Build Your Own CNC Machine (Technology in Action)

Do you like to build things? Are you ever frustrated at having to compromise your designs to fit whatever parts happen to be available? Would you like to fabricate your own parts? Build Your Own CNC Machine is the book to get you started. CNC expert Patrick Hood-Daniel and best-selling author James Kelly team up to show you how to construct your very own CNC machine. Then they go on to show you how to use it, how to document your designs in computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and how to output your designs as specifications and tool paths that feed into the CNC machine, controlling it as it builds whatever parts your imagination can dream up.

Don’t be intimidated by abbreviations like CNC and terms like computer-aided design. Patrick and James have chosen a CNC-machine design that is simple to fabricate. You need only basic woodworking skills and a budget of perhaps $500 to $1,000 to spend on the wood, a router, and various other parts that you’ll need. With some patience and some follow-through, you’ll soon be up and running with a really fun machine that’ll unleash your creativity and turn your imagination into physical reality.

  • The authors go on to show you how to test your machine, including configuring the software.
  • Provides links for learning how to design and mill whatever you can dream up
  • The perfect parent/child project that is also suitable for scouting groups, clubs, school shop classes, and other organizations that benefit from projects that foster skills development and teamwork
  • No unusual tools needed beyond a circular saw and what you likely already have in your home toolbox
  • Teaches you to design and mill your very own wooden and aluminum parts, toys, gadgets—whatever you can dream up

What you’ll learn

  • Build your very own CNC machine
  • Learn about linear movement and motion transmission

Who this book is for

Build Your Own CNC Machine is the perfect book for hobbyists who like to build and create using wood and metal. It’s especially for those who have ever been foiled by lack of specific parts to help realize their creative designs. Build Your Own CNC Machine is also an excellent choice for organizations such as scouting and church groups, school shop classes, and so forth, as it provides an educational project of modest cost that all can work on together.

Table of Contents

  1. Your CNC Machine
  2. Hardware and Tools
  3. Tips and Advice
  4. Movement Using Rails
  5. Joining Methods
  6. The Electronics
  7. X-Axis, Part 1
  8. X-Axis, Part 2
  9. X-Axis, Part 3
  10. Y-Axis, Part 1
  11. Y-Axis, Part 2
  12. Y-Axis, Part 3
  13. Preparing for the Z-Axis
  14. Z-Axis, Part 1
  15. Z-Axis, Part 2
  16. Z-Axis, Part 3
  17. Mounting the Electronics
  18. Software and Testing
  19. Where to Go from Here

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3 thoughts on “Build Your Own CNC Machine (Technology in Action)”

  1. An epic win for the hobbyist community! I got my copy of the book today. I’ve spent maybe a half hour skimming the book, and my initial impression is that it is very thorough and complete. It goes through the basics of why / how the linear bearings will work, how to cut and drill the MDF, etc. Even a novice, that had only minimal experience with simple power tools could understand and follow these directions to completion.Everything seems to be very well documented, and is supported by many photos, schematics, and drawings. The photos are clear, even though they are black and white. The color versions of most of the photos are even on the website, if you need them, as are some videos.Each chapter includes some nice quick-glance features, like a “Summary of Work” and a list of what MDF parts you’ll be working on next. This is a nice addition, to help “ground” what you’re doing, and keep you understanding what is going on.The second chapter, titled “Hardware and Tools” is going to help a lot of people, I think, because it sets an understanding for what tools the author assumes you will have access to, and skill using. The requirements are not much cause for concern, since they are all simple power tools you can pick up at almost any hardware store. One thing that I would liked to have seen, would be more specific listings of some of the tools. For instance, almost every hole in the machine is either 1/4″, 7/16″, 3/8″, or 3/4″. It probably wouldn’t have been to hard to give a specific list of all the drillbits used during construction if you follow the book to the letter. However, it still says you need drill bits, of course, so a little reading will quickly let you figure out which ones.One final thing I want to point out is that, as far as I can tell, there is no special hardware (besides the electronics) that are required. You can buy everything off the shelf, at pretty much any local hardware retailer (Lowes, Home Depot, True Value, etc.). This is great, and in stark contrast to some other stuff out there (like this book, read the reviews, ) that requires special parts, or hopes you can find the same “suprlus”/recycled items that the author used.I can’t wait to get started! (And I’ll be sure to let everyone know how it goes.)——–UPDATE——–UPDATE———I just finished reading the book, and I think it very much lives up to it’s purpose. With only common hand and power tools, you can build yourself an affordable CNC router.The book is about 200 pages, but it’s easy reading. It goes very quickly because almost every page is 1/2 covered by pictures, diagrams, or plans.You should DEFINATELY read the whole book before you do anything. It’s as much of a learning journey along with the author, as it is an instruction manual for getting the job done. Because of this, you read about and discover things as the author discovered them in the process. This makes it a bit backwards, as far as a manual goes, because the best way to do something is not always given up front. For instance, it is suggested in chapter 15 that you test drilling holes in scrap wood to figure out just how deeply you have to go in order to submerge the bolts below the surface, despite the fact that you’ve been drilling counterbored holes for this reason since chapter 8. Also, some of the dimesions in the plans are not real, and you are expected to replace them with more exact dimensions of your machine parts, as you created them, for a more appropriate fit. However, this should in no way discourage you from reading this great book. Just do so before you try to build the machine.It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it. I’ll post a new update after I get my machine built.——–UPDATE #2——–UPDATE #2———I decided to see exactly how much it would cost to build. I tried to find deals, or reasonably good prices, on all the pieces. The bare minimum for the machine, including router and a couple bits, is about $800. You will probably also need $100+ dollars worth of tools, unless you have some of the required odd ones already (1-1/8″ forstner bit, 45-degree chamfer router bit, 5/16” tap, etc.). The computer needed to run it is not very powerful, but unless you can get a good used one from someone, expect to drop another $200-300. So all total, this is realistically a $1000-1500 project. (I kept track of accurate costs, but provided generalizations here.)I have a final thought on the perspective of the book. When you read it, consider it a written documentary about someone building the machine, not an instruction manual for building it. There are lots of subtle things left out, but a competent person can figure them out. If you take this attitude towards it, you will save yourself frustration when you run into inconsistencies,…

  2. Build Your Own CNC Machine I’ve had my copy of “Build Your Own CNC Machine” a week and have finished reading it. I’ve waited years for the cost of computer controlled tooling to become affordable for artisans and hobbyists. Even so, acquiring the needed information has always been daunting. I believe these authors have opened the gates wide and will impact many disciplines.This book walks you through making a simple yet robust CNC machine that permits 3 axis, computer-precise milling in whatever your application, be it printed-circuit boards, violins, or aircraft parts. With this book knowledge of your own field may now be more limiting than your tooling.The author’s machine is made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF,) available in every home-improvement store. They use relatively easy joinery. The order of presentation and construction makes great sense. The author’s techniques require reasonable accuracy but not high skill or tooling. Their website videos were made at a kitchen table with a few hand tools. The book is similar in approach but is clearly a refinement of their earlier writings. Motors, control circuitry, and the power supply are purchased, but the bottom line remains well under $1,000 and could even be much less if you have the needed skills.I found the information in the book totally accessible and never lost in jargon or predispositions of a reader’s skill. The authors are especially supportive. Their presentation clearly comes from substantial experience developing both the machine and the persons they’ve guided before. Every part of such a project involves “buy or build” decisions, which can make or break success . I believe the author’s choices are excellent. This book is well worth buying, and there aren’t others like it that I can find. I cannot thank them enough for what they’ve put into it.

  3. Noble effort. A few deficiencies to be aware of. First I must thank the authors for putting this together. I’m sure it has consumed alot of time to develop this machine and the book that shows us how to make it. I’m also sure that they are not getting rich from this either, but do it because they are passionate about it.I have wanted to build something like this for ages but just haven’t done it, but when I saw the article in MAKE magazine I was inspired to buy the book and start the project.The companion website, […] is a huge help as well.The only criticism I have is around the technical details. You will find several deficiencies, such as a complete and accurate bill of materials, and several errors or ommisions on the drawings. You can download these things from the website but there are several versions with contradictions between them.Were the authors to make changes, I’d recommend that they add a section to the back of the book with a bill of material, possibly with suggested sites where each item may be purchased, at least for parts that are uncommon. In this section I’d provide a complete and accurate set of drawings. Consider this a cliff notes section where those with more of an engineering background or aptitude in this area could go and have all the information they need to complete the project. In the meantime, I’d clean up the website with the contradictory material.Having said this, my complaints are minor and would, and have recommended the book to others.

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