All Replies on First Time Buyer

  • Advertise with us
View DavidMcB's profile

First Time Buyer

by DavidMcB
posted 12-19-2018 04:36 AM

5 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2736 posts in 1050 days

#1 posted 12-19-2018 03:33 PM

who is the Craftsman in the family ??
what items would you anticipate making with a CNC ?
after you make the items, then what ?
with a CNC, it is usually a prerequisite to have at least the
minimal computer knowledge, design and fabrication skills.
selling your products could offset the purchase the machine.
with a $1k budget, the machine usually falls into the desktop
engravers and small sign category.
personally, I would sit down with your wife, figure out what
you want to make, then look for a machine to fit the need.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View oldnovice's profile


7667 posts in 4255 days

#2 posted 12-20-2018 06:47 PM

I have to agree with John Smith, but I also want to add my two cents of “sage” knowledge because I went down this road not too long ago when I bought my Shopbot as I researched for months before I decided to buy.
If I had to do it again, I would probably gone with a bench top (not desk top as I think they are way too small) as opposed to a self standing unit due to lack of dedicated floor space.

A CNC looks intimidating but by themselves they are not.
However, it is also not like any other power tool because it can only do what you tell it to do, intentionally or unintentionally, as opposed to a table saw, planer, drill press, or other single function power tool.
They can also be more dangerous as there are simultaneous moving parts, spinning bits, and loads of wood chips!

The software used to create your project, in some cases, can be intimidating not only to learn and to buy because there are many choices.
If you look around on this site and the CNCZone you will see that many use Aspire which is not inexpensive but probably one of the best (I wish I could afford it).
Once you get a CNC and decide on the software you will want more choices cutters/bits.

Once you get this far you will be unstoppable!

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View DavidMcB's profile


7 posts in 1532 days

#3 posted 01-03-2019 03:45 AM

John Smith-I am the builder in the family. I am looking to make small things and add detail to shadow boxes that I make for my military friends and sometimes sell. My skill set with software is weak, that is what I am most intimidated about. Thank you for the advice gentlemen. We shall see how it goes.

-- David McBrayer

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 01-03-2019 06:19 PM


It seems to me the software is the place where people get hung up and under-estimate the amount of time required. In a simplified view, a CNC setup requires three potentially different pieces of software to do custom things:
1. A program that can produce a vector(lines) based graphics image.
2. A program that you use to create tool paths for the machine to follow and which can convert those to usable Gcode for your CNC machine.
3. The program to run your CNC machine itself which consumes the Gcode and actually makes the machine move like you want it.

Items 1 and 2 can actually be the same program and #3 usually is provided by the CNC machine maker. Though some of the more hobby oriented machines may package programs to do 1, 2, and 3 all together for you.

Typically, however, buying a CNC machine gets you the machine itself and software for #3.

For a simple inexpensive way to get started with 1 or 2, I recommend going and downloading the trial version of Vectric’s Cut2D. I think the trial versions are full featured, but you can’t actually save the tool paths as Gcode. But for getting the feel of the process for #1 and #2 it’s a good way to start.

Someone mentioned Aspire above and that’s also Vectric, but a much more advanced product. Cut2D is the most basic one and while you may be tempted to get the big daddy for the free trial, it’s better to start with the simple one. If you end up liking it and getting a machine, you can always try the Aspire trial later once you have some experience. If you use your Aspire trial now, you lose that opportunity.

So go download the Cut2D program, look at the tutorials and give yourself some basic goals:
1. Draw a square and then create a one toolpath to cut a slot inside the square, one toolpath to cut a slot outside the square and one toolpath to create a pocket inside the square. You’ll see some basic things like a round bit can’t cut a square corner on the inside, but can create a sharp corner outside.
2. Add some text inside the square and then figure out how to cut the text out to a different depth to create recessed letters. This will introduce you to different cut depths on the same piece and the concept of a safe z height as the bit moves from one cut to the next.

This are pretty achievable goals with a little study of the tutorials and just reading the manuals. If you can get that sorted out in the trial period, then you have the required computer skills to run the machine and start producing some basic stuff. As you get more experienced, you can start looking at more advanced programs to do 3D machining and other more complex things.

Best regards,

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 3102 days

#5 posted 01-03-2019 06:22 PM

Also, ask around here and on CNC Zone. There’s probably a guy with a machine around you somewhere. There’s nothing like actually seeing someone do some of these things to really bring them home in a practical way.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics