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  1. #1
    Hi everyone this is my first post and I'm very excited about discovering this world of CNC routing. I'm a carpenter by profession and have moved into the world of cabinet making over the last few years making mostly MDF wardrobes and units but also on occasion veneered and solid wood furniture. I have most of the usual hand and power tools that you would expect and couldn't live without my routers but I now feel that I'm at a bit of a crossroads about expansion, such as should I train up a helper and /or make a big investment in machinery. As you probably know accuracy is all important in this job and a CNC router would seem to tick all the right boxes in that respect and I wouldn't be so dependent on finding a helper that needs to be consistently accurate. I only really started investigating CNC a few weeks ago and what I would like to know is do you need to have very good computer skills for the design and programming and if someone could suggest a good general book on the subject. Your answers would be much appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2
    Hi and welcome.
    CNC would be a good way to go for cabinet making and not just for the accuracy side of things. You could also incorporate some nice designs on say drawer fronts or doors or sometimes something as simple as a groove running all the way round a drawer or door front makes all the difference and its dead easy with a cnc router.
    At the moment I do nearly all my work in autocad then use CUT2D to post process it for the cnc file. Works fine for me. Autocad might be hard for you to get to grips with but there are easier programs out there for design. I am sure there will be stuff purely for furniture design. You dont need great computer skills but you do need time and the will to learn to drawing packages that you decide to go for. Some of the drawing packages like Vectric stuff have help videos and tutorials going around which is great for those of us who like to see it getting done rather than read about it.
    If hiring a helper remember that they could be trained to run the cnc machine for you while you do the design work and assembly of your nice custom parts.
    If you decide to go for it remember to post some photos of your work so that we can glare in envy at them. ( then steal the ideas for ourselves :whistling: )
    On the book front, there are loads of books out there for cnc but I think you would learn more from reading the forums and asking questions.

    Regards

    Ian

  3. #3
    Thanks for your reply,
    Yes i've been dreaming lately of some designs for drawer fronts that I'd love to try but would be impossible or impractical with my present toolkit and when it happens I'd only be to happy to share my photos. Regarding the vectric software I had a quick google and read a few posts about it on another forum and it seems to be well reviewed. I also came across a Canadian company called Planit that does a software called 'cabinetware" that looks like a quality package that converts your designs into G-code which seems to cut out one stage at least, does any of you use it? I'm pretty sure my computer skills are too basic yet too appreciate the free trial and also i have no machine to test it with. As regards machines my budget with software and all included would be about 4000 and thats for a 4x8 size machine or slightly bigger such as the blackfoot kit, has anyone had experience with these kits or other models from them? Thanks in advance for any replies

    cheers
    Garvan

  4. #4
    Hello,

    Like Ian says CNC is perfect for your needs in some area's. I'm an Ex cabinet maker who used to run my own business so know exactly how bennificial CNC "COULD" be to your business.!
    I say "could" because although CNC is great in lots of areas it doesn't always follow it will be good for every business and will depend largely on the type of furniture you make.

    With a little inside knowledge of bespoke furniture making let me explain the area's it will help with and those it won't so much.
    I'll also explain a little of the process of how you actually go about getting the finshed CNC piece.

    The one area where CNC DOESN'T save time over conventional cabinetry(If you have decent manuel machiney) is if you make small one off pieces that don't have carving or relief type work but does have panel work etc, things like TV cabintes, bedside cabinets etc.
    The time required to generate the parts and Code in software plus actually setup and cut the piece's doesn't save any time and depending how tooled up and profiecient you are it would probably take longer.!

    Now the area's it does help are meny and if you do lot's of repetitive panel work with drilled holes then Man are you going to love CNC.! With the right size machine It will save hours and also material using the nesting features that some software provides.

    Great for doing fancy shaped raised panels, no more spending hours making templates and jigs. Just throw the panel blank on the table and it will raise the panel then cut the profile shape. If you want a bead following the shape no problem will do that at the same time all in one operation also if you want carved relief in the panel centre or rosette in each corner no problem easy peezee.! . . Now heres the best bit.! . . . Throw ten blanks on the table(If big enough) and they'll all be done at ounce.:dance: (With tool changes in between)

    Another area it's amazing for is relief work and mouldings with the only limit being your imagination and time invested. It will also open up the possible new area of V-Carved and 3D sign making.

    With the right Jig clamping setups it's great for slot morticeing tenon's etc in door stiles making mortice tenon doors quick and easy. Again although a bit more involved if setup with multiple clamping jigs it will cut meny at ounce.

    As you can see the options and use's are meny and I've only scratched the surface really. The other best bit being all this can be happening while your doing something else.!!

    Now the process to actually do all this in software or the
    PC side goes like this.!

    First the parts need to be drawn usually in a CAD program, simple stuff like carcase panels or raised panels etc even really fancy shaped designs will just be 2D drawings using lines and arc's nothing taxing or complex.

    Relief work and most mouldings will need 3D models and this can be a challenge to create unique designs for someone new but fortunatly there are thousands of models already created that can be bought or downloaded so chances are what you want will be available making this easy.

    When you have the parts drawn or models created then you use another process known as CAM. Now I said Process rather than software because often, thou not required (Thou you would be best advised to use), there is software that incorparates both CAD & CAM in one package. The advantage being every thing is in one place.

    CAM is the process of creating the path's (ToolPath's) that the tool will follow to cut the shapes or designs also setting up the type/size of tool, depths, feed rates along with other parameters needed. Again nothing too difficult.
    There are often several types of path or better known as tool stratagies depending on the type of job being carried out IE: Profileing, Pocketing, Drilling, relief, V-carving etc which again are not difficult to understand and usually your just filling in the depths and feed rates you'd like to cut at.
    Here you also select the order each stratagie is carried out IE: Drill 1st then raise panel then cut profile etc.

    Cam Also generates the G_CODE file that the machines control software use's to do the actuall machine movements and cutting. It's actually separate process known as Post processing and is specific to the type of Control software that controls the machine. ( I'll get to this next) but often the Cam software ounce told which Post processor to use handles this side.

    Control Software:
    This is the software that drives the machine, you'll see Mach3 being used mainly by DIY folks but there are others that do the same some free, some that cost hundreds and thousands.!! . . . BUT They all prity much do the same, they interprit the G-code and tell the machine when and where to move and how fast. Along with doing other things like turning on/off router, vacuum etc
    Again not difficult but does require some knowledge to setup so it talks to the machine and attachments correctly. Thou ounce setup it's just a case of load the G-Code and pressing start.
    (Don't be scared or put off by these comments it's really not difficult just essential it's setup right else nothing happens, moves or doesn't move correctly)

    So to recap The PC side:
    CAD: Draw it
    CAM: Tell it how, the tool, the depth, the speed and the order you want it done.
    POST PROCESS: Create the G-code for the control software (Done in CAM)
    CONTROL SOFTWARE: Load the G-code and start the cutting. . .
    Hope this long winded reply helps.:exclaim:

    Edit: OH and don't be scared to ask questions NO MATTER how dumb you think they sound, still ask them. They will have been asked before belive me.!
    Last edited by JAZZCNC; 09-11-2011 at 10:46 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by dubchip View Post
    Thanks for your reply,
    As regards machines my budget with software and all included would be about 4000 and thats for a 4x8 size machine or slightly bigger such as the blackfoot kit, has anyone had experience with these kits or other models from them? Thanks in advance for any replies

    cheers
    Garvan
    If you plan to build this your self then you will easily do it for 4K.
    Do you mean the Black toe Machine.? . . . If so then please Dont go that route as you will regret it.!

    With 4K you could easily build a machine that the Black toe could only dream to be.!

    Depending on your skill level it's really not difficult to build your own machine and with diligent research and asking Q's i think you'll be surprised just how easy it is.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't build a machine using MDF you will regret it. . . . .I know it's tempting because it's available and cheap plus your used to working with wood Etc but it's got no place in CNC if you want a machine that's going to last more than 1 winter
    and be accurate.
    From a business point of view you it will inderr more than help and you'll be constantly chasing problems costing more than the time and money you saved.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by JAZZCNC View Post
    They will have been asked before belive me.!
    Yeah, so type it in the search box first...

    Quote Originally Posted by JAZZCNC View Post
    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't build a machine using MDF you will regret it. . . . .I know it's tempting because it's available and cheap plus your used to working with wood Etc but it's got no place in CNC if you want a machine that's going to last more than 1 winter
    and be accurate.
    From a business point of view you it will inderr more than help and you'll be constantly chasing problems costing more than the time and money you saved.
    I'd just like to reinforce the point that for any machine, particularly one this big MDF/wood is a waste of time. It may work to start with, but not very well and you'll only end up upgrading it so might as well start with it good, i.e. metal frame.

  7. #7
    [QUOTE=JAZZCNC;25628]If you plan to build this your self then you will easily do it for 4K.
    Do you mean the Black toe Machine.? . . . If so then please Dont go that route as you will regret it.!

    With 4K you could easily build a machine that the Black toe could only dream to be.!

    Depending on your skill level it's really not difficult to build your own machine and with diligent research and asking Q's i think you'll be surprised just how easy it is.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't build a machine using MDF you will regret it. . . . .I know it's tempting because it's available and cheap plus your used to working with wood Etc but it's got no place in CNC if you want a machine that's going to last more than 1 winter
    and be accurate.
    From a business point of view you it will inderr more than help and you'll be constantly chasing problems costing more than the time and money you saved.

  8. #8
    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't build a machine using MDF you will regret it. . . . .I know it's tempting because it's available and cheap plus your used to working with wood Etc but it's got no place in CNC if you want a machine that's going to last more than 1 winter
    and be accurate.
    From a business point of view you it will inderr more than help and you'll be constantly chasing problems costing more than the time and money you saved.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for all information I may not need a book after all:tup:

    To be honest I don't really have the time or even the space to build my own from scratch. I just couldn't see myself going all the way back to my workshop in the evenings to work on what could be a 6 mth or more project.
    I'm thinking that my budget wouldn't stretch to buy a new machine of that size with all the software etc but that the kit would be a good option. It was actually the 'green bull' model that I had seen and on closer inspection I can see its actually made from a plywood and not mdf. I don't know if this would change your opinion but they also mention that they've strengthened the design of the gantry with ribs forming a torsion box. Is it its lack of strength or possible movement of wood with the seasons thats your main objections to these kits and if you know of another kit that doesn't use wood I'd love to know.
    Thanks again
    Garvan

  9. #9
    wow Jazz nice write up

    James & Luke

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by dubchip View Post
    on closer inspection I can see its actually made from a plywood and not mdf. I don't know if this would change your opinion but they also mention that they've strengthened the design of the gantry with ribs forming a torsion box.
    It's still wood which is inherently very weak. Torsion box helps but compared to steel/aluminium it will still have very poor stiffness.

    It had occurred to me to make kits for routers with plywood on my machine, but I've not as it's very dishonest/misleading to imply it will work well for any reasonable size machine.

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