Let it be made!

Posted: December 28, 2009 in Mechanical

Here’s a little video of the machine working:

My projects doesn’t make them self, and if you want to make a project that looks nice you need some kind of machinery for the mechanical parts. Thats why I build my first cnc machine, it was really a simplistic one and build of MDF wood, but it worked very well for the costs of it (less than 150 euro)! It took me about 3 months of working in my spare time. For the electronics I used the design of Tom McWire, from his instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-to-build-CNC-Mill-Stepper-Motor-and-Driver-ci/. The electronics drive the stepper motors and the electronics are controlled by the software program “Kcam” which controls the LPT port. To make PCB’s I use Sprint layout, to generate a PCB layout and exported them to a HPGL file which I import in Kcam. The milling is done by a simple and cheap multi-tool. I was really happy I just started to build a cnc machine because at the beginning I didn’t know if it would actually work! Well it did!  I used it to engrave a lot, some milling jobs and also made some PCB’s with it:

But after a while I saw some bad points of my machine and decided to build another one, this time it was a machine that was made of aluminium.

After I build this one with a few friend of mine I decided to donate it to a friend of mine, because I already had one and I was planning to make another one so the space in my bedroom was getting smaller and smaller! Below is a picture of my “bedroom”:

I decided to build my third one because I really enjoyed to make such machines, for two reasons. The first one is easy, I really like to make mechanics and electronics. For me the second reason is that the project you make always has an end, but on this project you really make something that is just the beginning of better and nicer looking projects! Building is fun but after building comes the usage of it and that is a lot more fun in this project. Because the machines are in my bedroom I decided to make some shielding for the dust of the wood that was coming from the machine. This makes it look a bit like an actual desktop rapid prototype machine. The third machine has an accuracy of somewhere between 0.1 and 0.2 mm, this is for milling wood enough because it can stretch a bit. The third machine did cost me about 180 euro and took me 2 months of building time (spare time).

A little overview of the made costs:

-PCB with components 25 euro.
-Stepper motors (0,75 Nm) 25 euro each, so 75 euro.
-Metal tubes 10 euro.
-Multitool (kinzo) 15 euro.
-Ball bearings 8 euro.
-Bearing slides 16 euro (I got them for free from a friend).
-End switches 6 euro.
-MDF wood casing wood and acrylate glass   (scrap, I work at a hardware store so it was free).
-2 meters of screw-tread (m12x1,25) 5 euro.
-Some small things like screws and nuts.
-I also used a lot of thing I already had like a nice spindle for the z-axis.

For the red rings and shaft coupling I used an lathe to make them, I have studied fine mechanical engineering, so I used the lathe at school. I also made the PCB at school.

I made a lot of pictures of the building of the machine:

Testing the machine and make it run perpendicular.

The assambly of the z-axis.

The spindle of the z-axis.

The machine’s x-axis assembly. The linear motion of the axis is done by 4 ball-bearings which roll on a metal tube.

To make the axis run perpendicular to each other. the red ring has screw thread in it so you can positioning the tube.

The z-axis makes a linear motion because of the bearing slides which you find in a drawer.

All the components, the limit switches, stepper motors the PCB and mosfets to drive the current through the steppers.

A “IKEA” solution of making corners connect.

Here below are some of the workpieces I made with the machine’s. Some milling work and some engrave and a 3d photo.

Here’s a robot the machine milled for me, almost all the parts are made with the machine.

Milling the robot:

I made the robot to have a platform where I can experiment with sensors and to play with microcontrollers.

I hope you like it, if you have any questions, just ask.


  1. Tater says:

    I really like your projects, your a true home diy’er. Good work my friend.

  2. Rbz says:

    Really nice job!

    What’s building costs like?
    What kind of interface software does it use ?
    Could you use eagle files for pcb’s?

    Again really nice job!

    • jjshortcut says:

      I updated the article with some information about the costs I made. The interface software is “Kcam”. It think it is possible to export HPGL files from eagle to Kcam. I use sprint layout for creating pcb layout’s and export HPGL files from sprint layout and import them in Kcam.

  3. IQBAL SELVAN says:

    Nive post man… I like it,, but I dont know it may useful or not.. but nice work dude….

  4. Terry says:

    Nice project! You’ve got skillz, man.

    Important phone numbers, http://www.FreePhoneList.com

  5. Tushar Joshi says:

    Really very nice work, its very hard to complete such type project at home.

    For web and windows application development,

  6. dabcan says:

    Very well done, I’m impressed. How did you manage to make it for only 150? I have the “build your own CNC” book and it suggests it would cost $800 to build.

    Is programming the machine very hard? I have some computer programming background but never anything like this. Also, how do you keep the piece you are cutting from moving around? Is it anchored some how?

    I’m planning on making one of these in the fall.

    • jjshortcut says:


      I did not read the book but I think in they suggest to buy the electronics, I build them myself so that would spare me like $200 bucks. Building the electronics is very simple, you can find the PCB at http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-to-build-CNC-Mill-Stepper-Motor-and-Driver-ci/

      The PCB is very simplistic but works great. And it only costs like $40 if you make it yourself.

      Programming the machine, aka turn cad into cam is quite easy, I use software called Cambam for turning a drawing (lika a .DXF file) into a Gcode machine code program.

      Most times I tape the piece of wood to the table with double sided tape. It has a major disadvantage because the tape gets taped on the mill for a bit (while contouring).

      succes in building the machine!

  7. karan says:

    hi love ur cnc. i am building ur arm. and i also think i should build cnc.So can u post the plans for your final revision of cnc ?

    • jjshortcut says:

      I do not have exact plans of my cnc machines, the last machine I build is based on the so called “JGRO” design, which is a really good design to start with. You should just google at this design, and there are plans for this machine.

  8. Corne says:

    I reale find it encouraging, because I also would like a CNC machine.And now I see that it is possible at a reasonable price. If I my use the photos it would be possible to do.

    realy great project and the products to.


  9. Nikola says:

    Hello friend🙂 I would like to ask you, if possible, to send me your skypename, msn or mail if you have-want, because I would like to talk to you about this cnc of yours. I’m interested in it, and it’s also very interesting how you did that. I am studying automatics, so I am kind of interested in it.🙂

  10. FH says:

    very… very…. very….. nice project. definitely every diy should have it.
    but, how to hold the work piece (of random shaped) in position on the table?

  11. FH says:

    Thank you for your reply.
    I got a doubt again.
    How to control the stepper motor (i.e driver) based on the required design.
    which software(s) you have used, which converts our design to move/control the motor drives.

  12. Nevertheless, with free software program resembling Yawcam, I don’t suppose its too large a deal.

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