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Once upon a time, a new girl walked into her first forum.....
But for real, I need help! I'm sure this topic has been discussed a gazillion times on here (see above) but I'm needing some guidance on selecting the right CNC machine. Of course I've daydreamed for months the things I would create with my new machine but the reality is, I've reached the point that it not only makes sense but is an immediate need.
Me, I'm just a girl in a woodshop that likes to sell the things she makes, my number one passion for the past year has been Growth Charts. I use my trusty palm router, custom templates, guides, bushing kit, etc. to make these things. With craft shows and orders flowing in, I must decide on a CNC machine to keep up. I'm super slow and OCD. The growth charts are made from pine, usually 1x8 6'. I'd like to save some time on notches, numbers and personalization with new machine. I've got the space in my woodshop (yes mine, not his, shiplapped and glittered) Had researched the Shark HD4 extended and was looking to purchase this week when I spoke with guy at Johnson's Work bench and he said the Axiom Pro 8 would be better suited for my needs. HELP!!! Two completely different beasts. Don't have any more time to waste researching, please give me some guidance so I can get back to working.
Thank you in advance, please don't make fun......
The end.
 

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John
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Hello and welcome to the router forum Megan
 

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The 6' length of those growth charts is your biggest challenge. If you could do with a CNC that had 4' of capacity I strongly recommend the Meteor or Nebula CNCs that Probotix.com sells. They sell for $5,000ish depending on what options you have them include. All come ready to simply plug together to run including a PC running Linux (looks like windows) and use LinuxCNC to control the CNC. You'll still need software to create the tool paths needed to send to the CNC. The Sharks come bundled with VCarve but of course it's price is added into their sell price. You can buy it standalone directly from Vectric.com. They have online video tutorials that greatly help you understand how/why it is a great product.

I have a Meteor from Probotix and also run another Meteor and a Nebula where I work. Their open frame design lets you clamp jigs/supports inside the frame for large/more complex cuts and is why I prefer them over any solid bed CNC like the Sharks or the Axioms. If all you ever cut are your growth charts then you could screw down a straight guide to the MDF top of a Meteor to clamp them against. There is a tiling feature in VCarve Pro that helps you cut part of longer projects, then slide the board down to cut the rest of it.

I'll also give high praise to the folks who own and run Probotix.com.

There are also several here that own the same make of CNC.. I also own a Shark but rarely use it any more as my Meteor is capable of far more complex cutting, and a stiffer machine.

4D
 

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+1 what 4D said and add a couple ++'s.

I run a Probotix Nebula and will buy another Probotix when the time comes and I need more capacity.

Get a bigger machine than you think you need right now, cause you will be doing more and more things on it. They're amazing tools ..... and toys!!!!
 
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David
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Welcome to the forum, Megan! Thanks for posting photos of your work - looks like very clean and nice work you put out. I can't help you on the models you listed; we built our own last year so I'm fairly new to the CNC world but I can tell you it is definitely cool stuff.

David
 

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Megan, I also am very new to the world of CNC. I would certainly agree, whatever size you need, buy larger if you can. The projects very quickly out grow the size of the CNC, I think you will find great satisfaction in the work you do and the amount of time you are able to save. Once you have a model made, you can make as many as you need only changing letters as needed. They will cut to within .001 or better of the original. Good luck and enjoy/
 

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Welcome to the forum, Megan! I think you will find that the people here are not only extremely knowledgeable (except me), but they are a big hearted, friendly bunch of people who will go to great lengths to help you in any way they can. They've certainly gone above and beyond for me many times over the years.

WARNING !! The daily forum newsletter is addictive. With few exceptions, It is up onscreen before my first cup of coffee of the day is even done brewing.

I, too, am agonizing over which CNC to buy. I'm not quite ready financially, but I'm leaning toward buying something that is much bigger than I need for now. I'm thinking that I'd rather have unused capacity than to be sorry later that I didn't go large enough.

The Shark extended bed is very attractive to me, too. I'm fortunate to have a lot of extra shop space, so the larger footprint won't cause a problem. But on the other hand, the tiling feature of the VCarve software that 4D mentioned apparently works quite well, and in my case anyway, would hopefully be sufficient for the few times I'd ever be wanting to work on a piece larger than the 25 x 25 capacity of the standard Shark SD4 for $1000 less.

But then you had to show me your growth charts. What a great idea. I hope that members who have experience with using the VCarve tiling feature will tell us how it worked out for them.

Nice pictures, and they're great looking projects. I hope you continue to share examples of the work you do.
 

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Mike
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Welcome to the Router Forums Megan!

As 4D pointed out you will need good design software and Vectric VCarve or Aspire software would be a great choice, easy to learn, great tutorials, well supported. If you get a CNC that has a limit of 4' cutting length it has a tiling toolpath so you can cut the toolpaths into sections(tiles). You would need this for your growth charts.

It does look like you are researching CNC machines with a 4' cutting length and the Nextwave CNC Shark HD4 Extended is one you mention. It comes with VCarve Pro included in the price. You have to provide a 2 1/4 HP router or you can get a package deal with their 2 HP water cooled spindle. The spindle is limited to 1/4" bits where a 2 1/4 HP router could use 1/2" bits. The HD4 has been build with heavier guides and bearings than their previous models but they still have quite a bit of plastic structural parts so this does make them flex more than other machines. I consider Nextwave CNC machines to be hobby machines. That being said I do have 3 of their machines and do make money with them but I know they do have their limits.

The Axiom AutoRoute 8 Pro CNC comes with a 3 HP liquid cooled Spindle with 1/2" bit capacity. I have compared them side by side with the Nextwave machines and they are well build and don't have all the flex built into the Nextwave machines. The design software is not included in the price of the machine so you will need to purchase design software, I do recommend Vectric VCarve Pro or Aspire. I like the looks and quality of the Axiom and did try to buy one on Craigslist a month ago but I was too slow and missed out.

You should check out the Probotix machines because I hear only good things about them. Since you are in Okemos, MI you might check with @honestjohn and see if you could go look at his machine he is just down the road. My niece and her family live in Okemos,MI, small world.
 
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Welcome and thanks for asking this straight out question. Some of the best advice I've read is in this string. Thanks 4Dthinker for the concise discussion and for the idea of what a good machine will cost.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on marketing ideas for reliable sales to commercial enterprises of things made on a CNC. Here it is again, updated and with added info...

If you are planning to make money from a CNC, you will have to become very good at marketing your services. Translated, that means being very good at identifying and effectively contacting people and businesses that are likely to make good use of your services. Everyone and their uncle Tom is making occasional signs, or signs with clever sayings or even images they hope to sell in consignment shops or weekend craft gatherings. But to really make any money, you have to identify markets that need lots of what you have to sell, but not so many that they go to a completely automated shop, or one that markets and jobs out the work to Mexico or Asia.

One example would be a small chain of regional hotels with a homey feel where signs, plaques and things of that sort , in script or with logos or other identity setting features are needed in fair numbers.

As machines go, that means something pretty fast with easy setup and software that makes such things as using special fonts or logo images easy to set up and produce in limited runs. In marketing, you'd probably have to locate, contact and work with art directors, architects and interior designers -- the real buyers.

With really good software, you could locate individual property owners for inns or mountain cabin owners, whose orders would be small, but beyond hand made sign quantities. Entrance, exit, mens, family and womens' bathrooms, room number, breakfast, meeting room and other signs with logos and unique fonts are all possible products.

I teach marketing to eye doctors, and know how important it is to any business. The internet and social media are good places to search, and 150 to 300 searches will turn up a good number of customers. You don't want to just have one big customer, they apply intense pressure to cut prices and profits. A good mix of lots of medium sized repeat customers is essential.

Deliver as fast as you can. Get all art approved by several people. If you see something odd or off in the design, check it with the customer before you make it and try to provide a proof run before you produce in quantity. Learn to proof read. Check the spelling of every word and if any problem shows up, check with the customer before starting design or production. These kinds of projects seldom get full attention and you backing up the person who orders this way will save their fanny if you catch a problem before their boss does.

Check out all kinds of materials to use for projects. See if you can find sources of cutoffs that are consistently available. For example, my son in law gets large quantities of 2x6 asian hardwood from pallets used for forklifts. For outdoor signs, you might try using weather resistant composite or engineered lumber. Can you cut aluminum for small signs, room numbers, etc?

Make your laptop the center of your business rather than the CNC. Being able to sit in your car on vacation while handling a design shows up as exceptional service, and pays for the vacation at the same time. Plan for rush orders. Designers are notorious for pushing deadlines and giving the producer precious little time to finish. That is a formula for a designer who makes an error to blame the producer for errors and delays, and to cut you off. Make this attention to detail and possible "inconsistencies" a feature of your service. You've got your customer's back. If necessary, run everything by a skilled proof reader before submitting the final design to the customer for approval. It's no fun eating a $2,000 order because of a missed comma or wrong font. In other words, make no assumptions, don’t skip a check because deadlines are tight. Email proofs on copy, layout drawings, printouts of drawings made in the software, and photos of the first test piece, lit by side light so the carving shows up well. Be VERY fussy about approvals for logos and special images. If there is any concern about size and proportion, you want them handled on paper, not on some exotic or expensive hardwood. Make sure your contact’s boss reviews anything more than a run of, say, 3 pieces.

Do not make the mistake of competing on price. Start as high as you can stand it, then go up another 10 percent. If you slash prices to below market rates, you can be dismissed by competitors merely by their saying, "you get what you pay for." When I raise prices, I have to practice saying the amount in front of a mirror until I can do so without making a face or showing uncertainty.

Consider having someone else run the machine, spend your time marketing and taking wonderful, thorough care of your customers so they do repeat business. Making stuff sounds like fun, but it IS a business first, and the dollars and cents, relationships and posting examples of your fine work rank higher than running the CNC.

Social media and developing a great newsletter mailing list is VERY important. (I use Constant Contact because they just don’t allow practices that appear as spam.) Social media drives people to your website, where they see your work, read your information about how to design, order, avoid errors, plus all kinds of pictures of finished work (not all of which has to be yours, by the way. These photos become an idea bank. If you have some pre-made standard items, show those on a separate page. Publish a checklist of steps from design to ordering to final production runs that emphasizes review and proofing.

There is a great little book titled “Your First 1000 copies,” which was written for self publishing and other authors on how to use social media, website and email to generate business. It translates to any business and isn’t full of fluff. It’s one of those little books with a huge load of practical information, and it’s $10 bucks on Amazon. Really upped my business results and lowered my marketing costs. Low cost social media and email are now our primary source of new business.

I know free advice is easily dismissed, but I've been doing and teaching marketing for 35 years, and charge a lot for my recommendations. If I were in your situation, what I suggested is what I'd do, and I'd have a list of 30-50 high-potential 50-signs-or-more per year customers in hand before I put a penny down on a machine.

And, I really like that entrepreneural spirit and a couple working together as well.
 

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Sorry I don't have anything helpful wise , as I'm in the same boat as you , but welcome to the forum Megan .
I'm loving those boards you build and may have to make one for my neighbors, as they have a 3 year old daughter , and a baby brother on the way . What a great gift imo :)

I can certainly see where a cnc router table would make that much easier.
I doubt you want to spend the type of money I'm going too be up against , as I may be shopping at CNCrouterparts.com and buying there pro model . I like the fact that it's possible to upgrade its size in the future if it becomes neccesary.

What I have room for
http://www.cncrouterparts.com/pro4848-4-x-4-cnc-router-kit-p-251.html

What I'd prefer , and the cost isn't that much more
http://www.cncrouterparts.com/pro4896-4-x-8-cnc-router-kit-p-253.html

This isn't including the steppers and electronics. I was going to build the electronics myself when the time comes .
 

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Rick,
I don't think she wants to build one. Just get up and running in a reasonable amount of time with something that fits her needs and works.
 

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Rick,
I don't think she wants to build one. Just get up and running in a reasonable amount of time with something that fits her needs and works.
Ya your right John , as that would be a bit of work :(
 

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Ya your right John , as that would be a bit of work :(

Hell, I never wanted to build one then, and don't want to now, even though I know a little bit more than before. I know my limits. I'm not real good at designing files, either, but I sure can load them and hit the "go" button. lol
 
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Sorry I don't have anything helpful wise , as I'm in the same boat as you , but welcome to the forum Megan .
I'm loving those boards you build and may have to make one for my neighbors, as they have a 3 year old daughter , and a baby brother on the way . What a great gift imo :)

I can certainly see where a cnc router table would make that much easier.
I doubt you want to spend the type of money I'm going too be up against , as I may be shopping at CNCrouterparts.com and buying there pro model . I like the fact that it's possible to upgrade its size in the future if it becomes neccesary.

What I have room for
PRO4848 4' x 4' CNC Router Kit | CNCRouterParts

What I'd prefer , and the cost isn't that much more
PRO4896 4' x 8' CNC Router Kit | CNCRouterParts

This isn't including the steppers and electronics. I was going to build the electronics myself when the time comes .
Have you looked at Dave Gatton's stuff? He has put together a serious DIY CNC machine. Home
 

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Rick
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Honestly building a kit is not all that bad, but if you don't want to and want a turnkey, figure out what size router you need, what you plan to make with it now and in the future, what your budget is, and how fast and deep you would like to cut. If you plan on ever doing any 3d stuff, I would suggest looking at something that can cut around 400ipm. And depending on your budget, I'd suggest rack and pinion or ballscrews over acme screws any day. I would never look at axiom or sharks they are incredibly overpriced for the size, materials, and quality. Cncrouterparts is probably the best customer service if you want a kit, otherwise I would look into shopbot, legacy, and shop sabre.

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
 

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Welcome aboard Meagan. Like you, I am a beginner in the CNC world. The design part had me skeered. Then thanks to honesttjohn, I found the Vetric website and downloaded the trial version of their VCarve Pro software. They have a lot of tutorials, as do many others on YouTube. You can learn how to design your projects and never have a machine to try it out on.

Finally, I bit the bullet and bought a Probotics Asteroid. I have a small one car garage with a lot of tools and other stuff in it. Right now the CNC is taking up my work bench. Hopefully, in the next few days, I will gt around to building a frame for it. Heck, I already have the toolpaths ready to go to cut the lap joints in the 2x4 frame members! :)

If you haven't seen it, I started a thread about my journey. Check it out here -> http://www.routerforums.com/cnc-routing/113474-my-journey-into-cnc-routing.html

I live in the Houston, Texas area, but we were on a road trip north east to Palestine. While we were that far, I contacted David Faulkner and drove on to his place to check out his CNC. Loved it!

Then last week, we went to New Orleans to meet up with family...heh heh. Then we kept going until we pulled in to the Probotix shop in Ft Walton Beach, Fla. Yep, picked it up and drove 600 miles home the next day! I am a happy camper.

Good luck. I know you will do well. There are some folks on here with a lot of experience that can help answer any questions you might have.

Note: I just finished cutting out the parts for a drawer. I am fixing to assemble it right now.
 

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I PM'd her with my phone number right after her first post. Haven't heard back. Probably won't.
 
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