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Basic CNC router for custom wood onlays

1735 Views 5 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  gwilki
Need recommendation for small hobby CNC router (? I think . . .. ). I need to make wood on-lays, primarily celtic knots, primarily cut out rather than engraved, maybe some engraving but that's not the primary focus (forgive me if I'm using cut out vs. engraving incorrectly!). So, need basic uniformity on multiple, though repetitive/basic cut outs. Thin wood, majority probably 1/8" or 1/32" thick. Some longer than standard work areas on smaller "hobby" machines, so would ideally have "pass through" capability (stopping, moving, resecuring, so, manual pass through). I did a little research, so have a basic idea of what's out there . . . would just love help/advice from someone(s) more knowledgeable than me!

The higher end Cricut (Cricut Maker) (more crafty than power tool) will cut thin wood (but no pass through, so I'd just have to do smaller sections), but I'm more power tool than crafty, and have always wanted a router with table, so thought an entry level CNC might be a more fitting alternative to the Cricut. Or, any other suggestion would be great. I have a Dremmel and Rotozip, but me freehand cutting with those . . . they're good for a lot of things, but with me anyway, cutting any kind of predictable line would not be one of them : )

Looking for something under $500 and relatively easy to use, though I'm wiling to put some time into learning it. As of now, I'm really looking for it to complete one major project, and though I may well fall in love with it, at this point, want to keep the investment more entry level as it's just for the final decorative onlays.

Any advice, or even recommendation of another forum to post/ask in, would be much appreciated!
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we have a sister site just for the hobby CNC enthusiasts.

If you really believe that this will be a one off, for that budget, I would respectfully suggest that you try to find someone local to do the job for you. $500 will not buy much in the way of solid CNC machines, and for inlays you need excellent accuracy.
Grant, thank you for kind reply. I hadn't considered sourcing locally, but I will certainly reach out to see if that's an option.

I'm actually looking to do onlay (applique, to attach) rather than inlay. Would applique be a more appropriate term? I have several beautiful pieces of furniture with inlay and realistically, I don't see myself achieving that extraordinary level of skill in my lifetime, even with the best of machines!

I probably misspoke in my original post-I should probably have said uniformity rather than accuracy. In fact, some imperfections or a little variance here and there makes it look less . . . machined. I should have said I'm trying to get an overall look of uniformity (everything will be the same color, and if there's a lot of the same small pattern, it all tends to blend in). Close is fine, not perfect.

I understand I'm proceeding at my own risk. I've wanted a router for a while anyway, and a basicCNC might be a better option for me than a full on router/table (for example, my mitre saw is a sliding compound 7.5", small, but perfect for what I do). Let's say under $1,000, are there any entry level/hobby CNC you think are better than others? Your initial reply helped a great deal, and any help is appreciated!
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have you googled "celtic knot wood applique images" ??
you might find something that is already being made and is on the market now.

In this circumstance, I would purchase the appliques from a shop that
can cut them to your specs. do your projects and see how it goes.
you may be disillusioned as to the results. (due to the Covid-19 situation).
I know a couple of guys on the RouterForums that do this kind of work
and have an Etsy Shop you could purchase your items from.
if you do outsource it, get ready for the sticker shock for the initial program
set-up costs. (depending on the design and amount of detail, could be enormous).
basically, you need to come up with very firm sizes, thickness and quantity.
also, what kind of wood you need them made from.
actual artwork of what you need will help everyone help you better.
good luck in your projects.

a sample photo, sketch or drawing of your project would be nice to see.

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You did say "onlay" in both your subject line and in your post. Sorry about missing that. I do inlays and, clearly, am blind to any other option.

Certainly, onlays are a bit more forgiving of cutting accuracy since you are not trying to mate positive and a negative cuts.

You haven't said how big you may want to go, other than mentioning pass through capability. My hobbyist CNC has a 30" x 30" bed, but I can "tile" in Y and go pretty much as long as I want. Some CAM software provides for this.

Many hobbyists have Shapeoko machines and they seem to be very well rated, with good support forums. I have a Sienci Long Mill, designed and sourced in Canada. It is a lead screw machine, not belt driven, and FWIW, I believe that is is excellent value for the money. It fits into your budget, too. Keep in mind, though, that after the initial cost of the machine, you need a PC to run it, software to design for it, a table top to hold it, tool bits to cut with it, good dust collection and space to house it. Again, unless you are doing a lot of these, you may want to outsource.
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