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Thread: Is a CNC router a good investment as far as making money off woodworking?

  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Yadfar View Post
    After doing some further research, I think I'm going to reconsider at the moment. I do want a CNC machine for personal use, I already have a relatively decent woodshop. But I'll probably wait until I have enough surplus money where $2k or so won't hit me so hard. The original idea that came up in my head was building items like animal shaped cutting boards and signs, and I just started looking that stuff up on google and it's like $10-15 on Amazon, I was planning on selling for around $50.

    But like everyone recommends, I'll probably either work harder on an actual business plan or just wait until I have extra money to buy one just for hobby use. I may have marketing opportunities, for example I have a friend who does custom home renovations. If I found he had a need for custom size cabinet doors, then maybe. I also plan to build a tack trunk in my woodshop, I'll see if something like that gains any interest without a CNC design.
    Sounds like youve found a good trajectory. I am in no way a CNC GURU, we are only a year in to CNC in the shop but different from a 2K machine we were in for 75K total investment (50K on the CNC). My only input based on your response above is that other than custom carving on a panel (chaff's of wheat, custom carving, etc) a CNC is going to do you no good with regards to cabinet doors. Even cathedral arch, roman arch, and so on, can be done far faster non-cnc. Now if your guy has a demand for personalization or completely custom 3d carved panels on a cabinet door, and the customers to pay for it, then thats a nice market.

    One off sign work, unless your in an affluent area, is very difficult in my opinion. As Kieth mentioned, you have multiple sit downs/back and forths with the customer over design, size, budget. And in the end when you whack them with a $500 price tag (3 hours of talking and design at $60 an hour, 3 hours of run time (singe sided), material costs, and painting and finishing) they are like "oh, I just wanted an ol' sign to hang on my stoop". Around here people are thinking of the routed signs you get at the fair where you tell the guy what you want on the sign and he is a proficient free-hand router and he blasts out a sign on a piece of pine, torches the letters, sands it, and ships you off for 40 bucks.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  2. #32
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    I am trying to figure out how you are going to get into cnc routing for "around 2K or so"??????

    Seems like everyone who wants to get into cnc starts by looking at the machines and then stops right there. To do good 3D work requires about $2K worth of software alone, never mind the machine. A decent sized (4 X 4) kit machine costs way more than 2K. I built my own and have about 3K in the machine and another 2500 in software. If you do not do 3D work then you can get started for a little less.

    What you do NOT do is decide "oh, I want a cnc machine, then I will figure out how to make money with it". You have to have something you are good at, are knowledgeable about and then figure out if a cnc will make you competitive.

    That said, if all you really want is a cnc machine as a hobby but you do not want to pay for it all by yourself then consider making things for cheap just like all the other hobby guys do. It drives the folks wanting to run a profitable business crazy but you can pay for the machine and software that way. Essentially what you are doing is working for free and charging for machine time to pay for the machine. Who cares what the guy down the street running a business thinks. That is his problem and he should have thought of it before going into business. This is not old Europe with BS craft guilds to protect all the members and keep prices up.

  3. #33
    Adding to what Ted said.
    I would not buy a used DIY machine for $2000, unless you really know what you are looking at. There are two scenarios here. 1) It complete junk, or 2) He's giving it away. My money is on #1.

    While the 2.2Kw may sound enticing, they only cost $300 these days, including the VFD.

    And entry level machine that's halfway decent will cost about $4000 and go up. The $2000 machines are entry level hobby machines, and will quickly show their limitations.

    Think of a CNC Router as just another tool. They aren't money making machines, unless you have the work to use them on. If you do have work for it, and you aren't making $50-$75 per hour minimum, you shouldn't be doing the work in the first place.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Outten View Post
    Granted I had a big job in process so the Router went into production the first day I got it running but all of the signs I made with it were simple flat vcarved and laser engraved signs.

    .
    So Keith thinking along those same lines and wanting to purchase a small footprint CNC Router and size to match my co2 laser, are you routing and then laser engraving? I have used VCarve 5.0 in the past and wondering if that software would let me send to the router and then DXF file to the laser? I might try later on today to see with what I have here. Just wondering.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Ray Fine 20w Galvo Fiber laser , LightObject 40w CO2. MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter.

  5. #35
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    Some signs are done completely on my CNC router and some are routed plaques that I laser engrave to add very detailed logos, braille and tactile text. Combining the best of both machines gives you a huge advantage over just having one of them. I don't think that you necessarilly have to match the size of both machines because often routed signs are larger than laser engraved signs. In fact I have had many occasions to route a large plaque that I had to laser engrave it by engraving the top and then turning it around to engrave the bottom. I got a job yesterday for three large signs that have to be done this way plus some big exterior signs that will be CNC routed.

    I started using VCarve Pro right after I got my ShopBot. I have often exported DXF and other file types to use in Corel Draw which is what I use for laser engraving. I don't know if the Trotec software/driver will import a DXF file directly, I've never tried because there are a lot of settings that have to be done to get a file to engrave.

    The picture below is how I do most of my door signs. They are about 6" by 8" in size and I often have large signs that are the same shape and design but 30" tall.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 12-06-2017 at 12:50 PM.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Bolton View Post
    Keith, I would agree completely in your situation or, as you say, in anyone situation who is heavily marketing "something". Your sign work is a perfect compliment to a CNC. I was just speaking to having an interest in woodworking and just jumping into CNC. There are tons of people on FB, Etsy, and all the others, that are churning out all sorts of stuff and most of it is so inexpensive there is no way they are quantifying anything remotely connected to shop costs, machine cost, and so on.

    That was my only point.

    We see it around here in the primitive world. Retail shops will call us asking to make something they were getting but they can no longer seem to get. When you delve into the price, you quickly find out why they guy they had quit supplying them. He went in cheap and then started to realize how much money he was actually making at the end of the day. When we quote it, there are just crickets on the end of the line.

    We will hang on to our CNC as long as possible as well, and we also do a lot of wholesale/commercial sales so very little contact with the retail consumer. In my personal experience it would be a risky jump to hop into the CNC world without some sort of plan. About anything any retail customer comes into the shop asking us to run on the machine, the instant we start calculating the run time and shop rate, they are on their way out the door.
    Mark and I are on the same page concerning inexpensive "stuff". Although a CNC machine will reduce labor costs when you have large runs its pretty rare to find anyone who is making a good living with these kinds of products. I quit doing retail business a long time ago when I realized that commercial work was very profitable, enough to sustain a good lifestyle and pay all of the bills associated with a legal business like a company truck, business and truck insurance, cell phones, medical insurance, retirement funds, etc. My CNC Router made it possible to almost immediately move into commercial work at a scale that pushed me a mile higher than I had been operating.

    You can do some light to medium size commercial work with an inexpensive table saw but I don't think that its possible to do serious commercial work with a home made or a kit type of CNC router. They are fine for hobby work and a lot of fun to own and operate.

  7. #37
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    I am going to agree with both of you, the Retail one off stuff is not going to pay the bills. Unless its very specialized. People see the Walmart, Flea market stuff from China and want you to price the same. I had one customer, a wholesale purchaser wanted me to do just that. I declined and offered to sell her my laser machine so she could cut out the middleman and do it All herself. In the mean time I raised my prices and she is still a customer, no more gripping about price.

    Frankly I was thinking about laser engraving a picture, customer art or whatever on wood and then using the router to make the finished edge or frame as it will all on one. Or even reversing the two, engraving first and then a BMP image added with the router.
    The more I look at the Carvewright the more limitations I see, everything is an extra.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Ray Fine 20w Galvo Fiber laser , LightObject 40w CO2. MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill George View Post
    So Keith thinking along those same lines and wanting to purchase a small footprint CNC Router and size to match my co2 laser, are you routing and then laser engraving? I have used VCarve 5.0 in the past and wondering if that software would let me send to the router and then DXF file to the laser? I might try later on today to see with what I have here. Just wondering.
    I use Aspire for both my router and laser. I do all my router work in inches but have to convert to metric for the laser which is real easy with Vectric products.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome Stanek View Post
    I use Aspire for both my router and laser. I do all my router work in inches but have to convert to metric for the laser which is real easy with Vectric products.
    Since I also have a 3D printer, I now do everything in Metric, even have a metric tape measure .

    My big question of the day,is all my router bits are inch marked, does VCarve convert those to metric diameters automatically when calculating tool paths?
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Ray Fine 20w Galvo Fiber laser , LightObject 40w CO2. MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter.

  10. #40
    Yes. I've entered tools into Vectric VCarve using one measure, then done design using another --- the program handles all the conversions automatically.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome Stanek View Post
    I use Aspire for both my router and laser. I do all my router work in inches but have to convert to metric for the laser which is real easy with Vectric products.
    Jerome, tell me how you print to to your laser driver from Aspire and what laser you have as it might not work for every manufacturer. Does your laser driver have design capabilities so you can edit line weights, colors, etc?

  12. #42
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    I fiddled with VCarve last night and what I was concerned with was separating the laser part from the routing. I ended up just selecting the laser engraving part and dxf out that part into my LaserCad, as both were set as Metric not an issue. The positions held. Since in VCarve you can also select the part you want routed and it creates Tool Paths for those areas. Now I just need to make room in my shop for another machine!
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Ray Fine 20w Galvo Fiber laser , LightObject 40w CO2. MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter.

  13. #43
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    I export from Aspire to laserworks

  14. #44
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    I've never used Laserworks, it must have some drawing tools.

  15. #45
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    I still have VCarve 5.5 licensed to me. When I sold my other router the buyer had his own software. I might purchase Cut3D if I have a need for it, but for right now since I can not justify spending $7000 on a CNC router. More or less decided on the Automation Tech one, or something like.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Ray Fine 20w Galvo Fiber laser , LightObject 40w CO2. MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Qe60+ Vinyl cutter.

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