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Started looking for a new cnc a few weeks ago, quickly found out my price range I would be better off with a used machine. Now that I have started looking at used machines I am amazed by how many are on the market, people say they bought them but could not learn the software. I am far from scared of computer I have built many of them. I have fixed even more. I actually just built one yesterday and installed Linux on it also installed Linux cnc on it. I don't want to spend all the cash and not be able to operate the damn thing. How long is this learning curve? Are there any good training options out there? Which is the best software for a newbie? Thanks for your help.
 

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First off, don't be scared. If us old fuddy duds can do it, you can. Personally, if you're comfy with Linux, go with a Probotix or another Linux driven system. The most popular systems seem to be driven by Linux or Mach 3 (now Mach 4 I guess). Vectric makes the best, in my opinion, user friendly software. There's plenty of help here and a lot of accessible tutorials. But you can also pay one these guys a few bucks and learn the basics. It saves a lot of time, bits, material, and frustration.

But get a "good" machine, not one of these cheap Chinese discount ones. Support and people that talk English mean a lot.

Don't make it any harder than it really is.

HJ

Managed to make a few things in a relatively short period of time.
 

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CNC has two learning curves.

Basically a CNC is a dumb router that can go up and Down ( Z axis), left and right ( Y axis) and back and Forth (X axis). All the the CNC control software has to do is set up a start point, Zero. and tell the tool to travel to the next point, series of Tool Paths or vectors.

So learn to drive the CNC software, I have learned two in the last three years.

The other software is the 3D or 2 D software. I am an addict to Vectric's line of products from V Carve up to Aspire. The allow you to upgrade as your skill set expands. They also have a slick chart that explains real well what functions your get out of each level of software.

Bottom Line is that Aspire does all the 2 D carving plus 3 D modeling.. And you can get a trial version of ASPire for no charge.

What the design software does is make you some form of artwork, model or simple word sign. Once you have that, the software takes that model and turns it into a series of Tool paths or Vectors. You load those Tool paths into your CNC machine, and that dumb machine gets real smart and follows all those vectors to make a duplicate of that model you designed.''

The sample of Aspire will allow you to try all of this, the only thing it won't let you do is convert a model to a Tool path.

So no harm chance to see if you can put some stuff together.. and they have great training videos..
 

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Scott,

Good explanation.

The trouble is, my real smart machine is run by a real dumb operator, and still manages to turn out a piece or two.

Bottom line is - - don't be intimidated by it.

HJ
 

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Discussion Starter #5
My favorite saying about computers was always. Computers are like dog's they know when you are afraid of them.
 

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Scott,

Good explanation.

The trouble is, my real smart machine is run by a real dumb operator, and still manages to turn out a piece or two.

Bottom line is - - don't be intimidated by it.

HJ
Don't tell him everything John... He needs a few broken bits and chewed up boards to learn correctly... let's suck him in all the way before he escapes...:)>:)
 

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I too was intimidated. I ended up purchasing a Oliver 13" intelliCarve CNC Carving Machine from Woodcraft. Buy Oliver 13" intelliCarve CNC Carving Machine at Woodcraft.com
It was a good price point for me. The software that came with the unit is easy to use. (iPicture) It has a 13" x 18" bed. I have carved wood longer than that by allowing it to hang over the edge so as long as the carving size isn't larger than 13"x18". They have an online forum for when I need advice.
 

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explorer22,

I had the same questions and concerns you did. I read everything I could get my hands on, talked with people (online) about their experiences. In the end I am very pleased with my decision. I started out thinking I was going to go the route of the SHARK HD3. But after doing more reading and learning that it was made from plastic I rethought that... In the end I went with a Probotix Asteroid and boy I am glad I did! Well made machine, all aluminum and steel, made in the USA. LEN was very helpful! After having the machine for months I am very pleased... I am starting to do some pretty good work and have really started feeling like I could make the machine act the way I want... So I will break down for you what I learned in the months of reading I had...

1. CNC is not cheap. However, It can be a really big boost to your woodshop if you are selling pieces. If you are just doing "home projects" a CNC can be a great addition but you need NOT spend 10,15 or 20,000+ to get great results.

2. Buy your 2nd machine first. I am glad I did this. The shark may be a good machine, but I wanted something all metal and made in the USA. Really you need some insight as to what you want to do with the machine. Is this for a home user just cranking out a few things here and there or is this for more production type aspects. (It makes a difference)
3. Buy something with great support both in the forums AND from the company. Probotix has been very helpful for me... so I am pleased with my choice.
4. Work area, consider what you will be making, if you are making furniture and larger pieces you will want something larger than say the Shopbot Desktop (A fine machine I hear) but the bed size for me, was way too small.
5. Software: There are 2 types, Controller and Design. CONTROLLER: I had work very basic functions in Linux and the LinuxCNC software was VERY easy to master. Do not be worried about Linux operation, I have found the Linux software to be a great performer... it just keeps running and running, unlike my experiences with Windows which has lots of maintenance issues. I too was a bit afraid of the entire Linux thing but it has turned out awesome for me! DESIGN: There can be no question in my mind after all my readying. Vertric is the WAY TO GO! I started off with VCarve Pro Ver 8 and I am glad I did. I REALLY WANTED Aspire but the $2,000 price tag was more than I could do initially... learning Vcarve will give you all the things you need to get started and will help you get ready for ASPIRE when you can afford it. My plan is to sell a few pieces and upgrade to Aspire later. With Vectric you can upgrade and they will give you a huge credit towards Aspire. I believe VCarve Pro is $699 and when you upgrade they will give you $599 towards to cost of Aspire. So for $100 I consider that pretty cheap learning! The fact is most Newbies will not be ready for Aspire out of the shoot. 3D work is Very different that 2 and 2.5 D work. My advice, master VCarve, then upgrade if you need to.
6. Other costs to factor in:

a. Tooling - I spent $250 to get the basics from US Router Tools, and I am pleased. Make sure you get the following: Tred Leveler (TO level any wood projects) 60Degree VBIT, 90Degree VBIT, 1/8 Endmill, and a 1/4" Endmill. That will get you going for sure. I order a few other bits to get to $250 but I have yet to use them...
b. Table - Make sure you build or have a very solid table. I made one for my Asteroid and I am so happy with it.
c. Dust Collection: But the Dustboot and connect your Shopvac to it. CNC makes a mountain of dust and you do not want to break any of that in. PLUS is makes a huge pile of sawdust all over your table and such. :)
d. USB Sticks - Buy a few as you will use them (most likely) to transfer files from your design computer to your CNC computer.
e. Computer - Probotix CNCs come with a computer too... which was huge for me as some of the brands I was shopping did NOT include a computer. Everything is pre-loaded from Probotix and tested... so you are ready to go out of the box!
f. Design Computer - You will need something to load your design software on... I happen to have a Mac running Parallels and I found that to be perfect!
G. Router - You will need to buy a router too. I went with the Bosch 1217 and Its been great!

Last but not least - TEST STOCK.... you will need lots of wood to practice! I found some cheap MDF pieces at Home Depot ($1.99) and I have been using them. But in the end you will need lots of wood, Oak, Maple, pine, etc.. so I would factor in $400-500 worth of test / final wood in your costs to get started.

In the end I spent about $6500, soup to nuts, and I am pleased. People marvel at the things I am making now which will (I hope) translate to some real $$ so I can support my CNC addiction ;)

I have seen some used Probotix equipment up for sale at a good price ... so if $4-6K is more than you can do (and TRUST ME I UNDERSTAND!) a probity is good shape is a great choice.

I know this was long but I wanted to share what I have learned, others may disagree with some of my points and that is ok too, I am still new at this myself. BUT I can tell you that CNC is great and I am loving every minute and I am very happy I went with the Probotix guys. In the future I might Upgrade to a Camaster 3 (for size purposes if I start cranking out more production things, but for now, with my small shop the Probotix Asteroid is great. Give some consideration to the Meteor by Probotix is you want something a bit larger. 2 months or so in and I am still very pleased. Yesterday I made a sign for my daughter (See attached) its not perfect but it shows what you can do at a basic level :) I also attached some inlay shots of the planet chest I made for my son's wedding. I center tree is Walnut inlay and the leaves are exotics, all done with the Probotix CNC.

Good Luck Explorer22! Looking forward dot hearing how you make out!

ProfL
 

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Prof,

Pretty much sums it up. Especially the addiction part. Good job!

I went with the air cooled spindle. Quieter and will outlast 10 routers. And I got a bunch of dust and chips piled up to prove the dustboot should be high on the list of add ons. But you don't have to have it to get started.


Need to look into that leveler thing, though.

I just use my main PC in my office for the design computer.

Also helps to keep a file on what is on each USB stick (and material sizes) - - doesn't take long to get a bunch of things on them and forget what is what. You can always use your extra, odd ball size, and scrap material to either practice on or make something out of it.

Like anything else new, you should look forward to it and dive right in learning everything you can along the way - - not being scared of it.

HJ
 

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First thanks to everyone that added to this thread, I also am thinking about getting into CNC woodworking and I am now passing on the Shark HD3 that I was looking at, but I would like to know if anyone has an has any input on the Oliver Machinery 15" intelliCarve PRO CNC Carving Machine - Buy Oliver Machinery 15" intelliCarve PRO CNC Carving Machine at Woodcraft.com
I was looking at those at one point. My thoughts are that you can get more capability for the money. But with that said it does seem to be a very nice machine mechanically. You get a spindle, ball screws, linear guides and software. I'm always leary of proprietary software but it might be a good fit for you. I have a background in CNC so I may be a little pickier than most.

When I'm able I'm going to buy a Probotics. I've been saying this for 6 months, but I'm only recently back to work after a multi-month layoff so maybe I can have it for Christmas.
 

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Explorer22, I'm at that same place right now, glad you posted this, I learned a lot. Artie
 

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I started looking at the shark Pro, but after looking at all other options I went with the Pilot Pro 2642
I am still waiting on it to come in. they have a 4 week lead time and we are in the 3rd week :(
I bought Aspire 8 and have been going thru the tutorials and getting more and more excited!
for now going to use a new PC 892 Router but will upgrade to a spindle as soon as I can. I figure first real project after a ton of practice projects will be a dust shoe, researching them now to find the right design for me. second Project is a Bit holder for the cutters. then hopefully start incorporating the CNC into production!!!
that's my I don't have a CNC yet thoughts.
 

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Sebashtion,

You might want to reconsider the PC 892. I was going to go that route until I spoke with Len at Probotix. He in informed me (and it is backed up by what I have read in other forums) that the PC 892 has some stability issues make it less accurate than the Bosch 1217. This is a fairly new development on the PC, so I went with the Bosch and I have been VERY pleased. I suspect you would be as well.... my 2 cents but of course, do your own reading on the subject.

Prof L
 
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