Contact John at MicroCarve.
I've been lurking for a while, collecting parts, registered sometime into that lurking (I'm active on a few other machining forums...) but now I'm posting debating if there is a way of changing my attitude/approach.
Gather some cheap parts, slap them together to make small table to learn, make parts for a larger table... I have a tendency to turn things like this into a never ending project- you get it working, tear it apart to improve it, you never have it running when you need it...
New plan (hoping that you guys can point me in the right direction):
Skip the cheap parts, build a setup that can do the kind of stuff that I want from the get go- buy known working stuff (mostly thinking about the electronics/controller/drives...) that pretty much work out of the box (FWIW, I probably have access to better tooling then what most people start with, I have a bridgeport, 10x22 lathe, welders/plasma cutter...).
I'm almost looking for a "DIY CNC in a box" or a "get these motors, this controller, this drive... and you'll have what you need. Basically, I want to try to avoid my typical "spending the next X (I've turned some of these things into projects that took years) of my life building a tool to build stuff that I want to make."
What I'm looking to do with it:
- small to medium size parts, most stuff I would make would fit in my hand, but some stuff gets larger, car parts (say supercharger brackets, flanges...), some prototyping type work for electronics, hobby type stuff, I've even been talked into machining custom guitar body for a friend. 2x4' would cover 99.9% of what I've ever done, but 24x18 or somewhere in that range would take care of 95% of it and be acceptable. Not sure about the Z, but 3-5" travel would be really nice.
- Most of it is aluminum, composites (micarta, delrin), hard woods... a lot of my "prototype" type stuff has been MDF. Dare I dream steel/iron (not necessary, can always drop it on the bridgport or lathe if I really need it and if this puts a realistic setup out of bounds, if it does maybe a second project would be something stronger for that kind of work or cnc'ing my bridgeport or a smaller import mill).
Not sure what other info to add... ideas?
LOL if you have a bridgeport AND a lathe then building a cnc shouldn't be too hard! Heck, why not just CNC the bridgeport and lathe? You'll get a better cut in metal than wth most fiy router designs, except for maybe cutting guitar bodies...
The bridgeport makes a killer "router" for modifying guitar bodies... I've had a few serious guitar players notice that what I've ended up with is much better than factory (once I actually looked out what the geometry is supposed to be I could get it dead on, and I'm actually surprised how bad some really good guitars are made). I actually really like carbide router bits in the bridgeport for a lot of things, and with the bridgeport you can actually set up to just shave the thickness of the finish... off the surface (but again, originally they don't tend to be that flat so you can get yourself into trouble when you get too cocky).
I'm part way through the MicroCarve thread... I like the design, but I don't see anything that is nearly large enough to do what I want there. Also, the actual design of the table isn't what I'm worried about, but the controls/electronics are, and it seems like he's all about the table design and so far the stuff that I'm worried about is an afterthought, lots of the pictures do not have the motors installed and I haven't seen anything about them.
I'll spend some time on the second thread later.
As far as converting the bridgeport (sorry, for some reason I just don't get the cnc lathe thing for most applications), well, I really like the big manual machine, and I don't want to loose that. I'm not sure that it would be a good candidate either, with the DRO and some care the worn 1960 vintage machine can do some really nice work, I don't see it working well CNC without some tuneup or more likely rebuilding
I was in the same place you are. I really want a 4x4 joe's machine but I really don't have the space right now and the time & $$$ I know I'd want to put into getting one going. I looked at what I really want to do right now is make some smaller parts and John's Microcarve machine (link posted above) fit most of my needs. Buying it allows me to dive into the cnc world a lot faster then building a bigger machine. John is a great guy to deal with.
If you go with a microcarve machine just add stepper kit from say 3-Axis CNC Stepper Motor Driver Kits you can get them a ready to run. And you'll be off and running. Or if a bigger machine is a must Fine line has complete kits. Home : Fine Line Automation
I think it's probably too small for what you want to do. My router has a 30 x 24 envelope and I cut mainly guitar parts. The early guitar bodies were rough bandsawed and then pin routered. Believe it or not, Peavey was CNCing guitar bodies as early as the 60s! Onsrud's inverted pin router made it safer, and some guitar shops still use them for bodies and necks. I'm always amazed however, what the CNC can do. What once took me 4 hours prepping and routing and shaping a body now takes under 30 minutes!
I would like to keep my aluminum and wood work separate, as the lubricants I sometime use could ruin a guitar finish. I have to wipe my table down with denatured alcohol ro removev any residue. You could build something like the cnc router parts/fine line automation kit for wood and plastics, and maybe even build or convert an x-y table to CNC for your Bridgeport and manually z (I think a previous issue of Digital Machinist covered that topic) for metal work.. This way you don't have to modify your machine, it's bolt on, bolt off...
I think its the size that is making it tough.
If you go down to about 18"x24" you can run 5/8" ball screws and some smaller steppers and the Gecko G251 drivers and still be under a grand for the whole thing.
You go much bigger and then you want 3/4" screws or racks and larger motors and drivers.
1K or 2K?
I'm sure my machines are too small for you...they
won't make a guitar body. Except maybe for Barbie
& her friends...but it'd be a Nice one...
If you want a bolt together kit, the cncrouterparts
kit will be large enough, strong enough, and well
supported...which is important.
Ahren...(cncrouterparts)...has been at this a long
time and knows what works with what. He makes everything
you need available and will explain what it is and why you
need it. Electronics, wires, motors....everything.
You have the Bridgeport and chances are anyone who's
taken the time & trouble to have one of those will
have the Best of the Best tools to easily complete
the cncrouterparts machines.
You can DIY from complete scratch, but you need a design
to begin that $$ journey. The kit I mentioned will get
you there a lot faster, so you can be using a machine
instead of planning a machine.
Myself, I'm just a hobbyist that makes machines for the
fun of it, and I sell them off to make another. There's
little to no profit in what I do, so what I can make is
very limited. I try to make small easily shipped machines
that are good for beginning with cnc in general. There's
a lot of pluses to them, but I stay away from making larger
machines mainly because there are already plenty of
For getting all you need in one place....and the all important
support and help with questions you'll surely have...I'd
go with the cncrouterparts kit. There are lots of others
who have them, so help is practically there for you almost
PS...I never bothered to cnc my large mill. I like to be able
to feel how things are cutting. You don't have that important
feedback with cnc. It's all programmed in advance and the
machine won't know or care if things are proceeding correctly.
The machine will do as commanded...right or wrong.
Without cnc on my mill, I know if I'm cutting just a little too
deep or the cutter doesn't like the job.
Not as "glamorous" as cnc, but it's quicker and better in
Let me fill in some background on my suggestion... It sounds like you are an experienced machininst, but the CNC part of machining (or at least he building of the machines) is new to you? It sounds like you want to "start small" to a degree, but a machine capable of making guitar bodies is, in my opinion, much bigger than "small"...
So, my suggestion is to start smaller than you were thinking, and make SURE you want to "go bigger" with a lower cost entry point. For instance, I bought a V90 (John's "first" entry to a commercial CNC machine on a larger scale, I think. The V90 is now sold exclusively by Probotix). I didn't know squat about actually making or using CNC machines when I bought the V90. I got a machine I put together in 4 hours, including a full electronics setup (electronics all pre-built so I couldn't "screw it up"). I just had to "follow directions" to put it together to get it running. Next I had to tackle the computer side, and the software side.
I used SolidWords for CAD, BobCAD for CAM, and run Mach3 to drive the V90. Everything worked "to perfection", but there were many bumps in the road. I tried to use EMC2 on a couple of times and had nothing by headaches. I know other people use it perfectly well, it was not a fit for me. I tried many different CAM program trials, and narrowed down my selection by knowing what I wanted to be able to do (fully 3D parts, not just engraving or 2.5D), and how easily I could "grasp" the interface and get done the things I wanted to be able to do "down the road". Again, all these facets of the decision making process were able to be tested out 100% on the V90, with a minimal outlay of cash, and a very high degree of success/applicability to larger machines.
I got through all that, loved what I saw, and then went "whole hog" by buying a Mikini machine. This EXACT same set of software was fully capable of running the Mikini (CAD, CAM, machine control) - there was zero learning curve to go from the V90 to the Mikini (software wise). Electronics wise, it is also "basically the same" thing, just "grown up". Ditto the tooling. Sure, the machine has way more power, capability, and experience than the V90, but deep down "it's just a router" on steroids...
The VERY last think I would have wanted to do was dump $10k+ in to building a "dream machine", taking years to do it, and then finding it didn't meet my expectations in capability or accuracy. It seems to me there are quite a few examples of people taking this approach, and getting broke and frustrated in the process...
Now that I have a V90 working, and the Mikini, I am starting to collect parts to make a "mammoth" machine for myself. I would never have been successful or even been aware of all the pitfalls of building this machine, without going through the step-by-step learning I have done so far.
My V90 is fully functional at the moment. I bet I could sell it for 90% of what I paid, but I choose to keep it. It is great for doing PCB's, and smaller parts that fit in it's build envelope. If I wanted, I could also sell the V90 base machine only, and put the motors/controls/etc. on to a larger format machine. Just the hardware for that machine would likely cost more than everything I have put in to the V90 so far.
That's my $0.02, use or ignore as you wish.