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Thread: Opinions on the Router CNC machine

  1. #1

    Opinions on the Router CNC machine

    I have posted on other web site forums that I've been kicking around the idea of buying a Router CNC for wood carving and for mostly for after a retirement job . I have a shop full of woodworking tools and would this tool make my life easier and help me in the long run make a better business or a part time business . I just would like to have everybodys opinion on this subject . I have even consided a laser for metal and wood cutting .of course I know that I'd have to buy a laptop and Router and the real good bits and of course the up-keep and Maintence is also a question .......any thoughts please are welcome ......................MB
    Usually Busier than a Cat In A sand Box : Arkansas Red Wolf & Razorbacks Fan

  2. #2
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    I've had the same thing in mind Marshall. The family has convinced me to start selling some of my projects and I have a website in progress. Up to now I've refused quite a few requests for furniture and small items but the reality of Social Security and lots of free time is opening my eyes The cnc router is pretty expensive and it's not the first tool upgrade I'm going to buy but I am defiantly giving it serious thought.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  3. #3
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    What a box of conundrums! Would it make your life easier? Well, this is a place I have been. And it is a place I am considering visiting again. Here are some things to think about. The most valuable aspect of a CNC is its ability to reproduce many multiples of the same thing and usually faster. But the investment is humongous, and not just in money.

    My first issue is space. This is not a machine that takes well to being moved around. The slightest bit of misalignment (as in racking) very materially affects its accuracy. Especially important if you are making things that fit one another. Super dust collection is an absolute requirement. Holding down the work pieces can get real interesting and there is a need to be especially creative here. There are cutting forces that our brain automatically compensates for when we hand hold a tool. When we mount the tool on a gantry we will have to intentionally plan for those forces and program accordingly.

    On the human side of things, a nerdy desire to create files and troubleshoot the cutting process is an on-going process. The machine will do exactly what you tell it to do. It is hard on the ego to realize that you did not tell the 'dumb' machine to do what you intended for it to do.

    The pluses: Accurate multiple cuts milled more quickly than to do them individually. Question here? Do you have a market for those multiples? Even if it is just giving them away.

    Another plus: Combining computers with sawdust. Different skills to be sure but many of us enjoy both worlds. Question here? Would I need to rely on the programming of others or am I willing to learn for myself, especially the trouble shooting part?

    Another plus: The ability to make things that would very time comsuming to do otherwise, like Tab A fits into Slot B upon assembly accurately everytime time type projects. Question here? How many ofo these will I need or want to do?

    Machine and tooling costs. A small machine with a very limited cutting area will run you at least $1K. Add several hundred more for tooling for the machine. If you do not already have compressed air and super dust collection, add those costs in. A thing to remember with regard to cutting area is that the hold down area is included in that space. Example: Cutting a 6" by 12" sign. Add at least 4" on each dimension for holding the sign down while cutting. Now your area has grown to 14" x 20". Unless you want to also launch into vacumm hold downs which will exponentially add to your investment by nearly 2 times.

    Also, when different cutters are required, your overall processing time takes a big hit with the change over. It is not just changing the cutter. There is also reprogramming to compensate for the different cutter. And your hold down methodology may also be affected.

    Why do it? It's fun and it is possible to get a return on your investment, but you will have to develop a market for your items and your items must be designed to fit into the parameters of your machine. So it you have the space, the bucks, a potential market, and the bug, go for it. Warning: like anything computerized expect prodigious amounts of time to be invested. CNC's are time sinks at the front end.

    You will need the other tools already in your shop. Work blanks need to be prepared and CNC'ed work needs post processing. A finished product is not automatically produced, even on the largest and most sophisticated (and expensive ) machines.

    Will I do it again? Probably. I have some ideas. But I do need to settle down in one area for a while which right now my life is not supporting. Lots I haven't covered. Just ask.
    Last edited by Carol Reed; 12-07-2011 at 11:34 AM.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  4. #4
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    dont know the cost outlay for cnc sized for what your looking to do but i have seen alot of lazer work that is avaible and the intail out lay in tools is less i think.. but it is one that you should look at with the dollars and compare the two.. you can mor elikey do one ofs or mulitples witha lazer like names on pices or trivites and to me would require less learning...
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
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  5. #5
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    Are you looking at more of a carvewrite size or larger?

    If larger, as Carol mentioned, there is additional equipment such as dust collection, vacuum hold downs, bits, software, etc. Some of that equipment you may already have and use for other equipment/processes. I think you have to determine what you're going to be building and if the items will pay for the equipment over time or if you are willing to eat the cost if it just makes your life easier. Also look at how often you're going to do it, there may be a family member here that can be used for outsourcing some parts, such as laser carving/cutting.

    I've built my own CNC and have been collecting parts to build a larger one. You spend a lot of time tweaking, fine tuning, and working around short comings, but I think we do that with any tools in our collection, the cnc is no different. Depending on your budget a turnkey solution may be more suited to your needs, like I said, you have to determine what you're going to use it for.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  6. #6
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    FWIW, I joined Joe's CNC forum ($100 fee) and got the plans for a 4' x 4' machine. Great forum, BTW. this is a build-it-yourself machine, as was my ShopBot many years ago. The technology has moved light years since that time. Many have altered Joe's plans and I will also. I don't envision having room for a 4'x'4' machine. Actual foot print is closer to 8'x8' for access, loading and unloading, etc. I want to keep my footprint to around 4'x6'.

    The really cool thing about building your own is that you build the actual size you need and can accommodate. And a good forum of users is more than helpful. It is what drove me to the ShopBot to begin with.

    Another thing you can do at this point is look at the software. Many have free downloads to play on screen with for a period of time. Good way to see if this is something you want to mess with. I am going with Vetric.

    Hope these insights are helpful.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  7. #7
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    Carol, It's been a while since I've messed with the cnc. I'm evaluating using EMC2 on Linux for the controlling software. I just wanted to verify, the Vetric software only does the modeling and generating cut paths, you still need a control software like emc2 (linux) or mach3 (windows) correct?
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  8. #8
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    Marshall, you might want to look at www.brookemdavisdesign.com/ - a young lady with a furniture design education, who uses a CNC (shop bot) to create artistic components for her furniture. She admits that after she gets a pattern perfected (such as woven branches) she does resize, adapt, and reuse the pattern many times, but not necessarily to build another copy of the same exact piece.

    Brooke also rents shop time and space, and teaches CNC through www.makeshiftatx.com - another site with links and ideas.

    One of my friends who also does custom furniture invested in a ShopBot. He started thinking it would be a $5000 investment, but admits he has $25-30,000 invested in machine and software. He has done a lot of Tudor style architectural millwork, which requires unique hand-carved panels everywhere - among other uses, he has the ShopBot do the rough carving, which he finishes by hand.

    Talking to CNC users, one of the easy high volume use of smaller CNC machines is making signs. Look into that as a specialty to get you started with CNC.

    When I retired to full-time woodworking, I thought a CNC would help me work alone safely - first requirement was NO employees or helpers. I was ready to buy a CNC (presumably complete except cutters) for $25,000. As we were filling out the paperwork, the salesman asked what I would do for hold down. I said, "whatever you included in this COMPLETE system." He said "that isn't included either. We recommend a minimum of 15 hp vacuum pump." Shortening the long story, I tore up the contract, and later bought a combo machine with 8.5 foot sliding table saw.

    You might want to look at www.solowoodworker.com - so many people were envious of the business I built as I retired, that I got tired of repeating the advice, and built a web site with that advice.
    Last edited by Charlie Plesums; 12-07-2011 at 04:46 PM.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  9. #9
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    Carol I was about to pull the trigger on the Joe's CNC too. I have been thinking about it for a long time. Do you think it can be made to compete with the Shopbot??

    I have also been looking into the CaMaster. Nice machine but starting to get up there in $$. So far everything I am finding is to big (been there) or to small for my needs ( I want to cut 5'x5' Baltic birch sheets) I loved my 4'x 9' Andi but have no intentions of getting that big again but it did spoil me as far and wanting vacuum and tool changer
    Last edited by Jay Caughron; 12-08-2011 at 12:25 AM. Reason: To correct spelling just for Dan......lol
    A Turn N Time
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    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  10. #10
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    @Darren. Yes. Mach3 for me.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

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