Introduction: Building a Drawer Slide CNC Machine for Under $200!

Picture of Building a Drawer Slide CNC Machine for Under $200!

Drawer Slide CNC Machine for under $200


Like many of us interested in this hobby, I wanted my own machine. But I didn’t want to dive into it, spend $2k plus and have a large paperweight out in my shop. The idea was born for a simple, cheap, somewhat accurate CNC machine that I could modify as I gained knowledge (and funds).

The first step in the process was deciding what hardware I was going to use.

I decided on the TB6560-3 axis driver bought off eBay for $22.00/free shipping. I chose this driver because it was very affordable, and that is how I chose most of the components for this project. Next came the 12V 8.5A Switching Power Supply, also bought off eBay for $14.99/free shipping

For stepper motors, I found a lot of 5 on eBay for $10.00/free shipping. They are small, but they actually have plenty of power for this machine (I’m not milling aluminum and the x-y is quite small).

The spindle is probably the most important part of the machine. If you buy something that has too much run out (movement in the shaft/bearings which makes your cutting tools “wobble”) you will have difficulty achieving any sort of accuracy. This is the mistake I made, I chose a Dremel 100. This is a great tool, don’t get me wrong, but it is made with a plastic housing, and it turns at 35,000 RPM so it has quite a bit of run-out.

There are a lot of misc hardware pieces need to build this machine, but most of which can be found at your local Lowes, Home Depot or local hardware store. I will detail a list of materials needed here:

Also, you will need some sort of software(and obviously a computer) to run the machine and to do drawings. I use Mach3(free... for the controlling software, and I do most of my drawing in Turbo Cad for Mac. There are many choices out there, some more expensive than others.

****EDIT**** I forgot to mention what I would do with the laser cutter if I were to win! I would make a lot of crafts and projects to benefit a not for profit I'm involved with. It's a great organization that helps children increase their self esteem and self confidence.


(2) 2”x4”x8’

(2) Pairs of heavy duty drawer slides

(1) small linear slide rail (bought off eBay $5.00/free ship) for Z axis

(1) 2’x2’ 1/8” sheet of luan plywood (could also use Plexiglas)

(1) Sheet of Plexiglas or lexan ¼” to 3/8” 10" x 10"

(1) 3/8”x 3/8”x 36" aluminum angle 3

(1) 3/8” x 36"aluminum U channel

(1) ½” x 1/8”x 3’ aluminum flat stock

(1) ¼”-20 x 3’ Threaded rod (lead screw)

(3) ¼”-20 hex standoffs 2” long

(1) ¼” fuel line hose for coupling motor to threaded rod

(1) Tube of super glue

(4) Wood screws for securing drawer slides to frame

(16) Nuts and bolts 10-24 x 5/8”

(12) Nuts and bolts 8-32 x 3/8”

(2) drill bushings (for lead screw support)



-For stepper motor hook-up determined by stepper motors (how many wires) and how far your drivers are placed.

-Power cable for power supply (used 3 wire cord of old power tool)

-Small length of 12ga wire for driver power (from power supply) + and –

1. Start by building a 2x4 frame, as shown in the Illustrations.

2. Attach the drawer slides to the frame

3. Glue or weld a small piece of sheet metal (with holes), or plastic to the hex standoff for the lead screws and attach to bottom of both X and Y axis

4. Attach the X axis plywood, luan, or plexiglass

5. Attach the next set of drawer slides to the X axis

6. Attach the Y axis plexiglass (10" x 10") to the drawer slides on the X axis

7. Next, attach the small linear slide to the upper Z support

8. Attach a small piece of plexiglas, or any other rigid material for the Z axis, along with another hex standoff mounted to the back for the lead screw.

9. Depending on your spindle motor choice, you will have to figure out how to mount it. I used a 2" plastic pipe holder, found at Lowes in the plumbing section.

10. Also depending on which stepper motors you choose you will have different options on mounting them. I used aluminum angle to mount them.


mikerosati (author)2012-05-16

How is the Z axis supported when the slide isn't fully extended? If you have a pound or two with the slide, mount, and whatever you may use as the spindle (dremel, trim router, etc..) wouldn't that just put all the weight on the screw and motor, which would pull apart?

Thanks :)

The Z axis is supported. It is on a single linear slide, which is quite stout and flexes very little. The is not taking any side to side load.Look at the pictures againd and you will see it. Thanks.

Thanks for the reply :)
I wasn't asking about the side to side support though. I was concerned about the vertical - Yes it's on a slide, but what other than the motor and screw is keeping that slide from dropping to full extension? As an example, if I have two pounds of trim router, small mount to connect it to the slide, etc, wouldn't that two pounds be pulling down on the screw, trying to pull it off the motor? Since there is no spring to help alleviate the weight, wouldn't this stress and break the hold made by glue, etc with the coupling hose?

Ahh, I see what you are saying.

I have not had the tubing "coupler" break loose yet. I guess super glue, and a very tight hose connection is enough for the light weight dremel. I am in the process of rebuilding the machine and upgrading it. Stay tuned! Thanks.

I am using a Bosh Die grinder as my routing tool which weighs 1.6Kg (people of the world"especially Americans" please start using SI system).

Do you think the weight will be supported just using superglue and a tight hose.If not what suggestions can you give .

Thank you in advance

JIMMIE68 (author)chrissunny942017-02-03

Wondering about the use of "Super Glue" as it tends to make rubber brittle..

If I were to build this again, I found an awesome, cheap solution to this problem. Check this out for helping "support" the load. you could buy one that matches the weight of your tool, or combine a few to equal the weight.

chrissunny94 (author)mikerosati2015-03-24

if you got answer for this question it would be nice if you can share it ,because i have the same problem with my project

rjd1234 made it! (author)2016-07-02

Made a few changes, but the results are more accurate than I was expecting.

RasooL kargozar (author)2015-10-30

I am making my first cnc :) it is a nice work , like :) , I use this map to make mine.tnx

bharatmali05 (author)2015-09-04

please can you suggest me what outcome is possible after making this machine

gaxx (author)2015-04-23

I have a stepper motors that run on 3.7V with 4 wires. How do I install the board voltage on them? The board is TB6560.

DavideS1 (author)2015-04-18

Threaded rods how much they cost and who have step ?

bdubu (author)2014-12-19

Thanks so much for sharing this. After about five years of getting nowhere
on my own CNC machine (mostly due to limited funding + lack of an acceptable workspace), I now have renewed hope. This really is a good
overall (fixed gantry) design for a first time CNC hobbyist. Just like imyz, I too have an "evil plan" to use your brilliant simple design to "bootstrap" myself into this hobby. I'm a little disappointed that no one has yet shared pics of their own builds of this CNC machine. BTW, I believe you indicated somewhere in the comments that you'd be upgrading your design. Do you have any news regarding that?

chrissunny94 (author)bdubu2015-03-24

Yup i am also in the same position as you are (CNC project which is going nowhere for the past 1 year)

bdubu (author)chrissunny942015-03-24


chrissunny94 (author)bdubu2015-03-24

Well i am not giving up, I plan to resume work during my summer vacation.

I am not getting any time in college

bdubu (author)chrissunny942015-03-30

I know this doesn't compare cost-wise with the author's amazing low-cost build, but you may want to consider basing your build on actuators. Here's an example of what I mean exactly ...

The machine shown in the video above uses the KR33 actuator--one per axis. They can be found on eBay but I suspect that they are pretty costly.

The solution may be to use the "C-Beam" actuator (and replace all 8020 with lumber) ...

I say that it "may be" the solution only because I haven't compared the two actuators cost-wise.

Here's a video introducing the C-Beam ...

Hope this helps!

P.S. If anyone does a build based on C-Beam, post here to let the rest of us know how it went.

CopperDropDesigns (author)bdubu2015-03-30

Very cool! Although 1 of those actuators cost more than my whole machine. I'd love to try and build something with those! Thanks for the post!


bdubu (author)CopperDropDesigns2015-03-30

You're welcome Jon! I kind of figured you guys might really like to see this. You're right, they're definitely not the cheaper way to go and I suspect that your great build will remain a tough act to follow in that regards for quite some time. That said, these actuators range from $110.00 (10") to $148.00 (39") and each one includes the stepper motor. Again, I don't know how well the actuator design itself actually works... All in all, there's just something about this modular approach that has me sort of spellbound--any improvement (such as adding a limit switch) that you could make to one axis could almost certainly be applied to the other two axes. I wonder if it might be possible to effectively copy this design (say, employing fewer customized parts) and end up with something even cheaper. The one thing that kind of bothers me though is I noticed that the stepper appears to be attached through only two of the four nema-23 mounting holes... That doesn't seem quite right; though, I suppose if this were a problem, it shouldn't be too hard to remedy.

chrissunny94 (author)2015-03-30

Hey @bdubu (jon) ,

These are the pictures of my first build during last summer vacations.

Its a very bad design as you can see and i didnt build it further because of the lack of time (this is outside my field of study , I am a computer science student).

Anyways i will start work on this in about 1 months time


Chris Thaliyath


I was going about the problem the conventional way ,that is to buy smooth rods,linear bearings blah blah blah ...But after i have seen what you have done using the cheap linear draw slides i have hope.

I think i have a video of it working (MOVING) somewhere with in my Facebook page take a look at it when you have time.

Well the last time it ran i some how stalled the CNC and it inurn fried the Micro-controller (Arduino Mega) ,this (i shouldn't have made a big mess out of it) event was a big set back and i stopped working all the sudden.

EdwinMarte (author)2015-03-27

Nice Job! I am starting mine this week, hope to finish in a relatively short time


Make sure you post some photos of your work! Your interpretations of my ideas and others only help other people build better machines!

CopperDropDesigns (author)2015-03-25

Chrissunny94, sorry I didn't get your messages earlier I have not logged onto instructables in a while. I'd be glad to help you as much as I can. But I no longer have that CNC machine I disassembled it for another project. I'm sure we can get you up and running though. I will try to answer some of your questions tonight.

jayrak (author)2015-02-01

How does the machine work? receive instructions for the machine to operate? Computer hardware and software???

chrissunny94 (author)jayrak2015-03-24

serial communication from the computer vai microcontroller

chrissunny94 (author)2015-03-24

How is the zaxis supported thats the part which dragged my CNC project like anything.I could not get a thrust bearing or something like that to support the weight of the Bosh die Grinder that i am using for my CNC(quite heavy ,1.5KG).

From the pictures i can infer that the z axis is hanging on to the stepper which is doubt is advisable .

BTW I am using a ramps 1.4 and nema 17 (5.5KgCm of torque ) .

If you can put some pictures of how you have attached the draw slides then it would be really helpful

Thanks in advance

Chirs Sunny

niels.wraa (author)2014-11-06


Nice machine !

Can the machine be used by a mac computer, and what software can be used for it, and do you know anything about freeware for mac.



patsam37 (author)2013-06-07

How did you hook up the controller to your lap top. I tried a db25 to USB cable but I cannot find the I/O number. All 3 lights just stay lit but nothing happens.

abadon (author)patsam372013-09-11

You need an actual DB25 port, a USB to DB25 conversion cable won't work. Try using an older laptop or better yet, a desktop.

Elivonk (author)abadon2014-05-10

Will a circuit board to go from USB to DB25 work?

imyz (author)2014-02-20

Out of curiosity, how much accuracy you can get out of it?

I have an evil plan to make a clone of your machine and then use it to build a second of my own design.

Elivonk (author)imyz2014-05-10

i'm also making a clone of his with a few tweaks here and a few teaks there like doubling up the Z axis support and not using plexi glass for anything

mal-hajji (author)2014-02-04

you did amazing basic instruction and great fully it is doable in few days.
there is only one thing i miss in here. the electronic part. how did you connected the motors to the driver ?

taydos (author)2014-01-29


S30z (author)2013-08-02

Did you not use stepper motor drivers?? or are they not needed. Forgive my insolence

patsam37 (author)2013-05-20

My step motors have 6 wires how did you hook everything up to the tb6560 and power unit. I have been looking online trying to find out an easy way to hook everything up but I could only find the 4 wire hook up.

Try this link.

Harrison V (author)2013-03-15

Would you build one for me, if I bought it from you and paid you for labor, parts, shipping, ect.?

Electronics Man (author)2013-02-02

Great job on this it looks fantastic! What software do you use for designing your parts?

ddzahn (author)2013-01-04

I'm in the process of creating this build. Great Ideas and design! Luckily I saw a potential problem with dust fouling up the bearings so I mounted them upside down thus making the raceway opening face downward. Also, I am using 3 nema 23, 283 oz steppers I found on e-bay for $90.

aimatt (author)2012-12-04

This is really an outstanding build. Are you sure about the price of steppers though? $10 for 5 is so so so cheap.

CopperDropDesigns (author)aimatt2012-12-04

Yeah, I found a great deal. They are they same size as printer stepper motors. I'm sure you could find some non working free ones on Craigslist.

Redsic (author)2012-08-09

Lovely design..

Good Idea's on Sourcing component's...

You have given me some Invaluable Ideas on cutting down the cost's of the
I am building with quite afew modification's...

Thanks !

gera229 (author)2012-05-24

Do you have any backlash with this?

What did you use for the bushings that hold the screws in place?

I see a plastic part with a cylinder in it, but what is that? You didn't specify it in your BOM.

I used bronze bushings, similar to this:, but I bought them at the hardware store.

I don't really have any backlash, yet. I'm sure as the nuts and rods wear, it will get more noticeable.

gera229 (author)gera2292012-05-24

Also what's the max speed you get with that driver and motors?

steinesc (author)2012-05-01

I've been looking around on eBay for the 3-axis controller. Haven't been able to find any as cheap as you have. Any suggestions as to where else to look?? Thanks! Great project!!

mikerosati (author)steinesc2012-05-04

I wasn't able to find any of the electronics or motors with the same/similar specs, anywhere near the price the author found them for..

I did however find a Chinese supplier on ebay with a warehouse in the US that I got a 4 axis version of the same controller, and 4 motors for about $100. The cheapest I found anywhere was $85 for the 3..

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