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Hi Mark, and welcome to the fun. I don't have a CNC, but as members can attest, I was a business consultant for three decades, and I have written up several ways to approach having a CNC business, either part or full time. Although I am fascinated with the CNC's potential, I wouldn't consider going into business without a minimum of a $5 to $6 thousand dollar minimum machine, and that doesn't include the cost of saws and other gear to support it.

Gaffboat won't tell you because he doesn't do self promotion, but he is a master of commercial signs, and he has written two books for beginners in CNC. Both are available at Amazon under Prof. Henry. Pictures below. They are very basic, the first being definitions of the terms used in that field. The other is on signs, the main event for money making stuff.

We also have other members who have really done well with their CNC, for example Jon who has made a nice business from making (of all things) signs and plaques that include polish eagles, which hs sells via attending Polish festivals and events. He is gradually expanding into other national symbols. If you visit the board for CNC, you will run into many of his posts, or you can use search to look for past CNC posts. Lots of discussions of getting started.

Based on my experience with general woodworking tools, I would heed the advice to get the best possible machine you can afford, even if it means using credit. You won't regret it. And I'd get a complete machine and system with hardware, computers and software as well as a strong support reputation. What you save in buying bits and pieces on the cheap, you'll pay for in frustration and possibly winding up with a boat anchor.

In business, there is no point in making mass marketing products. Go after the high end and special projects work. The attached pdf will give you some ideas based on what I'd do if I were building a CNC business. Give yourself time to learn and practice by making things for yourself, your spouse, family and friends first. I'd not expect to make a dime for at least a year, and then only if I devoted 6 months of slogging through learning the basics. Expect lots of failed projects, so start with simple stuff first, then add complexity layer by layer.

One other thing you need to handle right away is sawdust collection. The CNC spits out huge quantities of sawdust, and sawdust and lungs don't mix. So in addition to wearing masks, you will need an effective dust collection system. There's lots of information on dust collection on the site, and I've also attached another pdf of the 18 things that helped me accelerate my own knowledge of woodworking. It is 10 pages long, but has pictures. Hopefully it will help you make good choices and save you from some of the expensive and frustrating mistakes I made.

As far as secondary tools go, I think you will find a table saw is number one on your list. Happily you can get one for about $500 or less new. Check out the Bosch 4100, a very well regarded machine around here. You may be tempted by a chop saw, but that goes far down my list for what you'll be using it for. A router (Bosch 1617) is a must for many purposes, which you will learn as you go. Used in a table, or in a jig, a router can flatten material so you can get perfect results in the CNC.

I would also consider a band saw, which can allow you to shape odd-shaped and round pieces for specialty signs. Again, there are jigs you can make that will make this tool dance a pretty fancy woodworking jig. I have a 10 inch Rikon (same as WEN brand) I find myself using all the time.

This has gone kind of long, but I wanted to cover what I think will be important and give you a realistic idea of your potential expenses to get a small business going.

What can you expect to earn from your CNC? Probably for the first 12-18 months, almost nothing. But if you pursue some of the ideas in my PDF, and search for the posts by guys who have already done well with their CNCs, and stick to the high end, specialty areas, you can probably pay for the machine in earnings during your second year. After that, it's entirely up to you. Remember that you are starting a small business, not just a hobby, so at tax time, your schedule C allows for you to deduct expenses, including travel, your machine, interest, materials, classes, support costs, upgrades, additional machines. And you can spread out the costs if you wish, which will reduce any tax load you might have. Be conservative about deductions so the IRS doesn't get you.

Here are the pdfs I mentioned. Actually, one is a Word document.


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