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Topic: Small CNC routers (back on track)
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 26, 2010 06:42PM)
Well, now that the other thread has gotten completely derailed, maybe we can start fresh...

Obviously, I don't know anything about these machines, but I would like to find out enough to figure out whether I want to continue thinking about getting one or job the pieces out. Like I said, this is a possible project (not a business), and may not even happen.

A few of you said you use small inexpensive ones, and that they work fine for what I described originally. So okay, how long did it take to learn to use the thing? How's the software (really)? Customer support? Availability of parts? Any online resources besides the manufacturer web sites? Amazon has a couple of books on the subject - are they worth reading?

Or, for that matter, have any of you worked with a job shop that you like? How are they to work with?

Thanks much.
Message: Posted by: 61magic (Nov 26, 2010 07:38PM)
George I left a post on your original question.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 26, 2010 07:41PM)
Thanks. It seems that the train has been magically put back on track over there. Maybe the staff will delete this one.
Message: Posted by: Thomas Wayne (Nov 26, 2010 08:16PM)
You can find a sign in many professional shops that reads:

"1)Fast, 2)Cheap, 3)Good. Pick any two."

The same is true of CNC machinery, software, and techniques. If you hope to begin machining immediately, and will be completely satisfied with mediocre results, then inexpensive tools and software [i]might[/i] work out fine.

If you want the finished items quickly but also want them to be of high quality then you should turn the work over to a shop that already has the tools and knows what they're doing.

If you want to equip yourself on the cheap, but you're not in any hurry whatsoever, you can ride one hell of a learning curve buying inexpensive machines and software and traveling down the self-education highway.

I personally have a thoroughly-equipped and extremely sophisticated shop, but I [i]started out[/i] with the third approach. I built my first CNC machine using ball-bearing drawer slides (albeit expensive ones), particle board, and drywall screws. There was no DIY-level software in existence at the time (1980's) so I learned to write all my G-code by hand - from drawings I created with manual drafting equipment and a calculator. Even now, with all the cheap "desktop" crap you can buy on eBay, I doubt you can begin any more crudely than I did.

But I learned - the hard way - that high-quality results can only come from high-quality equipment. For the first 15 years I poured every cent of profit (and more) back into my shop to get it where it is today. You cannot possibly begin more simply and inexpensively than I did back then, and I very much doubt you can ever afford to be better equipped than I am today. In my field I am currently considered an expert, and other companies frequently hire me to guide them in just what you are asking about.

So like it or not, I'm here to tell you that - even though DIY-level CNC has become more readily available in the last decade - there is no cheap & easy path to good results. You can't learn a decent classic pass without spending a decent amount of practice time, and you can't get a decent CNC system without spending a decent amount of money - and [i]also[/i] lots practice time.

Oh, and just to be "nice", let me wish you the very best of luck in your endeavor. Others will undoubtedly tell you that you can get into CNC cheaply and easily, and I sincerely hope you believe them and go down that road. It will be a great learning experience, I promise. In fact, I'm reminded of a funny scene from an old movie - [i]Cat Ballou[/i] - and I'll link it here for your amusement:


Best of luck,
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 26, 2010 09:03PM)
On 2010-11-26 21:16, Thomas Wayne wrote:
You can find a sign in many professional shops that reads:

"1)Fast, 2)Cheap, 3)Good. Pick any two."


In fact, I'm reminded of a funny scene from an old movie - [i]Cat Ballou[/i] - and I'll link it here for your amusement:

We have that same sign at work. :) Amazing how many people don't get it.

Okay, so I'm getting the idea that if my goal is just to get some CNC pieces for one project, I should find a job shop instead of trying to do it myself. Focus on my part and let the other guy focus on his. I can deal with that. Thanks.

As far as the clip... Jane Fonda sure did look good in that red dress...
Message: Posted by: Chance Wolf (Nov 26, 2010 10:44PM)
I would be happy to discuss the production advantages and disadvantages over the phone anytime.
We have been using a Shopbot 48" x 96" CNC in our shop for well over 6 years.
Maybe I am just special (kidding) but we had it up and running and in full production in less than 2 weeks.
It is actually a simple learning curve if you are familiar with a Vector based program such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator.
Once you understand the basics, it is actually quite repetitive with the exception of 3-D carving which I have just not felt like exploring yet.
I have created some serious milling projects from solid hardwoods. I gotta tell you, once you get the hand of it, the final results are just as cool as it gets!
The newest prediction box I am working on is one of those tricks where you are just dying to open it up to show the spectators how it works...or just how cool all the gizmos are :)
Call anytime. Would be glad to help.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 27, 2010 10:44AM)
PM'd you.
Message: Posted by: Chance Wolf (Nov 28, 2010 08:51PM)
I just re-read your original post on the other thread and realized that you are more interested in 3-D carving rather than 2-D. The 3-D process is far more time consuming to learn, program and execute as others have stated. It sounds that you are better off just farming out the work. Especially given it being a small run.
If you ever decide to buy a CNC...please avoid the new bench-top models as they are usually for very light workloads and just simply do not perform that well. Some do OK from what I have read but in full production???...not sure about that.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Nov 28, 2010 10:48PM)
Yeah, that's sort of the message I've been getting. Almost sounds like this one project I'm thinking about isn't worth doing myself. Which is fine.

Missed you on the phone today; maybe we can connect another time. Best.