Creative ways to make extra money with a CNC router

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Forum topic by , posted 05-25-2014 07:06 PM 50758 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2387 posts in 3543 days

05-25-2014 07:06 PM

With reading about the CNC threads on here, I have decided to buy a CNC very soon. We are planning to pay cash and plan to purchase a 4 by 8, maybe a little larger, CNC router in the next month or so. I plan to utilize the CNC to cut out cabinet boxes and flat cut dovetail drawer boxes (I do understand flat cut dovetail on CNC is not true dovetail). With the addition of a CNC and also a Edgebander, we will begin to produce frameless cabinets for full overlay customers, and face frame cabinets for other customers.

While the CNC will greatly increase our speed and accuracy and efficiency with cabinets, I also know it will not be fully utilized. We will typically do between 75-100 LF of custom cabinet per month and I know the CNC will cut those parts out likely in a day or two depending on size of project. So I am wondering what else I can do with the CNC that can keep it producing product for sale.

I consider advertising for cutting sheets for other shops.

I have also considered setting up another web site that could offer for sale fully custom high end RTA cabinetry for shipment across the U.S. On that site a customer from Florida could send me the wall dimensions or just a list of cabinets they wish to purchase and the configuration of doors / drawers and also custom openings such as for built in microwaves, ovens, drawer warmers, etc… We could cut out the cabinet / drawer parts and ship everything including doors and drawer faces, face frames flat packed and ready for simple assembly. We could even ship the custom moldings of customer’s choice in 8’ sections. Of course the customer would need to hire a contractor for stain/paint finish application

Then I have thought maybe there are other smaller things the CNC could produce for Ebay sales, such as carvings.

Then lastly I think I would advertise under “Services on CL” for CNC services.

What types of things do you all CNC owners do to make some money with your CNC?

-- .

15 replies so far

View woodman71's profile


162 posts in 3320 days

#1 posted 05-26-2014 06:39 PM

I would say that you have thought this out and got it pretty much cover. I would say the only thing I can come up with to help. Would be router templates jigs I was at a woodworking show and they were sell all kinds. Made out mdf there cheap to make. You could come up with your own design and post on your wed site for sale.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2069 days

#2 posted 05-26-2014 09:19 PM

You could use it to make really large pancakes!!! :)

-- Who is John Galt?

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2595 days

#3 posted 05-26-2014 09:27 PM

A guy I know has one, makes ton of edge grain cutting boards with logos and pictures on them. Not sure of the copyright type stuff, but college mascots, local HS logos, unions, family names, portraits, characters are all ones I have seem him make. Seems to be able to customize to fit whatever the audience needs. Can use some of your off cuts too. Sets them apart from the typical cutting board fare. Not high end woodworking, but moveable products. Sell them at various places.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3543 days

#4 posted 05-26-2014 11:48 PM

That is great guys. I especially like the pancake idea. I have discussed it with my wife and she is on board I think.

I woke up this morning, was good for about 2 hours then ended up badly sick. It put me in bed suffering for the entire day. I just now got over whatever it was and my appetite came to me full force. Getting sick was not in the plan of the day so my body did not cooperate. So it was good to see the pancake idea while being sick, it helped me get through it all today.

Thanks fellas.

-- .

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2069 days

#5 posted 05-27-2014 04:47 PM

I got to see that thing in action at the Makers Faire in San Francisco a week back. The jury is out on if I need one, but you never know. Pretty sure you can build one from lego’s if you just aren’t complacent with just a happy face. I thought you would get a pretty good lead on ideas, so I went the humor route. :)

-- Who is John Galt?

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3664 days

#6 posted 05-28-2014 10:42 AM

I was within a week of taking delivery of a CAM-Master, glad that I didn’t.

There are alot of people buying cheap CNC’s and then using them to pump out personalized gifts, signs and widgets. The end result is a crowded market of “one-of-a-kind” trinket makers.

My plan to keep the CNC running was to cut out flat pack doll houses and sell them on Etsy. Good use for all the odd sized sheet good scrap in a cabinet shop.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View JAAune's profile


1798 posts in 2313 days

#7 posted 05-28-2014 01:59 PM

I would check the area before attempting to make money with personalized trinkets and signs for the reason Rhett mentioned. In that market you’re also competing with laser engraving. We’ve got two engravers in the area and I think that’s all our community can support.

-- See my work at and

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2941 days

#8 posted 05-28-2014 04:48 PM

All of your ideas are good ones. Something to think about for down the road in your planning of new product ideas. If one of these ideas hits and you start making a gazillion of them, how will coordinate with your other products production flow? How can you fit this into your already going business practices in the shop? These are things that you need to think about. How will you sell the new items that are in a totally different market? How much time do you have to invest in the sales calling?

I would suggest creating things that complement the work you already do. Something that you can sell as an add-on or another sale to previous and existing customers.

Remember that making things is the easy part. Selling them is the hard part.

Other questions come from your post. What is the market for high end RTA furniture. Seems to me that people who can afford high end work, don’t want to put it together themselves. They want the whole thing done for them. Advertising with other cabinet shops that you have time available for their work overflow might be a good way to go as you can turn it down if you are too busy. Either of these examples takes sales time. do you have enough of it to make it go?

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3543 days

#9 posted 05-28-2014 06:32 PM

Jim, you make some of the best points in your posting. Makes me think and you are very right. When do I have time to market some completely different idea.

I was just thinking of creative ways of keeping a machine running as I am fairly sure we will not require the CNC services nearly enough to run it 40 hours per week.

I might look at advertising CNC router services on CL because that is free to do and only takes minimal time to post the add.

The high end RTA cabinet idea is going down hill the more I think about it. Jim’s point is well taken. In fact, I am wondering how feasible it would be to flat pack and ship a wall oven cabinet or a pantry cabinet. Sounds like more headache than it might be worth.

Thanks for the input.

-- .

View squazo's profile


62 posts in 1642 days

#10 posted 05-29-2014 01:02 AM

3d molds for the concrete and resin industry, you know like hollow cast plant pots that you would make and send out to companies who would then fill them with concrete or epoxy. Why not make mold of parts for prop studios such as faces and body parts. typically you would make something like say a human skull which they would then turn into a hollow rubber mold, this would save them the time and the hassle of making one from a live human.

View SteveMI's profile


1094 posts in 3291 days

#11 posted 10-07-2014 01:57 PM

If you are already doing cabinets, a complimentary role for the CNC would be customizing the doors. I used the CNC for a set of kitchen cabinet doors of a neighbor with simple coffee, herbs and chef hat graphics CNC etched in them. Beware of 3D requests, the time on the machine really drives cost. These were existing doors and would have been a bit large for most Laser shops. Jim hit the big nail on the head, you need to use it for what you are doing currently or be committed to change your business product line.

I designed a kids coat rack as a flat pack product that was neat. Shipping cost for them individually was obscene. Packaging was also an issue. Trying to peddle enough of them locally failed quickly.

A high volume shop doing repetitive items can fully rationalize a CNC. If not that, you need to have a niche where the CNC can produce a product that can’t be easily duplicated with other shop equipment. I make cribbage boards in several shapes I designed which would not be profitable for anyone to compete with me using common shop equipment, especially the drilling. I gave up on custom signs after some customers expectations of purchase price and my time for 5 iterations of the design didn’t line up. Making CNC items with regional theme is good, just make sure you don’t get into intellectual property problem. One real good thing I found is to find new non-franchise restaurants that want wall and table items that have their brand or logo on them.


View ryguy's profile


37 posts in 2948 days

#12 posted 10-07-2014 03:49 PM

I know some guys with a CNC here in Cincinnati and they use it for various projects they work on but at the University of Cincinnati the college of design has projects due each semester for their students. Of course, the students wait until the last minute to finish and the ones available at the school are already booked so these guys charge $200 an hour and let the students have at it. Supposedly the machine runs 24 hours a day for the couple days before the assignments are due. They say it is very lucrative for a few days with no work on their end, and they just supervise the students. Each year it is a new group of students and it happens a couple of times each year. The students are basically paying off the machine.

Look in your area for a college with a design program and you might be able to do the same thing.

-- Ryan, Cincinnati, OH

View tncraftsman's profile


92 posts in 3136 days

#13 posted 10-08-2014 03:30 AM

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3133 days

#14 posted 10-08-2014 03:54 PM

Hi Jerry,

There may be a small market for flat-pack custom speaker cabinets and audio racks. Some audio enthusiasts like DIY speaker design but aren’t so much into woodworking. Some places do the speaker design and sell kits of the required electronics but may not offer cabinets, or may offer only MDF cabinets. One specific application would be subwoofer cabinets that look like custom furniture rather than just a big box.

-- Greg D.

View Dbl00Buck's profile


1 post in 1206 days

#15 posted 02-02-2015 08:55 PM

I would also look into pieces for home restoration like decorative moulding and cornaces or the gingerbread type exterior trim items. they are surprisingly hard to find when you want something other than the basic stuff they mass produce for the box stores.

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