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Forum topic by Joshuah posted 06-17-2014 02:02 AM 4981 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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152 posts in 3708 days

06-17-2014 02:02 AM

Topic tags/keywords: resource question tip cnc carving tool

I am a Math Teacher in Washington State and another teacher and I am looking for an opinion on CNC routers for the woodshop at school. We don’t have a huge amount of money, but would like to use it wisely. We have 7,000 USD.

The CNC routers that we have been mainly focusing on are,

$2600 Zenbot 4848 Which I haven’t seen before, but it has a 48” x 48” bed which for the money is quite big.
48” x 48” x 5”

$3999 CNC Shark HD Version Routing System which I have heard good things about, but is it so much better at nearly double the price and only a quarter of the size?
25” x 25” x 7”

$4099 Oliver Machinery Intellicarve
15” x 20” x 4”

$4699 General iCarver 40-915x
15” x 20” x 4”

$6439 Velox 3D Cutting & Carving CNC Machine
36” x 36” X 8”

Am I missing an Important couple in this list/price range??? We are looking at budgets and it would be so helpful to have some expert opinion from people would have dealt with these type of tools.

Thank you for your input and expertise

-- -Joshuah

19 replies so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4727 days

#1 posted 06-17-2014 02:18 AM

I don’t mean to come across as anti CNC because I think they are useful tools…where I am concerned is that we seem to be technologizing (if I can coin a word:-) everything. Yes there are valuable skills that can be taught with the CNC as the focus but at what expense in shop space, lecture/lab time and even the draw of the whiz-bang new machine vs the more rudimentary skills building tools…kind of like drooling over a great desert whilst forced to eat a routine meal. I don’t know your program at all so I may be way off base here, its just that when I read your post it put me in mind of a visit I did to my daughter’s grade three open house, she showed me a typical grade three drawing but it was done on about 8000 dollars worth of projectors, computers and fancy screen. It was a great picture but the technology probably got in the way of the educational value of the exercise as she had to wait her turn to use it.

I realize this doesn’t help you narrow down your choices,


-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View PRGDesigns's profile


253 posts in 3328 days

#2 posted 06-17-2014 03:25 AM

Please check with Legacy Woodworking. I think they have an education program (i.e. discount). Thanks.

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View F40qwerty's profile


95 posts in 3216 days

#3 posted 06-17-2014 03:31 AM


Falling midway in your budget is the probotix meteor ( Its got a 25” x 50” work area and seems to be a good value. There are other options if you need something a bit smaller. I’ve never used one of these, but I have built my own. Though the probotix doesn’t come with the high-end software that other options might include, the free LinuxCNC software is pretty neat.

View Loren's profile


11031 posts in 4662 days

#4 posted 06-17-2014 03:32 AM

I’m with Mark.

Dunno man. Woodworking is such an intense skill to learn. CNC
is a useful tool for pro shops but for kids are you going to
be teaching them something useful with it?

Kids want to build guitars and stuff like that. You can program
a CNC to cut out stratocasters but that won’t teach them much
about real lutherie or craftsmanship for that matter.

I make furniture. I would like to have a CNC but instead
I get by with a panel saw, construction boring machine
and a pin router for template cuts. It’s not as fast or
precise as a CNC but I learn a lot doing it.

Work-holding is a factor in CNC woodworking you’ll
need to budget for.

View JAAune's profile


1932 posts in 3331 days

#5 posted 06-17-2014 03:34 AM

Don’t forget to budget for the software too. You’ll need something to make the drawings and something to do the CAM as well.

-- See my work at

View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 3708 days

#6 posted 06-17-2014 04:11 AM

Thanks for the responses so far. I completely understand and agree with your opinions. I am not actually the shop teacher, I teach math and do woodworking on the side. But here is what I do know…at the school that I teach there is a fairly large draw to engineering. In these classes they use inventor and Autocad to design projects that are cut out/printed on our vls laser engraver, 3d printers, and cnc plasma cutter. Since they have the other tools this would allow them to expand their abilities. If it was from a woodworking point of view I would be in your same ideology.

-- -Joshuah

View Scroller47's profile


26 posts in 3240 days

#7 posted 06-19-2014 03:50 PM

Shopbot is worth a look as well. They have a number of different sizes.

View Ripthorn's profile


1459 posts in 4000 days

#8 posted 06-19-2014 04:09 PM

I am in the middle when it comes to CNC. I like to build guitars a lot, and use a lot of planes, chisels, and spokeshaves. However, I have a small CNC mill, and love that too. Remember that woodshop was and is intended to teach trade skills to kids. As far as trades with woodworking and such, very few will find jobs using hand tools in a shop. However, the use of CNC along with the CAD and CAM programming are only getting more and more in demand in industry, so those skills will be of a greater occupational benefit to the kids than some of the thing being taught. However, CNC does take some of the zen out of woodworking, which is a big reason why I do it. For me, woodworking is for fun and don’t really rush, metalworking is to make something I want or need and I will let the CNC handle it any day of the week.

In short, I think it is a great idea for the kids in giving them skills that will be in demand in a wide range of industry. As for machines, there is a company here in one of the suburbs of Austin that I can’t recall off hand, but they advertise their machines at around $3500 for a 4×4 or so. I’ll see if I can find the name.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Underdog's profile


1634 posts in 3050 days

#9 posted 06-19-2014 04:26 PM

Don’t forget to budget for tooling and collets also.

You might check out CAMaster as well. I think their desktop Stinger is within your price range.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View PRGDesigns's profile


253 posts in 3328 days

#10 posted 06-20-2014 02:48 AM

FYI – ShopBot I believe also has an education program (i.e. discount for teaching applications of their equipment). Thanks.

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View oldnovice's profile


7700 posts in 4382 days

#11 posted 06-20-2014 03:24 PM

PRGDesigns is correct, Shopbot does have an educational program that is worth checking out as they do have a very good CNC available and superior support too!

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

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9817 posts in 3343 days

#12 posted 06-20-2014 04:05 PM

Mark….. the reason schools are “technologizing” the trades is because they want the kids to be able to get jobs. Every commercial cabinet shop I know has at least one CNC and most have multiple CNCs. Guess which guys are harder to find and so they pay the higher wages to?

Liken it to auto-shop. Do you want the kids to learn how to pull a check engine code?

Zebot….that style of gantry robot is not stable enough for a 48” wide router.

I-Carve… these machines look nice, but I would not by a CNC of any brand from Woodcraft. Don’t get me wrong, I like Woodcraft, I’m just not willing to pay their mark up. And there are so many options out there that you shouldn’t have to.

I’d look at ShopBot, which is a lighter duty commercial machine (as opposed to a hobby machine). And I think they have special pricing for educational buyers.

Make sure you get a turnkey package, as the software can be very pricey (we spent half your budget on just our CAM software, and it’s far from top of the line). You need CAD, CAM and machine control programs to make a CNC cut parts, but you want the kids to learn to do the CAD in a dedicated CAD package like Auto-CAD. The CNC controller software will always come with the machine. The CAM package is usually separate on all but the hobby machines.

Better to train the kids on software that is actually used in industry if you have a choice.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View JAAune's profile


1932 posts in 3331 days

#13 posted 06-20-2014 05:38 PM

Yes, tech is important for the serious pro shop. Older guys with a large, established customer base can probably get by but younger woodworkers are competing with shops that are equipped with computerized equipment.

The big shops that actually hire are almost inevitably using CNC machines.

At the moment, we have a CNC in the shop and will hopefully have a laser in-house very soon. That’s why we’re able to earn money without charging astronomical prices for our work. Labor costs are reasonable and we can move a lot of projects with just two guys in the shop and not skimp on materials or quality.

-- See my work at

View DS's profile


3687 posts in 3435 days

#14 posted 06-23-2014 05:34 AM

It is very difficult for a modern shop to find individuals who have both woodworking and CAD/CAM skills.

The AutoCAD drafter/Interior Designer with CAD skills is usually oblivious to how cabinetry and furniture are built.

The average woodworker with cabinetry and furniture experience has little knowledge of computers and CAD.

Personally, having professionally trained over 50 individuals to produce CAD/CAM Programs for CNC that will actually make something useful, it is easier, in my experience, to teach a woodworker how to use a computer, than it is to teach a computer geek how to make cabinetry and furniture.

I am glad and very enthusiastic that our children are learning woodworking skills that integrate technology at the same time. Those skills ARE in high demand and will have higher earning potential than those without both skill sets.

We can’t keep teaching how to make buggy whips and ignore the advances in the industry that will keep us competitive.

I suppose the debate might hinge around why we are teaching these classes to our kids.
Is the purpose to preserve an art form of a bygone era such as luthery (I am also a Luther).
Or, is it to prepare our kids with skills for a modern workforce.
Perhaps there is room for both types of curriculum. (Art and technology)

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View oldnovice's profile


7700 posts in 4382 days

#15 posted 06-23-2014 05:24 PM

There are a number of schools and other similar resources that can help in making a decision for the tools and curriculum most beneficial to the students. Check with CNC manufacturers to see what they have in schools and then check with the schools to gain more insight. Sounds tedious but that may be the best path.

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

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