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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I have been a woodworker for 35 years. I am an advanced amateur. I have a full woodworking shop (See my profile) and have a lot of experience at building cabinets, furniture, boxes and small items. I turn, scroll and generally what ever I want to do. I am retired and do not want to make a business but do want to sell some things.

I think I want to incorporate a cnc router into my shop. I have read all the advice about why you want a cnc and understand the big learning curve to be proficient. I was a Field Engineer for Eastman Kodak, Sun Microsystems and Oracle. I am a certified systems administrator for Solaris (UNIX) and have been through electronics school. So I have the required electrical/mechanical background for understanding, building and maintaining a cnc router kit.

My question to the group here is what is the best machine.

I am considering:

1. Openbuilds Workbee 32x50x3 work area, belt driven x&y and ball screw driven z. Around $2000.00 +
2. Shapeko XXL 33x33x5 work area, belt driven x&6 and ball screw driven z. Around $2000.00 +
3. MillRight Power Route 25x25x5 work area, all axis ball screw driven. Around $3000.00 +

There are countless others out there but from my research these seem to be the cream of the crop.

I have eliminated the xcarve due to the many bad reviews about the stability and rigidity of the system.

Can any of you give me your opinions of these or any others I should consider.

I am in no hurry to buy, in fact I have decided to have a cooling off period before making my decision to buy. I always take a long time to decide and shop before buying. I have seen many others get all excited about a thing, buy in haste and repent in leisure.

I do not have any specific projects as yet but do not want a little system. I have found it is better to go big rather than to go small, upgrade or replace later.

Thanks for your attention and opinions.
 

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Rick
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I’m not qualified to give you much of an answer , as I have a cnc laser but have not yet purchased my cnc router table .

But after a lot of research, I am going to purchase a pro version from cncrouterparts at some point , but I think it may be more than you require or want to budget for .
What I do like about the ones from cncrouterparts is , you can upgrade the size at some point if you find its to small .

I googled the first two you posted and didn’t like the Z height on the WorkBee . Personally , to me they look a too little light duty .
Kinda liking your third choice if I had to pick one of the three.

I like your idea of go big instead of having to replace later ,so I think some may suggest going with something in the middle like Probotix .
 

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One thing to consider is if you want to do some vertical cutting for furniture joinery at any point or just stick to flat work done on a solid bed? I teach furniture design to college students. We use 3 CNCs from Probotix.com in our fabrication lab. Two are older models that area still running fine, and one was brand new in January. Despite an initial bug due to a bad cable it is now running smooth and also cutting a variety of flat and vertical/angled work.

I like their design because the open frame has nothing running beneath it, and once mounted on a base with no top I can solve many woodworking cutting challenges with creative clamping inside that perimeter frame. If you are interested I've posted several of the creative uses for mine on my blog at: 4D Furniture Thoughts

The photo attached is of our latest 25x25 version, mounted on a simple but tall base with my clamping jig inside it. The latest models from probotix have a beefier Z axis/gantry assembly that also has more Z axis clearance above the bed than their earlier models. Their CNCs come completely assembled, and need only a few cables and the Z stepper bolted down to get running. You'll have to come up with a way to hold work down though. I've installed my jig AND some MDF slats with t-track between them on my personal 25x50 Meteor from them.

4D
 

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Stretch the budget and go Probotix at the very least. A CNCRP would be better if you plan on getting serious about this. The Probotix will do until you decide how heavy you want to get into it. Then decide from there. Whatever bed size you think will do, go bigger by one or two sizes. Whatever you do, get something from a USA company. Support is very important - and being able to communicate in English and get parts is vital.
 

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Looking at your profile, it looks like you have some high quality tools.
Imo, I think that you'll find the 3 machines you mentioned to be little more than "toys", or very lightweight hobby level machines.

I spend a lot of time on various CNC forums, and see this question a lot. The problem, is that it's nearly impossible to answer. The reason, is that the answer depends entirely on the users expectations.
There are obviously a lot of people that own those machines, and are very happy with them.

But there are probably a lot of people that bought them, and quickly moved on to something better.

Budget, of course, can play a large role.

For a serious woodworker, I'd recommend nothing less that a CNC Router Parts Pro series machine. Probably a 4x4? You can save a considerable amount of money if you can do all of the electronics yourself.

Another, similar option would be to build an extrusion based machine from scratch. A lot of people have built machines from plans at Joescnc.com over the years. What started as his "4x4 hybrid" model has evolved over the years to the current "Evolution" machine, which is very similar to the CNC Router Parts machines.
The main issue I think is that you have to spend a fair amount of time browsing his private forum to gather all the info for the Evolution machine. I think it's $100 for the plans, which grants you access to the private forum. There are lots of friendly and helpful members there.
 

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Mike
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I definitely agree with Gerry about the CNC's you listed.
I also agree that it will depend on your budget.

Some of the entry model CNC's are aimed at the people with small budgets but they often lack the stability they need to cut parts accurately. They may be a good choice if you only wish to make signs and plaques that don't require tight tolerances. If you want to cut parts that fit together into an assembly then you need to stay away from those entry model machines.

There are limits to all of the machines on the market and you can get acceptable results with most of them if you stay within the limits of each machine. If the structure of the CNC is loose then you might be able to run at a slower feed rate to overcome some of that looseness. Still, your parts might be off. If it is limited in Z height then you will have to make sure you have room for materials, bit length and also remember to provide for safe Z height above your material. If you don't stay within a small Z height limit then you will probably lose your Z-Axis reading and that will cause you to carve deeper than your toolpath calls for, possibly cutting into you spoil board or worse, cutting into the structure/frame of the CNC. Some CNC's will have a limit to the weight of the spindle or router they can handle and if you exceed that limit combined with looseness in the structure can cause twisting of the gantry and very poor cut quality and accuracy. It can also limit the shank size of the bits you can use.

CNC machines are like any other tools in your shop. Cheaper tools have more limitations but can still be used if you stay within their limits. Just remember it really depends on what you expect from the machine you buy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I can see the points made about buying a larger more stable semi-pro system. When I was thinking about getting into turning I had to decide if I wanted a mini lathe or get a bigger lathe from the start. When you get the mini lathe and you like turning you must sell it or eat the cost to get a bigger lathe. On the other hand if you get the mini lathe and you do not like turning then you can sell it.

My problem with turning is I liked it and got the bigger lathe.

I see some used cnc routers (hobbist) level that the turning example fits. The people bought a kit, did not know what they were doing and the system sat there collecting dust.

I do not think I will let the dust collect. So I will reconsider the larger systems.

I realize that there is a tremendous learning curve for design and implementation of the cnc router into a work flow. I have a very good electronic and mechanical back ground. I have very good computer skills and know that I can eventually master the cnc router.

As always if you think you can't, you can't. If you think you can you can!

An experienced woodworker knows how to fix mistakes, a really experienced woodworker knows when to drop the whole thing in the can and start over.

Thanks everyone for your input. It is always good to get counsel from more experienced people.
 

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For some, the learning curve isn't nearly as steep as you think.
At the end of the day, it's just a router. The better you are with a router in your hands, the easier learning CNC will be. You just tell the computer what you want the router to do, and it does it for you.
 

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One other option, given you background, is to consider a DIY machine. I spent about $2800 on mine, and consider it fairly close to the CNC Router Parts 4 x 4 one in performance and size (mine is larger at 49" x 60" cut area, and will soon be expanded to 100" long). The cost was much lower because I got a good deal on the extrusions, and put together the electronics on my own, mine are basically the same as their NEMA23 plug and play. I run Mach4 and I think CNC Router Parts are still pushing the deprecated Mach3 (hasn't been updated since 2012 - stay away on a new machine). I have an attachment similar to what @4DThinker illustrated that I can use to attach boards for vertical or compound angle cuts, many of the machines out there are not adaptable to this, and I think it is useful in furniture making. Just another option, I think the advice above is all valuable and comes from experience. Watch out though, or you will soon be advised to jump to the 10-15K machines...

Machine Machine tool Toolroom Wood Panel saw
 

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The photo attached is of our latest 25x25 version, mounted on a simple but tall base with my clamping jig inside it. The latest models from probotix have a beefier Z axis/gantry assembly that also has more Z axis clearance above the bed than their earlier models. Their CNCs come completely assembled, and need only a few cables and the Z stepper bolted down to get running. You'll have to come up with a way to hold work down though. I've installed my jig AND some MDF slats with t-track between them on my personal 25x50 Meteor from them.

4D
Wow 4D!! That's a great looking Probotix machine!! 👍
 

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Thanks Pro4824. All I can take credit for is the base and the jig though. This comet is a bit of a test to see if a version of my jig can work for both flat work as well as vertical/angled work. I spent an hour or so yesterday working to get the jig level to the horizontal cutting plane. In the up position two supports slide in to hold the outboard end fixed in place and level with the front of the clamping plate. After we use this jig for awhile and I get some feedback from everyone who uses it I'll make a revised version that fixes any flaws that only using it would reveal. I already have a short list of changes to make. The bed has a 3" x 3" grid of threaded inserts in it for 1/4-20 bolts, and rectangular holes to pass clamps through.

The base stretchers have the trusswork cutouts in them to permit reaching through them more easily. A Nebula in the same room has a similar base but with solid stretchers and has aggravated me more than once when I've dropped a bit or router wrench and not been able to reach through them to easily pick the thing up.

4D
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
To all that replied, thank you. I listened to the advice and was able to purchase an upgrade from the starter machines but not quite a pro system. Yesterday I bought a NWA Shark Pro Plus HD CNC Router from craigslist.org. The item was listed in the Dallas area which is about 3 hours away. I had put an ad on craigslist in Houston and Dallas for a "Wanted CNC Router" as well as Nacagodoches (my local) craigslist. I got no bites at all for the Wanted so luckily my luck held out and I was able to snag the Shark for $2000.00 with a 2.25HP Bosch Router.

I was lamenting about buying a kit or getting a ready built. The kit did not bother me but I really just want to use the machine not tinker around with one. I also did not want to spend $5000.00 + for my personal use. I think I have made a good compromise between entry level and pro level machine. The shark has linear bearings and ball screw drives. I did order a touch plate and a gantry upgrade kit from NWA today. I also ordered the Frued 6 piece CNC Router bit set from Amazon last night. So hopefully by next week I will be making something.

FYI the software choices are very confusing. I have downloaded Fusion 360 desktop and will try to license that for "Hobbist" for free. I did get the current version of Vcarve trial but I do not want to pay $350.00 if the Fusion 360 will work for free. Since I do not know either software whichever one I use will be my learning curve and there seems to be a tremendous amount of free or low cost files available I will not need to make too much from scratch.

Thanks all for your opinions.
 

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If you have trouble figuring out Fusion 360, you might want to have a look at the tutorial videos provided free for VCarve from Vectric.com. I have an early CNC Shark from NWA and it came with an earlier version of Vcarve Pro. I find the current software layout, job setup, drawing features, and toolpath options very logical and thorough. It includes post processors for the Sharks and nearly every other CNC out there. You should verify if Fusion 360 has one for the CNC Sharks.

4D
 

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Congrats on picking up a cnc machine.

Being able to make whatever patterns you need really makes the cnc machine a wonderful addition to your wood shop. Good luck. It is a ton of fun making custom patterns. It can get addicting. I find making the patterns almost as much fun as carving them into my projects.
 

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Congrats on picking up a cnc machine.

Being able to make whatever patterns you need really makes the cnc machine a wonderful addition to your wood shop. Good luck. It is a ton of fun making custom patterns. It can get addicting. I find making the patterns almost as much fun as carving them into my projects.
No........ making files is not as much fun as cutting. Finishing sucks too. Nothing beats actual cutting. lol

Love making dust!!!
 

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Yesterday I bought a NWA Shark Pro Plus HD CNC Router from craigslist.org. The item was listed in the Dallas area which is about 3 hours away. I had put an ad on craigslist in Houston and Dallas for a "Wanted CNC Router" as well as Nacagodoches (my local) craigslist. I got no bites at all for the Wanted so luckily my luck held out and I was able to snag the Shark for $2000.00 with a 2.25HP Bosch Router.

The shark has linear bearings and ball screw drives. I did order a touch plate and a gantry upgrade kit from NWA today.
All the sharks have lead screws. You say you bought the gantry upgrade kit for the Shark Pro Plus HD you just bought, does the CNC have a blue T-track bed? If it is the blue bed I'll send you a PDF of all the upgrades I did to mine to get some of the looseness out of it.

It would have come with V-Carve Pro if it is an HD1. Did he keep his license to the design software or did the subject of the software come up? If he did not say he was keeping the software I would check with him and see if it was an oversite. The license can be transferred for $50 if you get the software.
 

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lol. I did say almost. There is very little that beats wood working and the warm feel of lumber as you shape it into something beautiful...

But advanced 3d modeling and digital sculpting is a lot of fun once you get passed a very steep learning curve if you don't have a cam/cad 3d background. I had zero background in any of those areas when I started. It's taken me 6 years to progress to where I am at skill-wise and still only very much a beginner. I build these as 3d STL objects which can then be ported into different cnc software.

Here are some examples of some of my patterns I've made. They were fun to build.
 

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