I have been a woodworker for over 30 years. I remember helping my in a cabinet shop they owned. I remember building my own small shop and travelling to many garage sales and auctions to build my assortment of tools.
Back then tools were built tough. If you dropped one, the most you had to worry about, was breaking your toe. My very first compressor was a very old Craftsman compressor. My uncle gave me stack of wood, the compressor and an old Senco pin nailer and said "You can have them. Just make me a nice magazine rack". I have to tell you it was the best magazine rack I ever made.
I still have that nailer. Heck the nailer was probably 10 years old when he gave it to me. It has to be over 35 years old, and it still works. The compressor while, very old lasted me a couple years. When it died I purchased an Campbell Hausfeld compressor that to this day still works like it did the day I purchased it, 25 years later.
Sooo, anyway, here we are 30 years later. I kind of fancy myself as an inventor of sorts. While I have built several pieces of furniture over the years, my favorites have always been the ones that I designed as I went along.
A while back I started building PC cases, like the one shown here.
I spent hours working on the legs of this PC case. Later a friend asked me if I would build one for him. I remember all the time spent on the legs, and had to turn him down. Several years back I owned a Sherline mini mill with a CNC add on kit. I had used that CNC to do some small repetitive work on plastic. Now keep in mind that back then there was not much available for the DIY CNCer, so I sold the machine.
Knowing that building some of the parts for my PC cases would be perfect for a router based CNC, I started doing research. I was astounded at the information available for the CNC do-it-yourselfer. I decided to build my first machine.
I purchased several plans, a couple of books, and read several hundred posts on the various forums. While my first two machines worked. They had a difficult time creating consistent parts.
Building the first two machines was not a complete failure. I learned a log about CNC. My third build shown below was a complete success.
I could cut parts consistently, and was able to build complex projects like this clock.
In the early designs I had used a Bosch Colt router, but it has issues that left it far from ideal for use as a CNC router. In the third build, I used a Festool MFK700 router and it made all the difference. Using some of my woodworking skills I added adjustable fences.
I got quite a few requests for plans, so I decided to write a step-by-step guide on building it. In order to do this I had to re-build the machine in order to take pictures of the process. I also needed to make a couple small tweaks in the design. Build 4 was born.
I started the write-up. That's when I realized why there were no step-by-step guides on building a CNC.
IT WAS HARD WORK
I took over 2000 photos and honestly, I would get to an area of the documentation and the picture just could not convey the information I wanted. The other problem is that the machine was made from melamine coated particle board, the gantry shapes made the plans very complicated. I was not happy with the quality of the guide. I needed to go back to square one.
I decided to build a totally new machine. The new machine would be pretty much bolt together. I needed to increase the table cutting size in order to build larger projects. I also wanted a lower gantry design for ridgity. That still left the problem of pictures. I had access to an Autocad workstation so I decided to teach myself Autocad. This way I could create illustrations of any angle.
The KRMx01 CNC was born.
I designed and built the machine first, then modeled it. The model includes every single nut, bolt, and lock washer.
Nine months later the "Building the KRMx01 CNC" book was complete.
Sooooo, here we are. A man, a woodshop, and a CNC. I have been working on mostly little projects, I decided to create my first piece of furniture. I was working on a small table to hold my Oneida mini cyclone bucket, when I had an idea for a small end table.
Being my first furniture project with the CNC, I decided to use some scrap particle board for the project. Here is a video showing the process.
This is my first three sided piece. Using my old style of design and construction I would have never done a piece like this.
My daughter quickly snapped up this piece and wants me to make a matching basin stand.
OK what about something a little more complicated. This piece was commissioned by a local coffee house. Its pour over filter stand. A cup sits on the bottom shelf and a ceramic filter sits in the hole on the top shelf. Hot water is poured into the filter and it drips into the cup. This piece was cut with a 3/32" bit. The material is all 5/16" popular that has been dyed and gel coated.
What about something a little more utilitarian. This is a small outlet cover made from a solid piece of popular. It's a two sided cut. With two sided cuts an accurate fence system is invaluable.
This circuit board was cut and routed with the KRMx01 CNC.
Back to clock making. Here are some clock prototypes I have made for an clock book I am in the process of writing.
The KRMx01 CNC was even used to create a set of templates that will allow users to cut the clock gears using a pin router attachment on their own router table.
While I considered the KRMx01 a success, a true DIY CNC builder never stops looking for ways to improve the process. We are also always looking for an excuse to build the next machine. As with many things, it isn’t just about the destination. It’s about the journey.
In early January of 2012 I was asked to demonstrate my KRMx01 CNC at the Washington DC Science and Engineering fair in late April. Doing so brought to the forefront some problems. The machine wasn’t designed to be transported, so it was too large to fit through my shop door. In addition, the design was not conducive to dismantling and reassembling.
What to do? Design a new machine. And thus the KRMx02 CNC is born.
While designing this new CNC machine, I wanted to incorporate the following features:
- Easy to build design adaptable for various size machines
- Lower footprint to cutting area overhead
- Industrial strength (super ridged)
- Removable gantry from CNC base
- Rack and Pinion drive
How has the CNC affected my woodworking. Well since building the machine. I have sold many of my tools. The first to go was the scroll saw and band saw. Those were the first because I needed the room and found that lately they were not being used.
The CNC will never replace all the tools. For instance, The CNC will not replace the planer or joiner. I am still in the process of evaluating my various other tools. I am planning on a big move soon and will sell off all my large stationary tools, because I don't want to move them. The CNC can be disassembled and it will go with me, even though its now my largest tool in the shop.