View Full Version : How Cheap is Cheap???

04-27-2003, 02:38 AM
This CNC hobby, like others is still not cheap in my opinion. My Wood Router that is on my website is something I built from scratch for a learning experience. Even using just plywood for the structure I still had over $300.00 into this thing, and it cut like sh#*. Using Stepperworld’s first Unipolar design it had no power at all.

What has other people spent on their router or mill for CNC? Was it a usable machine when you were finished?

04-27-2003, 09:42 AM
I spent about 300.00 on my machine but the drives and the some of the parts came from a friend.

04-27-2003, 10:54 AM
I think cheap is building a functional machine for under $1000. I think what keeps the cost down is free stuff. If your lucky enough to have access to machine tools that can help also.

04-27-2003, 03:21 PM

I spent about $350.00 for mine. Mostly for the drives.


04-27-2003, 04:28 PM
balsaman, how much did you spend on your slides?

04-27-2003, 06:09 PM
Slides and bearings were all salvaged from the scrap bin where I work (factory)...:) :) :)


04-27-2003, 06:21 PM

What is the main structure (grey painted parts) of your router made of? Aluminum, MDF, or plywood?

04-27-2003, 06:33 PM
I used MDF. The leadscrews are 1/2-10 acme rod, the nuts are home made from delrin blocks, the steppers are 100 oz. I use a Stepperworld FET3 unipolar board, on 27 volts. I get 45" per minute on x and y and 30 on Z. I use a small router that holds 1/8" and 1/4" collets.

See my clock threads for some stuff I have made.




04-27-2003, 08:05 PM
I saw your clocks and loved them. I have the DXF's and am going to attempt one when my "CHEAP CNC" arrives...hopefully next week.

What software are you using for Cad. Cam, and machine control?

04-27-2003, 10:11 PM
I'm also hoping to stay under $1000. I'm trying to build a 24" x 48" machine running belt driven homemade drive nuts turning on 2 start 1/2-8 acme screws. I've already got my Z-axis bearings, 2 253 oz-in steppers, xylotex boards (3axis + single - 2 motors on moving gantry). If my design works as planned, I should finish somewhere in the $1000 range. If it doesnt work, I'll build a smaller, more conventional machine.


04-28-2003, 01:21 PM
Balsaman is disqualified from the cheap CNC machine contest!!! He has connections we don't have! :)

04-28-2003, 11:37 PM
What software are you using for Cad. Cam, and machine control?


AceConverter or MasterCam




05-07-2003, 02:20 AM
I've not yet built my machine, however I'm gathering parts.

I spent a Saturday scoping out salvagable technology -- spent $25 on 5 LASER printers, $4 on some rollerblade bearings (2 packages of brand new bearings at a thrift store), and $0.50 for some offcuts of galvanized pipe at Home Depot.

I've managed to salvage quite a bit of technology -- 3 very workable steppers, the largest of which is 100 oz-in, the smallet of which is 66 oz-in, and all 200 steps per revolution. Also some gears, some short polished rails (can you say Z axis?) and a few other things.

I also resold one of the printers for $40...I'm actually in profit! My machine has cost me -$10.50 so far, and I can use some of my scrap MDF from the cabinet project I finished last year, so that won't be a significant cost either.

Oops...I forgot something. I bought a 486 IBM ThinkPad for this project...$5. So I'm only up $5.50...sorry.

I think I'l have to buy some bolts...maybe a cutting board at the dollar store...that kind of thing. And, oh yeah, I'm going to homebuild my board, so a few more dollars for chips and solder.

I'll reuse some old printer cables I have lying around, for the connectors...that sort of thing, and I also have an older AT power supply in the closet.

This seems like it's going to be a pretty cheap machine! My original budget was $100...I may scale it back to $50 at the rate I'm going! It's fun when projects go this well...

-- Chuck Knight

Dan B
05-07-2003, 06:23 PM
Wow. We just bought a CNC machine for $80,000 US and we thought that was cheap. Of course, it's not for hobby work, but for our company. We've been looking at $750,000 US 5-axis machines. So when I read about $300 or even $1000 machines, I have to chuckle. Then again, these machines will be making big bucks for us, so they will eventually pay for themselves, whereas hobby machines probably won't.


Laff Riot
05-07-2003, 09:28 PM
Out of curiousity what will you be using the 5 axis for?

05-07-2003, 10:17 PM
I am going to guess before he answers, just to see if I am right.....trimming of plastic? It is the most common usage in 5 axis.

BTW, $750,000 is a huge chunk of change for a 5 axis. I hope it is something special because you can get a Thermwood Model 67 starting at $94,000 for a 5' x 5' table with a 24" Z. For something a bit bigger you can get the model 70 with 5' X 10' table with 24" or 36" Z for $159,000

See Thermwood Corp (http://www.thermwood.com)

BTW Laff Riot, where in NC are you? I am in Greensboro.

Laff Riot
05-07-2003, 11:25 PM
That Model 70 is incredible. With a throat like that I could produce monuments in one piece. I wonder how scaled down I could make that since I'm only carving 15lb foam and extruded PVC for the most part?

The only 5-axis I saw in that price range was for prototype modeling. Anyone here ever tried building a 5-axis ?

I'm in the Asheville area. One of the lot here that are trying to extend thier business by making some of these machines.

05-07-2003, 11:37 PM
Laff: I have a place in Burnsville! If you check out the Classified section at Thermwood, they have a used on for sale! Start saving your pennies.

Dan B
05-08-2003, 07:39 AM
We will be using 5-axis to drill compound angle holes, and cut undercuts without having multiple set-ups. The idea will be to place our job on the machine, and cut it completely, and drill all holes in one set-up. Sometimes we have jobs that require 5 set-ups per block plus set-ups on 2 sine-plates for drilling the holes. We will save enormous amounts of time with a 5-axis machine.


Dan B
05-08-2003, 07:49 AM
Sorry Paul, I didn't see page 2...

The machines we were looking at need to be robust enough to cut tool steel, and have a table size large enough to handle our jobs. We were looking at some machines from Fidia, Breton, Parpus and Depo. Minimum table size for us has to be 48 X 100 with a height of at least 30".

It seems however, that we are going to jump into the CNC world a little cheaper. Check out www.5-axis.com

This head will fit onto our existing machine and cost around $50,000. We feel that this may be a good introduction, then once we have ironed out the complex programming issues, once again look at an expensive machine.

The problem with a $750,000 machine is that there is no latitude for downtime. The cost of the machine does not allow for it sitting idle while we figure out all the little programming issues. We calculated that the expensive machine would have to run 20 hours a day, 6 days a week to justify it's existance. If it happens to be down, or a slow period without work, we have to start laying people off.


05-08-2003, 11:01 AM
Really neat web site! The movies were fascinating.

Dan B
05-08-2003, 11:17 AM
Most of those movies are typical of what we plan to do. I'm sure you can see where this would save tons of time. Just think how much work it would be to drill all those angled holes on that semi-circle shaped part without 5 axis!


05-08-2003, 08:18 PM
I know that Thermwood offers a 5 axis programming educational DVD set on their web site.

03-06-2004, 07:38 PM
Nice CNC router balsaman .

If you don't mind me asking what are the specs on your machine? (ie. motors, motor drivers, cnc controller, etc.)


03-19-2004, 06:08 PM
My first machine cost around 450 Canadian for everything except the spindle (dremel) my second one is going to be less expensive still and way better. It pays to do your homework and create a clean solid simple design. My first one has paid for itself 3 times over by now with what I make on it. The second one should pay for itself within a couple of weeks. ( I am using the electronics off the first machine).
One thing I am going to change for sure is the spindle. the dremel has way too much play and runout and is really loud. Too bad no one makes a quiet 25000 RPM spindle, doesn't have to be silent, but the current routers and moto tools scream!

03-27-2004, 08:11 PM
I think the title, how cheap, is appropriate. Each time I visit I get these ideas on how to make it work on a real small buget, turn on AUTOCAD2000 and start drawing. When I'm done I revisit here and find that it has been done in one fashion or another by someone else. I do realize that there's nothing new under the sun. I look over those comments, and all that could be wrong, and decide that I must be mad to think I can come up with some new way to accomplish this mamoth task, cheap cnc. To keep it cheap all dreams of machine type accuracy must be fogotten. A tolerence of+or- 1/32 should be accepted. On any wood, plastic, or aluminum piece for a hobby project or even some commercial sales these should ok. I work at it every day. In the shop, thats concidered close enough.

07-01-2004, 02:54 PM
Can some one poin to me the CHEAP CNC web page or where you purchased them?


07-01-2004, 03:55 PM
Most of the people have built their own design.

but the forum category i think refers to the following site.

08-01-2004, 04:58 PM
guys I really like this site good info but after all the thinking and designing I've done and the browsing of this sites forums I have to say, I'm scared of cnc. With all the electrinics, software and mechanicals needed I don't think I'll be building one arfter all.

08-01-2004, 08:37 PM
"Cheap" is relative. I've spent over $3500 for my first machine and it's not done yet. I consider $4K cheap for a 4x8.

It's really not that hard! Why not consider something very inexpensive with good plans? Something like CrankOrgan.com (http://www.crankorgan.com/index.html). That way you get step by step instructions and it will be very inexpensive. Just a thought. Building a CNC machine is no harder than working on your car. I had no experience what-so-ever with CNC but I am confident that my monster 4x8 will turn out well. And, I'm not an engineer nor do I play one on TV.

08-01-2004, 10:24 PM
There are machines on this site, which have been built for $50 or so. And, that includes a garage sale computer, and the controller software (Shareware TurboCNC) in the price.

Cheap is as cheap as you want to make it. How good are you at getting a bargain?

Most of the machines shown here, cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on the size, complexity, sophstication, skill of the builder, etc. Those of us who have to buy the driver boards, rather than build our own from parts in an electronics scrap box, usually end up spending more.

I just picked up some bevel gears, made from a high quality nylon, with a precision 5/8" bore. They'd make some fantastic slides on a 5/8" rod.

Unfortunately, the same guy didn't have rod...and my usual sources had a whopping (1) piece, for way too much. Must have been precision ground! My Home Depot/Lowes stores don't carry over 1/2" rod, as a matter of course.

The bevel gears cost 3 for a dollar, so they'd be a wonderfully cheap solution! Heck, maybe I'll play with them for a spinning nut design!

So, anyone have some relatively short (2 or 3 feet) 5/8" rod, available for cheap? Maybe some offcuts from a 4x8 machine?

-- Chuck Knight

08-01-2004, 11:01 PM
Enco ( http://www.use-enco.com ) has oil hardening Drill rod (tool steel or silver steel) 5/8 x 36" #408-0037 @$5.89

08-01-2004, 11:19 PM
I think my cnc table will work out to be about $800.00AU less the computer as I have 4 desktop and 2 laptops..
But I will be using MDF screwed and gluded, the only parts I need are the X & Y ballscrews and the MDF


08-02-2004, 11:21 PM
Mini CNC on $299 budget:

Xylotex + surplus Powermax steppers
7" leadscrews
Foredom type spindle/motor + flexshaft
drawer slides
wooden frame

:) first cuts:

High Seas
08-02-2004, 11:53 PM
Nice results - any pics of the system - the wooden frame and all you'd like to share?
I supose most of the expence was in the xylotex and motors - did you have the Foredom on hand - seem to recall seeing that as a nice piece of gear.
Cheers - Jim

08-03-2004, 12:23 AM
geeesh..That's great! How much time did your machine have to put in to get those results?

08-03-2004, 12:40 AM
:rolleyes: Its really crappy design...I`ll do it better next time :)

Xylotex/motors $160
eBay new leadscrews $35
eBay new motor/flexshaft/spindle $70 (1/3 hp JewelFlex brand)
new drawer slides $30

forgot power supply :rolleyes: I should have added that... ($40)

08-03-2004, 01:01 AM

Head piece (1.5" by 2.5") was cut in about 30 min, 1 pass 1/4" ballnose roughing, 1 pass 1/8 ballnose fine stepover...Warning:rubber on that flexshaft is melting after 20 min :p