Small CNC vs Spindle moulder

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Mrs C

Established Member
3 Jan 2016
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United kingdom
It’s a bit of a hypothetical question as I haven’t got space for either, but I have been having a debate with myself about if a small CNC could replace a spindle moulder.

Things like the Ooznest offering are putting the CNC’s within reach of the small workshop, especially when second hand ones become available. It also looks a lot safer way of doing things.

Things I haven’t been able to answer are things like feed speed and comparison of the quality of the cut.

Has anyone used a small cnc on hardwood? Thoughts?
CNC vs a spindle moulder? I'm not sure if it's the best comparison really, CNCs lend themselves to precise, irregular shaped cutting more akin to hand-held routing and spindle moulders excel at machining lengths of timbers and single curvature components.

I worked alongside (but not with) a Maka 5-Axis CNC machine for a while which was equipped with some spindle tooling for cutting wreathed handrails and some straight grooving but 90% of its work involved router style tooling for cutting lock and keyholes in doors and windows, trenching staircases, pulley holes in boxed sashes, etc... But this was knocking around £200,000 of kit and programmes rather than the Ooznest offerings :lol:
Some significant differences to consider.A CNC normally works within the footprint of the machine and so the smaller the machine,the more limited you will be.A spindle can be and often is used for work that extends a long way and I have seen trapdoors cut in workshop walls to allow very long jobs.

It takes less time to go from having a spindle brought into the workshop to getting the cutter block spinning,because you can easily work out how to put the cutter block in place and press the green button.This can be dangerous and you really ,really do need some training before using one.
A CNC will do nothing until you have generated a program.Which may be done in a number of ways and will likely require some CAD work to avoid the drudgery of typing in Gcode.Even having a program loaded in the controller won't guarantee a correct item coming out as you have to establish a part datum relative to the machine home position .You have to make sure the correct tooling is in place and that the job can't move while being worked on.You may have to think about ramp entry,climb versus conventional cutting and leaving tabs to stop the part flying off into the wild blue yonder-or up the extractor pipe.

And all this while not having the room for the machine.It might be a good occupation for a few dark evenings to download a few trial pieces of software and explore the possibilities.It won't necessarily cost anything and it means you will understand the vocabulary if you talk to somebody in the field.It also costs a bit less than booking onto a spindle course.
It really depends what you’re intending to do with the machine. A cnc is more versatile and able to do things the spindle moulder can’t but as other have alluded to, the small scale inexpensive cnc’s are not really designed for anything more than light duty mdf machining if you study the reviews carefully. Cnc’s need to be robustly built and extremely precise to produce repeatable and useful results whereas a spindle moulder uses a cutter block so providing you’ve got consistent pressure against the fence (strongly recommended power feed only) then you easily get consistent results.
What are you intending to use it for?