Picture of 3 Axis CNC Router - 60
This Instructable is the first in a series documenting the construction of a DIY 3 axis CNC router. This is also my entry for the Universal Laser Cutter Contest.

The goal of this Instructable is not to show a full step by step progression but rather to pass along my experiences with making my own CNC.

I'm a MFA candidate (art student) at Rutgers University - Mason Gross College of the Arts. I designed this machine for the sculpture department to primarily cut soft material (foam, wax, some plastic and wood). I tried to leave as much room as possible for modification to suit the departments changing needs i.e. repurposing into a CNC plasma-cutter.

The design of my machine is loosely based around the - Large Dual Leadscrew Table plans. I choose these plans a jumping off point - extracting what I needed and adding to the design to fit my needs. Linear motion control, next to the drive train, is often the most expensive system on a CNC device and the Solsylva plans present a simple yet elegant solution to cutting the cost of linear movement buy using roller skate bearings, angle iron, and EMT conduit.

There were a few concepts behind the design of this machine. The first was the use of scrap or existing materials - in essence recycling as much material as possible. The second idea was that any materials I needed to purchase I would try to obtained locally (Local Hardware Stores, Home Depot/Lowes, etc.) - the Solsylva plans are also based around this concept.

College art departments tend to generate a lot of usable scrap/waste. After a student projects are finished, they usually end up back in the scrap bin, metal recycling, or the dumpster. My goal for this project was to use as much of this "waste" material as possible and design the machine around these materials. The dimensions for parts were often times dictated by the size of the scraps available. The finish of this machine was inevitably dictated buy the materials I chose to use. I personally appreciate the scrappy junk-bot aesthetic - but then again I did build it ;)

This is project is a labor of love and a work-in-progress so there are a few things still unfinished - please excuse some of the inconsistencies in the photos as they've been taken at different time throughout the project.

Enough with the college talk and on to the good stuff -

The Machine Specs:

Materials: Recycled Steel and Aluminum.

Total Travel (x,y,z): 60" x 60" x 5"

Motors: 425 dual shaft stepper Nema23 mounting.

Router/Spindle: Porter Cable 690 router (1/2" - 1/8" collets) or 1/4" trim router.

Motor Drivers/Electronics: Xylotex XS-3525/8S-3

Software: Mach3 (controller), various CAD/CAM software for object creation, tool paths, and g-code.

The table is geared, crank driven with quad lift screws and 1000lb capacity - and it's movable too. It's way overkill, but makes Z hight adjustment a dream. In the future this could become the Z axis if more movement is needed.

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hasannebso4 months ago

thanx nice job , i love to build this router please can you send me the plane and the sketchup drawings

can I use this to basicly build a large 3d printer ? ( but with more hight ) / how much did this cost ?

Nice instructable. Im hoping to make one of these (or similar, seems the Instructable galaxy is awash in CNC stars...) One question I have is:" Feed rate. Is it an arbitrary value (static) or based on the media? Or is it based on motor loading? If static, I could see either needlessly long cycle times or at the other end, burned media and/or broken tools (if you break a tool, how does one get "back on track"?)! Am I more concerned than need be?
abuelito3 years ago
Hi friends, this project is interesting and can be used for work in low hardness materials, the control program must use shorts codes
hi there Russ my name is Robin Anderson , I'm interested in building your cnc router design , but was hoping i could get more information from u about the parts you used if by any chance a parts list . the problem is insouth africa we tend not to get some of these parts and i'd really like to build your model as it seems very sturdy and it has a nice work area . if you could help i'd be very greatful.
Hi Robin.
Have you started to build this table yet?
I was thing to build something along these line but want to know if you had found all the parts in SA
Cheers Peter
jj.inc4 years ago
Do you know where to get cheaper ACME screws or did you just spend like 100 bucks each
hondaman9004 years ago
DIY CNC hits mainstream in an O'Reilly Radar tech blog report today. See
cool do you sale the plans for this cnc machine
i've seen a similar machine at
I so want to build these. time to hit the lottery!!!! come on numbers!!!
cryophile5 years ago
Do you think I could use an Arduino in this project?  $300+ is really rich for me.
ekis5 years ago
If you haven't already looked at it, you should check out EMC - the free, open-source CNC project.
jpablo785 years ago
Great design! I'm working on a small CNC project and I'm taking a couple of ideas from here. I'm making a simplified design for a matter of costs but your work is very inspiring. Here in Argentina the acme threaded rods are pretty expensive, that's a relevant issue when working on a project like this.

probly one of the best diy cncs ive seen.
svfox695 years ago
Step 5 shows the end result, nice and symmetric.
If you could make something like a soccer ball statue or footballs I would want to buy it. I would need it autographed and dated as well. You could mass produce them and sell them.

alesteir5 years ago
Great proyect, congratukations man! Someday I make my own CNC!
durbanite6 years ago
hi there just wondering what thickness and what pitch lead screws were used thanks
LJozz6 years ago
Sir, I am very interested in your system. Are there any detailed instructions for building it? I have the mechanical skills and the tools to build it all I need are the instructions. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Larry
pauloviaro6 years ago
Congratulations by the machine!! I´d like to make something like it. please, could you post, or send me, the circuit plans? I´m terrible with electronic!! (for while) Thanks!! (my e-mail -
You can buy them pretty much ready to go, anywhere from $350 on up, the only wiring I had to do was tinning the ends of the leads.
trouble0076 years ago
to fix the problem with the sketup download. you have to change the file extension to .skp so the file should say F4UIB7NFAQEDKE7.skp
moritzi77776 years ago
In the pictures I see allot of chips on the guide rails, they don't cause problems, like making the gantry jump when going over them, or worse getting it stuck? I ask this for a future project. Thanks and good work.
Slisgrinder6 years ago
can u cut metal with this thing? or does it depend on the the drill it self?
servant746 years ago
A neat 'wood' version is on ... good complete instructions too! Yea, they would like to sell a version, but their free instructions are pretty good. This metal version would probably last better longer term.
ivanirons7 years ago
I dig that leveling table idea. I have never seen anyone do that before.
Does it work well?
How often do you use it?

Ivan Irons
CNC Information Community Website
russaanderson (author)  ivanirons7 years ago
It does work well - and I use it a lot - it's great for getting material in and out of the machine with out having to fuss with the Z axis.
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Sorry, check the date. Its too late for the laser cutter. And besides you already have a cnc!
russaanderson (author)  LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
According to the rules for the contest I have until "Tuesday, 1 January 2008 at 11:59 pm PST" - I posted 2:56am EST which it technically 11:56 pm PST. I really don't have a CNC - I built this for Mason Gross School of Art where I'm attending school - once I graduate (4 months and counting) I will no longer have access to it - so I really do need this laser cutter to continue my work... but then again I'm sure a lot of people really need this laser cutter.
Great job on the table. is it possible to get a bill of material and dimensions of the table. Could not download the sketch file.
russaanderson (author)  k5dkh7 years ago
Thanks - however, I can't take credit for building the table. I think it was commercially manufactured lifting table used for lifting and moving heavy objects (it has a 1000lb rating on the side). Our metal shop was using it as table for their chop-saw. I build them a new stand for the saw and re-purposed the lift table for our CNC. The table is about 24"x36" +/- with a about 18" of vertical travel. It is crank powered and chain driven (soon to be motorized). Four 1 1/2" (+/-) acme screws provide the lifting power. It sits on 4 heavy duty casters, which has its pluses and minuses: Pluses - it's movable/removable. Minuses - it's not connected to the machine. Movement in the machine is not transmitted to the table, which sounds like a good thing but really it translates to inaccuracies in the part being milled - Imagine someone constantly bumping into you while you were trying to draw a straight line with a pencil on a piece of paper that is taped to a table. Every time you were bumped it would cause you to move the pencil on the fixed piece of paper in an unattended direction i.e. wiggly line. This is why we have to brace our machine so much ;)
russaanderson (author)  russaanderson7 years ago
Also... there really is a big difference between a CNC Router and a Laser Cutter - CNC Routers physically touch the material being cut which requires a great deal more setup time making sure the part doesn't move while being milled. However, the CNC Router excels at 3D cutting. The Laser Cutter is the microwave of machining - you place the material in, click print and wait for the "beep" - done!... on the other hand the Laser Cutters really don't do 3D very well. Both machines are indispensable in the shop.
Good point about the cnc. If I don't win I will probably build one. Sorry about the date, on the recent page it said the 2nd. Good luck! (I'll never win against yours)
Our servers aren't on Pacific time. ;)
Woah, amazing job! That last picture looks really cool.
carlie7 years ago
Very cool!