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  1. #1
    Hi All,

    First of all apologies if this is in the wrong place. I am looking for my first CNC for engraving watch dials and various other small tasks.
    I have no idea where to start. Im not sure whether I need a proper CNC Mill, a Gantry Router etc etc.

    What I need to be able to do primarily is to engrave non ferrous metals - for example engrave guilloche patterns or numerals and other markings onto sterling silver discs. The disc may be 30-37mm diameter, 0.4-0.6mm thick. The markings can be as small as 0.1mm line width with an equivalent depth of cut. SO very small details, relatively accurately. I currently use photo etching to do this, but it seriously limits my design and the materials I can use. I have seen videos of the Nomad 3 doing this very well.

    A second use which would be really lovely to be able to do would be to make various watch parts. Eg a watch case out of argentium silver, or a movement bridge out of brass. If I could very occasionally cut some sort of free machining stainless steel (or other ferrous metals) that would be amazing (but im guessing unlikely). I know whatever machine I end up with will not be able to achieve the accuracy I need for bridges, but I intend to finish the parts using alternative methods after the rough cutting has been done.

    I can't imaging I will need to machine anything larger that say 60x60x20mm, so we are talking quite small parts.

    I have been researching this for months and still don't know where to turn. Im guessing a traditional metal mill style machine would be the ideal but im guessing also out of my limited budget? If not then where to look? Could I do this on a gantry style machine? will it give the accuracy? Any advice is needed.

    The research I have done suggests the Nomad 3 is the best option. At around 3k it is right at the top of my budget and this makes me nervous. I would also prefer to buy from British company if possible. I have no problem with building or setting up a simple kit, but don't think I would be able to covert a manual mill (too much of a learning curve with limited time)

    Im sorry about the lengthy post but wanted to give you as much info as possible.

  2. #2
    If you can find a nice one a Denford Novamill would fit your brief. UK made, old design but industrial quality, mainly aimed at educational market. I have one but not for sale I'm afraid! I got the machine only on eBay and built the controller.

  3. #3
    There's a Denford Starmill, slightly bigger, on eBay right now.

  4. #4
    Thanks for the reply John.

    After doing some research on your recommendation I have no doubt whatsoever that the Denford would be capable of doing what I need. But I fear the amount of learning involved may be slightly too much for me.
    I have absolutely no experience of cnc whatsoever (this is a slight lie because I studied a design degree about 25 years ago and im sure we had 2-3 hours tuition on how to write G-code for a CNC mill. A completely pointless exercise that is now so vague I can't guarantee it actually happened!)
    If I have my facts right the Denfords in question run on older technology that involves Parallel Ports, ancient PCs and antiquated software. I understand they can be updated, but I wouldn't have the faintest idea where to start. Im currently relearning CAD, and have yet to still learn CAM, speeds and feeds, work-holding, etc etc. Im not sure my limited brain could also fit in having to learn the seemingly complicated skills involved in how to update everything, and get this working with that and so on. I fear a Denford would quickly become a very heavy, expensive, paper weight.
    Ideally I would like something a little bit more plug and play, so I have more mental capacity to focus on issues such as 'why do I keep breaking end mills?'
    I know im going to end up paying through the nose for this modernity, and end up with a machine less capable and well made. But I fear its the only way into this for me realistically.

    Does anyone have any experience with the Nomad 3? Is it a pain to import from the US? Are there any other alternatives that are available in the UK?

    Does anyone have any experience of the slightly higher end Chinese gantry machines such as the 3020 Pro max? or the smaller foxalien machines?

    Are there any plug and play CNC Micro Mills that are relatively affordable, and which I don't need to convert to CNC myself? I originally was looking at the Proxxon machines and converting one but it seemed a bit too involved for me.

    So many questions I apologise.

  5. #5
    Don't touch Proxxon. Taig used to have a CNC mill, not sure if it's still made.

  6. #6

    Also Sherline:


    I've seen the Taig in action at an exhibition and it looks pretty capable.

    I may be prejudiced but from your description of what you want to do I think a router-derived gantry machine is unlikely to be rigid and precise enough. I think I have seen a Nomad machine in a university student workshop and it seems quite restricted in trying to lock you into their software - also it is essentially a gantry router. It's when you want to start machining steel and small parts such as watch bridges that rigidity and precision start to matter, but also "engine turning" type work might look wrong if the machine isn't sufficiently precise.

  7. The Following User Says Thank You to JohnHaine For This Useful Post:

  8. #7
    Thanks John, it sounds like you have summed up what I need perfectly.
    I follow an American watchmaker that produced all his bridges, dial and case on the Nomad 3, so I guess I’ve been brainwashed. It’s amazing how effective a good marketing program with lots of content is. His ‘engine turned’ dial is exactly what I want to do. Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #8
    Bridges and parts roughed out on the nomad.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Of course I don’t know how much trouble he had in getting the nomad to do something like this.
    The Taig and sherline options look very interesting. I will research these more. If any other ideas spring to mind please let me know. I appreciate you taking the time to advise.

  10. #9

  11. #10
    OK, well maybe the Nomad is more capable than my prejudice led me to expect! Does he cut steel with it? I was impressed that it seemed to happily do some thread milling on the case. The Carbide videos also show machining steel but they do say it's a challenge.
    Last edited by JohnHaine; 07-07-2022 at 08:53 PM.

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