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Thread: anybody built a CNC router?

  1. #1
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    Default anybody built a CNC router?

    Has anyone built a CNC router for cutting wood panels for a woodenboat? I'd like to get into doing it on a commercial basis (and I get tired of using a jig saw and cutting through my saw horses). I will probably have to build the router myself since I'll be in a metric supply world instead of imperial. I'm reading up on the cncrouterparts.com and buildyourtools.com. I plan to buy the book on how to build one so I can source everything, but curious to see if someone else has done it specifically for boatbuilding?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I have a buddy in Bellingham who has built a couple of them. (I got him to rough out NACA foils for my sailboat.) He used a Porter Cable 3hp router for the milling head, with ball screws and stepper motors and all that stuff. A welded steel frame with Baltic birch ply laminations for structures.

    I thought it was super nifty until I realized that CNC is all about sitting behind a computer screen and waiting. Still, it would be neat to build one.

    The biggest problem for boat building is that yer standard 3-axis CNC can only do so much, plus all of that programming takes time. Except for simple tasks like cutting out station molds and similar flat bits, if you only have a few 3-D and curvy pieces to make, it's often far quicker to just make them, rather than CAD, program, and wait for the machine to finish its cut path.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I was about to go to bed but I saw this thread and thought it might be an idea to contribute.Having programmed and operated several CNC routers I can possibly allay some of the fears or concerns expressed.Metric or imperial makes very little difference as the machine will cope with whatever it has given to it.Don't forget that most of the world uses metric and it is only a matter of calibration to make practically any set of components work.I would be curious about the desire to build a machine and the cost of a used machine,ready to start work.Why spend a chunk of time learning the skills to build the machine if it stops you earning money for that amount of time?There is a good deal of information about such things on CNCzone.com and in the interests of complying with the thread in the bilge,I will admit to using the site occasionally.
    There is a small mountain to climb if you have no experience of CAD systems and selecting the most suitable will expose you to lots of opinions.Don't lose sight of the need to acquire a suitable CAM system as trying to do without one will waste vast amounts of time and it helps if it can do more than turn .dxf files from a basic CAD system into cutter paths.Unless you intend to confine yourself to cutting 2D shapes from flat panels it is well worth getting a CAD program with 3D capabilities as you will be able to do more than you ever believed.
    I would suggest that Mr McMullen should investigate the subject in more depth before posting mistaken assumptions.I had a conversation a while back with a boatbuilder who is approaching his sixtieth birthday and more than a little set in his ways.He was unwilling to believe that I could take a 3D hull model,subtract planking thickness,generate mould shapes and cut them in less time than it would take him to draw a grid for lofting the lines.He now knows that it is possible.other boat parts are similarly possible.
    Last edited by John Meachen; 12-15-2013 at 05:19 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    John, perhaps you are unaware that I mostly do repair and restoration on older boats? We certainly do use CNC cut parts when it is new construction and it can be useful, but when you're dealing with replacing a part on a boat built in the 30's, it's far quicker to just make it than it is to measure it, program it, and wait for the machine to cut it out.

    No, I'm pretty sure that there's still a place for a spiling batten and a bevel gauge. And I am most assuredly not the kind of person who gets set in his ways.

    And there's also the problem that a spinning rotary bit is not always the best way to cut a piece of solid wood. We used to install a fair number of teak deck layouts that had been CNC cut, and we ended up having to fix or replace far too many expensive bits of teak that had too much tear-out, raised grain or raggedy edges in the nibs. We don't get those parts cut out by CNC router any more. But we do get things like louvered doors made by CNC as a matter of routine these days. It's a matter of choosing the proper tool for the task.

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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Forum Member JohnL has.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I think it'd be a fun project. If you're looking for a fun project... and if you need a CNC router for future projects. I've seen two home-made CNC routers. One worked ok, and the other never worked right. I get the impression the latter machine was built very much on the cheap. Of course... it's hard to imagine that it would make financial sense to do so - unless you value your labor at zero. And even then, I'd suspect that a used low-end machine (like a ShopBot) could be had for about the cost of the materials for a home-made machine. But I haven't checked to confirm that suspicion. Another option to consider is to find a local guy who'll do the CNC cutting for you on a contract basis. That's what I do.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  7. #7
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrKrabs View Post
    Has anyone built a CNC router for cutting wood panels for a woodenboat? I'd like to get into doing it on a commercial basis (and I get tired of using a jig saw and cutting through my saw horses). I will probably have to build the router myself since I'll be in a metric supply world instead of imperial. I'm reading up on the cncrouterparts.com and buildyourtools.com. I plan to buy the book on how to build one so I can source everything, but curious to see if someone else has done it specifically for boatbuilding?
    World wide its actually harder to get an imperial measurement machine than a metric one, but much of the software will handle either on any given machine.
    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Meachen View Post
    I was about to go to bed but I saw this thread and thought it might be an idea to contribute.Having programmed and operated several CNC routers I can possibly allay some of the fears or concerns expressed.Metric or imperial makes very little difference as the machine will cope with whatever it has given to it.Don't forget that most of the world uses metric and it is only a matter of calibration to make practically any set of components work.I would be curious about the desire to build a machine and the cost of a used machine,ready to start work.Why spend a chunk of time learning the skills to build the machine if it stops you earning money for that amount of time?There is a good deal of information about such things on CNCzone.com and in the interests of complying with the thread in the bilge,I will admit to using the site occasionally.
    There is a small mountain to climb if you have no experience of CAD systems and selecting the most suitable will expose you to lots of opinions.Don't lose sight of the need to acquire a suitable CAM system as trying to do without one will waste vast amounts of time and it helps if it can do more than turn .dxf files from a basic CAD system into cutter paths.Unless you intend to confine yourself to cutting 2D shapes from flat panels it is well worth getting a CAD program with 3D capabilities as you will be able to do more than you ever believed.
    I would suggest that Mr McMullen should investigate the subject in more depth before posting mistaken assumptions.I had a conversation a while back with a boatbuilder who is approaching his sixtieth birthday and more than a little set in his ways.He was unwilling to believe that I could take a 3D hull model,subtract planking thickness,generate mould shapes and cut them in less time than it would take him to draw a grid for lofting the lines.He now knows that it is possible.other boat parts are similarly possible.
    I understand what you are saying John, and you are correct within the boundaries of the work that is suited to that kind of machine. But where a task requires a series of one off components made to fit, as in a restoration, repair or rebuild just picking up the tools and making one is much faster. If its two, three or more, or even mirror images, maybe.
    The right tool for the right job, and not all jobs suit a cnc router.
    I'm with Mc Mullen on that one.
    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I worked for a guy who makes wood model sailboats. He has several different models now. One of his product lines are old fashioned free sailing pond boats. They are made out of cedar 2x4s. And because the sides have a flare to them, it would take either a 5-axis machine or a lot of time on a 3 axis machine to cut them out that way. I could make a batch of 50 in about 2 hours with all the machines and jigs set-up. Very efficient.

    One of his other products is a 37" plywood RC sailboat that sells as a flat pack kit. Its made from 3mm plywood. He bought and built a Shop-Bot CNC set up for this. He is now up to well over 2000 T37 hull numbers. Save for some small changes to accommodate new hatch designs, they are all identical. It works a treat in that case. He also cuts out a slot-together strong-back out of 5mm chip board for a strip-planked RC boat. It provides great consistency.

    It can be a bit finicky, but it provides a consistent product. And I think thats the key. CNC probably doesn't make much sense for one-off stuff, but if you are going to make a few, or a few thousand, it cant be beat.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

  10. #10
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Thanks for all the responses!

    I should have given a little more information. The idea I had was to actually take the idea of stitch and glue to another country. Getting a CNC router gets expensive (just like any other tool that's not $5 dollar ROC made cast piece). Initially I'd probably be furnishing parts or kits to build/repair fishing boats. I think I can supply perhaps an initial cost reduction or time reduction and over time the ease of repair and cheaper fuel costs would also be a draw. I'd probably use the router to build another. 48x96 is probably the size I'll need to cut plywood.

    I use CAD software currently, but it's solidworks. So if I branched out on my own, I don't think I could afford the $4k per seat cost. Also, most everything will be close to 2d, with some z work I suppose. I'm not in the boat industry, by the way.

    Why make vs. buy? Well, if I can't find a used machine locally, the cost of shipping would be incredible. Also, a lot of components for the CNCs are like I said, based on using angle and other material that's imperial. If I had to source a replacement locally, I'd have to recalibrate or make some other arrangement. Most of us are into wooden boats because we can make what we want, so there's that desire too. It's hard to put a price on custom, unless you're in the business of building it for others.

    And on the subject of numerical control vs using tools and making it without a computer. Yes, sometimes without computer is the quickest way, but even small jobs can be helped with it. Occasionally manual jobs are quicker to setup and run, but even some manual machines are getting some form of NC control at the machine, not just for precise repeatability, but it somewhat frees the operator from being at the machine 100%. I know a lot of people want to watch every cut, but sometimes you need to order more supplies, deal with customers, restock shelves, setup another machine, etc.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Why build when you can buy a reasonably priced machine. I have a Shopbot and love it and second hand ones seem to come up regularly. Great customer support too - even on older tools.

    CNC cutting really changes the way you think about work in the workshop. We are cutting oars later this week - total time to cut - a little over 2 hours per oar half which will only take a lick of sandpaper to finish. Tapered looms, lovely blades - whatever you want the machine can do it and it saves time.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Quick Reply
    Having seen the contributions to this thread I feel I now understand a bit more about the nature of what might be required.I can understand that the cost of shipping a complete machine might be prohibitive and that having a thorough understanding of the construction and calibration of the machine would be really useful if a service engineer might not be able to deal with repairs.In addition to the metric/imperial construction choice it would be worth checking the precise nature of the electricity supply at the workshop location with respect to both the supply voltage and the frequency.I have seen a component that was intended for a 60Hz supply fail in less than an hour when connected to a 50Hz supply.
    If you elect to build,you have to choose the operating software and while Mach 3 seems to be the usual choice,I would be very tempted by either USBCNC or LinuxCNC as they are both capable and totally free to download.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Quote Originally Posted by BBSebens View Post
    I worked for a guy who makes wood model sailboats. He has several different models now. One of his product lines are old fashioned free sailing pond boats. They are made out of cedar 2x4s. And because the sides have a flare to them, it would take either a 5-axis machine or a lot of time on a 3 axis machine to cut them out that way. I could make a batch of 50 in about 2 hours with all the machines and jigs set-up. Very efficient.
    Jigs can be used with CNC too. You can do a lot of things you might not think possible with the right fixture.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I bought a used 5'x10' Shopbot seven years ago, and can't imagine being without it now. I mainly concentrate on carved signs, but also do a fair amount of cabinet-making and machining for other customers, and cut stitch and glue boat kits occasionally (side and bottom panels, bowstem, transom, gunnels, bulkheads, bunk tops, window cutouts and frames, hand rails). I rarely use my table saw anymore.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Didn't build one but after much hesitation I invested in a new CNC Shark a couple of months ago. I have been bandsawing and branding over 100 awards (plaques) each year, and rationalized that the CNC would be time, maybe even cost, effective for that project, and (the real reason) it would come in handy for boat building, signage, and countless other projects that I haven't even thought of yet. The reasons it took me so long to jump in were, first the cost, they ain't cheap, plus all the bits, but my main concern was the learning curve. Being old enough to have used a slide rule in college, I didn't look forward to learning new tricks. But towards the end of the 100+ awards, I was cursing less and actually got the beast to do pretty much what I wanted. The included software was fairly easy to use, and had lots of good tutorials. I not only got the awards done in time, I managed to get some neat xmas presents made also. Now my wife is generating a list of more projects....so much for it being a time saver! But Rivus is getting a carved name next!
    Steve B
    TraditionalSmallCraftAssociation
    DowneastTSCA.org

    TraditionalSmallCraft.com
    RIVUS 16' Melonseed

    "If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most." E. B. White

  16. #16
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    Look around on this forum, they have a "woodworking" section about half way down the page.

    http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forum.php

  17. #17
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    ...
    "Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up. by Henry David Thoreau

  18. #18
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    I was talking to KHP a few years ago about an idea to market kits in Europe. Up popped an add from a UK CNC co. They offered a full sheet sized machine for a bit over 7K. Just add a PC. Thought that was quite reasonable and the repeatable accuracy of about .3mm close enough for ply kits.
    A2

  19. #19
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    Default Re: anybody built a CNC router?

    No personal connection or experience with this, looks clever. http://www.maslowcnc.com/ And a bargain.

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