My New Router

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Established Member
29 Aug 2006
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Wilds of Surrey
Because I retired a bunch of old servers, I had some spare heavy-duty rackmount kits. They're basically just massive drawer slides designed to take up to a quarter of a tonne each. I also had some more conventional drawer slides too.

Last Thursday, I paid a visit to Richard Russel and bought myself some moustire resistant MDF - I've read on this forum somewhere or other that it has very little movement. I cut the sheets in half in their carpark because my van isn't quite long enough for a full 2440mm sheet.

The rackmount kits had some clips which locked the rails in place when fully extended - They had to go. I cut away their fixings with my dremmel.

Because I knew I'd be doing a lot of tablesaw work for this one, I made some space in the garage and set up the dust extractor and a couple of roller stands to support the sheet goods during cuts.

I made the smallest drawer first. Being the smallest one, it can be a touch more leightweight, so i used 25mm thickness. I clamped the sides as squarely as I could and drilled and screwed using 60x4 screws.

Next up, I mounted a set of drawer slides. The sheet of MDF that the thing's resting on was so that I could get things as absolutely perfectly square and parallel as possible.

Have you worked out what it is yet.... No.. probably not... I did tell you in the title, but that won't make much sense yet... Keep reading :)

The smallest drawer slides I had had a protruding bit on the end which stuck out about five millimeters.I used a forstner bit and cut recesses in the end plate to hide the offending bit.

I used a fence and an endstop on my drill-press to ensure that I would be able to get two recesses in perfect alignment on either side of the bearing-support block. Then I drilled through with a 3/8th hole to allow the shaft to pass through.

The next shot might give it away to a few of you...

I bought 4 x 1 metre lenghts of M8x1.5 threaded bar. It cost me £3.40. I also bought a whole load of bearings that were about 43p each. They keep the threaded bar mostly friction free.

I spent a few hours trying to work out a way of making some kind of support for holding an M8 nut and more importantly, allowing some reasonable degree of adjustment. I tried a few different things and none of them worked as well as I wanted, so in the end I gave up for the night.

The next morning, I realised the solution to the problem was not to use a nut at all, but to make a threaded plate instead of the nut. I put a bit of left-over gate post on the drill press and drilled a 6.5mm and two 5mm holes. The centre hole I tapped to M8.

I cut it out as a rectangular chunk with my dremmel. RIP Dremmel - This was the last job it could handle.. Sniff sniff.

I figured that the threaded plate would have to stand up to a lot of wear and tear and that it might survive for longer if it the steel was hardened... so I annealed it. Heated it to cherry-red and then dunked it in a bucket of water.

The parts for the larger drawers...

Fitting the drawer slides in the largest one...

Sorry this one's a bit blurry - I used three drawer slides per unit. Two in one orientation and one in the other. This almost totally eliminates the jiggle that you normally get with a pair of drawer slides.

OK.. if you haven't worked out what I've built yet, here's my sketchup. It's not quite how things ended up, but at least it looks similar.

The three axes assembled with their stepper motors.

View from the other end...

Y & Z axes squared up and bolted together.

I wasn't happy with the amount of jiggle on the Z axis, so I added a second pair of drawer slides.

I made some simple side supports to hold the Y/Z assembly in the right place, and then squared it all up with shims before screwing things into place.

View from the back. with the gantry balanced on top.

Y & Z axes mostly extended.

Gantry section bolted into place. Stretchers added to give a bit more rigidity.

Today, I got the chance to get started on the electricals. Two power supplies and three stepper motor drivers needed wiring in. I escaped to the shed for a few hours this afternoon and got it all done.

Just before dinner time, I connected it up to a spare laptop and installed a copy of some CNC software called Mach3. - If you hadn't got it by now, that should be the final clue. I've built my own CNC router.

After dinner and baby-bed-time, I nipped back to the shed, and cobbled together the most simple and rudimentary tool holder I could think of. The shaft on the dremmel-replacement is exactly 20mm. I drilled a 20mm hole through a bit of 12mm mdf, and added a single piece of insulation tape to slightly reduce the diameter.. Then push-fitted the proxxon.

I fitted a 3mm straight-cutting bit and clamped a bit of scrap to the bed.

First test.. .sawdust flies... around 21:30 tonight.

I spent another hour or so trying to work out how to use the CNC software to do something a bit more creative and had all sorts of annoying and strange error messages to try and solve. '0 radius turn at line 1016'. Eventually, I found a shape-cutting wizzard which worked and got it to cut out a little square hole at around 22:30.

I have to say, I'm very very pleased with the result. I designed it to be able to handle a full sized router, so it's all very solid. Thanks to the three slides per axis setup, there's very little movement or jiggle. I seem to have done a pretty good job of aligning my axes. I'm planning on adding a sacraficial surface to the X bed and I'll shim that to correct any misalignment there.

In total, including the sketchup drawings, the project's taken my spare time for the past 7 days. It can cope with workpieces up to 700x500x150mm in size, and should be accurate enough that I can use it for making printed circuit boards too. I'm not really finished yet - I still need to paint or varnish it, and to make some better support frames for the proxxon and my old B&Q router, and make some suitable clamps for it too.

Still, as of 22:30 tonight, it's officially up and working, and here's a 1-minute video clip (5MB) to prove it.
I used about £50 worth of MDF, £3.40 of threaded bar, £3.00 of bearings. The stepper motors and drivers came from Motion Control Products Ltd which cost 220+VAT. ... ducts_id=8

The sliding rails... That's the tricky part. I've no idea what they would have cost, or where you could get hold of ones which are that substancially made. They came from three massive old HP servers which we bought back in 1999. I haven't seen rails/slides quite as substancial as those ones before or since. For the record, they're 696mm when closed, and extend out to 1496mm at full reach. Perhaps someone on the forum will know where to find some more.

If I could find a good cheap source for massive drawer slides, I might actually feel inclined to try selling these to the public. I'm very pleased with the performance so far, but maybe a few more hours of use will make me feel differently about that.
Intriguing and enticing :) .

If I had the slightest aptitude for tightening bolts, I'd love to follow in your footsteps. As it is, I can only congratulate you on producing a wonderful tool and say how much I look forward to seeing how you utilize it in future.

More videos, please!

Best of good woodworking with your new tool but wouldn't your wrists and brain co-ordination do the same thing you have made? :)

Only joking again of course.
That is a great project - very impressive. I shall be interested to learn in due course if it has the desired accuracy, especially with a heavier router.
:shock: :shock: :tongue9:

Truly in awe. The fact that you 'just knocked it up".....!!!

Well Done
Hi Fecn

I am completely in awe of your ingenuity. Well done, it is absolutely brilliant.

I have a humble heavy-duty drill stand that takes a Trend T3 for overhead routing. :lol:

I'm astonished and shocked :shock: :shock: :shock: :mrgreen:

Maybe (very much maybe) I would cope with the mechanical section but for sure not with the electronics.

Very well done kept me quite long time in the "fog" with your step-by-step pics and when I realized that actually you built a CNC, I just said "holly $h!#"...

My compliments =D>

Now, put the real one there and show as what it can do so we can jealous :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

This is absolutely amazing. Like others above, I am definitely interested to see it do some real work with a full size router, of which I am in no doubt it will succeed.

Congratulations on a job very very well done, I wouldn't even know where to start.


Fantastic stuff.

I have stepper motors, drivers and the Mach 3 software, I have dry linear bearings for supporting the different carriages. I have stumbled on the screw to move the carriages, this would usually be a ball screw to give accuracy and smoothness and I would be very interested to know what degree of accuracy and reliability you get over time from the M8 studding because it does not cost that much in comparison (ball screw thread only costs about £100 per metre)

Again, fantastic project, well done.
Thanks - You're all saying such nice things - Nobody's yet pointed out that it's potentially lethal - There's no emergency stop button yet, and the X, Y & Z axes can all extert a trememendous amount of force. Before I bolted it all together, I went for a ride on the Z axis - It has no troble whatsoever lifiting my whole weight up/down.

Nick W":27tk34ah said:
When I try to watch the video all I get is the sound. What's wrong?
The video is encoded using the xvid codec and that's not a standard part of windows - You need to find, download and install the xvid codec (it's free)... or... I made an 20MB mpeg2 verison of the same video which you might have more luck with.

I'm desperate to get back down the shed and play around with the machine some more, but Mrs Fecn's gone to France today (to buy me some beer she says) so I'm having to look after the little one all day. This morning I've been reading the Mach3 manual in between bottles, nappy changes and Bob the Builder. Madame's asleep right now... I wonder if her baby monitor has enough range to reach the shed :)

Corset":27tk34ah said:
Awesome, be interesting to see how it handles full size router.
I reckon it's certainly solid enough for the task... I just wonder if it'll be able to feed the work through fast enough to prevent burning - Max feed rate seems to be about 10mm/sec
I am so impressed. I have used these drawer slides for other things other than drawers and found them very stable when used at 90 degrees to each other. Thinking about the problem you anticipate with the travel being too slow. At about 2' per minute you might be right (i hope not though). What is the travel for each step of the motor? If this is very small, could you try gearing up the motors?

One thing how are you intending to hold the piece wood you are working on?

Like others I am looking forward to see what it can do.
incredible! The inventiveness of that is staggering! Men in Sheds Rule!! Well done, you get my vote for Jig of the Year award!!
Most impressive!

I've used metalworking CNC machines and there are some things I don't see on yours. Limit swiches for one and how to you get a 'home' or start reference? Hope you don't get a software glitch that drives a table past its end travel. I suppose at 10mm/sec you would have time to kill the power :)
Think I'd be the same after all that build up - see it work then add the safety stops.

Give it a couple of months and you'll be adding a fourth axis to rotate the router! Impressive stuff!
I ditched the Mach3 software today and started using Mach2 instead - I don't know if it's just the trial verison, but Mach3 has been nothing but trouble for me. Mach2 has been far easier to get to grips with.

I couldn't get the 'write' wizzard working in Mach3, but in Mach2 it was a breeze and as such, here's a new 90 second video clip

.. and here's how it looked once I hoovered off the sawdust.

herdsman":3g6xbxr3 said:
I have stepper motors, drivers and the Mach 3 software, I have dry linear bearings for supporting the different carriages. I have stumbled on the screw to move the carriages, this would usually be a ball screw to give accuracy and smoothness and I would be very interested to know what degree of accuracy and reliability you get over time from the M8 studding because it does not cost that much in comparison (ball screw thread only costs about £100 per metre)

herdsman, Does that mean you just need to do a bit of assembly work to have a fully working CNC machine?

"Bloody Brilliant"

Have you thought about visiting the local scrapyards for your threaded bar ?
Plenty of old (but useful to inventors) scrap machinery to browse.