My first CNC router.

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Project by JoelK posted 03-08-2012 02:15 AM 4955 views 15 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My first attempt making a CNC router was an interesting voyage into the unknown. I had no idea how a cnc machine worked or how it was controlled and started out with an idea which never made it to paper this was built all from my head. Not a great way to build anything but I knew what I wanted and putting it on paper seemed to be a waste of time. I started by doing quite a bit of research then decided on the materials mostly wood except for the rails which also acted as a partial frame. The bottom is an egg crate design(torsion box) using plywood the angle iron is bolted through the first layer of plywood. the size of the machine is 3’ x 4’ enough room to do a relatively large project if I so desired. The original gantry is 1 1/2” oak the side of the gantry are 7/8” oak and the z axis is a combination of oak and birch plywood. The torsion box is a mixture of 3/4” plywood and chip board. The machine is quite heavy more than I expected but that is OK, it makes it quite sturdy. This design gave me some problems the biggest was the plywood z axis, I should have used oak. The plywood was much too soft to handle the stress on the bearings. I used V grove bearing which allows everything to run on the edges of the angle iron, much less expensive than using other types of bearing designs. Probably not the most precise as far as the angle iron but it appears to be withing 1/32” over the 4 foot travel which isn’t too bad. The bearings don’t seem to have any problems traveling the length of the table and I don’t seem to have any play form one end to the other. I did use a flat file to bring the angle iron into an acceptable tolerance from one end to the other. I upgraded the gantry and the z axis to extruded aluminum so I now have a hybrid and it appears to be working quite well. Only time and more projects will tell. Stay tuned for the upgrade to the beast.

15 comments so far

View dakremer's profile


2730 posts in 3235 days

#1 posted 03-08-2012 02:21 AM

that is really awesome Joel! I can’t wait to make a CNC machine! Yours looks great! Lets see some projects cut from it!!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View DIYaholic's profile


19656 posts in 2818 days

#2 posted 03-08-2012 02:40 AM

Looks like quite the massive machine! I’ve looked into building one, over at Quite the place for any and all things CNC.

What software are you using? (Mach, LinuxCNC, CAD, CAM????)
What is the Z-axis travel?
How long did the build take?

I really want one of these. Once my shop is properly setup & I have a few projects under my belt a CNC Router is next. I’m looking at 3’ X-Axis, 4’ Y-Axis (this will allow me to easily upgade the machine to a 4’ x 8’ eventually), 8” Z-Axis. Rack & Pinion linear motion for the X & Y axis’, ??? on the Z-Axis motion.

Your machine looks great! Have fun with it & PLEASE post some pics & vids!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View woodluc's profile


11 posts in 2473 days

#3 posted 03-08-2012 02:48 AM

Very impressive mate!
Would love to see it going. I project like that takes some serious dedication!


View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2449 days

#4 posted 03-08-2012 02:48 AM

That’s cool, what program are you using to run it?

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View kaschimer's profile


89 posts in 2533 days

#5 posted 03-08-2012 02:59 AM

Did you go off of plans? I’ve also looked at different sites to get an idea for building a CNC router, but have yet to start it… I love how yours looks! very finished and formidable

-- Steve, Michigan - "Every piece of work is a self portrait of the person who accomplished it - autograph your work with excellence!" - Author unknown

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4195 days

#6 posted 03-08-2012 04:11 AM


I guess this is the thread for all of the questions & answers…

Looks really good to me…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View JoelK's profile


8 posts in 2715 days

#7 posted 03-08-2012 04:13 AM

Thanks all, the original build took about 3 to 4 months but it wasn’t every day mostly weekends and some nights.
Steve – I found a few machines I liked the looks of, one in here on Lumber Jocks. I incorporated that into my mental design, not the easiest way to build but I don’t necessarily like to change my paper design every 2 or 3 hours when I think of something different. The base took about 2 days and then the rest of it just kind of came together one section at a time. I found by doing it slowly I was able to make quite a few modifications on the fly. Each part was cut when I needed it no wasted wood, unlike cutting all the part then realizing there is a better way to do something.

Martin and Randy I am using LinuxCNC(EMC2), CAMBAM and CorelDraw right now. I did just purchase Turbocad but I am still trying to figure that one out.

One of these day I will make a video of it running …..

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4195 days

#8 posted 03-08-2012 04:16 AM



That’s quite a CNC setup… Quite large!!

I see a Bosch Colt router… How does it work in this use? I always thought it would take router of a little more HP.

Where did you get your parts?

What type of computer are using?

Really looks good…


Thank you.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View ZED's profile


83 posts in 2502 days

#9 posted 03-08-2012 06:09 AM


-- A good craftsman is able to make it work with the tools he has, I still need more tools

#10 posted 03-08-2012 07:30 AM

What a machine great job. Look forward to seeing what you do with it.

-- (L an D Woodworks)

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 2489 days

#11 posted 03-08-2012 11:40 AM

Nice build, my son and I are building one a little at a time. I am learning as I go. Like the sawmill we built Its fun and we know it inside and out so adjustments and maintenance are no problem.
thanks for posting

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View SPalm's profile


5322 posts in 4025 days

#12 posted 03-08-2012 01:29 PM

Hey Joel, good for you.
It is a journey, no?

I can really relate to how you built it: Think about it, jump in, watch it work, and then modify it to be better. Strong is so important.

They are a really a fun tool, and just take over all your spare time.

Good job,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View mmcafee09's profile


29 posts in 2415 days

#13 posted 03-08-2012 01:31 PM

looks awesome can’t wait to see some finished projects!

-- The College Woodworker

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8414 posts in 2472 days

#14 posted 03-08-2012 07:38 PM

Great job!

You’ll love driving a CNC. It will change the way you design your projects, because any curved geometry is now easy cheasy.

Building a CNC router is definately on my “master plan” ... but since I can use our machine at work for personal projects after hours, I havent’ had need to hurry.

I’ve got a Grizzly bench top mill that is 85% converted to CNC now. But I’m so mired down in other projects (setting up a new basement shop, etc..) that I haven’t been able to finish her up. I’m going to use the mill to machine my critical router parts from aluminum.

Are you driving the mill with Mach 3? What CAM package are you using?

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

View MrRon's profile


5086 posts in 3387 days

#15 posted 03-08-2012 09:20 PM

Good looking CNC. I am in the process of building a CNC router now.I thought about using hardwood, but thought it would not be as stable as MDO plywood. Do you see any problems using hardwood over plywood?

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