View Full Version : Confused

01-12-2008, 07:56 PM
Well, obviously there will be a lot of techniques and styles between CnC builders, and I am sort of confused about how you go about building a wood router like this. I want/need a router that can cut hard wood (very hard wood) very precisely (that is more precisely than my hands), and I came to this wonderful site through some googling.

I downloaded the Joe 2006 EASM files, and looked at it and thought to myself: "This is ideal, but where do I begin making one?", I ain't much of an expert when it comes to building machines, I am not educated in that field at all. So I was wondering if anyone could be kind enough to tell me how I should approach building my first CnC wood router; should I get certain materials and parts? should I print the EASM files to try to match what goes where? should I get certain tools?

Any guidance or help would be very much appreciated, as I am a complete beginner within both building machines and CnC wood routers (I've only used one a couple of times in school when I was a kid).

Best regards, Gingah

01-12-2008, 08:03 PM
Your best bet is to take it one step at a time. What skills do you have and experience to help you in this? Woodworking/metalworking? Joe offers full MDF/HDPE part kits for this machine, are you aware of that? I knew nothing about cnc routers when I came on to this site a while back and I was a hack of anything electronic or with metal, just a woodworker by profession. It's a simple machine, not rocket science, if you take it in steps you can accomplish this and many bigger things there after. By the way what kind of wood are you going to cut on the router (or hope to?) What types of things will you be cutting?

01-12-2008, 08:09 PM
As for experience with woodworking I have none, except having built a pair of homemade speakers once. So far, I've only found out that CnC routers are ideal for cutting anything in wood both vertically and horizontally. I am not really sure what MDF/HDPE parts are, could you elaborate? And my main purpose would most likely be guitar bodies, so it would be hard wood such as ash, alder, mahogny etc. And the inside of the guitar bodies, where the pickups and electronics go.

01-12-2008, 08:36 PM
First, I am just a hobbyist, like you, and like you, I wanted to build a CNC router with more than just "Balsa" capabilities. I bought plans, started to build, wanted it larger, then more powerful, then more rigid, then,..........
When completed, I was sufficently pleaed, well, no less than a little, proud, also, with my efforts that I wanted to share my project. You can see the results at www.mikebeck.org
All the best of everything to you and yours!
Mike Beck

01-12-2008, 09:00 PM
Well, I suppose I would need a router capable of carving on wood blocks that were as big as 25" x 25" at least, I really just need it to be able to do "decent" curved shapes; so I can get the right shape for the guitar bodies - and to carve in the spots for electronics etc, as I said. Not sure how I specify that in CnC terms, hehe.

01-12-2008, 10:21 PM
There are a number of machines that size that would suit your purpose. Are you a member of any luthier groups? Perhaps a post there would result in a some info. I've built a few kits for luthier's, but not quite that large. A cutting area of 24 X 18" is as large as I've kitted. Also, don't forget your trusty search engine. I've personally seen plans for sale for machines that large, and larger, fairly inexpensive.
All the best
Mike Beck of http://www.mikebeck.org

01-12-2008, 10:49 PM
I just recently completed my first CNC. I got the kit from Joe and built this machine. Here is a link to my build thread.
I am also interested in building guitars. I've been doing a lot reading on several forums lately. Mainly this one and the tdpri forums. There is a lot of great information on building.
Here is a link to a build thread on a CNC.
Joes machins should cut any guitar parts you care to do. The cut area is about 2' x 4' and the Z travel is a little over 6". I plan to cut a telecaster style body soon.
There are a number of build threads here that show the process step by step. There is also a great spreadsheet one of the members did with all the parts listed along with sources. Most everything you need is here. If you decide to build one you have a lot of reading ahead.

01-13-2008, 06:48 AM
I had a look through the post about Joes CnC, but there were so many people asking for stuff sent by mail, page after page, does he by any chance have a website where the kit is shown?

Are these machines so accurate that they actually cut the back of a guitarneck that smoothly? I had a look in the tdpri.com post, and was amazed by how well curved the neck was, didn't know that could be done with a machine.

01-13-2008, 07:24 AM
One problem is that I live in Norway, and mildly spoken - shipping here from the US ain't very cheap. Are the plans available with detailed measurements by any chance? I think I could get a local woodworker or metalworker to cut out most of it, or maybe I could try myself.

I found a file called "Joes2006CompletePartsList.xls" on the Yahoo group page; assume that it is the list for the router. So, to build a Joe 2006 CnC Router, I "only" need to get the parts shown in the EASM files cut and assembly them with the use of the stuff in the part list?

01-13-2008, 07:40 AM
Thats pretty much it. There is build on here by a guy in Australia that cut all the parts by hand. It can be done. There is also another that shows an alternative to the pipe rails.
The guitar neck is doable, it just takes longer to get real smooth. Most need a small amount of sanding after cutting. The EASM file has all the measurements, but you must use the measure tool in the viewer to extract them. There is another thread where someone is measuring everything and planning to post the results. You may have to adjust some things to account for sizes available in Norway, and conversion to metric.

01-13-2008, 08:41 AM
Cutting the parts yourself is not easy but it has been done by many people with little skills. I wouldn't do it unless you have the tools; ie: I wouldn't spend $1000 on the tools required when you could pay less than that to have them cut out. I'm sure there are local shops near you that do nested based cnc routing, cnc routers are nearly everywhere now. If you post your location in Norway I will try and find one for you.

01-13-2008, 08:58 AM
I am in Tromsø, so it is far north. I know there are some woodshops here, but I wouldn't trust any of them to cut me a guitar body, hehehe, thats why I want to build my own CnC Router (and also, it is always handy to be able to cut wood easily) - would be great if you found one :D

As for tools, I have the "standard home" power tools, like a circular saw, hand-drill and also one of those hand-cutters - at least thats what I remember, it is a horrid mess in the tool shed.

01-13-2008, 10:15 AM
Here is the thread on the hand cut.

01-13-2008, 11:32 AM
Ok, so a CnC Router is basically:

A router (machine drills?) placed on a mechanism that can move it in a X axis, Y axis and Z axis, and by computer programming moves in specific paths.

So in extension, to build one, you need:

A system to move the router in these axises, and a system to control the movement.

Now as I am no mechanic or educated in anything similiar, I don't really understand what you use to get it to move all of these ways, could anyone explain that?

01-13-2008, 01:30 PM
Read this artical, it may help you understand more of how this all works.



01-13-2008, 01:42 PM
also here is some good basic reading.


click on the different tabs on the left for info on different aspects of cnc routers.


01-14-2008, 08:10 AM
Hei there Gingah, I found this link to building a JGRO CNC router for building a guitar, it may be of interest to you http://www.guitar-list.com/node/23253

Med vennlig hilsen


01-14-2008, 01:16 PM
Thats nice explanations, it is coming together more and more in my head. As I just wrote to Jdc in a message, I am still confused about how to get smooth frictionless movement on the slides - and I see references to skateboard parts everywhere (thats one thing I know for sure I can get ahold of easily). Is there a "standard" way/method of assembling the slides, and will slides that work for Z and Y axises work for the Z axis as well?

And just as importantly, what would be a good location for inexpensive motors and controllers? I am horrified by the price of some of the motors I see around on the pages linked from some tutorials - I just need 3 motors capable of moving the mentioned axises, and a controller that allows me to run it from my computer.

01-14-2008, 02:59 PM
I went through that same thing on my first project. Building the machine was easy enough, but when it came time for motors and controllers, it took longer to do all of the research than it did to build my router. When I finally settled on what I thought was the best controller, the fun just begun. Locating and purchasing the other 90% of the items needed, seemed never ending. I bought most items in bulk, due largely to shipping charges and minimum purchase requirments, and when my controller was finished, I had a GREAT controller! I continued to develop and refine, and as I had allot, of allot, of the hundred odd little bits and pieces on hand, a WHOLE lot of research and knowledge gained, I decided to share it. I don't think you'll find a better controller for your purposes, now, and in the future, than this one www.mikebeck.org More features, more power, larger motors, better looking even, (not the builder), then controllers costing as much as $1500! THREE times as much. Runs from a personal computer. You can easily end up spending as much, building your own from scratch. I've shopped around allot, and heven't seen anything that comes close, for the price. Take a good look. When you're ready, I'll be happy to work with you one on one, if you like.
Thanks for the posts. I never fail to learn something whenever I visit this site!
FYI I'm a, "Night-owl". Feel free to e-mail me privately, if you like. Usually online until 3-4 AM.
All the best!

01-14-2008, 04:11 PM
A large problem is that I cannot afford to cough up 500 bucks - so I am really looking for the extremely price-sensitive goods.

01-14-2008, 04:19 PM

01-14-2008, 04:43 PM
Cool, should add up to 105 for 3 steppers and 80 for a kit for electronics, so 185 + shipping. Is it hard putting one of those kits together though (that is soldering + whatever I do to use it with a computer)? And would these 35 dollar motors have enough "power" to carve hard wood such as alder and ash? It would be ideal if I could make this router as cheap as possible (is that not the ideal of everything regarding money?), as I will have a LOT of expenses this year.

01-14-2008, 04:56 PM
get the larger motors, the board is easy to put together, good instructions, average person builds the board in about 2 hours.

01-14-2008, 06:36 PM
I bought the CNC package with the 305 ounce motors. The only other thing you need is a case and a transformer to suit your voltage. The web page has a recommendation for each. You would need a transformer for a 220 volt primary (I think). Electricity in the US is 110 volt and as I understand 220 in Europe.
The transformer listed is 110 primary only.

01-14-2008, 10:56 PM
Please understand that this reply is just an old farts 2 cents worth, but as an "Old fart", I've got a half century of cents from which to reply.
One of the primary benifits, therefore objectives, of CNC is precision and accuracy. One of the primary drawbacks is how much it costs. Getting up and running is exciting, and we can't wait to see those motors spinning. The controller is the most expensive part of the machine, no matter how you look at it. As such, unlike guide rods, bearings, skate wheels, lead-screws, lead-nuts, gantry materials, et al, etc, it is the one thing that can not be inexpensively up-graded on down the road, after your project has taken it's first tenuous baby steps, and shown you that it indeed can make good use of a pair of quality athletic shoes. Swapping out all-thread for acme screw-stock, hardware store quality nuts for self compensatimg anti-backlash nuts, is not going to represent a big loss. Budget being tight, those are the places to scrimp now, if need be, upgrading later. Not so with the controller. Along with overall rigidity, lead-screws and lead-nuts, it's the most important part governing this acuracy and precision. Scrimp elsewhere if you must, but not here.
Now, I have absolutely NO asociation with Hobby CNC what so ever, but I must concurr that the Hobby CNC controller is the way to go. Get the biggest motors they have. The 3 Amp 305's. It's just not worth saving the 5 or 10 bucks not to. I can tell you from LOTTS of experience, they will go heads-up with most 400 Oz. motors, and many 500! They use all the power the board will output, and have very low inductance. That low inductance is where that power comes from.
I have been the proud owner of, well, up in the 3 digits, of HCNC controllers, so I like to feel like I've got some experience with them. By all means, if you can possibly afford it, go with the 4 axis PRO kit. I know, I know, money's tight, and that 4 axis is $20 more. If you ever have an axis go down, (it happens, usually due to a sloppy motor cable splice, faulty connector, piece of something getting into the enclosure causing a short), ESPEACIALLY if your machine is putting a little food on the table, or cranking out a piece for a cranky, client, a moment or two reconfiguring your software, and you're back in business, using that, "Spare", axis. That 20 bucks has paid for itself and then some. The PRO controller is so much better, in so many areas, there's not any point in going over it. That's why the AUPC's are discontinued. If you are concerned about power, get the PRO. If not, GET THE PRO. NOW,.........
Don't look at it as a board and motors, and that's what it costs. That's not reality. You don't know it, you can't see it, but take it from the many folks that have actually kept track of what it all finally added up to, and, well, most of them just finally QUIT adding it up to eliminate the shock. Yes, you've got that old tackle box, and you don't need fuses, and you can just pull the plug to turn it off, and that old parallel / centronics cable can be cut up and soldered in, and as long as you don't really put it in a real enclosure, that desk fan will blow it down cool enough and a wadd of tape will keep it up off the bottom of whatever, so it's not going to cost but a couple hundred bucks. That old PC's got a good power supply to modify, and you'll STILL end up with a couple hundred bucks in it, if it works, at least for a while.
I have shopped, and shopped , and shopped, and you can not beat the Hobby CNC "Package". If you're going to bild your own controller, and you're not going to be penny wise and pound foolish, get the "Package", get the 4 axis package, and get the 3, amp, 305 motors. The package contains virtually EVERYTHING but a transformer, (20 bucks), and an enclosure. (the modified PC power supply's no longer even recommended), Period. That's it. And that's everything to build a VERY NICE, TIP-TOP, CONTROLLER! Even buying in bulk, and I mean bulk, (I'm sitting across from 3,500 Ft. of the recommended 6 conductor motor cable), I could not do better. You buy, (in my oppinion), THEE best controller in this class, Thee most powerfull unipolar wired motors in this class, and everything else for just about gratis. All the power supply parts, fan, (24 volt fans aren't near as redilly available or cheap as 12 volt), guard, motor cables, fuse holders, switch, new parallel cable, power cable, heat-sink, heat-shrink, connectors, big handful of hardware, and on, and on, even self stick lables. EVERYTHING! OK. Just about done. One more plug. I also have absolutely nothing to do with Pactec. I've heard people say that's too expensive. I've never found a suitable enclosure for even $5 less. Now, "I'ts plastic!", they cry. OK. They're right. But,......I've shipped controllers the world over, and back when you still could, used "USPS Economy Surface", shipping. (had one box take 3 months to reach a coastal village in OZ). I had one take such a hard hit that it drove a motpor shaft into the side of another motor to the point that it looked like somebody took a 1/4" punch anf hit it with a 16 Oz. hammer. Ruined the motor, but the controller worked perfectlty, ( I DO pack very well), and there was not a single little flaw in the Pactec case. And that's with 6 pounds of transformer bolted to the bottom of it. AND, no matter what you use, you're going to have to locate and drill / cut ALLOT of mounting, vent, and fan holes. The HCNC package, includes with their most excellent instructions and wiring diagrams, FULL SIZED TEMPLATES, for all the case machining! Being an old tool and die dude, I've now made hard tooling to make all the holes, and can do 100 an hour, but before that, those templates were worth their weight in gold! OK. I honestly think that you can not do it cheaper. I KNOW that, for the money, you can't do it better! That's my 2 cents worth, and my 2 fingers are plum tuckered out! Thanks for listening, and,.........................................
Mike Beck

01-14-2008, 11:14 PM
Mike, i can not agree with you anymore. I have had 3 kits from HobbyCNC.

it ran my 06 for a year and a half, i sold the machine and the controllor and now 2 and 1/2 yrs it is still running. and thats with the 200oz/in motors.

I have the 4 axis pro, and have it hooked to my 4x4 and you can see the video's of it jogging. the board makes the motors run very very smooth compared to some bi-polar drives i have tried.

I hooked up g201's in its place on the same 305oz/in motors (425oz/in in bi-polar and really could not tell a difference, to get the correct performance out of the gecko's i need more than the 36vdc psu i used.

So to me the HobbyCNC Pro kit is the way to go if you do not want to spend for Gecko's and a more expensive PSU.

Don't get me wrong, the gecko's are superior drives, but you will need to run them with more power to take full advantage of them.


01-15-2008, 08:37 AM
Those packages seem to be overpriced, considering it's a board plus 3-4 motors. Say if I went for the "#23-205-DS8, 205oz-in unipolar rating, 3v, 3A, 200 S/R, 2.2mH, Size #23, Dual Shaft, 8 wire", would that be enough power to allow for guitar body making?

01-15-2008, 09:40 AM
The "top" 4 axis package (what is the 4th axis?) goes for 335 + shipping (390 bucks in all), which is almost the price of three fully cut guitar bodies. And more or less a fourth of my current money "stack".

I mean, I need power to cut hard wood - not power to cut guitar bodies of of solid steel. Basically said; if there is money to save by ordering sinlge parts, then that is a important point. I'd like to build a CnC, but not spend all my cash doing it.

01-15-2008, 09:51 AM
you can get by with the 3 axis pro board for 280 plus shipping, but i would not get the 205oz motors when you can get the 305 for 15 more, and be safer in your cuttings.


01-15-2008, 09:51 AM
The 205s are probably enough, Joe ran the original prototype on them, but I would go with the 305s. There is a very small diff in motor prices.
The kit includes other things besides the board and motors.
"Included in this assemble-it-yourself package kit is a cooling fan and guard, DB25 Parallel Port Cable, stepper motor cable, hookup wire, fuse holders and fuses, filter capacitor, switch, 35A 600V bridge diode, heat shrink tubing for the motor/cable splices, grommets, labels, ALL hardware, instructions, wiring diagram, and full size template drawings to help eliminate layout errors"
You could buy just the board and motors and source the other parts somewhere else if you can find them cheaper.

01-15-2008, 09:57 AM
It is probably faster to cut guitar bodies on a bandsaw.
Building a CNC will probably cost more than 4 times the cost of the motors and controller. There is thread in the Joes forum a poll that shows approcximately how much people spent building their machines. You may want to look at that.
If you are looking at this as business venture to build guitars, spend your money on other things. A CNC is not nescessary to build guitars and I think most small luthiers would consider it a luxury, if not heresy.

01-15-2008, 12:17 PM
But a CnC will always be useful for any future projects - be they guitars or not. I suspect that if I had a CnC woodrouter of my own, I would make more homemade speakers (my current ones are made by hand-drilling and handsawing). I found two sites that sell what I consider to be fair priced CnC stuff:

Boards etc:

http://www.motioncontrolproducts.co.uk/index.php?cPath=4 - They have stepper motors from 17-20 dollars.

The preferable thing by ordering stuff from the UK, is that it will save me a lot of postage. And somehow the post office processes it faster than goods from the US. A problem about bandsaws is that it is very easy to go to far, and very difficult getting the right curves for the guitar (I tried making curves with a bandsaw once).

As for cooling parts of the system and powering it, could it be done with computer parts? Ever since my first computer, my brother always told me to keep any leftover parts; now leaving me with 4-5 small fans, and a couple of big ones, as well as a couple of power supplies and a lot of wires to go between a lot of weird connections.

01-15-2008, 01:17 PM
Not familiar with those, maybe someone else can comment.
Remember there is a lot more than just motors needed. Looks to me like the complete driver kits are in the same price range.

01-15-2008, 01:29 PM
Was thinking more of motors from motion control products and boards etc from diycnc store.

01-15-2008, 07:16 PM
Honestly, I own the HobbyCNC 4 Axis Board....and its wonderful. Not only is Dave Rigotti of HobbyCNC a great guy, who offers excellent support, but he also has amazing products. And you are definitely getting your moneys worth, trust me if it does cost a little more than other boards/motors then its worth that little extra. When we (my friend tyler, who is building the machine with me) first got the board we somehow accidentally fried one of the axis. And its a good thing we got the 4 axis board then, because it was just a quick fix in the software. No need to buy a new board or anything.

Listen to these guys, they know what they are talking about and are very experienced. It will pay off in the end.

01-15-2008, 07:22 PM

01-15-2008, 08:00 PM
HCNC are a great value for what you get but they do have limitations. Once its running it runs great. I have no problems in teh 1+ year I have been using mine. I will however upgrade to Gecko's for any larger projects. I would consider HCNC an entry level setup.

01-16-2008, 03:45 AM
I am wondering, what is the 4th axis? I know that the 3 first axises are X, Y and Z (forward/backward, left/right/ up/down). And while I am at it, is servo motor better than stepper motor or vice versa?

I found more sites with more decent priced motors and controllers, but are there certain specifics I should look for (amount of wires, power, size etc)? If I were to decide to buy a kit from HobbyCnC, I'd definately have to start earning some money.

01-16-2008, 05:42 AM
4th axis is typically a indexer lathe mounted on the machine table for doing cnc turning, 3d work if you will. Its a rotary axis. Servos are surely better than steppers because they have built in encoders and you won't have the problem with losing steps. However, with the advantages and torque/power comes a hefty price tag. Buy the hobbycnc kit, but remember this is a diy machine not a few thousand pound commercial cnc. Just be sure you build the right expectations so you don't come out discouraged. The money spent and time spent on this machine will bring you to the next level and you will learn a lot and be able to make certain things you weren't able to before. If you have a solid plan to make money with it more power to you but don't make that the significant reason for building this machine.

01-16-2008, 08:49 AM
So, if I do not have a 4-axis system, I can not do things such as carve the spaces for electronics in a guitar body? Looks like this:


01-16-2008, 11:26 AM
No, you don't need a 4 axis for those. A 3 axis will do everything you need.

01-16-2008, 11:56 AM
Good, was afraid for a second there, hehehehe. I decided to complete the building plans for the router as well as those for my guitar before I go ahead and buy anything. I want to have it all planned out and correct first.

01-16-2008, 03:06 PM
So, if I do not have a 4-axis system, I can not do things such as carve the spaces for electronics in a guitar body? Looks like this:


Yes of course you can do the whole thing with a 3 axis machine. I will be doing a sample demo of a guitar body this weekend (hopefully) on my 4x4 machine, using Vectric's, CUT3D program.

The model was generously done for me by Michael S. his website is http://www.ballardguitarworks.com . Michael was a nice guy to work with, did the model real quick and also made a couple of changes for me as this is a sample, He knows guitars and knows how to model them.

I do not build or cut any guitars and really know nothing about them, but since people do make them and want to have a cnc machine to be able to cut them out I thought it would be a good idea
Here is a glimpse of the Cut3d Previews.


01-16-2008, 05:36 PM
3 axis router is fine for that work, even the contouring. You will need to setup some kind of jig fixture or define your points/placement in order to do both sides, but its a very simple process, you just need to know what feeds/speeds to cut the body. Knowledge of woodworking IMO isn't a must but is helpful. Can't wait to see how joe makes out :D

01-16-2008, 06:36 PM
You and Joe pretty much nailed it.
AND, they're all the RIGHT parts. NEW parts. GOOD parts. (And you didn't have to spend ALOT of time, running all over, and end up paying shipping charges anyway, just to get stuff that MIGHT be OK) And it will WORK, and work RIGHT, for a long time, when it's done. Priced a 56,000mF cap lately? 24 volt 54 CFM fan? Many a folk's used telephone cable from Wallmart because, afterall, it wasn't overpriced. Solid wire. Oops. Poof, by by driver chip. THEN they badmouth the board! You get what you pay for, they say.
Oh well, you can lead a horse to water.................Nuff said.

Mike Stevenson
01-17-2008, 10:26 AM

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I am looking forward to seeing the Guitar body come off your new machine.

01-17-2008, 11:45 AM
Looks very nice, both the guitar design and the cnc router. Is it right that stepper motors can turn forever without winding the other way, or do they only travel a certain distance before it must go the opposite way?

01-17-2008, 02:49 PM
yes, bi-directional no limiting distance other than your machine.