because they are being pushed too hard) and the endless upgrades that can be done in search of a better performing machine vs just buying where you may end up. But sometimes buying your "second machine" first isn't practical or even wise.

  5. #5
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    I built a WorkBee 1000 x 750 but in all fairness I have dabbled in CNC for nearly 15 years and am a pretty experienced electrician. Got if before the Pandemic hit back in March as a kit from Bulkman CNC. screw drive and heavy NEMA 23 motors. I got as a kit controls and all and tossed out the Chinese Mach3 controller and used a US Made PMDX USB one on Mach4. It works fine, just finding the time to use. I have VCarve Pro and have used since 2008 Version 9.5. It took time to build the kit, but when you can't live a normal life.... who cares how long it takes!
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Card View Post
    I have read say the upgrade to the dewalt 611 router is nice. I have to wonder if it is as nice as a spindle.
    A router and a spindle are completely different animals...the latter is physically and mechanically superior and a whole lot quieter to run. But that comes at a cost which may or may not make sense for a budget machine. Of the machines you mention, I'd be most comfortable with the Shapeoko.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
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    A good spindle will cost you close to 2/3s of your budget and ultimately will be expensive to repair. Ceramic bearings are not something you replace in your shop, best done in a clean room by an experienced technician.

    Routers are cheap, you throw them away when they are worn out and replace them in ten minutes.

    I have owned both and there are positive and negative reasons for each platform not including the concern of cost.

  8. #8
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    To be fair a hobbyist is unlikely to wear out the bearings on a spindle. For a hobbyist ceramic bearings would just be a waste. We use them at work due to their low drag but we have tools that must repeatedly make 100s of moves an hour and must maintain . For the hobbyist water cooling is a far bigger advantage IMO a spindle has over a router (aside from the noise). In a production shop the cnc is likely to get used to make parts repeatedly so cooling is pretty much required. For the hobbyist to make even one part will take longer. The load will be less as the structure of the cnc is going to limit how big of a bite but that translates to longer running of the router/ spindle so cooling will also play a role. Like everything, almost all of the $2k range cnc machines can be upgraded to a spindle at a later date. It's also not a huge loss as a trim router and the mount for it isn't a huge expense.

  9. #9
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    A good VFD (not Chinese) and 2.2 HP spindle as you want an ER collet that will take up to 1/2 inch 13 mm will set you back $800-$1200 USD. You can purchase 3 or 4 routers for that price. I have had both, the Hitachi one I am running on the WorkBee takes 1/4 to 1/2 inch bits runs to 20,000 rpm if needed and is the quietest on the market. I paid $139 for it, the money I have in bits is 3x that!

    https://www.amazon.com/Metabo-HPT-M1...dp_ob_title_hi
    Last edited by Bill George; 02-13-2021 at 2:25 PM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  10. #10
    I went with the Hitachi VFD and a Chinese 3kW water cooled spindle, total for both was probably $700 delivered. I just work in our attached two-car garage that's now a full time shop but the noise issue alone was worth it to me - this spindle is quiet! And the runout on a spindle is way less than the runout on a router, so that's an added bonus.

    David
    David
    CurlyWoodShop on Etsy, David Falkner on YouTube, difalkner on Instagram

  11. #11
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    With the discussion of spindles versus routers, have the guys with routers found them to be limiting on better machines? For example, its not uncommon to see a Camaster or Shopbot with a router on it. Conversely, i had a small 1.5kw spindle on a CNC shark, and it was semi pointless. It made me wonder, at what point is a router motor the bottle neck in the system? Im guessing a porter cable router can keep up with the rigidity and cut speed of some decent to good machines. On the budget machines, i dont understand the upgrade to a spindle.

  12. #12
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    There are folks who do buy Camaster, ShopBot and other mid-range machines with routers...the de facto standard these days is the big Milwaukee but a lot with Porter Cable 7518s were also sold. The downsides are limited speed ranges/control as compared to a spindle and noise from the universal motor over and above cutting noise from the tooling. Frequent and heavy use can bring wear out for anyone cutting constantly. Camaster's with the X3 option most often have a spindle in the middle, primary position and a Milwaukee router in each of the two outboard positions. Folks who use these big routers in lieu of a spindle often keep a spare on-hand. On the more hobby focused machines, folks will often use the mid-sized DeWalt or other brand routers. Some of the smaller, hobby machines also don't have the control software necessary to fully utilize the benefits of a spindle, such as real-time speed control, etc. The integration necessary for that adds cost, too.

    It really comes down to the trade-offs.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    There are folks who do buy Camaster, ShopBot and other mid-range machines with routers...the de facto standard these days is the big Milwaukee but a lot with Porter Cable 7518s were also sold. The downsides are limited speed ranges/control as compared to a spindle and noise from the universal motor over and above cutting noise from the tooling. Frequent and heavy use can bring wear out for anyone cutting constantly. Camaster's with the X3 option most often have a spindle in the middle, primary position and a Milwaukee router in each of the two outboard positions. Folks who use these big routers in lieu of a spindle often keep a spare on-hand. On the more hobby focused machines, folks will often use the mid-sized DeWalt or other brand routers. Some of the smaller, hobby machines also don't have the control software necessary to fully utilize the benefits of a spindle, such as real-time speed control, etc. The integration necessary for that adds cost, too.

    It really comes down to the trade-offs.
    Exactly it's about trade off's. My X3 CAMaster has Milwaukee's at all three positions. I bought it used but it's performed fine for me. I'd rather save money by using a router and get a heavier machine. A spindle can always be added at a later time. It's difficult to add rigidity to a machine.

  14. #14
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    All true, Ron, although adding the spindle later isn't a plug and play thing...hardware and software is involved to get it fully integrated. But unless you're going to be doing heavy production cutting, you'll be fine with the red triplet in that X3!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
    I've also been thinking of getting either a CNC or a laser cutter, anything that can add more options to my woodworking.

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