Hello, new member looking for small format CNC machines


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Gina Smyth

New member
15 Aug 2023
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Hi All

New member, so please go easy on me !!

I've been a keen woodworker for a few years and now starting to take a keen interest in working with small format CNC machines. Have looked at several machines but not yet made a decision. Have looked at machines from Scott+Sargent, Stepcraft Systems, CNC-Step and i2rcnc from Stoney CNC in Ireland.

Have been inspired by a lot of content on Instagram and Facebook and really keen to try and make, maybe even sell, products using such machines.

So, has anyone any experience of such machines and pros and cons ?

Many thanks
hi Gina, new guy here also, i used to have a cnc step machine, pretty solid build quality, i got mine used so it was well worn, i had it for 3 years learning the ropes, it was getting past its best so rather than refurb it, would have cost almost as much as a new one,i also wanted more Z height on my table to handle thicker stock. i sold it on cheap to another novice user to play with, and invested money in an I2R machine, im impressed with the build and the guys at stoney CNC were great, they know their stuff! they also stock other machines and id advise arranging a trip to see their stock, plus you get a weekend in Dublin! Rory is happy to show you round but needs advance notice as he is a busy man. , the cnc step seller based in Ireland here wasnt very helpful, he was just a salesman.depending on your budget maybe looking out for second hand to start off, it all depends on what you want to do with it , i also reccommend v carve software, v user friendly. its a learning curve with CNC i spent long hours watching videos, you will make mistakes and ruin nice pieces of timber, but its part of the process,loads of tutorials on the youtubes, i love it and make it part of my woodworking, its not just for signs , am planning to add textures to my small furniture pieces when i get time to experiment, i do craft shows and paid for the first machine and software over 2 years not pushing it but a few markets here and there. after a while people come to you with requests, so although the new machine was the guts of 10 grand, i dont have any other expensive habits, i enjoy it and think ill make the cost back in a year or two. any questions give us a shout,theres a CNCand laser section here on the forum which is why i joined, prob lots of advice there. cheers


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Welcome Gina, and hello CurryJunkie

Looks like a nice machine you've got there.
thanks, its like a ferrari compared to a ford transit between this one and the old one ! only thing lacking is space to add a vertical table because of the way its built with a gantry connectedby a casting underneath you cant put a slot in the table for joinery on ends of boards, but its more powerful and very quiet compared to the Heisz which had a kress spindle motor. recently finished a dust collection system on it, i wanted something quiet and effective as its in a room in my house rather than an outside workspace, lots of messing with 4" pipe and i built a thein baffle to divert most of the dust, added hepa filters and am v pleased how it came out.


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Welcome to the forum.
I have some cnc experiance and started at a similar position to you. I did a lot of research and looked into some of the brands you mention before deciding to build my own machine, in the end I didn`t build one but did buy one someone else had made that came up at the right time.

In my journey I have concluded that it is best to ignore the "brand " completely and compare actual specifications. If the brand don`t divulge these details then that is a sign to ignore them as there is a reason they don`t show you.

I nearly bought an original stepcraft but didn`t like the method the x and y axis worked and had started learning more about cnc routers in general.

To keep this short, the criteria for a good machine are as follows, a stiff and sturdy frame and gantry design, ball screws or rack and pinion (on a small machine probably ball screws).
Linear rails are the only way for good long term performance, profiled Hiwin or similar are better than round, avoid any machine that has wheels running on an aluminium extrusion, they will require adjustment and fiddling eventually. At the cheaper end you won`t find servo drives but if you can get closed loop steppers you should.
A water cooled spindle with VFD is ideal, a normal router is not in the same league at all.

Look at the repeatable accuracy figures and the resolution, finer is better. Also the maximum speed of the axis travel because this is an indicator of how sturdy the machine is, a wobbly machine won`t want to go fast as this will lead to lack of accuracy so the speed will be limited in the software.

You can get good results from a bad system but it will take longer and need more tweaking to get there, this will be annoying. There is enough to learn without extra barriers.

The Itech machines at Scott and Sargeant are not bad spec and sold under many names worldwide with different paint jobs, the i2r don`t look bad though at first glance look very similar to the itech Q series.
I think Stepcraft are a bit overpriced, the expensive ones are probably OK but the Itech are cheaper for the same or better spec. CNC-step depends on the individual machine but the low end ones don`t look amazing value for money and have round rails.

Remember tooling can get expensive quite quickly, and don`t neglect the software.
I recommend UCCNC for machine control and Vcarve for design and toolpath generation, Vectric is nice because you can start with vcarve desktop and upgrade if you want and also you actually own the software and don`t need to be connected to the "cloud".
I also like Fusion 360 for more complex 3d design work.

This is a quick distilation of what I have learned. Second hand is where to find a bargain.

Good luck.

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