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Cover Me! I'm Go'in In!

1518 Views 17 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  marecat3
Ok So, long time hobbyist with a working knowledge of most tools used in woodworking and I own everything but a lathe, and have used one of those on occasion.

I want to buy a CNC Router. I don't want to waste money but I don't want to buy junk (As in everything, there is a lot of that out there). I want a tool, a good tool, that I can learn to use. I'm looking at something like the Shark HD5 from Rockler.

Being a lifelong IT guy the electronics and software don't bother me even though that's probably what's going to kick my butt!

Input and Suggestions are appreciated, Please
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Hello and welcome to the router forum :) Dave
When it come to CNC equipment I believe the Shark ok,
Dave you’re going to have to jump in both feet buy the best you can afford in a year or two down the road you’ll really know what you want
I own a shark and for what I do it works out just fine if I was in business doing thousands of hours of CNC work I probably find something different
CNC’s have a learning carve
Welcome to the forum Dave
Welcome to the forum Dave.
Welcome to the forum, Dave!

A friend across town has the Shark and regrets ever buying it because of the flex and having to take light cuts. Nothing against John (Semipro), but for the money there are other choices that provide more rigid builds.

What's your budget? How much space do you have available for the machine footprint and working area around that footprint? What power sources do you have available? What will you be cutting primarily - plaques, signs, engineering pieces, 3D carvings, etc.?


PS - we do like photos so show us your shop, tools, projects, etc. whenever you're ready
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I own a Probotix Comet ( I have had it for over 5 years. It is made in the USA (Georgia). Probotix is a family-owned business.

This is a well-used machine - I am constantly doing something with it.

When I first purchased it I was new to CNC. The folks at Probotix were patient and were very helpful during my "rookie" period.

The only thing that I wish I had done was to have purchased a larger machine. The Comet has a cutting area of about 25" x 25" x 5". I have since outgrown the machine's capacity. Luckily, design software like Vectric Aspire can "tile" large projects. I am saving my pennies and hope to purchase a bigger machine from Probotix by the end of the year.

I have quite a few acquaintances who have purchased other brands and when I compare their machine to mine, I feel confident my Probotix is of higher quality and is structurally stronger.
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I'll be 64 this year and learning this machine and acquiring the skills to use it is a multi-year project. I don't want to buy something that's wonky to begin with or something that won't cut the same line twice. My intention is just a home shop I can spend some days on woodworking, building some grandkid items, and maybe few challenging small projects along the way.

I’m not in a hurry because I still need to clean out the office, so this spring/summer and I can wait a month for delivery if necessary. I’m thinking $5K +-, not including other misc. expenses and I'm not opposed to good used equipment if I can reduce costs or bump up quality.

It looks like VCarve Pro is the way to go for software unless I'm convinced otherwise.

Maybe a 4th axis turner/attachment later, or all in now if the price is right.

Plenty of space, I'll convert my Home Office I've used it for 18 yrs. Its 24' x 40 and has 1 x 240v outlet which I had converted to 2 x 120v 20a years ago. I can convert it back or add 1 more 240v easily. I also had 8' fluorescents converted to LED 4 years ago, so plenty of light. All my other shop equipment is 110v benchtop/light duty but relatively good quality Delta, DeWalt, Porter Cable, Milwaukee, etc.

I can bump up scale/quality of my other equipment as the need arises-after paying for the router.

As for projects, I was thinking of starting with some kitchen cabinet doors/drawer fronts, so I’ll need a big enough router bed. That seems like a simple repetitive starter project, am I wrong? Later maybe Guitar bodies, signage, and the ability for 3D millwork. Profit is not my current goal, but it would be nice to be able to pay some expenses when I find the opportunity.
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Adding to what David said, you really do want to get the most rigid machine you can for your budget. This is hard to do though because there really isn't a way to know on per machine basis without measuring it yourself. I'd try to find people with the candidate machine(s) and see how deep/fast they cut (deeper/faster means a more rigid machine). Also, a machine can seem rigid when casually inspecting it - pushing and pulling on the spindle mount - but that will tell you very little as even small amounts of flex cause problems.

At 5K, you can get a pretty good machine but keep an eye on all the extras and tooling you will need. It adds up pretty fast. And don't forget dust extraction - a cnc router can kick up quite a cloud.
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I'll be 64 this year and learning this machine and acquiring the skills to use it is a multi-year project. Later maybe Guitar bodies, signage, and the ability for 3D millwork. Profit is not my current goal, but it would be nice to be able to pay some expenses when I find the opportunity.
I came from the IT world, as well, and turned 63 when I began to build our CNC router so I am right there with you. Well, sort of 'cause that was July 2016, but close enough! :wink:

One thing on my CNC bucket list is to cut some solid body electric and bass guitar bodies. I built one acoustic and plan to do more but I really want to do some solid body work on the CNC even though I don't play electric.

These are neat tools to augment your other woodworking tools and a blast to operate. Be sure to keep us up to date on what you get and ask questions if you're unsure of something.

One of our members wrote a couple of books for CNC beginners you might find helpful. You can find them on Amazon. Here are the pictures so you can find the titles. Prof. Henry is the company name for our member, Oliver, or Gaffboat. He hasn't posted much lately, but you could PM him. His work is very creative. I also added a pdf on making money with your CNC, just in case you choose to offset your costs a bit.


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Dave to avoid headaches I would stay away from all the small

I did check out the new Shark HD5 and they have taken a lot of the slop out of the Z-axis with the new design. It would come with Vectric VCarve Desktop software so you would have design software to start. You can get the extended bed version of the Shark HD5. The VCarve Desktop version is limited to 24"x24" so for larger projects you would have to upgrade to the Pro version. To upgrade it is the cost between Desktop and Pro or the difference between Desktop and Aspire which is their top of the line software and you can make your own models with Aspire. The standard version might be a bit limiting in size for the project you want to do and possibly the extended bed might still be a little small, it really depends on the size of your projects. The Vectric software does both CAD(Computer-Aided Design) and CAM(Computer-Aided Manufacturing).

The Probotix machines would also be a decent entry model machine. You will have to add the cost of design software or you might use Fusion360 which would be free for you to use if you don't run a business making over a certain amount. Fusion360 is a 3D CAD program that is very powerful, it also does CAM.

These entry model machines will be limited in the speed they can cut and the size of project you can do. You might want to wait and save a little more money and get a better machine than the entry model machines.

You might look into Avid CNC. They are kit based but easy to assemble you have the option to do Plug n' Play electronics or you can do the electronics your self if you are comfortable with that. Their machines can also be upgraded in size later if you see the need for a bigger machine. They also have great customer service. If I had it to do all over again I would go with an Avid system to start with. There are a lot of happy Avid CNC machine owners.
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Thanks Mike

I talked to Len @ Probotix last week and I'll look seriously at Avid.
Len was really informative,
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"Rack and Pinion" or "Ball Screw" rails?

My understanding is "Ball Screw" is more precise with less backlash. and of course that also depends on the precesion of the components themselves.

But which is generally best?
As far a precision goes it would start with belt-driven, chain-driven, lead screw, rack and pinion, then ball screws. It will also depend on the overall quality of the parts being used and the design.

You could have a ball screw machine that has very little precision and no repeatability if the parts are low quality and the design is lacking the rigidity required to maintain precision.

So the answer is the best-designed one with the best quality parts.
I got the quote from Avid, $10.3K

They quoted a lot of stuff I don't need right now, and probably shouldn't buy initially anyway. The buy-in cost is more likely the $7k range (Laguna tools IQ buy-in is 7k also) The Grunblau platform was interesting.

Still raised more questions I need to work through.

I'm going to end this thread and move to the main forum.

Thanks for all the responses.
Welcome to the forum, Dave.

As a basic Routoligist, I consider CNC as moving to the dark side.....LOL
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