CNC Routers

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by Jordan Curcio posted 10-19-2012 01:27 PM 14533 views 0 times favorited 51 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jordan Curcio's profile

Jordan Curcio

13 posts in 2290 days

10-19-2012 01:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cnc

I am a High school Woodshop Teacher in Pennsylvania. We recently received a grant from a local manufacturing facility to purchase a cnc router to teach programming skills to students. Upon looking at Routers, I am perplexed by options. Every company I talk to does a great job of bashing the competitions faults, So it makes it difficult to make a decision. I am looking for an Industrial machine around $30,000. I was looking very hard at the Laguna Smartshop II. However, one of the company’s made a good point by saying that the spindles that come on the Laguna are a cheap asian made product with lots of issues. He said that everytime a spindle breaks it is $2,000 to fix it vs. installing a new router motor and being up and running again. Now, I am having a tough time making a decision again. Anyone out there have ideas or recommendations on the subject?

Thanks, Jordan

51 replies so far

View DS's profile


2925 posts in 2445 days

#1 posted 10-19-2012 04:39 PM

Jordan, congrats on getting funding to teach students on cnc tools. This is a technology that was slow to come into woodworking, but is here for the long haul.

$30k isn’t a lot of money to spend for an “industrial” machine. It will get you a really nice hobbyist machine fairly readily. Due to the recent downturn in the economy, though, there are several industrial cnc routers on the used market that can provide a good value, but even $30k is a low price for those. $60k to $125k is more in the range of most I’ve seen.

If I were in your shoes, I’d be looking for a moving gantry machine (versus a moving table) since the footprint is smaller for the same size materials. That said, a moving gantry requires a more robust construction to be stable. I’d definately want an automatic tool changer, though it needn’t be a very sophisticatied one. An agreggate head for line boring might be nice, but not absolutely necessary. The ability to nest parts would be great, but simple programming in a point-to-point style machine might be enough to teach students basic programming skills.

Since this is for education, I might contact a manufacturer like C.R. Onsrud, or a distributer like Stiles Machinery and see if they will donate the balance of the machine and the rigging/setup for a tax writeoff. This has the benefit to them of making thier machines familar to the up-and-coming generation of woodworkers who will be buying thier machines in the future. They may have a demo machine (technically used) that they wouldn’t mind parting with for a deep discount.

Don’t overlook the electrical, air supply, vacuum supply and dust collection required for an industrial machine. This could add $10k to $15k to your costs. Even if you have most of the infrastructure, it may be inadequate to handle the increased demand.

My old high school shop teacher used to come study our cnc setup and eventually got a real nice machine installed in the district. They pooled resources from several schools to create a vocational tech center where shop students were sent for part of the day.

Hopefully, anything I said might be useful to you. Best of luck.

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

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 10-19-2012 04:58 PM

You need end-boring too in order to train in how cabinetry
is manufactured, which some CNC machining centers will do.
Some shops face bore on the CNC and end bore on a
32mm horizontal boring machine.

$30k is really not going to go far for a real industrial setup
with tool changers and all the power requirements and
a couple of 10hp vacuum pumps to keep the sheets
in place.

For instructional purposes you might want to consider getting
a couple of smaller machines. Students will want to use
them for cutting out guitar bodies, printed circuit boards
and other hobby projects that interest kids a lot more
than nested cutting and boring of parts for melamine

In PA I would buy from a dealer on the East Coast if I
were you.

Another option is to buy used. You might want to look
into buying used from a local shop doing an upgrade
where the seller agrees to help set it up and remain
on call for troubleshooting.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3184 days

#3 posted 10-19-2012 05:01 PM

I know nothing about CNC routers, but that post by DS251 is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on LJs. Great, great advice.

-- jay,

View oldnovice's profile


6898 posts in 3393 days

#4 posted 10-19-2012 07:51 PM

From everything I have read the problem with Laguna is not their CNC it is their customer service. Laguna is located in CA and I don’t think their CNCs are made in U.S.!

Shopbot has a special program for educators/schools that is worth checking out and they are located in Durham, NC and Shopbots are made in the U.S.!

Shopbot CNC for education

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Jordan Curcio's profile

Jordan Curcio

13 posts in 2290 days

#5 posted 10-19-2012 08:12 PM

That is some great advice! I guess I didn’t mean industrial as in a $250k machine, but I didn’t want home hobbyists telling me to buy a something little like a rockler shark, or a shop bot. What I want is a 4×8 gantry machine with a 10 horse vacuum table. Basically, The laguna Smart Shop II would be the perfect machine for our needs however, I do worry about repairs and customer service. I was also wondering what people thought of spindle vs. router motors. We wanted a spindle because of the reliability and especially noise. I do not want to listen to a Porter Cable 3.5 horse router screaming in my ear for 3 straight hours during a run. On the contrary, I am worried about having a spindle break down, and have to try to come up with 2 grand to replace the spindle. The grant we received won’t be there 2 years down the road for repairs if necessary. We have a local company that builds their own machines called Forrest Scientific. I know they offer great service, but don’t know about the quality of their machines. All the schools around us have Techno Isel routers, but they are big bucks for what you actually get and don’t seem to be very impressive.

View MrRon's profile


4795 posts in 3268 days

#6 posted 10-19-2012 09:19 PM

I don’t know how durable the water cooled spindles are, but if you decide to go that route, you could make up a new carrier for a PC router in your spare time and keep it handy if the spindle quits. It can be a simple matter to swap them out.
How about a DIY amateur CNC machine. The cost could be around $5000 and it could be built by your students as a project.

View DS's profile


2925 posts in 2445 days

#7 posted 10-19-2012 09:26 PM

I’ve never dealt with these guys, but they list several used machines, both under $30k and over $30k.

It might be worth looking into.

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

View DS's profile


2925 posts in 2445 days

#8 posted 10-19-2012 09:41 PM

As far as spindles are concerned, they are mostly reliable. A 220V to 440V 3ph spindle is a workhorse. They are definately more reliable than a router motor. I’m not sure they are much quieter than a router, though. (The motors are quieter, but the routing noise is substantial either way.)

Usually, as long as you don’t “crash” the head, the spindle will last a really long time. Crashing the head just means that it is directed into something it shouldn’t, like trying to instantly go minus 4 inches into the table, or accidentally trying to cut through the hardened steel holding clamps on a part. This will destroy a spindle pretty fast. It will definately wreck the tooling. Typically, though, under normal use, a spindle will last as long as the rest of the machine.

You can probably write a simple script to check the g-code for things that can crash the head. At least have the students submit thier g-code for review before they get approval to run it on the machine. That is some protection at least. I would expect you will probably crash the head at least once within the first six months. We’re all human after all. After you learn what to look for and be wary of, you’ll likely not have that issue any more. (It is a LEARNING environment after all.)

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

View MJCD's profile


542 posts in 2396 days

#9 posted 10-19-2012 11:18 PM

I would look at the Legacy Equipment – the “Artisan”, I believe.

Legacy equipment is very useful, requires “G Code” programming, and can work on 5-axis.

I’m not associated with Legacy; though, I know of people who have purchased them, and swear by them.

-- Lead By Example; Make a Difference

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 3832 days

#10 posted 10-20-2012 12:08 AM

Look no further. This is your one-stop shop for all your wood working CNC needs.

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View oldnovice's profile


6898 posts in 3393 days

#11 posted 10-20-2012 12:35 AM

I just purchased a Shopbot Buddy BT48 with. 2.2 HP spindle because it allows me to handle 8’ material if I ever want to purchase the power bars. I am waiting for delivery within the next 3~4 weeks.

When I first saw the Sweet Pea pen plotter in 1985 I envisioned the pens being replaced with a knife and/or router and instead of just printing I could actually build something so I started saving for a CNC. It has been long enough and if I didn’t do it now I probably never would!

I did a lot of research, I can’t even remember the number of companies I reviewed, and my second choice was the Legacy as it has a lot of capability, has a decent price, and I could drive to the factory if I was so inclined. The reason I decided to go with the Shopbot is basically the capability to expand the working area for those times I may need/want and the normal work area was larger than the Legacy. The support from either of these two companies is outstanding. There are a lot of “offshore” brands not only from Asia but also from Europe but the Legacy and the Shopbot are made in the U.S.A. (some components may be foreign) but the build is in this country!

At first I was going to build my own CNC but after 40 of working in electronics and control systems I did not really want to do that as a hobby as I really wanted was to use a CNC in woodworking My son is a certified CNC machinist and he agreed that buy rather than build was a better choice even though he originally offered o help machine any parts that may be required for a home brew version.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View dannelson's profile


193 posts in 2396 days

#12 posted 10-20-2012 01:30 AM

Please do not put shop bot in the same sentence as a rockler shark not even close. as a owner of a 5×10 machine with a 4 hp spindle and vac hold down I am very pleased with my purchase 4 years ago.a brand new bot will run about 25k ish software another 2k, alot less for schools. call them .why 10hp vac hold down? way overkill. worried about the noise of a 3.5 hp router? listen to a 10 hp vac run . do your research nylon screws, t tracks, clamps, vac pods, fein shopvacs, yes fein shopvacs. I run 2 with an 8 zone table and plywood dont move. auto tool change for a high school why? add a 4 axis for a indexer (cnc lathe) plenty of subject matter ,cabinets, signage , rotary. Did I mention support? shopbot is manufactured in north carolina. check out the forum you wont be disapointed

-- nelson woodcrafters

View oldnovice's profile


6898 posts in 3393 days

#13 posted 10-20-2012 02:22 AM

dannelson you are 100% correct, a Shopbot is orders of magnitude better than a Shark in so many ways I can even count that high.

In my research the Shopbot and Legacy were the best supported machines and in reviews they are probably the best build for their cost!

Sure, a Shark is inexpensive but there are reviews here on LJ site about some of the issues with that CNC.
Here is one as an example

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View PRGDesigns's profile


238 posts in 2338 days

#14 posted 10-20-2012 02:56 AM

I purchased a Legacy Arty 58 with a water cooled spindle in April of this year. The 5 axis option is very powerful. I would contact Andy Anderson @ Legacy and discuss your project with him to see what he can do for you. They are based in Utah. Do not get the Art Cam Express software. The only software you want to deal with is Aspire. I can vouch that the water cooled spindle is the way to go with regard to noise and/or reliability. You can stand next to mine and have a conversation w/o raising your voice. The DC and the barrel fan I have running in my shop make more noise than the CNC. Holding down the material to be cut is a major issue and I would refer you to others for a better system than the one I use. I am assuming since you have a school shop, you have a DC system of some nature. I also looked at the Laguna systems and while the price was interesting, their technical assistance was sketchy at best and their flyers, sales promotions, etc. were an embarrassment.

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View dannelson's profile


193 posts in 2396 days

#15 posted 10-20-2012 03:41 AM

PRG I agree totally with Aspire we use it everyday and I can’t say enough good things about it . I also use cabinet parts pro which is a very economical program to nest and cut cabinets.

-- nelson woodcrafters

showing 1 through 15 of 51 replies

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