CNC engraving or alternatives ?

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Jeremy Nako

Established Member
13 Jul 2020
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I'm looking at possibly personalising (engraving) small pieces of woodwork (such as for example cutting boards) with names, events, dates etc.

I have successfully finished some items with a router and stencil, but this is obviously very time consuming and - in my hands - prone to errors.

Is there such a thing as a low(ish) cost, reliable CNC machine that will do this, or are there other alternatives that I may not be aware of ?

Obviously this is a cost - benefit situation. Whilst I'm happy to invest some money in the right solution, I'm not in the market to spend thousands as can't see myself doing any volume that would justify such a cost and neither do I have the space for a sizeable lump of machinery.

Any thoughts or recommendation gratefully received.
The workshop where I trained as a cabinet maker insisted that everyone learn some basic letter carving, their rationale was that letter carving was one of the few ways a craftsman could separate his or her work from high street alternatives and justify a price premium.

I wasn't looking forward to this part of the training, it looked incredibly difficult and I didn't have the confidence that I'd ever master it. However, once I got stuck in it was easier than I thought, and after just a bit of practise I was producing decent quality work. What's more, we didn't use any particularly expensive or special chisels, just a small selection of old gouges in a handful of sweeps.

Knowing what I know now I'm surprised letter carving isn't practised more amongst hobbyist woodworkers. It needs neither space nor emachinery, and it's a way of personalising your output, making it very special and guaranteeing that "instant heirloom" factor.

Just a thought.
That's fair comment.

I suppose that the issue - for me as a beginner hobbyist - is the fear factor that having spent many hours creating something, it can be ruined in an instant.

There are many - actually, very many - aspects of woodworking that I'd love to get more skilled it, but as with all things it's down to priorities and time, so if there's a solution for this then it's one I would consider.
I do CNC stuff for work. The following parts were CNC engraved -

(I couldn't get th images to insert, so you'll have to click the links, but I assure you, you won't end up being asked to launder $47,000,000 from my brother, the prince of...)

Anyway, CNC is cheap now. But good CNC is still big money. A bendy kit from China will be just that. It depends on if you want it for fun or to do work?

I would suggest £2 or 3k on a DIY build would get you somthing reasonable. £300 on a banggood kit will not.
Depending on your application, some nice stuff can be done with acids on brass etc. Or if you want the same thing every time, maybe a branding iron?
Mathias really took it a step further but his "Pantorouter" design stems from the childhood toy lots of people had..a simple pantograph , which with a bit of imagination, could be teamed up with a router or dremel a bit like this chap did..
I have been looking at some of the posts online about the 40W Chinese made lasers that many upgrade fairly cheaply and produce good results. Most are referred to as "K40"

You can search youtube for "K40 Laser" and come up with many videos

You can purchase one for about £340 - crazy for a 40W laser and would be great for engraving wood projects (as well as cutting out plywood)
if you can get a batch all the same its normal to pay by the hour for cnc time.
I know a guy that offers it as an extra on garden benches.
For exactly the same reasons that you outlined - just before lockdown 1, I bought a 2nd hand Ooznext Workbee. There have not been many days since I got it up and running that "Benny" has not been whirring away. I've made countless things with it and "decorated" countless other objects. I run Vectric Aspire and actually enjoyed learning how to use the software. I did buy the s/w before the machine, so was confident I'd get on with it before obtaining a machine that could have sat unused in the workshop had I struggled with the programme. I don't push it too hard, I take lots of shallow passes at a very modest feed and plunge rates and the only two issues I've had were my own stupidity.

I'm really happy with my purchase and it's already paid for itself.
Hi we have just ordered a 1500mm x 1500mm ooznest workbee.
If you go on youtube to Peter Millards site ( he has 11 videos of his experince of the workbee machine. Beware it will take about 30 hrs to build it. I have previous experince of build a snapmaker 3d printer so it doesnt scare me off.
we bought it because its had excellent reviews and more importantly it has telephone support which trust me you will need. The software the supply with the machine is very easy to opperate.
hope this helps
Thanks Alan, but thats not for me.

I appreciate that many on this forum will enjoy the process of putting such a machine together, but not for me.

As an alternative to this I've been looking at the Shaper router. Much more expensive than I'd originally thought of spending and perhaps one for the future, but much more in tune with my needs / wants.