View Full Version : Wood cnc router for hobbyist

13-07-2010, 01:43 PM
I'm completely new to the CNC world and would like some advice from the experts.
(As you will probably tell from my post below, my knowledge is nearly zero!!)
Firstly my only experience of routing is using my handheld router using Trend Letter templates and also the Milescraft Spirorouter, these to make basic wooden signs and decorative fronts for bird nest boxes.
I've watched a few CNC videos on youtube regarding the use of CNC routers in the manufacture of signs and want to explore the possibility of buying a small machine to suit my hobbying needs. The facility to rout using different letter fonts appeals to me, and also basic carved designs such as flowers etc to add to the work.
I only intend to rout wood, the cutting area doesn't need to be massive 500x500mm would be more than adequate.
I've looked at some UK websites and realise that there is no such thing as a really cheap CNC router. However as I'm only a complete novice and only need a machine to serve my immediate requirements I'd like to keep the price realistic to my needs.
Please could you point me in the right direction, and give me some advice as to what I should be looking for as far as spec is concerned, and also what price range I should be aiming for.

Many thanks in advance.

13-07-2010, 08:41 PM
Hi Nerostjames,

I've only looked at a few commercial cnc routers, mainly with a view to borrowing ideas because I prefer to build my own. I don't remember seeing anything TurnKey for less than 1000, but maybe someone has.

Marchant Dice sells machines, as does RoutOut CNC.

Next step down would be to build from plans.

If you decided to build your own, or if you what to review the spec of anything fully built, here are a few pointers for cnc machine features:

>>>'better' >>>
Rails: angle iron < unsupported round rail < supported round rail < profile rail

Bearings: skate bearings < bushes < pillow blocks < carraiges

Movement: threaded rod < trapezoidal < belt or rack&pinion or ballscrews (pros and cons of each)

Motors: steppers < servo

Construction: wood < aluminium < steel

Cutting tool: Dremel type < Router < Spindle (water or air cooled)

The words in bold might make a good system spec for what I think you want to do.

The term 'better' depends on the application and requirements, and I'm sure I'll get shot down for the order I've put these in, but at least there are a few words up there which you can start to get to grips with. The word 'better' could also be replaced with the words 'more expensive' !

In general, machines with more features to the right of these lists will be better and more accurate. One weak area can bring down the performance of the whole machine.

Hope others can chip in and give further advice, especially those who have purchased ready made systems.

13-07-2010, 09:39 PM
I'd concur with all of that and add one other thought... speed... which is partly related to the movement/motors sections.. but if you're planning to do any sort of 'production' runs then you need speed. A router thats moving at 500mm/min is going to take several hours to do anything useful on something as complex as a 3D carving for a sign (as compared to cutting a shape out of 6mm MDF).. because much of the time its not moving at constant speed but accelerating/decelerating... but on a 500mm x 500mm footprint speed is easier to achieve than on a 2000mm x 1000mm!

13-07-2010, 09:41 PM
Hi CstJ

Your main quarry on starting out is....

Do I want to buy a ready built machine?

If you do, do you have 1000 thereabouts? as there are seconhand machines that fall into 800 bracket.

Do you want to build the machine yourself and save some money?

Those two things must be decided and finalised before even thinking of CNC,well thats the way I decided to go about owning a CNC ie I went for the cheape option of self build.

Uptonow its cost me....

3 Nema23 Motors 90
3 Stepper Drivers 128
1 Breakout Board 33
1 Power Supply 35

This is without the mechanics.

13-07-2010, 11:07 PM
Nice cheap complete job here without the electronics ie motors,drivers ect and its UK based.
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Desktop-KIT-CNC-Machine-Engraving-Milling-Router-/310232551068?cmd=ViewItem&pt=UK_BOI_Metalworking_Milling_Welding_Metalworkin g_Supplies_ET&hash=item483b4d0e9c

13-07-2010, 11:32 PM
thats still around the 1000 kitted out, with a spindle motor/router and a PC and is only 500 x 250 working area, so half the size the OP wanted. It'll be hard to get below the 1400 mark for a 500 x 500 machine ready to cut without a self build...

14-07-2010, 06:28 AM
Thanks for the advice fellas, I'm not looking to build my own as not really that way inclined, would prefer to buy readymade, I find the whole CNC thing extremely fascinating and definately want to explore further. 1000ish is well within my budget, so at least have a staring point there. I guess the next step is to actually see one in the flesh and see what I would get for my money, as said before I only want to do text and the odd bit of decorative stuff, nothing too elaborate.
I read there was model fair at Harrogate demonstrating hobbyist CNC's, I'll have to check around to see where the next demos are.

Many thanks again for your friendly advice.


14-07-2010, 11:09 AM
as said before I only want to do text and the odd bit of decorative stuff, nothing too elaborate.
That's what everyone says when they first start out :smile:
Once you get a machine up and running you soon get other ideas on what you could make on the machine and then wish you had made a bigger machine!