This article is about what it actually took for me to really set-up, the items needed and knowledge use my CNC machine. Just like anything in our society- the CNC industry is based on making money, and in that they don’t tell you everything. I have a blog post and will make a video on, “can you make money with a CNC” shortly but this is a start.
1. What id it that you are wanting to make? Example, a small BOBSCNC won’t make a 40” circular sign. This decision probably should be at the top of your list.
2. Do you have a set budget? If money flows freely then by all means, go with a Shop Saber or something similar! If you are on a budget like most of us, just understand there are tons of options at the one to five thousand range.
3. You will have to put it some where; what space do you have? I run my 48”x36” cutting area out of my garage. It works fine. If you are looking at a basement or partial garage area you may need smaller.
4. Power source. 110v or 220v. I think this is probably not thought about much, but it should be. If you are in a residential home, you probably don’t have 220v (although it is easy enough to get).
I run a Onefinity X-50 Journeyman, and I chose this one for a few reasons. The first being size for price. The machine can cut a half sheet of plywood on this thing with no problem. To me it basically means if there is a project… I can do it. The other part of that is that it is nestled in that mid-range price area in between the “little junk” and the “super machines.” Another reason chose them because the ratings on service are amazing. Malfunctions happen, I had a controller go out once and they sent me a new one within a couple days. Without a doubt I can say the service is freaking phenomenal. Email Onefinity’s support with an issue and get a new part in days, it’s actually baffling how fast they are. The other reason I like the Onefinity is it works on rails, not chains. My entire machine is 300ish parts whereas others are thousands of pieces. BTW, a Onefinity runs off the Makita RT0701C router. So if it goes out during a job, you can replace it from your local hardware store.
Second thing undoubtedly is a table, gotta put it somewhere. Man, there are a lot of options out there. People will tell you torsion boxes are key; I disagree unless you are really planning to hog out deep cuts in mahogany. For my bench, I actually made my table of 2x4s with legs from one of my kid’s air hockey tables. The top is two back-to-back sheets of UV ply. I have not had the slightest issue with movement or torque related bit mistracking nor have I seen any warping. If you are not a master craftsman and just want a table, I would try the Kreg Universal Bench. Kreg is a respectable brand that is well made, I use them at my actual job and they work great. Again, I believe this option will completely handle the torque and warp issues.
Next, I don’t know, bits? So much of this stuff will not work without the complete ensemble, so it’s hard to list importance. First, you can’t cut anything without bits though. You have to figure out what you are cutting first (ply, soft wood, hard wood). I recommend learning on softwood, but understand in my experience, you can probably do hardwood pretty fast. With that said, I have different directions I go based on the project.
Cadence Manufacturing & Design: The Jenny Bits. This company is really knocking it out of the park right now. My testing at this point is limited, but what I have, I love.
I recommend that you don’t go out and buy a combo set. It’s not a waste of money, I have in fact used all the bits I originally bought in a set. But, it is unneeded upfront cost. Seriously for almost anything you can get away with:
1. 1/4″ Down Cut Bit (2 flute for most wood projects)
2. 1/8″ Down Cut Bit
3. V-Bit (the angle is up to you).
4. And maybe a compression bit if you are doing sign letters or something like that.
All the rest is after you learn those, seriously. A planer or Spoilboard bit will be needed if you are not starting with a flat surface or material.
Alright, we can cut now right? No. CNC- Computer Numerical Control. Arguably the most important part. How are you going to run the CNC? You have to have the design software to get your ideas into g-code (what your CNC reads) unless you plan to just buy straight g-code which means NO customization. Obviously, I have not tried it all so this will be a short list- but I think, a pretty educated one. I have really researched all the major programs and this is what I came up with.
Vectric Pro. This is the sweet spot for me. It’s powerful enough to do anything I want, but not too overpowered that I get bogged down in CAD insanity. Not a cheap option, not ridiculous either.
Fusion 360. Man, I love this program, but it IS insanity. You can for real digitally build a nuclear generator on this thing. It is, for almost everyone I know, too powerful. I learned it, self-taught. But damn. Hours. And it’s expensive (although it does have a free educational license).
Easel. This is the happy hobby man’s (woman’s) program. You can get off the ground and make something with it within hours of downloading. It has serious limitations. Measurements for one. Making an exact model is near impossible. I like it for fun stuff, but it doesn’t come into play for my real jobs.
Can we cut? Ummm, Yes. I think.
What’s next? I would argue before you mess up your table, you need a spoil board. And if you have a spoil board than you should probably throw in clamp/holding devices in there as well.
This is the sacrificial boards you use to keep from damaging everything else. I use MDF cut into strips with Freg T-Tracks (Faux Kreg) in between. I have 5 and in hindsight I would have gone with 7. The reason is purely clamping options. Closer the rails are together the more options you have.
You must hold stuff down. Repeat after me, “you have to hold stuff down.” Every real failure I have had has been caused by material movement. Cheeping here is probably going to bite you in the end, a board will move and then a bit will break. One this note I challenge you to really explore you options because there are tons. My personal preference is the Pwncnc Toe Clamps and T-Track Nuts with M5 screws. Whatever I am cutting WILL NOT move. I have also added painters tape and CA glue for extra stabilization (small cut-outs).
THAT’S IT. THAT’S WHAT YOU NEED.
If, you want your lungs to survive to see Rambo 35, you need this. And in two major ways. First is what I call point collection and the second is area. So for point what I am talking about is the point in which the CNC bit is throwing dust and chips everywhere.
Can you use a Shopvac? Yes. They are loud as hell. You will not do this for long unless you go with something like the Festool Shopvac.
I recommend a decent Dust Collector. Must quieter, collect finer particles and they are designed to run long periods without stopping. I use the JET 1.5 hp ran into a barrel with “vortex” fittings, that then runs out to my CNC head. The barrel is not a true vortex, but it does exactly what I want which is to not fill up my extractor collection bag. I use a food grade sterilized barrel I got off Facebook for 10 bucks.
At the CNC head, I am currently using a PwnCNC Dust Boot V7. I have decided it is not the best thing for me and will eventually part ways with it. That is to say. It works. It’s just a preference thing.
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