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Build your old CNC machine

CNC stands for computer numeric control. That means that a computer is controlling the position of the router. Only five years ago, CNC machines were out of the reach of most hobbyists. Nowadays, you can build one and get it operational for as little as $600.00. Is it easy? No, not at all. But, nothing worthwhile ever is... Actually, it is a lot of work and can get very technical at times. I took several classes at a local community college to learn about CNC, that's the easy way. The hard way would be learning from mistakes. It is possible to have a functioning machine without spending serious cash.

After building a CNC controller board, and the router itself, you'll need software to control it. A CNC is a great way to make lots of dust. It is good to consider a dust collection system, too.
The first picture below is an overall view of my CNC mill. Missing in this picture is the computer - just a regular desktop computer. All of the materials, except the stepper motors and electronics came from either Lowe's or Home Depot.

Below that is a closeup picture of the Y Carriage. The next picture is of the inside of the controller box. I had to solder all of the components onto the printed circuit board. Not as hard as I thought it would be. Finally, there is a picture of a Russian Cross that I made with my little machine. The cross measures 3" tall.

CNC has clear advantages and limitations. While it can do some amazing things, it will not replace the scrollsaw (fretwork) or hand carving. Among the advantages are precision: straight lines are straight and circles are round. A CNC machine is very good at following instructions. Among the disadvantages are dust, noise, and especially cost: this hobby can get very expensive even with a homemade router.

Homemade CNC machine
Click to enlarge.

Closeup of Y carriage.
Click to enlarge

Inside the controller box.
click to enlarge

This was made using my homebuilt CNC mill.
It was cut with a 0.5mm cutter at 10 inches per minute

Any questions? Just send me an e-mail and I'll try to answer as best I can. Thanks much!