Easy to Build Desk Top 3 Axis CNC Milling Machine

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Here is a way to make a computer controlled milling machine. That puts the real power of a computer control machining into the hands of the average human. Small enough to set on the desk but scalable to any size. As inexpensive as possible without sacraficing accuracy (too much). All most all the parts can be purchased in local retail stores. And above all CHEAP you can be up and running for well under $200. With it you can do 2 Dimentional engraving and PC board etching and 3D milling and modeling in Foam, Wood, Plastic and other soft materials.
Also try watching the YouTube movie at the end (the last frame).

New information on the Motor Driver Circuit is (HERE).

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Step 1: The Frame

Picture of The Frame
The frame needs to be a flat base that you can mount everything on horizontally and a goose neck of some kind to hold the Z axis (the up and down part with the motor tool)firmly in place. I used one inch pipe just for fun but as it turned out it was pretty handy too. When I needed to make adjustments I could just tap it with a hammer. As you can see the post that holds the Z axis doesn't have to be in the center. It just needs to be firm and the water pipe does a good job of that. Later, after you are sure all the pipe joints are in the right place, you can add a drop of thread sealer to the joints and it will be a good solid structure.
carabac4 years ago
 This is my version of Tom's CNC. It uses the stepper motor 3 Axis CNC Driver Kit from (Jeff from Chromation Systems was a ton of help and his instructable is here: and I am using KCAM for the software. I named my machine CNCme. You can also watch the Youtube at:  Thanks Tom, Jeff and Instructables. 

sharbin carabac4 years ago
Nice Carabac!  Where did you get the slides that you used?
carabac sharbin4 years ago
The slides are off a network hardware cabinet.  I purchased them from a local surplus store.  They are very nice because they run on ball bearings.
daney1984 years ago

I make this CNC Milling Machine

Thanks Tom & Instructables
CNC 3.jpgCNC 1.jpg
Wow! Great work!

Does that panel behind the machine related to it or is it something else?

yes panel is related to machine. all the kit and wiring inside of panel.
That looks like an excellent version of this instructable!  Is there a possibility of you doing an instructable of your panel?  Looks great!
narpas5 years ago
Here is my mill I guess its not cnc and does not follow many of your design concepts but you inspired it!
that's rad. it's like an etch-a-sketch mill!
sefi5 years ago
hi tom, i too was inspired by your simple design, and actually guided a high school project based on your designe, the hope was that it will enable students to make low cost pcb in school. after the project(wich was a bit diffrent from yours and didnt works all that well duo to my lack of technical skills and experience(im 18) and other things) ended i decided to make a V2 wich is almost the same as yours, and it dose work well,i manged to see it do very presice things with a pencil. the problem is i cant find a right drill for making the pcb's,(im pretty sure thats it) i got this 8 pcs kit from drill bit city but the drill that dose the routing dose not have a pointed tip in the very end and there for dosn't penetrate the circuit until much pressure is applied but then it goes in way to deep, im guessing its the drill bit but id like to hear what you say, and maybe recommend me a drill or a set from drill bit city or anywhere else(take in account i live in Israel ) my main goal is PCB's although i already did some name engraving and it came out very well! 1 more thing... is there a way to use lazycam with kcam? and what do u think about mach3 it look way more complicated is it any better?
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Wow! I like the design of the machine in the last three pictures... Do you have any kind of build log for it? More pictures? What did you make the frame out of? Thanks, snow
hi, yes sure there are plenty more pictures at my website ( the frame is made from U channels alone, it was a much much more stable design yet it requires precision with assembly cutting and the whole process, out of my experience, after building 3 models, its clear to me that the cost of a stable machine is it requires more precision in ever step of the way, if you have experience, tools, and two right hands then go for something stable, otherwise stick with the basic plans. btw i solved the whole pcb making thing by getting an endmill and made already a bunch of pcb's and many other thing, thanks alot tom. hopfully my next project will be my own instruct-able :P
codex sefi5 years ago
Regular Dremel engraving cutter (#105) works fine for me. It's 0.8mm wide and I use it for PCB Isolation Routing. You can find it in any hardware store (Ace\Home-Center\Rosenfeld) here in Israel.
sefi codex5 years ago
i tryed ace/homecenter with no luck, in tel aviv & hertzliya where exacly did you get it? by the way lior, i sew you website - VERY NICE :) i want to talk with you if i could il email you from your forum.
Tom McGuire (author)  sefi5 years ago
Congratulations. That's a good piece of work for a class project. I can give you some tips on PCB work. The motor tool can have a problem with wobbling, that is the bit may be off center. It may have an aluminum collet that is just not very good. I was suprised to find the 3 jaw chuck replacement worked better. May be because it has more mass. Also I found bits at this site:
Good job.
I hope this works for you.
crreed5 years ago
Hey Tom, great project! I had a lot of fun building this and as soon as I can scavange a DB25 cable, i will be able to use it. Here are some of my pictures. The table is 9"x11". I added a simple fish tank pump to blow off the dust. The plexiglass extenders allow the router to utilize the full 9" x11". I will be posting pictures of my slightly modified circuit board.
Considering you've finished yours, do you think that a machine with 10" x travel would have to have 20" x rails, or is my logic screwed up? Thanks, snow
Tightwad crreed5 years ago
Wouldn't the extenders flex and cause the table to move? Either up/down flex due to the weight of the Stepper, or torsional flex as the motor moves the table?
crreed Tightwad5 years ago
the weight of the table itself, the anchoring provided by the x axis motor provide stability and prevent wobbling of it.
altomic crreed5 years ago
fish tank pump- sweet.
Roidy5 years ago
Hi Tom your design is fantastic and so easy to make this is now the second one I`ve made, I work in a uPVC window factory and so I made mine out of welded uPVC window frame. I got my stepper motors out of an old fruit machine of all places! Still needs a bit of tweaking but I`ve routed a few PCB`s and everything works great. Rob
fjr1226 years ago
Last night I completed my construction :D Tom, Thanks so much for helping me get here! Here's some pics (yeah I've still gotta hook everything together)
userhck6 years ago
This is my first full-on, serious project I have done from this site. Well, maybe I shouldn't say that, as i am not quite done. Went shopping for most of the supllies this morning, which took me from Home Depot to Ace Hardware to Big Joe's. The only things I need now are the plexi planes and the motors, which are coming. An interesting day to say the least. Also, I don't suggest getting the pipe at Home Depot, as they semm to be downgrading their one-inch pipe supply. Weird. Here are the pics so far, how does it look? You can see the threaded rods in the back.
cncframe 001.jpgcncframe 002.jpgcncframe 003.jpg
fredan userhck6 years ago
I have also started one of these projects and have completed two stages. I also made some changes to the design perhaps you may find them helpful. The upper image is the current state of the project. If you look on the upper rail, I have added limit switches to prevent over travel. I found the switches in various microwaves which I salvaged for parts. The second image shows the roller tensioner. I uses two roller blade bearings and some picture hangers with springs, purchased at the local hardware store. Added a couple bends to the hangers, so the screw head would not rub on any surfaces, then located a pivot point which would allow the rollers to contact the guide and allow the sprint to tension. see third image. The last image shows how I added connected the threaded rod to the bracket. I found these screws used to go into the bottom of wood legs, drilled holes to match the prongs and bent them over to fasten the item to the bracket. The coupling was created using a few collars and a nylon bearing. I also used 8-32 threaded rod which I need to add shrink tubbing to in order to mount it in the coupling. Hope this helps
userhck fredan6 years ago
Nice use with the u-channels on mounting the motors. I really like that idea, and i might steal it from you, haha. But it is looking great, you are quite a bit farther than I am. Still waiting on those motors. Lol.
userhck userhck6 years ago
Also, the spring tension on the bearings is an interesting concept. Perhaps i'll try that out as well. The amazing thing about this project is it's versatility to make changes.
fredan userhck6 years ago
Well the inspiration comes from your genus. I truly like this project, I agree with your former comments. I have used a very stiff spring, as for the rails,and I have made plans to expand the length, but for now I just wanted to prove out the design. Glad you told me about lubing the rails.
userhck fredan6 years ago
Quick question, I am looking for some cheap steppers, and ebay definitley isnt the place. Any ideas people? And please dont jsut say "copy machine", i mean where would you find a copy machine to destroy?
la3bna userhck6 years ago
You can find copiers at a electrically resycling senter. I just hacked on apart to get the two steppers out. Althou i dont know if both are steppers (hmm i can really feel the steps so i guessing it is.)
Tom McGuire (author)  userhck6 years ago
Try here's The_Motor_Page
Pretty good motors for around 10 bucks
I was looking at this web site and I need some help on figuring out what motors to buy. There are a couple of different degree per step and a bunch of voltages and currents/resistance of coils. Which ones do I get??? I've never dealt with steppers before. Help!!
wpflum wpflum6 years ago
I did a bit more digging and I came up with something I felt might work so I ordered a bunch to play with. They are from, part number SMT-89. Its a Oriental Motor Vexta, PX245-02B-C8 which is listed as having a 1.8 degree step. Its 6volt, .8amp 2 phase. If the picture is correct it looks like it has a collar with set screws to attact to the drive bar. It has 6 leads and is currently at 5 bucks a piece. I bit the bullet and ordered 6 so I'd have enough to build two machines. Sure hope these will work, I'd hate to waste 30 bucks but I decided to take a chance.
Tom McGuire (author)  wpflum6 years ago
I think your going to be very happy with those. I like the brass shaft couplers on them. Five bucks is a really good deal.
I thought so too. I got 6 of them, I figure I can build your design as is then use it to help make the next version. My original, and on going, reason for building this is I want to use it to help make pinewood derby cars. I'd like teach my kids some 3d design and let them play with creating car shapes in software then have the CNC machine mill out the basic shape which they can hand finish. With your current design what is the envelope? It looks like its somewhere around 6 or 7 inches and I need at least 8 and 9 would be best so I figured instead of offsetting the z axis I'd use the longer piece of pipe on each side to get a slightly bigger envelope.
wpflum wpflum6 years ago
Got the motors yesterday. They do come with the brass couplers. I'm planning a more direct method to connect the all thread to the motors, I bought 5/16 instead of 1/4 inch thread and am going to mount it in my lathe and cut off about 1 inch of threads and size it to fit the coupler, looks to be about 3/16. I'm planning on doing the same to the other end but fit that to a bearing that I can mount to the frame. Harder to get everything alligned but should make for a much sturdier setup.
hexapod wpflum6 years ago
You can return anything you buy from them within 30 days. Just follow instructions on yellow sheet. No return nubers needed just what you are returning and do you want a refund or credit. It's that simple.
Tom McGuire (author)  fredan6 years ago
That looks nice. Looks like you used cutting boards. The thicker the harder the flatter the better. A word of caution and not to discourage you especially because this design technique allows you to easily make changes. The bearing may need to be pressed very firmly to the rail so that the stage won't shift when milling. The spring may work but you should make sure it's very strong. I also suggest just one bearing in the center will allow the stage to travel 1/2 way to the left and 1/2 way to the right. It's also good to have the rails extend well beyond the travel of the stage. Aside from that Id like to say an awsome job and to all of you undertaking this project far out, right on - ride on.
Tom McGuire (author)  Tom McGuire6 years ago
Oh yes...and don't forget to grease the rails. That aluminum will grind into powder.
Tom McGuire (author)  userhck6 years ago
Hey nice job. That looks like it will work (so far). Keep us posted. People will want to know how it goes for you.
Quick question. What type of bit did you use for drilling into the steel? I had quite a bit of trouble with my current bits. Threading it was a breeze though.
Tom McGuire (author)  userhck6 years ago
I found that a sharp bit works the best (just Kidding). I just used a regular high speed steel bit. It's hard but after you get the X Asis rails and motor set you don't have to drill steel any more.
Well that's good. I guess I'll try a higher speed on the press. Oh by the way, what kind of motors did you use? They look like Vexta, but i'm not sure. I am about to order some Superiors myself, don't know how well they will mount to the frame though. Guess I'll find out.
Tom McGuire (author)  userhck6 years ago
I got two of the motors out of an old coppier and one out of a floppy drive. They all worked at different voltages but all I had to do is change the light bulb to get the torq that I wanted. Slightly larger motors wouldn't hurt, The smaller ones tend to get a little hot. As long as you've got more than 4 wires comming out of it you can be 99% sure it will work with the circuit.
Well I am using a pre-made driver board, and the motors are 60oz, so ill be able to use them later hopefully.
fjr1226 years ago
I just won the auction on some stepper motors on ebay and am looking in more detail at building this. I just wanted to ask you to please explain the roller bearings in more detail, like what kind you used and how you secured them to aluminum you used. Thanks --Josh
Tom McGuire (author)  fjr1226 years ago
OK here I just posted a youtube video on how to make a bearing fixture. Enjoy

Awesome! Thanks a lot for posting extra videos to give us a better idea how some of the parts were done. Question -- Where did you get the tiny bearings? I'm having an awful time trying to find a source for bearings. Thanks in advanced, and thanks a lot for keeping up with us.
Scratch my question -- I should have read more comments. Thanks everyone.
Cool, I will start building mine soon. :)
Tom McGuire (author)  fjr1226 years ago
I just discovered a really good source for bearings. Just go to your local skate board or roller blade shop. Or try this
Then just take a flat head screw with a head that's a little larger than the hole inside the bearing. Screw the bearing to a small piece of aluminum.
I'll try to put up a video of it soon.
I've been looking at bearings for months.

The least expensive I've found is definitely .
They have many many sizes and more than a few that are less than $1/bearing.

The last time I built something with bearings the best way I could figure to get a solid structure was to use some 8mm shoulder bolts from (about $3 each) and some 8mm washers ($0.79 each). So I'm really wondering how you got your bearings good and steady without using shoulder bolts or expensive washers.
gus_4520006 years ago
Some photos of the build so far, everything is going very well and I am very pleased with it so far. Hope that Tom can still recognise his design but here in UK very limited to what I can get hold of, hopefully the bits for the interface will arrive and I can build that and see if it all works :o)) The mini tool I found in a second hand shop for £3.00 about $6.oo and works very well up to 25,000RPM and 145watts so we shall see. Keep building and posting, you started something very good here Tom. Will post again when the interface is built and I have some photos of the fist mill. regards Gus
Hi, I loved your frame design! Can you please post the height, length and width of it? Thanks
Hi, the back piece is 14" long the legs are both 9" long and the neck is 9" long all working except for the Z-axis due to a faulty counter chip (replacement on its way, Mine is almost finished and as you build you notice the weight going up and up, its now very heavy. Thanks to Tom's great design been using the machine to draw pictures and lifting lowering the Z-axis by hand, great fun. regards Gus
In case you need to know the X-axis on mine are 19 1/2" and the Y-axis is 11 1/2" the neck is 4" away from the end of the frame, try and get it a little closer to the end is you can it will give you a slightly larger cutting area. regards Gus
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520006 years ago
Hey Gus looking good. That's the first Z axis I've seen. I think everybody gets a little stuck there. Now for the motor drivers and you'll be up and running.
fenwaydog2 months ago

Is it possible to get software that allows me to hook this directly to a computer and have the computer direct the motor versus the computer sending data to a cnc 3 axis driver then to the motors?

haseogu5 months ago
What can we do so this CNC can mill the metal?
And where will i get that pipe (frame)?
PCgee5 months ago
Could i use other types of pipe such as pvc as they are a lot easier to drill through?
david xu6 months ago
Cool ! if any one want the parts of the machine , frame , driver , motor,spindle,ball screw ect ,please contact me at or skype:david02162
lewac6 months ago
just ran across this site and more specifically this design. what I'm looking for is a method of auto pick & place without draining Fort Knox! I don't have a lot of room to do this either and have relatively small PCBs (not motherboards) on my build list. and what impressed me here was KISS. using "skids"! now why didn't more people think of this? my requirements require only very light loading (the machine weighs a LOT more than what I'm working with) so this concept should work perfectly. before beginning though gotta take a look at this software. I run win7 out of a VM under linux so both OS's are available (but prefer linux). also need to purchase a parallel port daughter board (as my motherboard no gots). I've already built 3 unipolar motor drivers so all set there. I can also use my 10 amp bench power supply to power this project.
Diynitesh6 months ago
could you tell me all the elecs used
Is this anything like these Vertical Milling Machines? Looks awesome.
Yes the 3 axis machine as built in this instructable will do the same basic thing as those 3 axis machines on the link you provided. Although some of those machines have larger work areas, this machine can be scaled up to provide a much larger size of work area, albeit for about $20,000 to $40,000 less in price.
rfelts7 months ago
Tom I love this design. What kind of resolution are you getting for circuit boards?
R-A9 months ago
Wow, this is the easiest CNC milling machine design I've seen yet.

But, I have one major problem: Neither my PC, nor laptop has parallel ports, nor do I even know where to get a parallel printer cable in my country anymore. Is it possible to use a USB print cable instead, or perhaps even an Arduino? I've seen many 3D printer projects (but haven't built one yet) that use an Arduino to send the sketch to the stepper driver.
Hi nice work, I am planning on doing something like this myself but one trouble I'm having is that my 8mm milling bits won't fit into the tiny chuck of any dremels I've seen, I would like to know how you got around this? Cheers.
ksafaet9 months ago
great ... i should try....
dmlong10 months ago
What is the brand and size of the motor used for your CNC machine?
blinkizod10 months ago
Awesome project mr. Mcguire...
i am from Guatemala city (Central America) I wish someday build a 4x8 feet cnc with a friend but here is some hard to get the information and materials... but would be a great idea import the motors and drivers from USA. we are looking for information because due to language is some hard to find projects like CNC in spanish pages i appreciate your help. greetings from Guatemala

vkorie10 months ago
it is time to put all that we know together in other to propagate the gospel of technology...
batonas1 year ago
that drill thing is stationary so a vacuum cleaner hose could be mounted to it to clean up the mess at the same time, but I guess its not a problem to clean up that little mess by hand :)
timbit19851 year ago
Also, approximately what size did you make your stages?
timbit19851 year ago
Hey Tom, I love your project. Do you have a link to the stepper motors you used? I'm trying to figure out what size motors I need.
j-rhod241 year ago
would this be able to mil 7075 aluminium about 8" wide 6" tall and 1 1/2" thick?
I cant wait to do this... I have a question though... I am electronically ignorant, I will be buying a kit with the motors and the drivers and such (do you recommend a kit). my first question is, do I NEED a parallel port? I only have a laptop and it has no parallel port on it.
im.brad1 year ago
Please remember to always clamp your work pieces in a vice before drilling. Do not hold small pieces with your hand and drill. This can be an easy habbit to get into, but it can be a dangerous mistake that can cost you the use of your hand.
Great Instructable btw! Really enjoyed it.
Great job! So much inspiration here! I gotta try it!
I want to build one of these for use in PCB fabrication. How small do you think I can get my traces by using a router like this?
I am using stepper motor Nema23Part
No.: 57BYGH420
Frame Size: NEMA23
Step Angle: 1.8 degree
Voltage: 3.6V
Current: 2.0 A/phase
Resistance: 1.8Ohm/phase
Inductance: 2.5mH/phase
Holding torque: 12.6Kg-cm 132oz-in , with unipolar (For Bipolar connecting, the holding torque is 185oz-in)
Rotor inertia: 300 g-cm2
Detent torque: 0.4 kg-cm
Number of wire leads: 6
Weight: 0.7KG
Length: 56mm !

does it hold Nema23 ?
brcoenen1 year ago
Hey, can someone tell me how to remove the old gears that are that are on the end of the stepper motors that i pulled out the old dot matrix printers? They seem harder then plastic, can't seem to pull them off, i might be being to cuatios and trying not to damage the motors. Not sure if i need to cut them off or what.
sir tom, were making this as our project, but may i ask if whether the size of the threaded rods will have an effect in its movements? or can it be adjusted on the KCAM? thanks ^^
Thank you
rock04121 year ago
This is a real nice piece of equipment I think I will try it very soon
I used another instructableon this site to mske plastic from styrofoam and acetate. Then i was avle to make perfectly fitted brackets for the dremel tool. I'm suing a baby battery operated tool right now, because i was't too clear on prerty much every step, but this is sure a fun a project.
I'm using nylon bearings such as the kind that keep a shower door running smoothly. 4 for 3 dollars. We'll see how it goes.

I found my stepper motors in an old inkjet and scanner. When i yanked iut what i needed an d scavenged the rest of the coolbits i was left with two motseith two connectiins each. Any ideaswhat i can use these guys for? I haven't done a lot of work with little motors, and am a blank slate of creativity here.
Hello, I am David, please tell me how to make a driver connector to computer. i need it really. I almost have done miller and i want to finish it fully. this programm is Kcam 5 yes? thanks... ;)
kunchu1 year ago
What should i do once i engrave the pcb? Can I use it right away or should use an etchant again?

Interest1 year ago
I knew at this and I'm wondering if a 78 Oz in Stepper Motor would work with this.

Btw. Awesome Job you really inspired me with this design because of my small budget
la-main1 year ago
Thank you for the instuctable. I really want to make this but im on a low budget. I took apart some printers and got 4 steppen motors. They all are the same type.

do you think this will work?

thanks in advance

soy de venezuela y es muy posible que mi proyecto de robotica tenga el mismo principio que el CNC así que porfavor quien me quiera aportar ideas o su opinión bien recibido sea!

mi proyecto es un sistema robotico cartesiano en 2 dimensiones solo quiero que dibuje y mi idea es que pueda programarse con arduino o adicional a ello, que pueda tener o poseer un sistema que capture la imagen no importaría que se equivocase a la primera pero luego al dibujar la misma figura lo hiciera perfecto!
Jane111 year ago
Can you please let us know how you connected Z axis threaded rod with the motor?Did you use Z-Axis Coupler or better solution?
Thank you
squrillbait2 years ago
Is there a parts list? I checked the PDF but I didn't see a list. I was just wondering what length of pipes you used?
Jordan Dyck2 years ago
hey guys i dont know if it has been mentioned but you could probably is use hose clamps to secure the motor to the z axis stepper
Rorion2 years ago
Hello i wanted to know what would be the best device for the router part for home use like small wood cutting or sign making?
welafong2 years ago
steper motors no longer for sale surjest some other type? please
ChuckieDub2 years ago
Umm. Maybe I missed it, but do you have an actual parts list?
dflam2 years ago
You do realize that theoretically you can calibrate by having the machine just mill the baseboard support using some large milling head, thus achieving a perfectly flat base? I guess this depends also on how much the machine changes when you move it from place to place...

I just wondered what the cutting size of the cnc machine is

welafong2 years ago
they dont make the steepper motors any more what do you sugjust to replace them with
thank you
richard westerfield
Hello, I was wondering how to size the motor to the gantry. I'm new to the field of hobby cnc and can't find any info on appropriate sizing online. Any links or help would be very appreciated!
Ive been inspired and starting to build this! what program did you use to run the CNC?
Hi I know you built your own driver for your CNC machine, but I wanted to see what you thought about some of the software I want to use.

I want to use:
Goolge Sketchup,
and the board here--

But the big question is... I dont know if they are all compatible with eachother and Im not sure what to do. PLEASE help me out :)
Hi I know you built your own driver for your CNC machine, but I was wondering if you could take a look at this board--

Sorry its a long URL.
But do you think that I could use this board in accordance with the Mach3 software? I think it would work very well. I was also wondering if you thought that Google Sketchup might work for the designing. I really appreciate everyones comments and help on this, and PLEASE suggest other software or programs to me :)
fgleich4 years ago
Here's a source for hobby RC cars, trucks, etc bearings. Try to buy one from Ace Hardware for less than 10 dollars per bearing......I'm NOT paying that amount when I can order a pack of ten for about 20 bucks. Anyway,

BTW, Lowes and Home Depot do NOT carry bearings any more
bluumax fgleich4 years ago
They're a great bearing for the price.
I bought 1000 for $270 for my machines.
You can get them by 10, 100, 1000.
10 for $4.95 + $4.95 S&H - 10 for $10.
They ship priority mail in the U.S.
Item # 608ZZ
You can get the 10 bearings even cheaper from the same company by ordering them on Amazon ($1.64 in shipping charge as opposed to $4.95):
bluumax bluumax4 years ago
They come in plastic tubes too, not bags.
cbaron32 years ago
I won't be making this but your video was the best instructables I have seen. Great job.
teamhaha2 years ago
thak .....
kawal242 years ago
Can i use my own dimensions for the machine ?
Derpancakes2 years ago
lol I have that same rotary tool... got it at Harbor Freight for like $30 and it works great! good choice of rotary tool...
samirdz2 years ago
salut je voudrez savoir comment faire pour branchez la machine avec mon ordinateur et avec quel logiciel ps je suis nulle en informatique merci
mtiwari32 years ago
wat type of motor is this nd where it can be available???????
dscott22 years ago
I feel a bit stupid asking, but what's that round bit called at the top of the goose neck on the frame? I've been searching for it online but I don't know its name so I can't buy it.
Pipe flange.
anupamdubey2 years ago
Can u please give me the guidance about how to use Kcam and pcb gcode to get good milling results in case of printed circuit boards
This is absolutely Fantabulous. Will try it out. also can you give me an indication as to what software, and electronics you have used here.
I also liked dmlong's idea for using it to make panels for RC planes, (and cars etc).
please do share the Software and Electronics Details please.
treflip2 years ago
Here you go! Here's my attempt at making it. It's not the most stable machine but it's a great opening to the world of cnc and really accessible for most people!

and speaking of the software being difficult, it took me forever to figure it out!

for anyone interested I'm using cambam to create text, sketchup with a .stl converter for more complicated stuff and mach3 for the final part. I'm not going to get into detail but it all works!

This is my project that started from your instructable... so thanks for your time and effert techart! I hope more people get a part in cnc now!
tjuxed5 years ago
Remember to cut away FROM your finger so you don't cut away the finger.
bobbval tjuxed4 years ago
I would take it a step further and suggest investing in a cheap vice so you can hold the tool with two hands and maintain proper control. rotary tools can "jump" from the part you are working on and cause some major damage to the hand which is holding the part (I say this from experience!)
Mastros bobbval2 years ago
Yes, I fully agree with that caution. When the screw starts turning inside the aluminium, it will also start forcing the aluminium to take a spin. If you are not holding it really strong, the aluminium piece will hit your fingers like the turning blade of a fan.
So would you call pressing the start button, turning off the lights and going up stairs to take a shower "away"? I mean it's not close to you, but sometimes it's going to be getting closer.
mjm20082 years ago
Great job, Great project .. Many many thanks to the author.

Could anyone answer this question. Is it possible to use HDD stepper motor in a cnc project? HDD stepper motor is quit easy to find. But I am not sure if it can move the drill or the base plate. Please I need to know if you know any project used the HDD stepper motor.
dmlong2 years ago
Do you know anyone using your CNC to make parts out of balsa wood for model RC airplanes?
freakysuwin2 years ago
can you tell where to get tutorials to how to use the kcam software??
I made this project but I have a problem, my motor is not rotating only vibrating what should I do? Problem is, I used 10 volt 220uf capacitor and 100k and 1k resistance and used stepper motor, is 6.4Ω and 7.50 steps. Actually I am using printer’s motor; I used 12 volt power supply .all components are fixed on right place.
panickjba3 years ago
bilal_dmx3 years ago
Pakistan's take on Tom McWire's CNC machine.
This guy is ballin! :p
Were students at the Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering in Islamabad and were inspired by this easy to build series of CNC machines on Instructables..We started off doing this for an Industrial Automation this wont get me into Stanford but itll help me along the way iA :p
Here ya go!
The House3 years ago
Hey Tom...... your instructable looks pretty sweet.

Ok I have one question......

Can I do this

with your cnc machine? I have a wedding coming up in a month and a half. I have full access to a great work room (family business) and I think I can source most of the materials from broken equipment around the warehouse, grainger, lowes, radio shack and a bunch of other places.

I would have to produce about 200 of them, obviously each with a different name and table number. Is it precise enough to make keep the writing looking smooth and will it allow me to import a basic font from a work doc?

It's pretty clear I have only conceptual knowledge of this stuff but I might as well jump in the deep end. Thanks. a mechanical engineer and so im not good with electronics...but it would really help me move on with the project if you could help me out with this..

i shopped for the materials yesterday using your part list but ended up buying MOSFET 2N7000 instead of your specified "Q1-Q4 4 MOSFET N-CH 100V 12A TO-220AB,
RFP12N10L Fairchild_Semiconductor Digi-Key RFP12N10L-ND"

So is this MOSFET workable? if not, is the number of the mosfet reqd RFP12N0L...??

Thank you.
onlyjus3 years ago
Thanks for knowledge and inspiring to build my own. It is currently a work in progress and I have a blog going on how I built it.

Check it out:
Have you tried getting a piece of scrap wood and drilling a hole whatever size your pipe is? the wood kinda helps the bit stay straight
I built one of these machines and I must say that for cutting anything serious it is way too flimsy. I tried to face a small (1 x 0.5 inch) aluminum block and the results were fairly disastrous. The single pipe holding up the dremel mount skewed, and the the whole thing just wobbled way too much. I guess I could go slower but them making anything worthwhile would take ages. And the sound it makes with the dremel on full power is ludicrous.

Engraving things works great because you're basically not cutting very much at all, and it's just an exercise in precise positioning, which this machine does very well.

I tried PCB milling several times but the problem I keep running into is not having the board absolutely level on the xy stage. The commercial solution to this is to have an airhockey-style air levitation system attached to the cutter, so it's always the same height from the surface. It would be cool to implement something like this but possibly too complicated. What I haven't tried is screwing the board directly to the xy stage for machining ( I used a vise) but maybe that will work better.

Now I am working on converting this to a 3d printer, since it seems more suited for that task anyway.

Hi there, who have the measures of the machine???
help me please
What i want to know is: What Cam software do you use to make the g-code? all the open source / free one's are (in my view) garbage.
dpsilver3 years ago
this i my progress so far started a day ago from the upload date i haven't cu the pipe for the upright as yet, I'm going to do that tomorrow
Novice Question: I'm very interested in building this sort of project for a number of reasons. Your design seems to be one of the simpler ones and I think I could figure it out.

My question is this: If one were to make the scale of the hardware larger so that it can deal with a great surface area of materials (I'm not too concerned with depth myself), would some adjustment(s) need to be made to the circuitry or programing thereof to account for the new sizes of the X and Y axes?
pietzeekoe3 years ago
I think am ganna make a manual version of this.....the electronics seem a bit daunting
chinda.raul3 years ago
you can get a pack of 8 bearings from a skate store ... high quality, high volume = good value.
tool box3 years ago
how you make te circuit ?
I sorry I dont speak english do you have a copy on spanish ???

thanks a very good idea
polilies3 years ago
Hi! this is really good job, pretty fast to do. may i ask something like "sanzya"; how
thin paths is it drawing on the copper plate? thank you..
Tom, this is a fantastic project and I'm going to make one for myself. As an EE, I'm always needing an oddball small plastic enclosure for my projects and I think this will be perfect for me. I've got motors and a controller on order (I know I should make my own controller but this will get me up to speed quicker).

I've already been tinkering around with the software; I have a personal copy of Alibre, which can export SLA files, which I then convert to G-code with Freemill, and run through my (not yet existent) hardware with mach3. Everything seems to work fine, but I notice that Freemill makes a 'raster scan' of the object by tracing back and forth across the object, making its way from one end to the other.

I'm a little concerned about backlash with hardware grade nuts and all-thread feedscrews. I was thinking that, in terms of backlash, working from one end of the part to the other in one axis is ideal, but the back-and-forth scan in the other axis is far from ideal. (I'm figuring that the Z axis will probably be okay too since the tool has weight, which will probably always keep it preloaded it to one end of the backlash.) Do you suppose it would be worth investing in a high-quality feedscrew for one axis only, and making sure that winds up being the back-and-forth axis? The economy of this project is my favorite feature, but I'm thinking with that one upgrade I might boost the accuracy it achieves. What do you think?
jomac_uk3 years ago
Well this instructable certainly created a feeling of "love at first sight"

I dont have access to tools that would create the pipe frame from electrical tubing, but i wondered if the same frame could be made from 20 or 25mm copper water pipe and fittings, and the whole assembly soldered, what are your thoughts?
apache643 years ago
I fell in love with the simplicity of this design and went out today and bought the pipework. Reading the threads i noticed someone asked about the backlash from the nut to screw thread. I found another DIY CNC machine where there is a good photo of it. Basicaly you need to put a spring in the way to tension the nut to the thread thus losing any backlash. this can be done either with two nuts seperated by some silicon rubber tubing, or a spring. here is a picture of a comercial one.
sutek3 years ago
Mate that is amazing!!. so simple, I have to try and make this
dbuilder23 years ago
could you post a list of what you used e.g: router,stepper motor make etc
hondaman9003 years ago
DIY CNC hits mainstream in an O'Reilly Radar tech blog report today. See
hondaman9003 years ago
Here's an interesting new DIY CNC kit just launched on
simon6613 years ago
Were can I get the dimentions for the pipes? Thnx
what kind of bitr do u use in the rotary tool?

ps very nice design and instructable
HELLO I BUILD A CNC MACHINE :) i FROM CHILE :P thanks exellent web
Pato, es grato encontrar a otro Chileno aca, yo soy de santiago y mi nombre es Claudio Inostroza y me gustaria compartieras tu experiencia sobre la construccion de esta escepcional y versatil herramienta , saludos (
canedyt3 years ago
What would have to change to facilitate milling 1/4" by 2" aluminum bars for tuning purposes? I want to build my own vibraphone bars.

Is it possible?

Kilopondio3 years ago
What kind of stepper motors are these? bipolar ,unipolar??. THanks Kilo
these are unipolar because he uses a unipolar driver board
just remember unipolar has 5 wires, bipolar has 4
smartrobot3 years ago
Would this be a good motor ?
Haku10043 years ago
I found some stepper motors by Astrosyn 17PM-K303-G3VS from a copier. I can't find specs on their site for this particular motor, so I was wondering if you know if these would work or not.
ahmed-1a3 years ago
To Tom McWire:

Can you modify your cnc To become a 3d printer????
ahmed-1a3 years ago
to Tom McWire :

Can you modify this CNC To 3d printer ???
do they have to be unipolar or can hey be bipolar steppers please help
hey i thinking of starting this project but i want to know is it a bi-polar or uni-polar motor i havent found a straight answer please help
woodspinner3 years ago
Hey Tom, I love your instructables on both the machine and the circuit. I have my machine up and running. in an attempt to improve its speed I want to go from 12v to 24v, I'm using 2 11w bulbs in parallel at 12v and I believe I'll have to go series to run 24v but will I need to double up the number of bulbs? course this will be tested after I get some backup bulbs but hoping to get an answer before I pop a box of bulbs again.
I don't get why people like this get featured just because they take good pictures. It was a horrible instructable with no exact measurements of any sort, no materials list, and (I don't think) any code or programs to use.

Kilopondio3 years ago
TOMpleaseeeeeeee!!!!!! to me!!!!!!....and please send the SIZES of the project!!!!!!!!!

Kilopondio3 years ago
Hi TOm!, how do we know the right position of the mini tooll when it touch the plexiglas?.
Kilopondio3 years ago
Hi Tom! I`d like to ask you for the long of threaded rod to the motor shaft.If I want to make some square base what would be the size of this square?. Thanks
shenzer3 years ago
can i use a printer stepper motor?
tesla67 shenzer3 years ago
ya i do easy and cheap
Coinnich3 years ago
I'm looking for Stepper Motors online right now because i can't find any localy and i cant really ask questions, just wondering what kind of torque (OZ-IN) that your motors have
go to good will and pick up some printers than pull the moters out of them that is how i am doing it (if u cant find printers use scaners) tesla
shaadmahmud3 years ago
hello everyone i have done the circuit driver and it 100% works thanks to tomMcwire.... here is my work ( )
Orista4 years ago
I have been looking at making this thing for some time but due to the fact that it cant use USB and I dont feel like going out to buy a new computer just for a Parellel port i searched around the internet and found this they have a free DIY project to create a USB-Parallel Interface with firmware and software to run the cnc machine on USB so now anyone without a parellel port can use this.
You can get a PCI parallel port card. Try Newegg.
i've heard that some of these port cards and usb/parallel converters don't work for this machine. is this true? If anyone knows or have tried it please let us know. thanks
Orista Orista4 years ago
Also found this one now not sure wich one is the better choice but there might be other usb software programs just havent found them yet or you might be able to program the yourself.
FABBER5 years ago
Hi Tom: This is my first posting and I know you have recieved many questions, sometimes repeatedly. I could use a helping hand from you or anyone who has built this PCB. I have attached an image of the PCB which I have populated with the components and pin out information. There are two items I'm not 100% positive of and they are shown in the box fields outside of the PCB. Please take a moment and check my thinking I really would appreciate it.
Tom McGuire (author)  FABBER5 years ago
Hey that's a nice picture. The 3 pin device is an optional voltage regulator. The resistor and zener diode that you have shown on there actually works better. The other 2 pin connection is for a spindle relay which can be used to turn the router motor on and off. I used it one time when I had a project that was going to run a long time but it is not necessary. Good Job. Thanks for the nice documentation. Tom
Hi Tom: Thank you for helping me out. I've corrected the image as I left out the 1N4004 Diodes (I was in a hurry to post my message) I have now also shown orintation of the IC's. You have sparked my building bug with this little gem. Best to you
slsujith FABBER3 years ago
Hi Fabber, Where did you get that PCB layout? Could you send me a copy of the layout? Regards, sls
could you send a larger version of this drawing to me?
A quick Question. I'm connecting the pins to the parallel port and I have been using your drawing (its very helpful, thank you for posting it) you say that pin 16 and 17 go to "m code" what is that? Also pins 11-13 go to "home switch" is that a sensor? or what? Thanks a lot, Jason
dogtown013 years ago
can we get a little mor detail for this stage
Firstly, your youtube video for this project is right on. Kudos! Secondly, am I correct in assuming that you can set the length of the axis rails and threaded bars to whatever drilliable area you need? I ask because I would like to make a 8.5 foot square CNC for making full size Grid Beam spars and building the frame to support the mechanism doesn't seem all that difficult. But I need a minimum of 8 feet square of drilliable area to do the hole grid correctly. Any advice?
Hopefully no one will mind me posting this but for a larger cnc check out the site
jcskyhawk093 years ago
Where can i buy a step motor at.
heroseac3 years ago
hi Tom, thanks for posting this amazing project, i ´m gonna start building it , i understood almost everything but, i was wondering , the pipe sizes? so i can start the project ,i hope you can get back to me a soon as possible i just can´t wait to start the project. thanks again.
yosoytamez24 years ago
¿Donde puedo conseguir el cuello de ganzo? ó ¿con que otro nombre lo encuentro?
Todas son partes de tuberia. El cuello de ganzo es nada mas que una "L" de 90° y un "nipple" (parece de 3" de largo). La piecza con los 4 huecos se llama "flange" y tanbien es pieza de tuberia. Todas las piezas del marco son partes de tuberia de fierro estandard.
Motta3 years ago
Can you do PCB (nice ones) with this CNC?
can i make the basic structure out of steel plates, and the slides out of aluminium block in place of pyro glass, as i plan to put the machine to production use. Also what should be the wattage of servo motor sory if i am being over entusiastic, but it is my first shot at trying to construct cnc
Tom McGuire (author)  sandipgarg19125 years ago
I used the plastic primarily because you can see through it. It also seems to slide on the aluminum rails pretty good. Metal will work if its smooth and put plenty of grease on it. As far as motors I'm not that familiar with the different types. these are out of hard drives and printers. I should have use slightly larger ones. I'm glad your are excited about the project. It's a great adventure. Tom
On Version 1.2.1 the Vertical Base has 4 notches 2 per side what are they For, and the Vertical base off center?

Richard ( rootdiga )
 What is the name of the flange at the top of the goose neck?  I'm sourcing my parts right now, and I can't seem to find one of those at Lowe's or at Home Depot ... I have a feeling I'm just not looking for the right product name ... 
does anybody know the specs of my motor?
i cant seem to find it in the internet. here is whats written on the motor.

astrosyn stepper
type 20LM-C355-P8W
number T8726
minebea co. ltd
shaadmahmud3 years ago
here is my cnc driver same as Tom mcwire
despx3 years ago
Hi, derived from your project I present you my CNC:
Thanks for your great idea!

Do you use a Microcontroler to move the steps motors? Which one? When you turn on the machine, do you send it to cero?
Thank you!
ydeardorff6 years ago
is there a way to increase the range of the machines abilities in all axis? To say 36 cubed? Im looking for the ability to make costume props and armor pieces for professional costuming. I love this, if only it were bigger with a longer reach.
FYI the motor model numer is '23L9306S-LW8'.
I have constructed a 1 metre in each plane of this from 3 of 5 steppermotors from a scrapped A0 printer, the moters were nice at they are and 0.9 degree. The main problem was they weigh over 3lb each, so I hade to build my machine on a 3 axis inclined plane. The swines also draw 3Amps each, so I had to make a slight modification to the driver circuit.  The next update is to add a 4th & 5th axis to my CNC so I can tip the motor to gain access to the sides of my workpeice. So to answer your question, YES mine will cut to 34" Z, 33" Y, & 30" X. if this isn't big enough all you need is longer threaded bar. also be aware smaller thred size will increase the accuracy of the device.
Well if you make it bigger with longer screw-rods and maybe make some sort of telescopic rods and place the stepper for vertical axes behind the motor it self and make it screw itself up. Im thinking about this myself..
Im curious, how does the machine know its range? is this part of the initial set up? Say if the machines design was for 12 inches in length but I build it to have a 24 inch length. How does the machine know its location and overall bed size? Does it just remember each step the motor takes kind of like a bean counter or something?
Its not a true CNC it doesntknow where it is. A CNC has feedback loops in place to monitor what the servos are doing in this case steppers, there is a scale that runs the length of the axis for the control to read from so it knows where it is in real time instead of knowing just where it should be. In this case your software outputs to the driver boards and the driver just makes the steppers run and counts the turns till its done. it doesnt know where it is, its just running the stepper...till the amount of turns is finished. So you want it double the size then it doesnt matter
 it is a true cnc, the computer keeps track of its location
For what kind of process? Vacuum forming or Casting or just straight cutting things out?
Im trying to gain the ability of 3d scaning something, say a toy, edit it and change what I want to on it. Then have the mill carve it out. then I will vac form it. for the finished piece. Most of the objects Im interested in will be about 24 inches or less in size.
sorry for the double post here, but Id say a depth of no more than8 to 10 inches on avg
What size table and what depth of cut would you be wanting from the machine? regards Gus
Im looking at carving out things like armor parts, sectioned helmets, body and chest armor for star wars costumes, andFor halo costumes, as well as any future projects like say motorcycle fairings. I dont mind sectioning some things to get the overall piece than epoxy it together, but Im wanting to be able to most of my armor pieces at least on halves. Which would require a depth of Id say 8 to 10 inches, and a reach side to side and for and aft of possibly 18 inches. Also what would it cost me to have someone make me the circuit card, and I just buy it from them? Id be willing to do so. by Feb 08. Just to give someone the time to get all ther stuff and put it together. Let me know please! Thanks
bird 076 years ago
Does anybody know where to get stepper motors (CHEAP) ?
 you could take some out of 5.25" floppy drives for starters
fjr122 bird 076 years ago
I got 6 used ones on ebay for $15 (and $15 shipping), there were no other bidders. They were listed as unknown condition, I still havent fully hooked them up to see if they spin yet. :P
Whackmaster4 years ago
This looks VERY nice!  Is there any chance you are going to post a bill of materials and any useful drilling and cutting patterns you might have?
tomtortoise4 years ago
do you think this would be easy and cheap enough for a 15 yr old to build? also i have one of the stepper motors but it doesn't look like yours but it has 4 wires will it still work?
You need 5-8 wire motors for this, or get a bipolar motor drive for 4 wire motors.
This depends on the 15 yr old. If mechanically inclined, no problem.
Gotta start somewhere.

bluumax CNC
 no i am sorry this is not going to work .. you need unipolar stepper motors to get the desired result. this have 6 wires not four..
also a 15 year old can also build the machine only if he is a genius..
iklln64 years ago
 tap the screw with a hammer before getting it with the screwdriver to keep it from sliding around.  tapping it will make a slight indentation that will hold the screw in place before the self-tapping edges catch and start digging through the aluminum 
 How much backlash is there using threaded rod?
Pawl4 years ago
I was just wondering if you know the accuracy af the machine? Would the resolution be fine enough for say . .  jewelery wax?
solrobot4 years ago
very good.i think thise is best system. for thise system,we can change the motors.
 This is just great!  I like the use of pipe for the frame- keeps things simple and cheap, yet sturdy.  

Any idea what sort of precision you get with this set-up?  What is the largest size you can cut?  Where do you buy cutting tools? - cutting fiberglass PCBs is going to burn through them pretty quickly...

Thanks for the great instructable!
I hate to sound like a dork, but what does this milling machine do?
0654 years ago
Hi I'm currently trying to construct your machine but I'm having trouble understanding  how your machine works with out and limit switches?
john104524 years ago
Great work, but how did you couple the stepper motor shaft with the threaded rods, I am having hard time to join them together and keep perfectly alligned.
Hey, you can use a coupler for this. They let you connect two moving poles together, even if they're not aligned.
fruitkid1014 years ago
If I put a burning laser in there can it work like a mini laser cutter?
How do I find out how powerful I need my stepper motors to be? Like 50oz vs 100oz?

Are the materials you can cut dictated by the power of the stepper motors or the power of the drill (dremel/rotozip)?


1) I used 16oz/in for mine.
2) Yep, a Dremel will only cut / do so much.
one question is that oz or 160,
and correcting you (in a polite way) ... it's supposed to be not oz/in
I guess that would be divide wouldn't it ;-)
I used on my mini mill. Because it transmissive you don't need 460oz motors. 16oz was a bit light, but it worked.
I run on my gantry router with a bipolar drive.
I can get 60+ IPM
Is that enough for foam/MDF?


Really depends on the speed you want. They were old motors I got for $2 ea.
I bought 1000 a couple yrs ago. ebay is a good place to get motors. Just get 5 to 8 wire kind. 5 or 6 are the easiest to figure out.
fruitkid1014 years ago
How much is this going to cost...aprox?
The project will cost aprox $200, however this all hinges on the stepper motors you get. I got mine for $30 at
twhello4 years ago
Too wonderful, thanks to share.
hey tom,
thanks for the driver.
i am  facing a problem with the driver. actually the test results are positive but the motor is humming and not rotating.
the motor turns clockwise and anti clockwise in "single step click event".
can u plz figure out the problem  for me?
If you're using Mach3 make sure it's setup right.
fozzy554 years ago
hi there...

can someone tell me what kind of stepper did he use???

bc i don't know what step motor i should to use :S
bluumax fozzy554 years ago
Unipolar 5-8 wire.
Size NEMA 17
Dodgy5 years ago
does the far end of the threaded rod (left, on picture) just hang/sit/rub on the steel pipe? Should/can you support it somehow?
mmason1 Dodgy4 years ago
I found it easier to just take a few minutes and grind a section out of the pipe that way the coupling nut could travel past the piping for an extensive use of the X axis.  I also welded a sleeve into the slot where I extraced material on the piping, and not necessarily for structural reasons, but for a nicer look(sucks to be OCD). 
could I see a photo of that please
bluumax Dodgy4 years ago
Just let it hang.
If you don't it will want to move the table or whatever is riding on the nut all over.

If you support it you'll need bearings on each end.
korkarn4 years ago

I want to know size for to made Easy cnc 3 axis . I want to maks it.

Thank you.

lcisneroslm4 years ago

I am buying the Zen Toolworks CNC Carving Machine DIY Kit Model 1212 but I don't know anything about the electronics the machine comes with Nema 23 Stepper Motors 3.64V, 1.3A 6 wires Does anybody knows what kind of  power supply and the stepper motor driver board should I get?

Thank you.

Doesn't Zen Toolworks give you that info? It depends entirely on the motor driver. Unipolar / bipolar, driver chip etc.
robotron9974 years ago
hi i want to know how much will the motor tool on the z axis will cost
mgrc4 years ago
Does anyone know what a good stepper motor to use is? I was looking at 5 and 6 wire motors, but there's not a lot with 1/4" shaft, and they're all kinda pricey.
I am usnig 1/2 inch copper piping, when I try to add the Z-axis mount, the goose neck fell down, should I use thicker piping or shorten the goose neck?? Or would sweating the pipes work??? thanks,
fruitkid1014 years ago
Another 2 Questions,WHere do I buy stepper motors for cheap. and @Tom Mcwire what are the dimensions of all the parts? I want to make one just like yours. and where do I get the bearings?...whoops 3 questions, not 2
ianstein9514 years ago
What would you suggest for scaling this up, like alot? im talking about being able to handle hard metals, and quite a bit larger. would an old treadmill moter work in place of a dremal if i used a belt reduction drive?
Buy a real one. Big machines will hurt you if you don't know what you're doing, they are not toys. The guys that make the big DIY machines started small.
fruitkid1014 years ago
I have a question. I have a motor and I got two more out a printer. Each only has two wires instead of like five or six. Is this a problem? If not, is it different to setup? if yes,how?

well sorry dude but the motors u have are dc motors not steppers so they cant be used like this. they have some sort of position locating device on it but should be able to work if u can find how to drive them
i hope this helps u
the printer motors have their own built on 
bluumax4 years ago
I posted all my drawings/ plans for the mills I made / sold.
CorelDraw v10, Ai, & PDF.
There are 3 different version of the plates for different needs.
2 different nut types & whether you have routing capability.
i.e. You can only drill, no machining ability.
Oh WOW, thanks for the detailed blueprints!!!

When you say you can't do machining, I'm a CNC newbie, does that mean I won't be  to cut molds out of MDF or foam?

And if I got more powerful motors and cutting head (like a Rotozip) would that be able to machine?

My idea was to cut molds for use in vac forming, I can live without aluminum cutting, that will be for the next machine. :P


Only if you can't do machining to make the parts for this, like no machine to make them.
Make this, then make better parts. MTM, Machines That Make.

I just know most people building these won't be able to cut out the bolt pockets, etc.
TJLaw4 years ago
Absolutely genius!!! What do you use for software to make the drawings and to "translate" them to the motor controllers?? I am currently in the middle of my build and any help would be greatly appreciated.
Davetech TJLaw4 years ago
I intended to make my own controller board but it was too complicated to draw by hand. I tried the toner transfer method with little success. I finally gave up and bought a new, already assembled Univelope driver board off eBay for about what it would have cost me in parts. It works very well. Several people on our forum use the "Hobby CNC" board kit and say it works great too. But to answer your question, now that I have a mill I use the trial versions of Diptrace and K-Cam (I'm poor, donations appreciated ;)
Speaking of controller boards, would it be possible to use Arduino as a controller board, or is that something else?

I'm a newbie to all this. :P


You might be able to use Arduino. The inputs are just step & dir.
You can use the same type output / transistor setup Tom used too.

I sell drives using PICs & ULN2064 driver
It's just a basic cheap 1.5A $50 drive.

I use Mach3 Ver 2.63 with my boards because they need a longer pulse & the older ver seems to work best.
Also you can use EMC2 for Linux, it's free.

bluumax TJLaw4 years ago
I use CorelDraw to draw parts & Cut2D for g code.
PCB g code for boards.
Cut2D is $150 US, but worth a ton. It's awesome.
frmco4 years ago
I am convinced that you are a very smart person, and I congradulate you.I can make the machine, no prob. But don't no sht. about the elctronics or programs. excuse the language. I am very frostrated about it. I need help on the step motors and programing. Plz help.I live in LA. and dont have much info. on where to get stuff.
i was just wondering where i could get some stepper motors like those
Read the comments before asking questions asked 3 posts earlier.
Techman-594 years ago
 I was wondering if I could use the motors from some old printers to control the XYZ motions? I am really really "Computer Challenged" with all this so please don't laugh at me too much.
Those little motors won't pull/push much. I would be looking at photocopier motors atleast. Another great thing with photocopiers is there are allot of other goodies in them. Some have real lead screws, decent gears and belts. Most repair places are more then happy for you to take old dead units off their hands. Saves them from paying to have it hauled away.
You can, it depends on the step value, some are 7.5° & won't work. Some just don't have enough torque. One guy used old washing machine motors.

ekis4 years ago
 great job 
achollowell4 years ago

Nice project like to build one in future never thought about how simple it really is great job

Plasanator4 years ago
chikku986814 years ago

hiii...first of all HATS OFF to u for dis inspirating work..!!
wud u mind clearing some doubts?? wot r d specifications of dis motors n spindles?wots its capacity?how u managed 2 hav d peripheral devices? n which software u used 2 drive it?? pls do response..i ll b waiting..dis s my e mail id.

dop36 years ago
hi great idea! :)
but will the driver work with MACH3 CNC CONTROLLER

mfg dop3
zoot686 dop34 years ago
If you build Tom McWire's driver shown here it will, as his driver uses the step/direction schema, and Mach3 also uses the step/direction schema.
Both use two pins for each motor driver one pin for step and one for direction, and those can be mapped to specific pins in the mach3 setup/configuration.
danlenz4 years ago
Where can you find Stepper moters? Not too expensive.
check they have some great little steppers for about $8 each.
Ebay is always a good place to start, old Apple II Imagewriter printer have some nice heavy-duty steppers too, we threw out a bunch at my old job and I pulled the motors first, they're what I'm using.
Jodex danlenz4 years ago
Old printers.
danlenz Jodex4 years ago
Thanks like dot or ink jet printers?

Jodex danlenz4 years ago
I don't know about those dot printers, but probably there's too. Inkjets will have steppers. Look if you can get cheap and open up! There will be lots of cool stuff :D
danlenz Jodex4 years ago
As a ham radio operator and general messer arounder one can never have too musch ... stuff.
bluumax danlenz4 years ago
Yes you can!
I worked in PC recycle for a few years.
The amount of stuff you can accumulate is enormous...
Gotta have that, Gotta have those too!!
Pretty soon a 2 car garage is FULL of stuff.
danlenz bluumax4 years ago
Ok I stand corrected. Thats too funny
Jodex bluumax4 years ago
Wow, cool! =D
bluumax danlenz4 years ago
Help my to find details about some STEPPING MOTOR made by SANYO DENKI

   DC 2.2A
   1.8 DEG
   LOT NO. 10708
   TYPE 103H7126 - 0541
   DC 1.8A
   1.8 DEG
   LOT NO. 10706
   TYPE 103H6703 - 0343
   DC 2.6A
   1.8 DEG
   LOT NO. 03809
   TYPE 103H7124 - 1241

I find this in some copiers machine
This is the label on the motors.
I need to now the power supply,and all possible information about this motors 
Sincerely i try to find on the web and i don't find  . The the company don't give detail about this
This is my e-mail
ruawake4 years ago
 Where is the rest of the movie, and/or some basic guidelines for supplies and building?  Great idea, but only shows a bit.  Holes are already in the pipe, and how is Tom able to put it together and have all the holes in the pipe line up for the rails, and motors?
A few nice additions would mean the difference between some of us newbies ever getting off the ground with this awesome project.
bluumax ruawake4 years ago
It's kind of a DIY thing. Look at the ones I build, that might help.
ruawake bluumax4 years ago
Thanks alot for the info and site.  Your mill looks great, with some nice little improvements.  Do you know of any cnc control software for mac osx?


bluumax ruawake4 years ago
I don't know of anything for Mac.
hello everyone!
i just want to ask if this project is compatible with EAGLE pcb lay out editor as the CAD software and  MACH3 as the CNC software. please help. thanks!
You can use EAGLE with PCB g code, Yahoo  or It works very well.
Scroll down & you can see some boards I made.

Most people either use Mach3 or EMC2.
I have some basic Mach3 setup info on my site.
vkgoku20124 years ago
 Where exactly did you mount the nut because from the picture it seems like you  mounted it on the bottom of the plexi glass.
Jorg6 years ago
What kind of rubber hose did you use? I'm still searching for it.
Tom McGuire (author)  Jorg6 years ago
Go to the auto parts store and ask for fuel line. :)
Advance Auto has it for about $1.29 per foot...... and if you're looking into Lowes or Home Depot, it will be a clear line instead of black.  I found that the auto stores have a thicker wall thickness on their lines, and the Hardware stores have a smaller wall thickness(if you are wanting to use the smallest available parts)
bluumax4 years ago
I put up a parts page for some of the basic stuff you can't just go buy, but makes building these a lot easier & makes for a more stable build.
V block sliders for the rails, NEMA 17 motor mounts and 5/16-18 anti-backlash nuts.

king5star4 years ago
Hi  Tom  I'm Karim of Egypt on this last effort and mental characteristics and I have decided to use this circuit in the work is my graduation project, but a problem

I use the Proteus in the design of a pcb , but when I transfer circuit file to (dxf ) and open the program the machine kcam unloaded path Copper I hope you to let me know the program that you use in the design of printed circuit, which you empty copper around the track and you very much

And to excuse twice in the use of English language
Use EAGLE for layout
and PCB G Code
with the optimizer, you will find it in the files I think.

bluumax bluumax4 years ago
A small board I made as a demonstration for the mini-mills I sell.
mariosk8s4 years ago
did you ever lock the Z-axis support with a bolt or something to keep it from going out alignment, or did you just tighten it as shown in the movie? 
Tom McGuire (author) 4 years ago
I don't know it this comment will make it out to all you subscribers but there has been a yahoo group forum started for this machine. It might be a helpful way to post questions and find answers. Give it a try.
My ball bearings rusted!! Is there something I should be putting on the metal parts to keep them from rusting? And/or to keep them moving smoothly? THANKS!
use stainless, grease them good, get sealed type 608-2RS Sealed
What kind of grease should I use, and where do I buy it from? Thanks!
I would just use bearing grease from an auto parts store. It's cheap & should work fine.
I found a yahoo group that features this easy mill build. It's

They also talk about mods for it and the 608zz skate bearings and where to buy them dirt cheap. Hope this helps all of you folks.
decarus4 years ago
i'm wondering, how does it make PCB from scratch?.. how do u remove the conductive parts while leaving only small conductive traits(circuit) on the board? all i can see is the machine doing it the other way around....
HI, no all it does is makes holes in the PCB board (i Think) PCbs are usually made with a photo etch method google it to find out more
It's easier to route the traces with a mill than to dink around with etch.
bluumax decarus4 years ago
bluumax bluumax4 years ago
This is a demo board I cut on a machine like this one, but modified.
Lots of design programs have an output option that will create an outline of what you have drawn/designed. In Diptrace you can select an "Edge" output which creates a G-code file and saves it as a .dxf. Then you import the .dxf into your machine controller program (Mach, Cambam, K-Cam...etc) and use a "V" shaped engraving tool to mill the circuit trace outlines. If you are making a double-sided board, you have to set it to "mirror" the bottom set of traces and use a couple of reference points to exactly align the board when you flip it over to mill the back side.
NZSmartie4 years ago
I dont know if this has already been answered, but would i be able to cut out a shape, lets say a star from a sheet of acrylic?
prosi094 years ago
What is the length of x, y and z axis pipes?
The length's are not critical. They will; however, affect the amount of working space you have. I guessed and bought 1" ID pipe, the two legs (y) are 10", the parts that join the Z-"T" (x) are 8" and 3" and the Z pipe is 10". I guessed wrong about the 1" ID because the thing turned out bigger than Tom's but I'm happy. It is Sturdy!
Better sturdy than weak. What cutting area do you have? I'm thinking of scaling this up a bit to get a 12"x12"x3"ish cutting area.
My work area is X-12", Y-8" and Z-5"
wow thats pretty good. The Y in this design is kinda limited by how far out from its support you mount the z module, but I'm aiming for you area or a bit bigger.
Yes, you are quite correct. If you try to extend the Y out too far, when the stage traverses very far from the X rails, it will tend to tip. I overcame that problem by pouring a 6 pound lead counterwieght that rides on the X stage. I was worried that the lead weight would make it hard for the rails to slide but since I used channel steel riding on steel conduit for rails, the additional friction was minimal.
The easier approach, of course, would be to use longer black pipe "legs" to make the X stage wider, but I was past that point by then and just made the counterweight instead.
Thanks for the heads up, I think I'll go with some 18" legs. When you say you used 10" pipe for the Z, do you mean that you put the z module 10" above the rest of the frame or do you mean you extended it out 10" over everything else? If not, how high up did you put it and how far out? Thanks!
Upon re-reading I realized that my response missed the gist of your comment... I answered about extending the Y axis, but you commented about the placement of the Z axis upright. Here's how I built mine. But if I were to use a little longer extension than the 3" nipple. I'd get more useable workspace. I might do that. With this size pipe, it might even be a good idea to point the "T" towards the rear and put a pipe and elbow so that the Z upright is further away. I constantly have to be on guard against my Y stage colliding with the upright. In the picture you can see the counterweight. The rubber bands keep it from walking around due to vibration. I used rigid 1/2" copper rails for the Y stage because I ran out of steel conduit. It works well too. What looks like blown fuses are actually ballast lamps. Looks like I may be running them a bit hot.
Thanks for the help man! I have my frame set up, and now I need to build the platforms. It looks like plexiglass will be too bendy for my size machine, what did you use? I need to find something relatively cheap and strong that will do the trick and not sag under its weight for its size.
Any body else have their ball bearings rust on them?
Davetech4 years ago
I have built a mill based on Tom's design and video. I was a total noob when I started and now I have a working mill.

I have documented the building/learning process I went through day-to-day as I went through it for any other noobs who might want to try this. Some of my ideas worked and some didn't work.

I called it: "Building Tom's Easy Mill" on this forum:

Hope it helps someone.
Here's a picture of the mill I built based on Tom's video. Notice I did the rails a bit differently. It uses motors rated at 1 amp, has a Univelope driver board, and that's a RotoZip rebel mounted on the Z-stage. I'm still a noob, but I'm a noob having fun.
my easy mill 05.jpg
ruawake4 years ago
Great project, but still no real complete list for parts, and size of various components. Except for what has been written and in your video, everything else is guess work. I assume you might not be aware that us newbies who are really interested, are left in the dark. Please post a list , or atleast tell me how much money you might want to charge for such a list.
I agree ruawake newbies aren't always taken into account but the project is brilliant and who's to blame? i'm sure with a bit of guess work we'll be fine
landru6 years ago
can you give a few more details on the four posts, and the bracket that holds the nut that the threaded rod goes through?
Tom McGuire (author)  landru6 years ago
The weight of the motor makes the Z axis stage slide down on the rails. The two inside pins act as a stop and keep it from sliding down past the nut. The two outside pins keep the nut from turning. So when the motor runs the nut will not spin. It will go up and down on the threads.
Tom, instead of mounting the entire dremel can i mount one of those flexibles cables that attach to the dremel and put that into your system instead? i have numerous flexible cables around the shop and they would be lighter and less bulky.
Redgerr cre8ev4 years ago
sounds like you could, no resion why not
The pictures aren't clear enough to see the pins or how they are attached, or how they hold the nut in place. Also, what about the 4 posts on the Z plane, how do you reckon where to put them, how long they need to be, etc?
volto volto4 years ago
Ah nevermind on the 4 posts, those are based off the dremel/roto zip dimensions.
Redgerr4 years ago
amazing project, there is olny one flaw i see and thats to get a vacume in there, thast not even a big deal but if you threw on somthing like that it would be pretty cool :) cheers and truely amazing
ruawake4 years ago
Great project, having trouble getting various parts. Could you please post Detailed parts list , including the stepper motors. This would make it so much more "user friendly", for all of us who may be newbies.
what was used as the cutting motor because I do not want to buy a 30,000 rpm motor for 100 bucks and where did you buy it?
reggy_a4 years ago
You say that this design can do 2-D Engraving and 3-D Milling in mild materials. What is the exact software that is needed for both the engraving and the milling please? I know that there is sign making software for 2-D, but I do not think it will accomodate both 2-D and 3-D. If you had your druthers, would you prefer the Column type construction as your pipe model is, or do you prefer the Gantry style engineering? Excellent concept that you have come up with here!!!! Kudos to you, Sir.
you sure say umm alot, lol
Tom - Did you grease sides of the two aluminum u channels that rub against each other? Would you recommend doing that? Does plexiglass get scraped up since it's constantly sliding on the tops of the aluminum u channels, do you put some kind of lubricant on it as well? Thanks!
ruawake4 years ago
Really inventive ideas, wonder how linear guides would work?
bluumax ruawake4 years ago
They'll probably get gummed up & full of chips, dust & crap if you use the roller bearing / block type. Linear rod is the standard for type of thing.
Sovaka4 years ago
Would this kind of device be able to cut aluminum?
bluumax Sovaka4 years ago
Yes, take light passes. Weigh the table down too.
matroska4 years ago
Wow, that's incredibly cool. I've always wanted some kind of machine like this, however programming a machine like this one and making it work would actually be way off my actual knowledge. Instead, wouldn't be cool if we could come out with a joystick? :D Imagine piloting this machine this the über simple NES constroller. I see how it can be possible, this isn't beyond my knowledge. Thanks for sharing!
Kavon matroska4 years ago
Well, with a CNC machine, you dont actually control it, you use a program of sorts along with a 3d/2d drawing of something, and the program tells the machine where to cut.
jpablo784 years ago
Your CNC is great because it's a simple design, but here in Argentina even the piping tubes are expensive! Anyway, I'm trying to follow your directions with some small modifications, (I have 2 bipolar motors and 1 unipolar, then I have to build a different controller). Thanks your contribution, it's a very good job

rahilm4 years ago
I purchased 3 of these 12v stepper motors:

If I have the 12v power in, do I need to use the light bulb? If so, what kind of bulb do I need to use? And can the bulb be replaced with a power resistor?

kalabog764 years ago
This has been awesome! Thanks Tom! I have attached a prototype board picture that I have used, I'm really bad with etching...


allegfede4 years ago
Could you tell me what is the normal name/use of the flat circular piece of metal (the one with the treaded hole in the center and 4 holes on the side) you used for holding the Z axis? I found the tubes in my plumbing store, but cannot explain to the shop guys what kind of stuff is that piece of metal :( .... so I need to know how it's used ... int the plumbing word :D Thanks
allegfede, It is a flange or mounting flange. Galway
thank you guys :D
It's a pipe floor circular support
print out the picture and bring it there i think it is used to mount something when runing a pipe throught the wall but i dont know just bring a picture
Jii Dee6 years ago
Do you know what the effects of backlash are on this thing? I see you're just using a normal nut on the screw to move the x and y plates. I would be tempted to use preloaded double nuts to keep the plates from moving when they shouldn't. Aside from that i really like this. i may just do one for cutting sheet styrene.
Tom McGuire (author)  Jii Dee6 years ago
I had a backlash of about .010 at one time but I think it was cause my drill motor wasn't firmly mounted. Double nuts would be good but be ware of the additional friction and torq on the motor.
would you get so much backlash if you used a printer stepper motor with it's screw and acompanying nut ?
Thats much better than i would have expected for such an easy to make design. Impressive. Personally i would still want to go with the anti-backlash nuts and maybe do away with the metal-to-metal sliding action and replace that with bearings of some kind, but thats just me. The good thing is this design, with being so simple, makes it really easy to modify. kudos!
JuniorEng5 years ago
Would PVC Piping be OK, or must it be metal?
If you DO use pvc, use at least schedule 80, since this frame needs to be quite a ridgid structure
I've not made one of these, but depending on how much tolerance you have for bending, shaking, etc, you probably do not want to use PVC. It seems strong and stable to us, but it doesn't take much bend to get the cut off by a few hundredths of an inch. If you don't need that kind of accuracy, then do it. Besides, if you try PVC and it doesn't work out, how much money have you lost? Very little and you've learned something too.
allegfede4 years ago
I was thinking to use U channel alluminium rails for the bottom ones (the two scewed to the tube's structure) and U channel teflon rails for the two screwed to plexy table. So the teflon would lubrificate the motion and don't bend in the middle .... For big router tables could be even better to use some kind of Y shaped alluminuim bottom rails (improved rigidity) :D
Won't the U channel aluminum slides have a lot of friction? Is there a better material to use? Someone recommended using nylon-on-nylon instead of aluminum, but I don't know where to buy it!
kasari0014 years ago
stepper motors i dont think it maters for a perticular modle just a steper motor becuase u will have to zero everything on the software
i want it i want it i want it pls can i have one i shall begin working now love this ible i want something great for engraving i think this would be good
also wat would be a good bit to use on the dremel for engraving
trooperrick4 years ago
Would you be able to cut some aluminum with this setup?
josheeg4 years ago
I have never seen one of these dremel designs that somehow finds a way to hold the parts without just clamping onto a plastic dremel it would seem to me it would kill the acuracy. or precision.
josheeg josheeg4 years ago
In other words is their a way to mount a dremel snake extention cable so their can be a X size hole that is not shaped strange to hold the bit wrather than clamping on a full dremel. It seems like it would make a better machine also.
Great Idea, would like to build, what is the software that drives the mill? Hopefully it's as cheap as the machine.
cheaper linux cnc.
Rick_kap4 years ago
Hi, I'm just starting out wih building this circuitry, but i can't find the diagram for the connections to the parallel port. Am i missing something?? Regards Rick
The first link on this article takes you to the schematic assembly yea that is weird I found out how the hookup works by looking at some open source avr stepper motor board site. Their also is lynn stepper. or lin stepper . I am using the motordrivers from makerbot their a open source design and quite nice make shure you get the described solder paste their all not the same.
lenny254 years ago
Any progress on the controller and software. Is there any open source software that will work?
josheeg lenny254 years ago
Looks to me like linuxcnc is free open source and uses ubuntu. It only runs on a decent computer thow.
Akair4 years ago
Oh , man! now I don't have to spend 1000 dollars on a cnc mill i can make one for less than a hundred!
Please enyone help me to build the cnc router. I understand how to make build it but theproraming not. Please, i wont to learn the programing it. How can i make a cnc router 3 axis from printer, how will i program it to work???
Eddy_S815 years ago

Kcam looks OK, there is a crippled Shareware download,

How much torque should the motors have? I plan to use the machine for making PCBs so will be a similar size to Toms.

I have been looking at:


Big thanks Ed
duke3d5 years ago
Hey Tom, nice work, what software are you using for this CNC and where can one obtain such a software package?
ooda555 years ago
I wouldn't advise building this unless you had a good knowledge of making your own PCB's and know a little bit about stepper motors I attempted this and built my own board I think it all came to just under a hundred quid! but it wasn't working at all so I put it in a box in the garage if there are any pre built cheap driver boards and software I could just plug my motors into I would defiantly buy one so if anybody knows where to get them please reply! thanks chris
bluumax ooda555 years ago
Hi Chris. I sell ready a made version on my site & ebay. Complete with drive (2 phase / half step), you will need a 24VDC power supply. I've sold about 20 so far. I sell the drive alone as well, currently as kit, but have 4 completed. I haven't mentioned this on the forum out of respect for Tom. I did want spam up the forum. I can make parts on the mill that can't just be made in the garage. So far, Tom's machine is the only one I've seen that can actually be done the way he says it can. A lot of the guys say " oh I just whipped this up in my shop" Yeah, like I have a shop in my living room... Ok, I do, but most don't! The drive is microcontroller driven, also not something most can "just whip up". I used a bit of Tom's ideas combined combined with my own from other machines I have built. There's a pic of my prototype a few posts down. Shawn.
What are the kits you sell? I see one for 95.00 and one for 225.00... I presume 95.00 is machine only or electronics only and 225.00 is both? I would like to purchase an electronics kit with software, steppers, driver board, etc. Thanks, snow
Just the machine is $95.00 Machine, drive & motors is $225.

The software to run the machine, Mach3 is from Artsoft, it will run 1k lines of code in free demo mode.
There is also KCAM, a lot of people really like it.
Turbo CNC for older machines, runs on DOS

I also use Cut 2D for g code generation. Mach3 has a free program, Lazy CAM, but I found it hard to use effectively.

A breakout board is also very good to have. I don't currently stock them but you can get a good one for $25 from
I plan to carry them in the future though.
Do not buy a cheap $10 board unless you really KNOW what you are doing.

I'm just waiting for new wire for the motors to get here Friday 27th 3/09 to start shipping again.

I also bought 500 high quality Applied Motion Products motors and will be selling these with a more powerful drive as an upgrade.

Maybe it would be a good idea to start selling a kit with all electronics but no mechanics for a CNC. I want to build the machine, but it seems like a lot of work to try to get the software working with the motors and controller board... I would just like to use a kit, even if I ahve to assemble it, because then I know everything will work hand in hand. snow
I do sell just the controller. I had to get new stuff for the drives & need to get new pic up on my page. See the Mach3 setup page also.
I quit selling drives as kits, to many people don't have enough experience in electronics assembly. I do all the assembly & testing, alleviates problems.
I will have the pages up for that by Monday, 3/09. I just need to make some boards & put up the page.

This is a lot of work, I'm doing all of it by myself.
Machine design, materials acquisition, fabrication & assembly
Board design, materials acquisition, fabrication & assembly for 2 different designs
Website maintenance. Thinking about changing the entire look of that also.
I've been selling on the web / ebay since about 2002 so at least I know what's involved.

The new 1/2 Amp board.
I see pictures of controllers, but no buy options... I guess that's because you haven't got them up yet. So you supply board... I supply power supply, software, and steppers? They will work with pretty much all steppers in their voltage/current range, right? Also, that $25.00 breakout board isn't a controller, is it? Something different? Thanks, snow
The breakout board is just to make hooking it up easier.
See the hook up part - 3 axis manual

You need a power supply & software. (breakout board optional)
Power supply for motors only generally, the drive usually gets power from a USB cable from the PC.

As long as the rated amps for the steppers are below the rated amps for the drive it's fine.
I try not to push it to close though.
The new motors are .8A, drive chip is rated 1.5A, if run at 12V I think the drive will be ok without a heat sink.
I will add one if there are any doubts though.

I will sell the .5 Amp and a 1.5 Amp boards alone as well.
Just need to get the stuff up on the web site.
I might start listing on ebay while I get the site updated.

The 1.5 Amp Drive
So, my question is, does the driver come with steppers? Also, please tell me when the Driver product is up and running. Thanks, snow
I'll sell the 1.5A drive with steppers and alone.
I'll sell the the 1/2A by it's self. Steppers for that are easy to get.
I will be putting the new stuff up on the site this weekend.
Did you ever get the driver up? I can't seem to find it. If you do get it up, please let me know. How much are you planning to sell the 1.5A drive with steppers for? Without sreppers? Thanks
I made a couple prototypes. I need to add a heat sink to the board though. I bought aluminum for that, just need to start making boards. I got behind on stuff. It's a lot of work, full time job for sure. I've been cutting mill parts for the last 2 weeks, got a couple days left on that & then start on the boards. Needed to get some inventory built up. I was thinking about selling the board & motors for $150, but I might make it $120. Board $75 $15ea for motors. Motors are new high quality. I know there is the Hobby CNC board for $65, but it is assemble & test yourself. Just too many problems & tech support with that. Just too many people don't have enough soldering skills to do thru hole, SMT is a nightmare.
$120 sounds like a good deal. I would most likely buy it , depending on the steppers. What size are they? I've been planning on going for NEMA 23, but all I really know is that I need 100 oz-in of torque. I got that from the other good CNC Instructable, which is about the size and design I'm going for.Do you know some specs on the steppers in the 1.5 amp drive? Thanks for all your help.
These are NEMA 17 30 oz in, they definitely enough for this type of machine.
If you pull a boner with 100 oz motors it would literally rip a homemade machine apart.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm not doing a mobile table design. I'm going for the classic mobile gantry mobile z design. It is in the CNC guide. 30 oz in definitely isn't enough. I'll have to find something else. Thanks anyway.
Look at the Hobby CNC board. It's good to 3A What instructable was the gantry type?
I've seen the HobbyCNC board. I don't know about the price... Phew! The other CNC can be found here:\
Ignore the pricing. It is driven by a belt track and he spends $40 on bearings alone. He then goes on to spend $255 for electronics. That is my basic design, but it will be leadsvrew driven instead.
I would use NEMA 32 for that one. Bipolar are better.
There's a ton of stuff on ebay for bipolar motors & drives for NEMA 23 size..
I would use lead screws, much easier math too. x turns to = 1in/ mm
Also there is Linistepper. Good to 2A
The driver they use on the Hobby CNC board are $$, about $10+USD ea.
Then add the cost of having boards made...
Yup, I've been planning on using NEMA 23 at about 125 with leadscrews for awhile now. I've found 3 steppers on good old eBay for $90, that sounds good. Do you know if the driver that Tom Mcwire uses is compatible with motors of that size? I'm hoping to spend less than $150 - $170 on electronics, so I hope it is. I think I remember it being bipolar though... Thanks
No. It is wave drive/single phase. You need a dedicated driver for this kind of
You could make it work but it would be only driving at 1/2 the torque of 2 phase.
You'll most like want half step too, his won't do that.
Here's a good explanation of phases

This is a good place to look for DIY drives
Wow, you've been very helpful. Thank you so much!
If you need anything email me, it's bluumax at Just change the "at" to @. I think this keeps the spambots away? Part of what I do is help people get what they want, it's not just "buy my stuff". I had the fun of learning everything I know / do myself, most before the web was big. I got to do it the hard way. Hope I can make it easier for others. Shawn.
bluumax bluumax5 years ago
Wow, this post is getting Very thin!
Sorry, NEMA 23
Thanks. I'll check up on your progress next week. snow
Tom McGuire (author)  bluumax5 years ago
Hey Shawn: I just wanted to let you know I like what you've done here. I tried to start a business a few years ago and it's just not my bag. I really wanted to throw out an idea and let other people run with it. You've done a nice piece of work here for a very reasonable price. Some people have asked if I would build a machine for them but I just don't have the time. I'm going to redirect them to you. Tom
Tom McGuire (author)  Tom McGuire5 years ago
P.S. Nice Cat.... :)
its a guinea pig
bluumax narpas5 years ago
He was referring to the cat on my site:
narpas bluumax5 years ago
my bad
Hi Tom. Thanks! It is definitely work, I must have 20+ drawings for macine parts alone, then there's all the electronics schematics, board files & code for the drives. I just didn't want to blatantly advertise my stuff on your page! I hate all the advertising I see as it is so I try my best to do so tastefully. It took about 2-3 months getting all this set up. I started looking around at different design ideas to make a reproducible machine, the Z column was a problem, you solved that. Like I stated, so many pages make it look soooo easy... Until you think, how can I do that with the tools I have. Then there's the drive. 1 phase / wave drive usually isn't enough to really drive this with a NEMA 17, gotta be 2 phase, 1/2 step is even better. I have a couple cases of bipolar motors from PIC kits I sold. Starting to work on bipolar drive now, MORE POWER! I want to make a bigger machine, but gotta have more power. Just trying to do it all for a price most can afford. I haven't seen any machines w/ drives selling for under $1000 Like Chris said, if you don't know what you're doing it can be difficult & expensive.
Hi Chris, sorry to hear that you had problems, I am now on my 3rd machine and everyone has worked everytime (a few problems but mostly down to me, doooh!). The first one is still making small PCBs the 2nd one is a brute and can almost anything with its 1500watt router and the last one is almost complete with its 4th axis (thought I would add an extra dimension to see how useful it is). regards Gus
BMG ooda555 years ago
Hobbycnc is a nice 3 or 4 axis driver kit. Not sure how much it will cost in the UK. I never assembled anything electrical before and was able to get it working on the first go. CNCzone also has a forum for stepper drivers - commercial and opensource - where you can get a good feel of whats available.
bluumax BMG5 years ago
Not sure if Hobbycnc drive is capable of running motors LESS than 1/2 amp like most NEMA 17 size are -
" 3.0 Amps Maximum per Phase, 500ma (.5A) minimum. Each axis adjustable throughout this range."
I make a drive that is designed to run lower amp motors.

alx ooda555 years ago
Hi ooda, have you think about using arduino, it's quite easy to program it and there's a great community around it to help you :) I'm on the other side of the spectrum, I've got this electronic programing skill (with arduino) but I'm really bad with mechanics... how much have you spend on your board? would it be possible to buy you one, or just the pieces to screw and connect to the arduino? Please email me at alx.girard(at) Cheers :) Alex
josheeg5 years ago
Ok here is a idea built from stock useualy cut only on 2 sides... Take a 12x12 sheet of steel... 10x10x1 delrin sheet set the delrin on the steel. 1x1 steel squair tube... put steel shims on top and bottom of squair tube to give it some room... put steel rod over end of derlin and steel bars this will hold the delrin slide down... Then a delrin spacer and table for that axis... this seems to be a way to make a strong table from the shape that comes from the factory & your useing your slides to set your rails... less adjustment....
bluumax josheeg5 years ago
Delrin / Acetal is EXPENSIVE. That would cost about $100 USD I use scrap HDPE for my mill parts, same size less than $20. UHMW about $35
josheeg josheeg5 years ago
here is a drawing of what I was thinking please comment and mention the problems...
josheeg josheeg5 years ago
here it is...
cousinles5 years ago
I can't seem to find the view all comments link on the page anymore. I got a lot of my questions answered by viewing all comments and using the ctrl-f key to find key words. it is a lot easer that scrolling through 50 pages. if someone else has it could they post a shortcut for me please? it would be greatly appreciated.
marco19705 years ago
UPDATE: I also have three Vexta pk268-01 2 phase, 1/8" step stepper motors. I don't know much (well, almost nothing), about CNC but love the concept of creating your own tools and parts :)
marco19705 years ago
What kind of materials can be used with your CNC milling machine? Can it also cut through metals? If yes, what kind? I have an old Prolight program, will it work? I also have IronCAD, but I don't know how to work it and don't have the manual for it. Another program I have is Mach... but i have the same problem (no manual). Where can I find these manuals? a Manual for Solidworks?
spud218a5 years ago
Is there anybody out there from CA?
That's... Random.
no; east coast
msalhi5 years ago
Tom you did not mention anything about the motor specifications ... what kind should i get ?
josheeg5 years ago
It would seem it could be lower cost yet if 2 materials were used UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight) Polyethylene Sheet for the ends of slides and Squair steel tubing a drill press with a counter sink some taps some bolts and nuts..... the same lead screw being threaded rod but washers and nuts on the ends for end bearings... a drilled block with screws could support a plastic loop. it would be stronger and more rigid and made squair like legos...
userhck6 years ago
Well I still am only about 25% done, as I just have the frame completed and most of the parts. The only thing holding me back is the stepper motors and drivers. If anyone could point me towards an inexpensive kit I would greatly appreciate it.
Hi has got some good deals on there complete package.
vykk3 userhck6 years ago
One that I found and am considering is:

CNC Drive and stepper kit

Probably closed by now but there are more in his store.

Do you know some info about that auction? It is gone now, do you have a link to the website? Thanks, snow
userhck vykk36 years ago
thanks man.
cousinles5 years ago
Well, I got my motor driver done, but it doesn’t work. I am an electrician by trade but do not know a whole lot about electronics but would like to learn. This is my first time I have played with electronics and would really like to get it working. When I plug my power supply in my motor just hums, then when I plug in my db 25 cable with the software running or not the humming stops and it does nothing. I was hoping if some of you electronics guru's could take a look at my driver and see if they could find a problem with it?
First thing: Get rid of all the bare copper.
You WILL fry something, probably your PC.
Use alarm wire, anything but that stuff.
I figured it out it was grounded wrong. The copper is not touching I made sure of it. This is just a prototype to see if I could get it working it is the first board I have ever made. as soon as I get some acid I am going to make a permanent out of copper clad for the first time. Thanks for your concern. Les
rrsquez5 years ago
Wow! Great project! What software do you use to "isolate" the traces? I know they can cost a lot. I have some experience with PCB layout. Generating a gerber file is easy. Cutting the "reverse" out is not. This tool is $6000 to buy, but this includes the software (LPKF is the MFR.). I think that it's worth buying if one can spend far less than $6000.
bluumax rrsquez5 years ago
recon5066 years ago
Wut kind of motor are you using? I located a nice Japan Servo KP4M4-029 12VDC Stepper Motor for about 3 bucks, but it's a 5 lead connection. Is your motor a six lead connection? Will the schematic work with a 5 lead? Please write back soon.
Those are what I use, you will need to run them at 18V - 24V
Tom McGuire (author)  recon5066 years ago
Yup...that will work.
what software did you use i've been trying to find one but cant find it anywhere
Will I need to make some adjustments to the schematic though? It's my first time messing around with CNC's and I want to get this one right the first time, especially since I only have a budget (a.k.a. my life savings) of about 165 dollars.
josheeg5 years ago
I think the pipes and correctly drilling a hole through them is a difficult part for a beginner. I wonder if this could be done with angle or I beam type pieces to make it more modular.
bluumax josheeg5 years ago
Use a piece of shelving instead of pipes. It will also be absolutely flat. Pipes are hard to get the whole thing flat & not torqued / warped.
You don't have to drill. Just use self-tapping screws.
Oh, yes, you drill before you put in the screws... Still, it should be simple enough even for beginners. snow
Dodgy5 years ago
Nice project Tom! I tried designing my own CNC mill, similar to yours, but different. Apart from the usual making of things, I was intending it to operate different tools, one at a time. A pair of wire cutters/diagonal nippers, and a soldering iron. That way, it could cut the hundreds of wires of PCBs I used to wave solder, at my job. And for another job, that required a lot of hand soldering, it could do this very speedily, and with repeatable accuracy, plus a wire feeder, like a MIG welder uses, but for solder. I ended up never getting around to it, but your design is no simple. I'm gonna go to my local Bunnings warehouse &/or plumbing shop 2day, and buy the iron tubing to get started. I plan on making it much bigger, so that I can engrave/mill much larger items. One money saver would be to make my own replacement parts for my motorbikes. When Honda want $50 for a chunk of steel, or zinc, or aluminium, I think it's a bit of a ripoff. Or a brake lever, which DAMN! keeps breaking on me, when my bike falls over! Even yesterday, the bike fell over at home, on the grass, with c.7 milk crates worth of stuff on the back. It landed on the ground, and still broke the brake lever, where it counts, never the pivot. $15 for a new one, and that's not even OEM! A steel or SS replacement wouldn't break. May be a little heavier, but I don't think my fuel efficiency will notice. At least... If it's made of some kind of steel, it'll never break again! How good is your design, for milling steel/stainless steel ? Is it a matter of simply taking it slowly? If you advance the table too quickly, thru software, does that simply snap the milling bit? What did you make out of frozen cheese ?! Could you make a working 1:1 scale replica of a typical Lego brick ? Out of the usual ABS, or wood, or concrete, or rubber, or acrylic/perspex, or stainless steel, Hmmm: 24Ct gold!!! Sell that, to the head of Lego! Can you make coins/medalions with this! Someone mentioned the bearings of a Dremel tool aren't that tight. As in, the chuck can move up and down, not just round and round. Have you found this with yours? How can this be overcomed? Thanks!
Dodgy Dodgy5 years ago
sorry, didn't proof read my post till now: here are some typo corrections: 0>your design is no simple. 1>your design is so simple. 0>where it counts, never the pivot. 1>where it counts, near the pivot.
Gosh, you don't have to post like 50 comments.
maglinvinn5 years ago
Please tell me you're still watching these comments. where in the world did you get your stepper motor controls from? The frame an axis were 200 alone or did that price include the stepper motor tech too? i'm working on building a desktop model of a full size plasma cutter (cnc) and i'm really looking to stay as cheeap as possible w/ my prototyping... i wanna spend the big bucks on the final machine, not the learning thereof ;)
Tom McGuire (author)  maglinvinn5 years ago
Sorry. I don't answer every comment. Sometimes I don't know the answer and sometimes people jus tneed to a little digging and they will find it themselves.
The motors I use in this project were scrounged out of old floppy drives and printers. If you want to buy something at a reasonable price try
and the controllers ... to go from the computer to said motors? thats where i'm banging myhead trying to figure out a cheap means to proove the concept in my own shop. and in your vid... is that glass or plex that you're writing easy mill into?
He has a seperate 'ible on drivers. He used plexiglass (acrylic).
For a quick and easy motor source I found the ProSource hand drill (dremel like) at BigLots for $20.
Also the one Tom Mcwire uses works good because it has flat sides. Found at Harbor Freight for $23.99.
JROdden5 years ago
Hi Tom, great instructables. Almost done with mine now... just one simple question. Can you explain what you have done with the nut on the Z stage? I just can't understand from the pictures what I'm looking at...
Tom McGuire (author)  JROdden5 years ago
Four little pins surround the nut on the top and the two sides. The weight of the Z stage makes it rest on the nut. You can lift the stage up but it won't go down past the nut. This is real handy when something goes wrong and you want to quickly raise the router up from the material. Tom
I guess the beauty of this and why you haven't answered yet is that all the sizes can be adjusted. I do have one question though that I can't find an answer for anywhere. If I wanted to build a CNC with say, 3 feet x travel, 1.5 feet y travel, and 8 inches z travel, how would I secure the leadscrews at the end opposite each stepper motor? I guess I could find something like an extra thick washer and mount it on, but is there a better way that you know of? Or do you think it wouldn't be necessary to secure them? I guess you also might have just not logged on yet...
So the Z stage keeps the nut from spinning, thus moving the stage? Also, could you please provide a little bit more detail as to what lengths you used for u-channels, building material stats, etc.? It would be greatly appreciated, even if you only told the lengths of the u-channels used and the sizes of the pipes. Thanks, snowpenguin
tbenefi335 years ago
Hi Tom I'm thinking about using these stepper motor from hobbycnc there 185oz-in bipolar rating, 130oz-in unipolar will these be to strong or will they be ok ?
TOO STRONG??? How could that be possible??? The more power the better, my friend.
How did you make those CNC controllers? i want to make this thing, but I cant figure out how. Could I use an arduino as a controller? that would be ideal, but im not sure. If so, would there be any software for it for mac?
cousinles5 years ago
I figured it out I was using the wrong pin for the ground on my DB 25 port. I got one driver done 2 more to go.
cousinles5 years ago
I have been doing some testing with a led. On pin ten the led turns on with the up arrow and off with the down arrow, pin 6 and 11 stay lit all the time and I show no signals to the fets. I have a spare 4516 and it does same on the other one. Any suggestions?
redbawls5 years ago
I'm having a hard time finding a stepper motor. Could add the links? I managed to find a Lin Engineering Model 417-11-48-01 unipolar stepper motor for ~5 dollars. would that work?
Hey what sized bearing are you using and what abec rating? i've got a load of old skateboard bearings that i could use for this ranging from some abec 1s to abec 7s. i'm mainly going to be using a mill like this for making some longboards since it will let me just slap down some wood when i leave the house and come back to a cut board.
galaxyman75 years ago
Hey, I was just wondering, every time I use a dremel on mdf or other woods the wood just burns. I'm using a Black and Decker RTX, and a "slot cutting" 1/8 bit. I cut at the highest speed or the lowest speed but it still burns the wood. Do you think I need to get a sharper bit or is it something else?
Either the bit is blunt, or you aren't moving it fast enough. If you hold it still long enough, it'll become a friction stir welder. Not what you want.
project1235 years ago
Hey, I had a doubt regarding the z axis. From what I saw in the 5th and 6th Step, there is no coupling nut which will connect the threaded rod and the plexiglass plate for the z axis. Then, how is the up and down motion of the z axis plexiglass accomplished by the threaded rod?
The nut lifts the Z and gravity returns it. For light stuff lke this, at 90 degrees, it's a good solution.
jamunda5 years ago
OMG THAT IS AWESOME! I'd make it but I see no use in it for me... BUT THAT IS AWESOME! Good work!
wow this is incredable how much did you pay for the 3axis cnc milling machine loved the instructable !!!!
kroome885 years ago
hi , tom , good day... i'm JOE from the philippines...and i am a hobbyist... i really like and love what you have posted ... very nice and interesting... it gives a lot of info on what i am searching and what i am going to build..... now i found a great consultant, hope you don't mind if i ask for the schematic diagram for stepper motor driver you build... and the software you use... the stepper motor i will use is from and old printer, same from the video of your 3axis cnc... thanks in advance and more power... joe
create3605 years ago
tom and all, i really love what you've done here. i'm curious: as a designer i have used several 3d modeling packages to design products...rhino, alias, blender, etc. can i use one of these modelers and then export a file that will work with the machine? or do i need to learn an new modeling package? i've used cnc's before at work and college (i'm an industrial designer) and there's typically just a conversion. also, and i'm sure this has been covered, what are the max XYZ's. super exited to do this, jim
Tom McGuire (author)  create3605 years ago
I used Art of Illusion (AOI) to create 3D graphical objects but these need to be exported as STL (stereo lithograph) and then a tool path needs to be generated from that to tell the machine how to carve your 3D shape out of a solid chunk of material. I used this:
am015 years ago
whts the specification of the stepper motor used?
2224645 years ago
Hi guys. I want to build a dirt cheap CNC machine, and this one looks like the easiest and least costly. Sorry if somebody asked this before, but could you post a list of all of the items necessary to build this thing, with links for some materials? Also: Is their a circuit that will allow me to run this machine off of MasterCam X3?
don225 years ago
Hi Tom I'm brand new , right out of the box, don't know zip about cnc machines, but I'm going to attempt to build you unit. For starters how about some dimensions? Thanking you in advance. don22
astronut5 years ago
I have an idea, how about raising the dremel tool up a few inches and mounting a drill press milling vice on the pipes.

I have one, it's REALLY sloppy. Good for straight cuts, that wobble, only.
Backlash is horrible.
You WILL break smaller bit with this.
Me using one with drillpress
majdi5 years ago
How I can change the file in eagle program to HPGL , please any one make a PCB in Kcam4 program send to me the procedures of this experiment and if you have video file too thank you
ebidk5 years ago
Looks really easy and simple to build compared to some of the others I've seen and looks quite sturdy too :) now if only I had money to get build this :/
hawk01205 years ago
Thats really awesome. I used to run a Hydra-Jet cutting system. Cnc systems are just cool. I'll waiting for your tips on the software.
bfman5 years ago
This is simply an amazing device. I am very interested in not only doing this project but also in adapting the CNC portion to a lathe. I haven't found any info on interfacing the computer with the stepper driver board. Did I miss it?
pinkpooj5 years ago
Could this mill a solid block of aluminum?
jjanes5 years ago
Sorry for the double post but I di find some information after all and I will post it here for others: MOTOR,STEP,12VDC/.4A, 3200 GM-CM Bipolar & Unipolar Stepper Motors Jameco P/N 238538 Mfg JAMECO VALUEPRO Mfg # 42BYGH404-R Product Type MOTOR Family STEPPER Voltage 12VDC Additional Feature .4A, 3200 GM-CM MOTOR,STEP,12VDC/.4A, 3200 GM-CM # of Units $US EA 1+ 22.05 10+ 19.83 100+ 17.85 View Catalog Page Cat 291 , Page 74 No datasheet currently available. The other question (newbie) is the circuit board described throughout that has the bulbs and the 25 pin connector on it. Is THAT the controller?
jjanes5 years ago
Hi everyone , I apologize if this has been answered but I need specs on the stepper motors power requirements size etc I am new at this and am going to try it so the more detail the better. By the way if I didn't mention it, and I didn't yet, Thank you very much for this project I look forward to giving it a try.Thanks again
lafeliz5 years ago
hey, can i mill mdf wood? for example if i want to make a pc mouse made of foam or wood, this cnc could make it?
yog_0075 years ago
hello this is goog project
tinkerman925 years ago
will the driver u have work with inventor?
brimckeon5 years ago
Can I buy a ready-made circuit board for this, and what drawing program does it work with, as I have Solidworks 2006. Thanks
bluumax5 years ago
I think using a flat piece of material like partical board shelving will be more effective than pipe for he base. I had to many problems getting everything flat. I have a mill so I could actually cut the parts to my spec. I also opted for the V in channel, no problems with the rails getting loose. You can do this by drilling a hole in the pointy part of the 90° aluminum. Just file a flat spot, then drill.
what type of step motor are u using, and are there any plans for it. thanks
Heliosphan6 years ago
Hi all I took one look at this project and thought WOW! So simple to build, and the parts must be readily available - so I took a look around my city in the UK to look for some pipework I could use for it. Imagine my amazement after going around EVERY plumbing merchants shop in the city, not one of them do any straight pre-threaded metal pipe!!! That is without getting it especially cut and threaded. You cant even get any pre-threaded PVC plastic pipe either! In this day and age, I can only imagine the UK has given up on this sort of thing and you have to have everything cut to length and threaded at additional cost! The US and elsewhere must be be better geared towards this sort of thing. I dont know. Does anybody have any ideas what I could do from here!? I thought about checking out scrap yards, but they would only be full of scrap car parts. Any ideas? Thanks.
Tom McGuire (author)  Heliosphan6 years ago
I have seen a lot of this and I'm really sorry. I had no idea there would be no pre-threaded pip in the UK. If you find a good replacment I would like to know. Just keep in mind the general principals: a solid flat surface for the base and good stif arm to hold the motor. And have fun...
The possible replacement is from Kee KlampKee Klamp. Same pipe, but unthreaded and use the Kee Klamp 90 degree etc parts.

Making up mine now, in UK see progress here. I borrowed the initial blog image from creed4545 post until I get my own images up.


Hi, check out my design earlier in these postings, I am also in the UK and I bought everything from B&Q store. Slightly different design overall to Tom's but works FAB and now building its much bigger brother again from the same local DIY store but with a much bigger router (750watts). regards Gus
*sigh* just spent about 10 mins writing Gus a private msg, I think the page failed to send it properly.
Not to worry.
Anyway, thx for the response Gus. Heres what I wanted to get across -
I'd be very interested to see your info collated on a page somewhere, maybe off of Instructables. Vids and pix aplenty! Would be fantastic and a lot of people would benefit.
I was maybe thinking of replacing the pipes with steel frame bolted together. Then using some of those drawer bearing sliders (linear slides??) they're surprisingly cheap, about £20 considering about what you'd be building with them.
But then my fabrication skills are somewhat lacking anyway!
Thanks regardless, would love to see your info somewhere.
havent found your email as yet, if you have sent it already please send it again, mark it something like 're. B&Q CNC'. Hopefully my spamfighter will let it pass. regards Gus
send me an email to and I will send all the info and photos that I have on my build. I used square section tube from B&Q for the frame and it was bolted together etc, I went with ball bearing races for the small MK1 machine but understand fully what your doing with the draw slides. best of luck Gus
lucek5 years ago
nice. I suppose you could improve the accuracy by decreasing the thread size.
orgasmotron5 years ago
hello i have built this drive and it working perfecly my question is , can it drive 140volt dc 7 amp step motor , i know that it need low voltage for the logic, (6.2 volt) can use seperate power supply these step motor came from an industrial dead router and i'm planning to use them , since i got them any clue ?
twhaley5 years ago
very nice, i've decide to put something together similar to this. I can't think of an easy way to write a program for it though. I use vb and can interface to microcontrollers but i could use some advice, or if possible, code samples for turning a drawing into numerical instructions for the servo's. Thanks!
bob3325 years ago
what are you guys using for steppers as far a .oz of torque? i was looking at nema17 in the 45-75oz ratings, is this sufficient for the z axis for what this machine was designed for? for a motor i will be using either one of the dremels, possibly one of the harbor freight "equivalents" or the shaft driven setup. also, can anybody recommend a cheap driver/breakout board setup that definitely works w/ mach 3? i have been out of electronics for quite some time, probably 10yrs or so, so a kit would be nice and i don't have access to the equipment used to make my own boards anymore. i can read schematics and know orientation and kind of remember the resistor color code, but i am rusty and i also don't want to have to buy a large quantity when i need just a few items. should i go for 5V, 12V or 24V motors? this will be used for education as i am learning solidworks but really need to learn the cam aspect and figure this would do the trick as i am not into the virtual cnc machines, i want to see a finished product. what have you guys figured the decent setup size is? i was thinking something maybe a bit smaller in size compared to the McWire Cartesian Bot v1.2 but a bit larger than this one. thanks in advance, bob
rahmansaid5 years ago
For absolute newbies like me, can someone help to provide instructions on how to use this machine -- set up, tips, etc. That would be most useful. Thanks.
Tom McGuire (author) 6 years ago
A friend of mine wants to do CNC but he's one of those dedicated Machintosh users. Does anybody know of some MAC software for CNC or even something just to run stepper motors from a MAC. It's not me really, it's a friend of mine from a long time ago. But a really nice guy none the less.
i suggest you try checking out this post oncnc and macs cnc and macs.
Tom have you tried looking here :- not sure if they will have anything but its possibly your very best chance and if theres nothing there, it will be worth asking as someone will be a MAC user.
Fasteners5 years ago
Wow this is awesome.
Hi, I´m from Portugal and I´m amassed on your project. When will you have software running on the computer? Best regards. Julio Pereira
landru6 years ago
what are those black circles acting as "feet," and how did they get there?
they look like the little screw in feet that come with furniture...I am using the extra ones that came with my computer desk...they look like checkers with a threaded rod coming out one end.
they look like the little screw in feet that come with furniture...I am using the extra ones that came with my computer desk...they look like checkers with a threaded rod coming out one end.
HankMcSpank5 years ago
What are the dimensions of the bearings you nare using please? (ie inner hole diameter, overall bearing diameter & bearing width)....even better if you have them in metric!
Hank, I think the GREAT thing about this CNC mill as opposed to other designs on the net, including this site, is that it's freely adjustable in all terms. You can make the bearings what ever size you wish, from the 5mm OD ones to the 4 inch wide ones. So long as it all comes together nicely. You also can place 1 or 2 or 3 of them if you want. And you don't have to measure their positions accurately, just judge it by eye. The leadscrew does all the accuracy setting for you. I suggest though, you 2 coupling nuts for each threaded rod (leadscrew) one oneach end of the plexglass (or what ever you choose to use) stage. This way, you can get more stability. Even the placement of the rails isn't critical, as they're just guides. If you make the holes in the U channels a bit bigger than the screws that pass through them, you can adjust it if need be, then tighten them up for stability.
pressure applied to bearing.bmp
Dodgy, relax. Enthusiasm is great, but you're participating all alone. lol

I have ADHD so I had trouble following all of your posts. But based on what I think you said, I think you should check this out. I think you're going to like it.

These guys took what Tom did here and expanded on it in a good way. They implemented springs. They also put in some other cool upgrades.

In some ways, I like Tom's way better. The RepStrap version is slightly more complicated and I'm not sure if all of the 'improvements' add much value.

I hope you get something you can use out of it like I did. Good luck.
I seen reprap does have parts for this design it makes it more accessible for someone like me. I am in NY USA but I am into electronics and circuitboards and mechanical stuff is someone else's specalty. I am considering getting their parts to make this to make my printed circuit boards. Any idea of the trace with sizes this could do? Probably would need a finer screw and pieces for a surface mount ssop package.
josheeg josheeg5 years ago
well for 100$ or 125$ finished lazer cut parts maby a place like budgetrobotics would be better. Their expanded pvc might be better and it is easy to work. I do not know about strenth... Also PCB and small detail work interest me I hope this can do that...
narpas5 years ago
what kind of bit are you using to cut the plastic?
concretebox5 years ago
The threaded rod will attach to the moving platforms, that'll secure them just fine at the other end.
Coffee bean5 years ago
do u have a video of it working
its on step 9
Jeebiss5 years ago
This looks amazing my friend. I was wondering if you, or someone else, could produce a detailed parts lists. Just so I could get some dimensions and lengths.
rc jedi5 years ago
you rock, great project!
Shamrock635 years ago
SWEET! This is just the kind of thing I need for my plan to achieve my dream of WORLD DOMINATION!!! I mean, uh, to achieve my dream of, uh, making a 3D printer! yeah, that's it!
rre055 years ago
i want 2 know how long can this project be made? do u have a compete and detailed list of materials used in this cnc milling mchine? thank you...
Almaz5 years ago
Which threaded rod would you recommend for higher precision 1/4 28 or 1/4 20? I have them both in local hardware store.
gentry Almaz5 years ago
Painterguy5 years ago
Great idea! Simple, yet robust. I feel like I just watched an old episode of MacGyver!
Dodgy5 years ago
What keeps constant pressure on the ball bearing race to press it against the rail ? I would use an adjusting screw thru the middle of a compression spring. How does that sound ? I've made a simple diagram to illustrate what I mean. But damn, it's wrong... incomplete and I'm not sure how to do it. I know that all the adjuster screw should do, is possibly keep the spring from bending outwards, but mainly it should increase or reduce the pressure on the spring, like squashing it harder or less.
pressure applied to bearing.bmp
Dodgy5 years ago
Can we see a side view (cross section) to see how the 2 rails (U channel) , plastic & ball bearing race all come together? Also, what stops the plastic nearest to the T piece from hitting the rail under it? Shouldn't there be a ball bearing race going downwards, not just horizontally ?
Dodgy5 years ago
re: the small metal strip that holds the ball bearing race. What secures it tightly? Not just that screw ? Surely it'd come loose and the ball bearing wouldn't be pressing against the clear plastic, right?
Dodgy5 years ago
From this picture, it appears as thought he clear stage has 2 rails screwed to it, which limits the size of objects you can mount to the stage. Am I right in guessing this? Also, does one aluminum rail rub against another when the stage slides left & right ?
Dodgy5 years ago
It says here "500 comments" even after I posted mine. Is that the limit per instructable ? If so, are all the oldest ones getting discarded ? Has anyone archived them ? Because some of the early questions may be very relevant, and haven't been asked/answered more recently! Tom: instead of the aluminum U sections, can I use steel ones ? I guess this would be more stable, less flexible over a larger span, as I plan on making mine about 2 or 2.5times as big. And as for the threaded drive rod, can I use any size ? I was hoping for a 3/8 inch or similar, even metric, I don't mind, but as fine a thread as I can find, without spending $120 on a super fine one. Would it be difficult to add a gear, so that It could turn a 0.8degree/step motor into the equivalent of a 0.08 degree/step motor ? If so, would something like that have the accuracy/resolution to make a hemispherical dome, like a large ball bearing/pinball ball ? Has anyone ever milled a steel sphere, that looks like a mirror finish 1" ball bearing ? Or even a plastic trackball ball? Would a 1cm thick aluminium sheet make a good stage ? Is there an advantage of using plexiglas/perspex for the stage ? Isn't it a bit too flexible over a larger span ? How would this device go, if it were give a ball point pen, and a pad of paper on the stage. And you program it (with minor Z axis ups & downs) to reproduce someone's (your own?) signature!? I'd love a concrete engraver (no stage, as the concrete footpath/sidewalk is your stage - the whole upper part moves X, Y & Z), for when I see fresh concrete that has already set, and I missed out writing my name & the date in it for all to see, many years later! I like when I see old concrete, and someone has written the date in it, that it was poured, and it was in the 70's or something decades ago! For this, I think the rotary tool of choice would be a die grinder or a mini (plunge) router without the bottom guard.
wpflum6 years ago
Doh!!! For everyone who like me wondered why Tom's original design had the vertical pipe offset instead of in the middle allow me to post the obvious, albeit, late, reason; the motor mount!!!!! I originally ASSuMEd that it was just because he had had the pipes already and just used them. All it took to beat me over the head with the obvious was to assemble mine with a centered column and realize that I'd lose a couple of inches of table travel if I mounted the motor to the pipe like Tom did. Unfortunately I've already 'fixed' my pipes as not to allow any disassembly, I tack welded them to keep the alignment I fought hard to obtain so a longer pipe was out. What I did is find a piece of 1/2 inch thick aluminum bar stock I had from many years earlier (NEVER THROW ANYTHING OUT!!) and attached it on the bottom of the pipes parallel to the channel and protruding out 4 inches to one side. now all I have to do is make a face plate to mount the motor on and attach it to the end and I'll have my 9 inches of travel I originally needed. In case you're wondering I am using rubber feet I got from the same place I bought the motors from which are slightly thicker than the bar so it doesn't interfere with the stability of the frame.
Nuno wpflum6 years ago
It's relative. You don't have to mount the vertical block centered on the vertical pipe, and I think it's actually undesirable; you should mount the block in such a way as to have the drill centered on the vertical pipe, because of force balancing.
gus_452000 Nuno6 years ago
Hi all, just getting ready for the day shift here :o(( Just wondering what sort of sizes your machines cutting tables will be mine should jave a 8 1/2" x 6" which I think is quite good. Got the X and Y-axis completely finished now just the Z-axis and the interface to build, keep up the excellent work and keep posting. Right off to work :o(((( regards Gus
Mine has a 12 x 9 inch table, mainly because I used a 12 x 18 inch plastic cutting board ripped in half. I needed about 7 or so inches by at least three to be able to do pinewood derby cars but I figured if I go as big as possible I'll leave more room for future projects. One thing I am considering strongly is after I get the initial machine built and functioning is that I'd like to add a 4th axis, basically a 4th stepper/gearbox mounted to the y table that will let me turn the blank horizontally letting me machine all but the ends.
Pls give an update on your 4th axis. I'm very interested.
Nuno gus_4520006 years ago
I'm aiming for at least around 10x6x2.5 cm (3.93x2,36x1 inches). I want this machine for PCB making.
Javier0015 years ago
Hello tom, i was very impress from your video and this was great, now i'm very interesting on making one my self, but this is the kicker, i want to make a guitar body usualy guitar blocks are mesure by 13-3/4" x 20" x 1-3/4". now i want to make a machine big enough so a can start my proyect. can you help me with this? Thanks & Regards J
At that size this design is starting to see limits. Its a great design, don't get me wrong, it's just better suited for smaller jobs on a tight budget (the main purpose it was created for).

A better design for the larger projects (such as your guitar body) would be gantry style. It can be accomplished a few different ways. One way, that the X,Y, and Z axises are all moving one part, is already described on here. The other common style I have seen combines these two. The look is near identical to the other machine. The only difference is the Y axis is the base. So the part moves up and down like on tom's, but the rotary tool (and consequently the Z-axis) move side to side to form the X-axis. This makes the X and Z axises more stable because they are bolted to a solid base. The Y axis (and consequently the part) "float" on that bolted base, also giving it independent stability. ( has some good examples of this design)

Ultimately it's a decision left up to you. As has been said many times, this was meant as a desktop cnc machine, not table top. Meaning you can set it right next to your 24/7 computer. Again, I feel that size is pushing this design's limits. creed4545 was able to have his measure 9x11 (right on this page) and others have gotten similar sizes. I will leave you as tom would have liked, to solve the challenge of this build, that is the reason he did not give measurements.
rahmansaid5 years ago
Can you do work on small wooden cylinders (handles)? What changes need to be made? Sorry, I know ziltch about CNCs.
You could do it on a 3-axis machine such as this, but you would mill one side then manually flip it 180 degrees to mill the other side. So no real changes, just do it in two separate parts. This limits you just a little it what designs you could actually put on the handles, but its better than he alternative. (eg. example of 3-axis in two parts )

The alternative would be a 4-axis machine such as a converted mill/lathe combo, but then it violates the "easy", "desktop", and "3-axis" parts of the title. (example of 4-axis)
arun56795 years ago
can u tell the dimensions and the explainations tom .. it would be much helpful for doing my project
Tightwad5 years ago
On the Z axis, why didn't you use a coupler nut like you did on the rest? I was just working to finish mine, and I noticed that was the case, but couldn't figure out the reason for it Joshua
Tom McGuire (author)  Tightwad5 years ago
Gravity pulls the Z axis down. So I just made this holder for the nut. This way if things get out of hand when your milling a piece you can just reach over and lift up the Z axis and then stop the proccess. Tom
That makes sense, I shoulda waited a bit before I finalized my Z axis. Thanks
bluumax5 years ago
Oopsy, I killed the original Rail post I think. Channel & rod Rail setup.
bluumax5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
reido bluumax5 years ago
Very attractive alternative! I'm going to try this out since I am having some problems sourcing retail plexiglass/perspex in my location and I already have several stainless steel rods from big old dot matrix printers. A few questions, if I may =)

Are the top and bottom pieces of aluminum u-channel the same dimensions? It looks like the top one is narrower, but that might just be the depth of the photograph.

Do you know the ideal u-channel internal width to rod ratio to maximise stability while not introducing flexing of the u-channel? I have 11.5mm diameter steel rods and can get 10mm u-channel so I'm hoping this will work out.

What is fixing the rod in position so it doesn't move, or does it just stay fixed naturally because it's easier for the table to move without the rod moving as well?

Also @Tom: thanks heaps for the project details and all your hard work. Great stuff!
bluumax reido5 years ago
Hi. I tore down that machine a while ago, but I've got the rails right here so... I used the same, stainless rods from printers. 11.5mm diameter and 10mm u-channel would probably work fine. Just take a rod with you to check. Rod Dia is 3.74" / 9.5MM Channels is 1/2" 12MM. I chamfered the rod ends to reduce binding. I just added dimensions to the pic. I used screws through the bottom & threaded the hole in the bottom of the channel. I just glued the rod to the channel (the shorter pieces) they're still glued today.
Tom McGuire (author)  bluumax5 years ago
That looks good. I imagine it would not add much to the cost either.
Tightwad5 years ago
Well, the part I consider "Hard" is done. I have already wired the board (bought a kit for it....I cheated) and tested my motors off the mill. The pipes measure 17"wide x 14"deep x 14" high Overall measurement to the ends of everything is 22"x20"x25" Usable bed space is 11"x9"x5" I don't figure I will get far from center, as I am not confident in the squareness. The nylon board was nice to work with, all cuts were done on the table saw, but it is a bit more flexible that I would like. I used 1 and a half of the biggest boards I could find, 11x18 but with a groove in them. I have not yet attached the Rotary tool, as I am not 100% willing to use my only one on this...still looking for a deal. That will be the last step I imagine, after I calibrate most of it and figure it all out. For power for the board I am using a Laptop battery charger....16.5V and 4amps if needed. I was going to use an ATX powersupply and combine +12v and -12v to have a 24v supply, but I scored this charger and it is smaller and easier to work with(quieter as well). I just need to make a control panel and box for the electrics to go in.
Mini CNC Front.jpgMini CNC Left.jpgMini CNC Right.jpg
liny5 years ago
what programs do you use to transfer the image from the computer to the actual product. Is it any type of CAD CAM program such as Techsoft or Prodesktop or did you just calculate where you wanted it to drill. Thanks, Cool project by the way - my school has two engravers and one laser cutter and i am impressed someone could actually make their engraver that way.
snosheu liny5 years ago
i use deskart to convert the pictures to gcode and then use ez cnc to carve in 3d it uses win 98 but it is easy to use
KraftyRhino5 years ago
WoW thats all I can say! I have been gutting out 2D wood works for years now and the only reason we have not taken our product to the next level is the fact that we could never keep up with large volumes of orders without the hire of a new woodworker. Something we just can not afford!! We have played with the idea of an automated machine but the cost always made it nothing more then shop talk. " Man we need a machine to do this for use" After finding this in a search I think our dreams are about to come true. I just have a few noobish questions.

In our shop I am sure we can build the rig but when I showed this to the shop guys they asked.

What kind of stepper motor and what are those? Threader robs or something?

Question 2 was how do we convert our paterns to something that this KCam program can use?

I am sure with the staff we have we can build this and the stepper controls in

Any help on teaching us old folks would be great!
Tom McGuire (author)  KraftyRhino5 years ago
I'm afraid I haven't had the time to address many of the concerns of my readers but I'll do what I can. Many times other readers will give help. I think that's great. Even if you build this thing and later find out you need something more you haven't really invested a lot of money in it and the parts you have are still usable. I think it's a great project to start learning CNC. Tom
Maybe this machine might fit in a little better in a wood shop.
marcwolf5 years ago
Thats is truly brilliant I like the way you held the tables on using ball wheels. And also using a piece of rubber to stop vibrations between the table and the motor is good too. Looking forward to more of your examples Dave
quadomatic5 years ago
I saw this and I am very amazed! It look really great. Just wondering about 2 things (pretty n00bish questions actually). 1st, if you etch PCBs from copper clad boards with this, what do you do to get rid of the copper outside of the etched traces? 2nd, can anyone who built this tell me how much all the parts costs (stepper motor driver and mill, not including the cost of the dremel/drill tool)? I don't have a whole lot of funds, but I think I'd be willing to save up. Thanks
viacin5 years ago
I like this design...simple, cheap, easy. I program and run cnc's for a living, and I'm very satisified with this little gem. If you're into PCB work, this sure beats drilling 100-200 holes on a drill press.
Darkstar645 years ago
srry for the double comment but I would really like to know if you are able to CNC a model just downloaded from the Internet from like free model site's etc just because I know MasterCam X is no able to do it because its not made in a CAD program but in a Blender or 3DSMAX just because there are some things ive been looking to cut but have been unable to do it and I have 4 CNC machines at my disposal plus this one 3 of them are not DIY but are store bought and then the 4th is this one
Tom McGuire (author)  Darkstar645 years ago
Moving from 2D to 3D can be tricky. Check out this site Your files need to be converted to stl format then a routing path can be determined to cut the shape out of a solid chunk of material.
Darkstar645 years ago
Hey tom I see you have done some 3D CNC ive been looking into that for awhile now is there a way to take a 3D model that you download and CNC it ? ive tried but all I get is that there are no surfaces or solids so im not sure if that's what you did is just download the person or did you make it ? anyways if so can you tell me how you went about doing it ?
recon5065 years ago
Hey Tom, you seem to know your stuff. I have been working lately on a Dyna 2100 CNC cutter/router. It's an ok machine, but my question to you is whether you know of any compatible CAM software for it? I googled it, but didn't find anything. I need this CNC to be PC controlled to mill extra-precise parts for my battlebot and your help would be much appreciated.
gus_4520005 years ago
Hi Tom, building another one here in UK, what is the biggest you have heard of your machine being built to? I am after wanting a milling area of around A3 size (14 1/2" X 11 3/4") when finished and wonder if you had heard of one being built as large as that. Still great fun Tom , and impresses everyone who sees the original in the garage. regards Gus
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520005 years ago
Hi Gus: Take a look at creed4545 a few comments down from here. He's got a pretty long travel both X and Y. It's not hard to go long on the X axis but for the Y you end up having a long arm to hold your motor over the work. Tom
hobknob5 years ago
What software is required to watch the movie?
agent hobknob5 years ago
Macromedia Flash. I'm not sure what version. Probably 8 or 9.
thatonekid5 years ago
where do you get your stepping motors?
daman075 years ago
tell me about computer controlling of machine
nevf5 years ago
Hi Tom. Have just finished some tweaking of my mill. It's basically the same as yours except: Nylon cutting boards instead of plastic, Ocean Controls 'mini stepper kit' for power and control. They are local (ie down here in Oz)and were helpful with initial problems. I'm running Mach 3 with it, using your design to learn about cnc. Mach 3 is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Thanks for a great project. It got me started instead of just looking from the sidelines! Nev
Haihai1225 years ago
Could you go along making another version but instead of moving the table this time, you move the drill/head. I would greatly appriciate it, because I am having problems thinking of a way to move the frame for the drill. :\
smartroad5 years ago
Hi! I am looking to make myself one of these but I was looking at the kcam software and have hit a slight snag. I am looking at engraving perspex with a bitmap image I have converted into a vector using Corel Draw. However when CD exports to DXF it doesn't retain the fill information, only the overall outline. It is a black and white image I want the black parts engraved. Any suggestions?
Think I have solved this by having the software create a scan line image which the milling machine should be able to use it a little like a dot matrix printer.
macrumpton6 years ago
If you made a little collar that went around the chuck that had a couple of fan blades attached it would blow the debris off the work whenever the chuck was turning. Great project!
Not a bad idea. I was considering making a clear plexi box with a port for a shop vac that I could cover then entire thing with when I do 'dusty' stuff. Another idea was to add a plywood bottom with latches to attach the upper plexi box to and then put a handle on the top of the plexi box. Make it nice and easy to move around.
Lebanite wpflum5 years ago
I like both of those ideas. If you made a case for it you could take tubing and place it near the cutting bit and put a fan on the other side that would suck all the debris into a container of some sort that you could then clean out after making a bunch of cuts, therefor you wouldn't have to have your shop-vac on the entire time.
Eshisa5 years ago
Hi! This project is wonderful! I have 4 TEC stepping motors TYPE SPH-54AB-116; 2.1 V; COIL 1.4 Ohms; 1.8 Deg/Step. Anyone have any idea of how must I addapt this circuit to the motors I have? Thanks!
gus_4520005 years ago
Hi Tom, still using the machine and always a proud father when I get visitors to the radio shack and show them my newest homebrew kit. Tom wonder what your using for milling bits on the PCB materials etc, found the normal mini-tool bits etc not very useful at all and bend quite easily. Think having shorter bits to be very useful but wonder what your doing? regards Gus (p.s. happy fathers day here in UK)
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520005 years ago
Hi Gus: Happy Fathers day. I was just checking in and I see your question. Here's what I use to route PCBs
hey i harvested some motors from printers scanners etc and they all have gears on the end. should i remove these by brute force before coupling with a lead screw? i could not gently remove them and would like to know before i begin this project. thanks! matt
rcamp0045 years ago
Hey Tom, are there any websites with tutorials on how to write the code to run the CNC? I'm thinking I can use a modded DVD burner Laser for the cutter. I'm worried if I use any old code that things will go bad when I take it for a test cut.
codex5 years ago
I have almost finished my machine. Build log, pictures and videos at

Thank you Tom for the brilliant design and this great Instructable!
gus_4520005 years ago
Hi Tom, long time since my last posting but just to let you know that my little project works FAB! I used the 2nd hand ex-printer stepper motors and have an accuracy of 0.02mm which is far better than I hoped. Never ceases to amaze me that it works so well, mine is a little different to yours as I am in UK and can't get the pipe so went with square tubing from local B&Q stores etc. Thanks Tom, great Instructable, really pleased. regards Gus
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520005 years ago
Hey Gus. Good to hear from you. That was my first impression too. That it was so accurate for such a cheap thing. That's what made me want to post it as an instructable. It takes a while to put one together even though it looks simple. But other people are starting to having success. More power to you all, and have fun. Tom
iideetee5 years ago
Everything works perfectly, which means that your instructable is good! Just waiting the motors =) Software is EMC2 and it is open source. Works perfectly with my Linux.CNC mill
Tom McGuire (author)  iideetee5 years ago
Hey that looks great. Good to see it running on linux. So what are you going to make first? Tom
It is for board etching. I almost went crazy with my surveillance camera project. Check out my wirings and you will understand =)
Tom McGuire (author)  iideetee5 years ago
Good project. I am always inspired to see people doing something that takes a great deal of focus and detail in order to realize an amazing result. We can all do many things if we if we take the time and focus on it. Tom
awkrin5 years ago
is this gonna work?
vykk36 years ago
Err, how does the Y stage move? With the stepper mounted to it and connected to the coupling nut on the same piece of plastic, it isn't going anywhere? Seems that the stepper should be attached to the X stage.
It is supposed to be mounted to the X moving platform.
max902726 years ago
Hi Tom, You are a genius. Any chance you would make driver boards available for sale since i can't seem to get it. I would like to purchase one from you. Thank you again MAx
This is a nice tutorial. I was wondering if I could use this for a thin sheet of aluminum, say .125" thick?
Ok i'm a little clueless, but what did you use to drill/tap the holes, so that you could screw the rails into the pipe?? Thanx.
vykk36 years ago
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wpflum vykk36 years ago
It wasn't obvious to me either until I actually started bolting up the motors. If you don't have the offset then the X platform wont center under the Z platform because the X table wont be able to move close enough to the side with the motor on. With it off center like it is shown you wont need to add a bracket for the motor like I did so I could get the same working envelope on both sides of the cutting bit.
vykk3 wpflum6 years ago
:-), I just got back with the parts :-). Yes, it was all pure guess, but I suspect that assembling it will be educational when it comes to operation. I went for center on the vertical post, I'll post dimensions later once I get it all out of the bag and set up. I did go for 1" pipe which is probably overkill for this, but I never met a mill that was too rigid :). Needless to mention going with the 1" increased cost noticibly, but it should be worth it! I think all I need is the opto-isolated break out board and the steppers and drive. I have a bunch of 4N38s but I don't know if they are fast enough for this. Going to be an exciting adventure :). Got "leadscrews" and such from a previous attempt. More to follow.
vykk3 vykk36 years ago
Ok got the dimensions so lets see if I can figure out how to add the image again: I think that got it. The 6" extension from the head might be too small, suspect it is.
PicoMillBase-V4(410x617) 5 KB
vykk3 vykk36 years ago
Well, sigh, looking at the assembled base (V4), it is WAY out of whack. Going to make some changes today to see how it comes out. The neck extends far too far as it sits. 12" for the base legs makes more sense from the looks of it and perhaps 2-4" for the neck extension, we'll see.
vykk3 vykk36 years ago
Err, I'm pretty sure this is entirely out in left field, forget it :-/.
fata4u26 years ago
where can i get some motors and drivers from
dchall86 years ago
THAT'S what I'M talking about ! Nice job, but for someone who doesn't want to reinvent the wheel, could you put in some dimensions, source of supply, parts list, and any special tools needed?
Tom McGuire (author)  dchall86 years ago
I have posted some more detailed instructions on my blog site
I'll try to add more of it into the insructable.
Looked all over the site and saw nothing relating to dimensions :-(. Did I just miss a page somewhere? Someone remind me if I ever build something and put it up to include a ruler in the picture! From that you can extrapolate... We won't mention that so far I keep forgetting that :-).
I am interested in the interface and what is out there with regards to software? Looks cool from what I have seen!
Ghostsniper6 years ago
can u modify it to any size you want, or will it mess with the motor cicuit
:-) Yes you can and yes it will :-). Larger will require more attention to rigidity and quite possibly beefier steppers and drives. At just what "Bigger" that occurs I am not quite sure, but it does occur.
Mr.e6 years ago
I'm so glad you put this on here! this is the coolest project I've ever seen! and it looks like I would be able to build it! and afford it! and I could then use it as a tool! for other cool projects! Man I'm foaming at the mouth here! lol :) Can I ask, if you just bought a dremel from a shop, and used that as the drilling tool, then does that mean that you can easily replace the drill bit on the end, for different uses? For example, could you work on metals with this as well as wood? Steel being the one I'm mainly wondering about? Thanks alot!!!! I'll most definately be back!
Tom McGuire (author)  Mr.e6 years ago
Your most welcome. Once I got it working I just had to share the idea. As far as hard materials I haven't done much. If you have a real sharp dit and your bearings are tight, and you go slow you might get a reasonable part. Try it and let us know how it goes.
berto...6 years ago
what program did you use? And how hard is it to use? p.s. I am only 13 so easy or medium or hard for me to use I have build this already just need the program and how to use it
berto I use KCam ( It is a great program and fairly easy to use. Mike_in_NC
mike_in_nc6 years ago
Tom I have completed my 3-axis mill using many of your construction techniques and ingenious stepper motor driver circuit (Photo 1). I used ball bearing-based drawer slides from my local home improvement store and wood for the structure and platform. It is a fixed gantry type where the piece on which you are working is mounted on top the X-axis driven platform. The Z-axis is attached to the Y-axis, making up the gantry. This is the second iteration of my machine as the first had the X and Y axes connected to each other where each axis used a pair of parallel drawer slides lying horizontal. The X and Y axes were at 90 degrees to each other. It showed promise, but reality finally set in when a particular shortcoming could not be overcome. Along the way, I made some improvements to my drive mechanisms (the lead screws made from ¼-20 threaded rod and coupling nuts). I was having trouble with the non-motor end of the threaded rod just hanging there without support causing drag. In addition, problems existed with the coupling nuts when using the wrapped aluminum strip which were then fastened to the axes. I thought that rethinking both of those schemes would improve my machine. Photo 2 shows some of the tools and materials I used to solve the problems. The first step was to devise a way to support the non-motor end of the threaded rod. I thought if I could remove the threads from about a quarter inch of the rod on that end by turning it so that it was smooth and round, I could then position it in a bearing. I do not have a metal lathe, so a simplified alternative was to grind the end of the rod using my bench grinder while the threaded rod was spinning. The motor end of the threaded rod was chucked in my cordless drill which provided the rotation for symmetric grinding (Photo 3). A small piece of wood was used as a guide and brace for the rod as it met the face of the grinding wheel to keep the threaded rod and grinding wheel face parallel. After getting it to the right diameter (soon after the threads disappeared), a strip of 220 wet/dry sand paper was used to smooth it out while it was spun with in the drill. I then made a crude bearing by drilling a hole in a piece of aluminum strip and securing the strip to the frame side opposite the axis stepper motor. I small dab of grease lubricates the bearing. I cut slots in the screw holes used to secure the aluminum strip bearing to the machine’s wooden frame. That allows a certain amount of adjustment to be made in order to align the mechanism. Securing the non-motor end of the threaded rod now helps the mechanism run smoother with less drag. Problem 2, bonding the coupling nut to the axis, was solved by soldering the head end of a #6 machine screw to one of the faces of the coupling nut. I first thought it would have to be welded it in order for it to hold, but I do not have a welding machine either! Some 50:50 non-core solder works well in this application. First take a hand file and scuff up one of the 6 faces on the coupling nut. This will give the solder something on which to bond. Next, grind or file a small amount of the top of the head of the #6 machine screw until it is flat. This will be the mating surface to the coupling nut face. Apply some acid core soldering flux to the head of the #6 screw and to the face you filed on the coupling nut. Make sure you also get some flux around the side of the screw head because you want solder to adhere to it, too, so the bond will be stronger. Slowly and carefully heat both parts with a propane torch. Apply only enough heat to get the flux sputtering well. Remove the heat and clean both surfaces with a wire brush. “Butter” both parts one at a time by heating and applying solder. Try not to overheat the parts. When the solder melts and then runs, stop heating the part. After “buttering” both parts with solder, allow them to cool. Using a small hand file, smooth both surfaces so that they are flat to allow a good bond. Align the 2 parts so that the “buttered” faces touch. I held them together using a vice grip (Photo 4). You could also use a different clamping tool. Once held together in the clamp, heat the parts until the solder melts. At that point, add a small amount of solder to the side of the screw head at the contacting surface with the coupling nut in order to get a stronger bond. After the modified coupling nut cools, remove the vice grip and file away any excess solder runs. If you heat the coupling nut too much, it may be necessary to chase the threads with a length of threaded rod or a tap to clean the threads. Photo 5 shows the modified coupling nut and threaded rod. I fabricated brackets using either a piece of angle aluminum or aluminum strip. Again, I cut slots in the holes that are used to secure the bracket to the axis. Drill a hole in the bracket at the point where the threads of the #6 screw will go through to attach it to the coupling nut. Add a flat washer, a lock washer and a nut to secure the bracket to the modified coupling nut (Photo 6). This technique was used on all 3 of the axes and works quite well.
Photo 1.jpgPhoto 2.jpgPhoto 3.jpgPhoto 4.jpgPhoto 5.jpgPhoto 6.jpg
I'm pretty much following your design but approximately double the size and with industrial drawer sliders. I'd ideally like it to be able to cut aluminum, but also plastic, wood, and foam. My question is regarding the cutting tool. Is torque more important than speed? Would a big electric drill be better than a dremel? Also, what kind of bit would you recommend I put on the end?
Have no comments its comments less job you did really a nice work to open the I Q for peoples those wasnt to do some thing. With Best Regards Plz keep it on and on.
Tom McGuire (author) 6 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
if you were gonna cut a like small curves and no sharp turns you could try a razor blade instead of a needle
Try a 250mw laser from a cheap dvd burner my diode could probably cut through the foam easily if I wouldn't have ruined it (don't accidentally put too much power into a laser diode :( ) i found the schematics here i don't know how good it would work if it went even remotely fast. just an idea.
I B Newbie here! That is quite ingenius. There are many reasons for not sing other conventional means. SWARF mainly. may I 'pinch,steal,use' your idea? Thanks.... Robbie...spherret
Just google for "foam cutter"
For example
You will just need two axis (x and y) and the device used for cutting is a hot wire
Tom ......... I don't know if you have ever hear or looked into cutting foam with a hot wire but there should be plenty of info out there on the topic. Search the term "hot wire foam cutter" either on Instructables or just in a search engine and go from there. In short the process is sending a controlled amount of current and voltage through a bare wire so as to vaporize the foam as it passes through leaving a wonderful finish and having precise control. Hope this helps you out.
Charger_066 years ago
where do you get the electronics for this machine at?
ivanirons6 years ago
It seems like each time I come back to reference this there is more info. Great documentation.

CNC Video Tutorials
shulio6 years ago
Ok here is and my project :)<br/><br/>[URL=][IMG]<a rel="nofollow" href=""></a>[/IMG][/URL]<br/>
fjr122 shulio6 years ago
Good Job! That looks like a great adaptation of Tom's design.
akiriwas shulio6 years ago
What I really like about your project is that it looks like it was made almost 100% with materials you just had around. Looks like wood (or fiber board or similar) from something else just recut and screwed together. What kind of rails are those? The kind I used are typically for covering plywood edges. Nice design!
shulio akiriwas6 years ago
The rails are from alum T profile.All is good,but i have a little problem.The KCAM software can't invert any axis.I change it true or false,but the axis always go in one direction.I need it because my Z axis go down when the numbers grow.
Roidy shulio6 years ago
Swap the wires round on the motor.
shulio Roidy6 years ago
10X.That with the wires works.Now all is super exept that i dont know how to generate g-code for images from pdf.I draw some words with deskengrave.Know someone a simple way to draw a picture?
In port setup you can change the invert to true or false for z direction. This will change rotation on your motor without changing any wires. Look under the LPT port tab. Lots of options here.
ta1dr6 years ago
it is perfect I celebrate Tom it is very easy and chip
FeLeX6 years ago
Hey I was wondering can I use a dvd driver motor? Cuz I seen I set up that consisted of 2 dvd drivers. Look it up on
Ghostsniper6 years ago
what parts do u need? (plz list them)
callmeshane6 years ago
This is really cool. Kind of like a mechano set, that actually does something useful, and it can be scaled up and powered up.... Bigger bed, bigger motors, more powerful mill...... then an indexed tool rack, automatic tool changing, thread cutting programs., spark erosion cutting heads and wire reels, Hell if I save up enough soft drink cans, I can make another Concord jet plane. Noooo serious my own space shuttle will be enough. This is an excellent starting point. I still hate my older sister, perhaps I can shave her head and start learning brain surgery on her. Good idea.
-Cry_Wolf6 years ago
Dear Tom
I have decided to go a completely different direction with the overall layout. i have decided to make a cnc router that is 31x20 inches. i have most of it built, but i still have to buy [ steppers] and buy the electronics. attached is a picture of the 3d model i made of "The Beast" tell me what you think!

P.S. Please email me when the stepper controllers/drivers are done. I'm excited that you are going to make them and not some money hungry company. I can't wait, kinda like i can't wait for the weekends! :)
chaddcurtis6 years ago
This is a great project. I have been watching the comments since the project was posted and have built two machines myself. Having little experience in electronics, I was able to build the driver without too much difficulty- it worked from the beginning. I was able to find enough info on the web to learn how to orient capacitors, etc. If you want to learn about electronics, this is a good place to begin, not to mention the satisfaction of having built it from components. That being said, I want to pass along that this board does work with Linux CNC (EMC2). It took some time and research to configure it properly but it worked without redesigning the board. I found for a non-linux person the learning curve was steep. Being such powerful software, the configuration instructions are complex, as it can drive so many different configurations. Unfortunately, it appears the new stepconf wizard released with EMC2 2.2.x (which is aiming to help simplify configuration), will not work with this board. That means the configuration file needs to be manually editing with a text editor. I am happy to pass along the configuration files I have if people want to try it out. They will need some basic editing (table size, etc.) but it should be a quick way to get up and running, assuming you have some linux experience. I would still do all of the initial board testing with KCAM using Tom's excellent video. (Sorry for posting this comment here and on the driver page. The driver page is more appropriate, but it seems to have attracted less attention. A few people, early on, expressed interest in using EMC2, so hopefully this helps.)
Tom McGuire (author)  chaddcurtis6 years ago
Hey Chad your really getting in to this. That's great. I see you are an educator. I have been working with schools and hope to teach this a course some day. I don't have any experience with Linux so I'm glad to see you worked it out. If you send me the setup in a private message I'll add it to this page. As far as the schematic I created it in Easy-PC. I'll be glad to do it in Eagle and send it to you. Then I'll rework this page because a lot of people have trouble with the drivers. Thanks for your input...send us some pictures! Tom
cooldog6 years ago
where can you get the bearings
The cheapest place to get bearings is at the local thrift store. Find a pair of roller blades for a couple of dollars and strip out the bearings. If I remember correctly, each pair will have 16 bearings.
cooldog6 years ago
where did you get the motors
Jii Dee6 years ago
My My, that setup looks mighty familiar.....
Jii Dee Jii Dee6 years ago
ha ha. Oh man, so funny. i posted a link on this youtube video to here, showing where the idea for the setup came from...they deleted the post. How childish can ya get. On an unrelated not i've recently taken possesion of some steppers, so now i need some drivers so i can begin to play with them.
meisjedog6 years ago
I'd like to be able to engrave 3 lines of text on a 3/4" x 3" brass plate. Does anyone have any idea if this machine would be that accurate?
Tom McGuire (author)  meisjedog6 years ago
Most people try to go large with this project but in your case small would be better. If you build it small you will be able to do small things very well. I did a lot of engraving over the summer and I also did some very small PC boards.
PeterAllen6 years ago
Great Project Tom! Where did you find the plexiglass that you used? Could anyone recommend a vendor and a thickness for the plexi? I'm having a hard time finding it online for a reasonable price. keep up the good work...cnc for all!
-Cry_Wolf6 years ago
Whats up tom! im very excited on building this cnc, and i would love to have as little conflicts and $ issues as possible. could you please tell me: 1. what steppers you used (model and company) 2. the dimmensions of every thing that you can bear to measure i don't like surprises when spending $100+ on a project, so "copying" your working cnc seems best. sorry i am asking for too much on the dimmensions, but yours seems perfect! Thanks, -Cry_Wolf
Mikeldigra6 years ago
Hey how did you learn to design this? I wanna make machanical stuff like you! where do i start of and what bit should i use for the rotary tool? and what can this mill shape? I really appreciate it if you tell me because i really wnt to start doing these things but i dont know where to begin! :D
Merakesh6 years ago
I've finally found one I can build, nice job.

But I think I would like to beef mine up a little, using Unistrut, for both the frame and the rails.
I purchased 2 , 10 ft lengths for $15.90 ea CAD from an electrical supplier.

They also have heavy and light duty bearing slides.

mike_in_nc6 years ago
Tom... I, too, am building an Easy Mill. However, I've taken a different approach on moving each axis. Rather than using the channel and Plexiglas combination you have designed, I am using ball bearing-based drawer slides. More specifically, the ones used on the bottom of drawers. I use 2 in parallel for each of the X and Y axes and, just like in the use as "under drawer" slides, they are used in horizontal fashion as opposed to vertical on edge as in normal drawer slides. I purchased them from the local Lowe's store. This seems to work well, especially since the range of X and Y of movement is about 12-inches. Using 1/4-20 threaded rods attached to the stepper motors still provides the drive for each axis. The drawer slides are sturdy and move well with no noticeable side-to-side play. Using 2 in parallel (spaced about 7 inches apart give it lots of strength. The slides are 16-inch in length because that's the shortest version the store carries. I'm looking for a similar approach for Z-axis using shorter slides because I certainly would prefer not to use the 16-inch lengths to move the Dremel tool only 3 - 5 inches. So, if anyone out there knows of a supplier for 6 - 8 inch slides, please pass it along to me. I built the controller for all 3 axes using your ingeniously simple circuit - well done, Tom! Since I'm plan to experiment a bit with the controller, I've constructed it using perfboard, but will eventually populate a board etched by my brother-in-law using your layout. The steppers I purchased are from The Jameco part number is 155432 and were about $20 each. They have 30 Ohm coils that take 12 volts and 0.4 amps. They are said to produce 220 g. cm of detent torque and 2000 g. cm holding torque. I built a power supply to run the controller that produces 12 volts @1 amp using a heat-sinked fixed regulator (7812). It also uses a 5 volt regulator to power the logic. That seems to work well so far. In addition, I decided to use 1/2 watt resistors (rather than the light bulbs) to take a small amount of the load (~3.5 Ohms or about 1 volt). I used the resistors since I already had them. Again, this seems to working far! The motors have sufficient torque running on the 11 volts. Thank you for giving us a versatile and simple design. Once I'm a little further along, I'll post some photos if anyone is interested. Mike_in_NC
wonger6 years ago
Just wondering what's the reason for the post holding the Z-axis to be off centered instead of being in the center?
omnibot6 years ago
This turned out longer than I first thought. 2,5 questions, 1,5 suggestion. 1. Motor power - How much would be enough? I can find some really cheap ones but the power is about 5mNm. 2. Motor controller - do we need it? Seeing as the smallest motors run on 5 volts which is, by an incredible coincidence, the same as is delivered from the paralell port (given that it is a standard centronics) couldn't we do without the controllers? Suggestion/Question - If the smaller motors can be controlled straight from the port (without controller) while compensating the weaker motor with changed gearing by using a finer rod and nut .. do we not get a simpler build, slower speed and higher accuracy? Am I missing something?
omnibot omnibot6 years ago
I'm realizing now that not using the controller would prolly NOT work as I'm thinking of it as a simple relay and it is in fact a counter.
omnibot omnibot6 years ago
Sry to bother with silly newbie questions ;) but I'm looking for even simpler and cheaper parts at this stage .. .. would it be possible to use a servo such as for robotics or models? I'm thinking pulse-controlled ones that rotate 360dgr.
waldy6 years ago
Hi Tom, another order request for your build pcb please. Congratulations on your fabulous instructable, even beats the banana phone to second in my favaurite instructables btw I'm also struggling to source the pipe in the UK for the project. Nearest is 22mm chrome pipe with compression fittings regards Waldy
omnibot6 years ago
I love this instructable .. everytime I come back I see some new detail. Just a few more weeks before payday and I'm making one. Thanx
akiriwas6 years ago
I love this project and have been building one of my own. Z axis is in work right now. Still deciding on a controller setup for the steppers as well, but so far I'm quite proud of this project. I'm usually not very handy with tools and such, but this is coming out pretty well :)
tong-b6 years ago
does anyone know if it would be possible to just use the slides from a draw or how to modify them so it does work
fjr122 tong-b6 years ago
If you goto you can see many machines that use drawer slides. So they can work. But in my experience I have never been satisfied with the precision of drawer slides for cnc applications. I suppose thats why so many other ways were concocted to build linear slides.
fjr1226 years ago
Hey Tom, What kind of bit should I use in my cutter (router) I've got a 1/4 to 1/8 collet adapter, but I'm not sure what kind of bit is usually used for cnc (I think I'm going to try some simple engraving first, then maybe some pcbs).
Tom McGuire (author)  fjr1226 years ago
Go to and look in the engraving bits section.
pelrun fjr1226 years ago
There are various dremel milling bits (i.e. the small bladed ball, cone, cylinder etc) which should probably work.

There are also proper end mill bits too; I'm planning on getting some from

For PCB milling I'm getting 60 degree carbide pcb mill bits from The bits from look nicer but are WAY too pricey for me...
ydeardorff6 years ago
is it possible to add tweo more axis to the router itself? for more detail workon the sides, and ends? Any ideas on how to do this?
dickda6 years ago
Very nice. Drill circuit boards from an Eagle file - that's what I would like to do. This project could do that I believe. Control of backlash might be an issue.
ivanirons6 years ago
Great Instructable! CNC and iron Pipe. What inginuity. Great Creativity. Keep putting these out. You are a great DIY Teacher for CNC.
I also instruct others. I have made a number of tutorials on various CNC Projects. I like to walk people through each step during the CNC Process. I get great feedback from people just entering our cool CNC Hobby.

Here are the videos:

Then click on the link on the left.

Thanks for your contribution,
Ivan Irons
gn0stik6 years ago
you have to freeze the cheese before cutting it. Also, you probably have to take some breaks and do it in stages, re-freezing the cheese and letting any friction heat dissipate. The bit probably won't get hot, but the friction will thaw the cheese. So, You CAN make cheese models favorite things from cheese. Or other semi solid materials. A Tofu Cow would be interesting. You could also laser etch things if you combined this with the DVD burning laser maglite mod. Just an afterthought
sanzya gn0stik6 years ago
hi,i have a question, this drill can make electronic circuits and about the holes of the circuit to insert the components, they can drill the holes??
cfedde sanzya6 years ago
fitted with the proper bit it sure could.
stumblecrab6 years ago
Here a couple of my sketches of the zaxis, I've also attached a sketchup file. Hopefully others will use it and add to it. I can't get roller -bearings today because of the weather. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to start working on the z-axis.
fjr1226 years ago
Hey Tom,

I've got everything built but the motor mounts. And if i understand the design correctly (which I probably dont). Is the Z-Axis not hanging from the threaded rod+coupler hose+motor mount? I dont think that is enough support for mine....

Here's some pictures
is there a list of where to get the stepper motors? what the stats on them need to be? you know, voltage, amperage,how many steps ect. Perhaps if someone could lay out the materials, and mesurements, we could use it as a modifiable template for what we want to do with our own.
Tom McGuire (author)  fjr1226 years ago
I think your right. The motor and the threaded rod can handel it ,no problem, but the hose coupler might pull off the motor shaft. The hose is nice for flexibility but you might need something stiffer and stronger. Don't forget to grease the skids and a little in the threads too.
Can you tell what software you used?
Another programme you can try for control is CNCPro which works FAB on very old or slow PCs that you wont mind having in the shack/garage, its also free! regards Gus
Tom McGuire (author)  gimmelotsarobots6 years ago
I have been using KCAM from You can run the demo for 30 days or buy it for $100. I think it works pretty good for the price.
An alternative is TurboCNC or LinuxCNC is very good as well. free forever too.
Is it possible to adjust the number of steps in Turbo CNC??
casimiro6 years ago
Your video is interesting. Would u happen to have a list of the materials to make my own?
tbenefi336 years ago
Hello I new here totaly awsome on all of your cnc's thank you tom for posting this project. I'm staring on mine. What is the average size table ?
JROdden6 years ago
Hi guys,

First of all: great project!

I havent postet here before but 3 or 4 week ago I started to build one of these myself. And here are some pictures I took of it today: Desktop CNC picture gallery

As you can see it's not finished, but good on it's way. I was kinda hoping to get it finished by christmas - I still might manage that :)

Still don't quite understand how you managed to use just rubber hose to connect the threaded rods... my motor shafts are much thinner than the rods so, have to come up with something else.

Comments are welcome.
get 1/4 vacuum tubing from auto supply house it will stretch over threaded rods and fit the motor very tightly.
fjr1226 years ago
Hey guys, I've been spending the last 4 nights (and part of sunday) to get this thing built ASAP.

My friend's dad let me borrow a little corner of his shop for this project, so I've been driving 40miles into the boondocks everyday to work on it. :)

Anyways, I've got some pictures Here. It's really been alot of fun and reminded me how much I like building things.

As to progress, these pictures are all just from the work of Sat. Night and Sunday (from about 3pm-11), Tues and Wed, i've been working on the Z-Axis. I've got the basic motion and the router mounted. Gotta build Z-Axis retainers next, then three motor mounts.

Cant wait to get this running...

Clayton H.6 years ago
Could you make this thing draw pictures?
Hi I think the first thing everyone has the machine do is draw a few pictures, this gets you going to do the 3rd axis (z-axis) completley finished for the mini-tool. regards Gus
JDJr6 years ago
I salvaged some steppers from an old copier. The problem is on the shaft is a belt gear. Anyone have any good ideas on how to remove it? I tried locking it in a vice and hitting it with a nail set, all that did was make a mark on the shaft. I tried to dremel it away but it's too close to the housing to cut all the way across it. BTW: Love CNC idea. I'm getting there.
ydeardorff6 years ago
What bit is used for the dremel? also could the pencil tip for the dremel be used, instead of the dremel itself? I though the pencil tip extension would clear more complicated parts easier. Also can a future extra two axis be added to manipulate the dremel itself? on the bed? so the dremel can move in its mount. I know alittle bit of redesigning would have to be done to the mount, but it seem simple enough, possibly a second seperate controller for that? Also, is there any future plans for making this plug and play with maybe a USB connection? No telling how long before computers get rid of their parallel ports, kinda of like the ole ill fated A drive, or the 5 1/2 inch floppies. Just a little forward thinking sorry.
bird 076 years ago
Tom great job on this Instructable . I am building one with a 12 X 12 inch workable area. Cost so far about $ 2.00 Thanks !
shulio6 years ago
I made a control circuit board,but my stepper cant move .It is MAE Italy model hy200-2220 it allows unipolar and bipolar wiring.It is with 5 wire - blue,black,red,yellow and orange.Best think i made is the lamp blinking and the motor is not working.How must i wiring the motor.10x in advance
Hi Shulio first check out this video of Tom's, this helped me a lot.
then check that you have the PC port wired correctly, I am using CNC Pro which has the pins on the LPT port wired differently to the port used in Kcam.
Keep trying it will come together very soon.
I watch the video and see that my Kcam software seems to cant work corectly.I check the 1000 steps per inch and single steps to 0.001,but while i press the yellow arrow the green digits wont change like in the video.The only thing that changes is the "feed" .
Hi Shulio, sorry I am not using KCam so I cant help with the software, I am using CNCPRO which I find very good. I have downloaded KCam today but I cannot get it working here either. Perhaps somebody else can help with the software problem. regards Gus
I think i solve the problem.Must set manual the pins in LPT port to start yellow arrow change the steps.So that is super.But now another problem.The circuit is as same as at picture,but i have light of all the pins who have to blink.My bulb is shining always until i plug the lpt male port in to the PC.Then bulb stops.Where is the error :).Maybe i wire the stepper wrong,because my stepper are 2 hand too.But all are the same.The problem is that i do not know how to wire it.
shulio shulio6 years ago
Is it possible my 4516 is damaged?Light comes on of LED on every pin of 4516.
Yes it sounds like it Shulio, I dont have any spare or I could have sent you one to try, the signals out come from Pins 6 & 11, these get fed into the 4028. And this has the output signals on 4 pins to the FETS.
If you have a spare 4516 try swapping it, only try altering one thing everytime before checking!
hope this helps
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520006 years ago
If ALL the pins make the LED on you might check to see if you have lost ground. pins 1,3,4,5,8,9,12,and 13 should be tied to ground(0v). Gus I see your giving me a lot of help with the feed back, Thanks. That really helps keep the energy going, specially for others who are starting out like yourself.
Hi Tom the thanks go to you, I now have a working 3 axis mill, my problems are now really only starting as I want to see how accurate I can make it by tweaking things here and there. Great fun, and everyone who has seen it thinks its great also, well done Tom, you should be very proud. regards Gus
I change 4516 and it is still so.I remove all the elements and power only the 4516,all 1,3,4,5,8,9,12,13 i set to ground (0V).And from pin 6 and 11 the LED blinking on it.The intresting is that it blinking when the LED is put between V+ and pin 6 and 11 and between V- and 6 and 11.Is this normal.
Tom McGuire (author)  shulio6 years ago
If it's blinking that's a good thing. Those signals go on to the 4028 to create the four step outputs to drive the FETs.
I mean its blinking without putting LPT port in to PC.Just 4516,power and LED nothing other.Must it blink when i put LPT in to the PC and control manualy the steps.
Tom McGuire (author)  shulio6 years ago
It's OK. It's just picking up a STEP signal out of the air because it's not plugged into your computor. If you connect pin 15 of the 4516 to ground(0v) then it will stop blinking. When you connect it to your PC it will stop blinking until you send it a signal with the software.
I give up.I have 4 count of 4516 and 4 of 4028.The circuit is right.All is OK but my LED light of pin 11 and no light of 6.While i connect the stepper it will not turn,but you cant not turn it with hand before cut the power.The stepper is not responding to any step signal of Kcam.It is possible that come from my power supply it is 1000mA 17V.It is possible it damaged the IC
Shulio, you made sure that you had a Zenor diode in the circuit this allows only 5volts (or 6.2 volts) going to the TTL circuits? regards Gus
Yes in the circuit go in only 6.2 V.I check this with my multimeter
shulio shulio6 years ago
OK.I made it!The circuit work just fine.On pin 11 on 4516 the light blink every other step,on pin 6 light change every step.On 4028 pin1 i have blinks too.But this is without the stepper motor.When i connect the motor everything goes wrong and have not blink the pins.Wrong wiring of the motor or ......
shulio shulio6 years ago
This problem goes away too.Now my stepper move,but only in one direction no matter who arrow i press the motor goes only in one direction.I change the wiring some times,but the only thing i made is to change the direction of spin.
shulio shulio6 years ago
Ihaaaaaa.I do it.The problem was that my LPT pin 2 was busy.I don't know why.I change the pins and everything goes just fine.I made some change in the circuit.The only things that remains is 4516 ,4028 and the FETs.I use 2 PSU.One for the circuit and One for the Motor with sharing ground.So i was able to remove cener,resistors and diods.And now it is super.I made 2 more pieces of this circuit and begining with the mechanics
That is great news Shulio, I hope to see your system very soon. Keep going your doing very well. regards Gus
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi Tom, regarding using Bipolar steppers, found this circuit that I think I can add to the outputs of the 4028 (remove the Fets), I would need 2 of these for each axis but it should allow users to use the bipolar steppers (4 wire ones). What do you think or am I completely off target with my thinking hi hi
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520006 years ago
Interesting. The logic looks good but I would think its needs some buffer between the 7486 gate and the transistors. I always worry about totem pole drives and making sure the high side transistor is turned off before turning on the low side transistor. But it's worth a try. That would cover all the motor types including 4 wire. Thanks Gus.
Hi Tom, thanks for feedback I got the info from here:- and the 7486 is to stop having both sides of the H bridge from going open at any time. If this should happen then the current would run down both sides of the circuit destroying (probably) all the transistors and also possibly the power supply.
Using the circuit that we have all built, I think that we can run it from the 4028's, remembering that on this circuit A would go to the 1st output and B would go to the third. It might be wise to swap the transistors to FETS, I shall try both and let you know how I get on, I seem to find lots of 4 wire steppers but not many 5 etc. Although I have found that talking to guys on the radios (ham) and via the internet the 4 wire steppers have more torque for a given size.
fjr1226 years ago
I went ahead and got the lexan today. And the package with steppers in it arrived, i do believe we have the start of a cnc machine :D
Full Size
fjr1226 years ago
Hey, I'm having a hard time locating some reasonably priced plexiglass (I need about 36"x18"). It's looking like around $60 for that so i am thinking of building it from MDF or Plywood.... Any Suggestions?
give your local Glass shop a try mine had .25 .50 and .75 thick on hand. he cut me a couple 12x12's and a couple 4x12's for about 12 bucks.
I called up a glass shop today, they will sell me a 18x36in 1/2' piece of Lexan (not plexiglass) for about $60. (it would be more but its a half sheet and apparently they dropped that piece or something). Will lexan work as well as plexiglass? Is 1/2in too thick/heavy?
since I only built a small one 12x6 y axis to mainly do circuit boards I just used .25 1/4 inch thick if you build a big table then you will need thicker to prevent sagging. bear in mind the bigger you build the table the bigger the stepper motors are going to have to be to pull it around. my motors are from old 5.25 floppy drives and are ok I run them at about 18 or so volts.
I got mine from a local junkstore. Turns out they bought the scraps from a plastic company across the street from them. I would suggest using a company search engine like thomasnet to find a plastic producing or processing company near you and then giving them a call or email, that is, if there is no junk store available. Another possibility would be fabrication shops, they usually have more metal scraps, but you never know, you can google for project shops or custom fabrication shops.
la3bna6 years ago
Does anyone have any kind of measurment for the stand (tubing?)
Tom McGuire (author)  la3bna6 years ago
Sorry no measurments. This is the challenge and the beauty of the project. I used what I call euclidean geometry but it's some times canned eye balling it. This thing can be built to any size. Just keep in mind the general proportions and flatness and squareness. And above all have fun with it.
Hi Tom,
what I learn't from building mine was that I should have thought everything through another time before cutting. My X-axis is a little long and I could have done with a little more on the Y-axis. My father use to call it thinking ahead, its all to do with the geometery of the thing and the position of the neck is fairly critical. BUT it makes you think and it makes you learn, a great project now for its bigger brother cutting area for me is 2' x 3' (as soon as I have finished playing with this one hi hi)
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi all, as Homer Simpson would say 'Dohhh'. I think it was Nuno who said I could fix the missing steps by increasing the On pulse width on KCam. My problem I am using CNCPro which I think is great! Anyhow whilst going through the settings for the umpteenth time I found a 'step bit transition' - High to Low or Low to High. Having that set correctly for my own LPT port makes a good bit of difference. I am as accurate as my digital vernier now +/- 0.02mm (+/- 0.0005") which is good :o)) Very pleased here in the UK :o))) regards Gus
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi Tom, I noticed that only sometimes I get a bit of 'chatter' on the various axis. I can't track it down and it only happens every now and again. I was thinking of wrapping each axis stepper wires through a ferrite ring to see if that does any good. That is a seperate ferrite ring for each axis and possibly one on the inputs from the LPT port. What do you think? regards Gus p.s. could be a reason why sometimes we get strange results on the backlash issue?
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi Tom, just wondering if you have thought of altering the output stage of the interface to incorporate either 'high torque' or 'half stepping' sequence's. This would allow greater control over the unit (as long as we can get the backlash issues sorted ha ha) and would make a great machine even better. Either of the above needs to have more than 1 coil active so the current consumed will be double but would allow for 50% more torque or double the number of steps per inch/MM. Would be very good for those who have already got the machines to the working stages. regards Gus
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520006 years ago
That would be nice. The Daily Puzzle Challenge would be how to do it effectively with the least number of parts. I tried to use of the shelf parts but if you graduate to a PIC or ATMEL microcontroler you could do it easily with software.
Yes I know what your saying, might have to see if someone has done an 'Instructable' on building a PIC programmer and then see what can be done with a PIC to make a simple high torque or half stepper. But to be honest still going around here and tweaking things so that the backlash and therefore the accuracy is the best it can be. Great fun. regards Gus
gus_4520006 years ago
Well I have all three axis singing and dancing and spend hours watching the unit draw all sorts of circuits (I added a pen holder onto the Z-axis) and it works FAB. My problem here is the stuff I made the anti-backlash nuts from is worse than useless, so going to try my hand at making some units from a pair of stell nuts and locking them in place somehow. OK hope everyone is having as much fun as me and that someone can help Shulio with his software problem. I made things harder here by using 2nd hand steppers from various old printers and have to use 3 seperate power supplies (possibly still cheaper than buying steppers). OK good luck and lets see some photos. regards Gus
I was thinking about making anti-backlash nuts for the Mark two version, assuming I get the Mark one version completed. I'm stuck on the z axis, having problems with keeping things flat when its bolted to the pipe flange. That and 3 kids and a wife with migraines has stopped development for a bit. Anyhow, an idea I had for a simple anti-backlash nut was taking a normal coupling nut and rounding off one end about a 1/2 inch, using a lathe, then cutting it in half so I'd have a thick nut and a thin nut with attached to a short cylinder. Then I'd take a small rectangle of aluminum and drill a hole through lengthwise big enough that the threaded rod would slip through without binding. Drill one side big enough for a tight fit of the thick nut and then epoxy it in place. Drill the other side to take the cylinder part of the remaining piece snugly. Finally drill a small hole from one side of the rectangle that intersects the second hole and tap to fit an allen screw. Now all that has to be done is to thread the piece onto the threaded rod and adjust the thin nut until you have no play or at least very minimum play. Once you have that tighten the allen screw to keep it that way. At least thats my theory. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try it out before I retire.......
Hi wpflum, I can go one better, a wife and 4 kids :o)) Had a thought when you where describing your MK2 version anti-backlash nuts:- Aluminium or soft-ish metal copper etc. tap it to the thread you need 1/4 x 20 or whatever. Then cut through half the tapped piece, so there are complete threads either side of the cut (the cut only goes down 1/2 way through the threads, looking down on the aluminium). Then drill a small hole on 1 side of the saw cut and tap this, this means that you can but a small bolt/screw in here and adjust the backlash in the block. I will try and do a drawing or something for here. Does anyone know how to post an item wthout leaving full details or where it came from, i.e. C/Projects/CNC MILL/drawing 1 etc. regards Gus
My only concern, and it's theoretical since I haven't made my version yet, is will you get more lateral binding since you are only changing one side of the 'nuts' not both. I'm not sure if it will make a big difference but since we are dealing with fairly small motors I'm concerned with every place where friction or binding can use up torque.
Hi wpflum, your not wrong sorted out the backlash issues but found I was loosing steps caused by the extra torgue. The issue is going to be to allow some backlash and (hopefully) dial it out in the software and yet still allowing the motors to spin. Good luck with the build, hope you have as much fun as I am having :o)) regards Gus
I figured my way would limit binding, at least any lateral binding, by keeping both nuts parallel and aligned and only changing the relationship of the threads. This way I can have the fixed nut ride mostly on the leading edge of the threads and the adjustable nut riding on the trailing edge. I'm hoping that will stop the backlash but wont tighten up too much for the motors.
This might be of a little use to someone, whilst running the new anti-backlash nuts up the 1/4" threaded rod I found it stuck in spots. Got out the 'die cutting set' and ran a 1/4" die up and down a few dozen times and its made a huge difference to the backlash issues also. Has helped hasn't cured it on its own, still need to have some good anti-backlash nuts. Suppose the threaded rods are built cheap and quick and all sorts will be left on the threads (even though I have been using these for about 2 months!) regards Gus
topp6 years ago
this article has inspired me to take initiative! i am a ways from being done with my machine, but i wanted to share the coupling nut solution i came up with... (2) 1" pieces of offset angle aluminum (1/2" x 3/4"), a 7/8" long 1/4" x 20T coupling nut, a 3/8" long 4-40 coupling nut and a few screws. basically, you file a V into the big nut's spline that the small nut's spline fits into (snug)- then mount the small nut perpendicular as seen in the photos. drill a corresponding 4-40 sized hole in the other piece and sandwich the 2 Ls together- the big nut's flat surfaces are flush with the insides. now, the center of the big nut is .25" from the short side and 9/16" from the long side. you can put your mounting holes wherever they'll go. the nut is secured very well. happy building! josh
nut assembly.jpg
Tom McGuire (author) 6 years ago
You all are doing great. And having some of the same reactions I have (wanting to build a big one). As far as calibrating I've done various things. Mill a one inch square and measure it to see how close it is. I've used a vernier not so much for measuring scale factor but to measure how much offset my Z axis has from one side of the X axis to the other and how much back lash I have. I would say that usually I'm just so anxious to use the machine that I just start making things and then look at the results to determine what calibration I need. It's my favorite toy. Thanks for the positive feed back. Have fun.
Hi Tom, the main list for the larger model for me is to say have a cutting area of either 2ft x 1ft or 3ft x 1ft, and to hold a proper router so cutting heavier materials is possible. The size means going for draw slides or something similar or biting the bullet and buying expensive linear slides. But these mean having to have much bigger stepper motors etc also. But I would like to be able to mill thin sheet aluminium even if its very slow cutting, so that I can make cases for the new projects that I will be building with the 1st 'simple CNC milling machine'. So get your thinking cap on and lets us know :o)) 2ft x 1ft cutting area say and able to take a good sized router for cutting/milling various materials. regards Gus
one of the best things is the controller board.
it is one of the best example of simple to make and actually works when you make it.
I found this power supply schem that looks good and easy for about the price of a computer supply
and it gives 1 to 30 volts at 5 amps
so that will be my next improvement more power.
that is how I set up my x-y i just kept raising my steps /inch untill it did one exact inch each way I found a nice little stepper gear motor fot the z axis that should give it plentyy of power toraise and lower anything. as far as backlash. what is did was to just solder nuts to the couplers and mount them to the tables about the only backlash is around .001 in the threads as the motors are all tight ball units Rick
Nuno6 years ago
Ok, I just almost finished the mechanics on my version. Still need to make 3 points stiffer, but it's enough for now, I can start experimenting... all the 3 axis are working independently, let's see how everything works together. Now I'm gonna start with the control electronics, I'll use an ATmega8 which will provide a serial motor control interface. Then I'll do some test software which will eventually become my PCB milling application. Still so much work to do...
Rick_Ross6 years ago
I have mine finished and all three axis are operating, now how do you calibrate it ?
I have one of my axis calibrated, I used a digital vernier, which I bought some time ago. I wrote a small programme to send the axis say 75mm, and this pushed the centre probe up. This allowed me to work out the backlash etc. YOU MUST MAKE SURE THE VERNIER CANT MOVE! I used some G clamps to fix the vernier and pulled out the centre/depth probe and then kept altering the backlash setting until it was as good as possible. I wonder if Tom has an easier method? regards Gus p.s. Also got all 3 axis running very smoothly now, just going to make the mini drill come On/Off via PC control also.
I also had that idea, saw some nice ac relays on all electronics for cheap. i found what was going on on my machine z step motor is just weak it was droping a few steps on the way back up with the tool on it. it is suprising how much acuarcy you can get from a simple machine built from very low cost material Rick
Hi Rick my mini-tool has a small 18volt transformer so I am only switching 18volts On/Off so going to use a simple switch made from resistor, transistor, diode and small relay. This will be controlled by the software (I will have to add the command at the start of the Gcode and at the end) to turn it on and off but no big problem. Great fun this, you all realsie that when we get these working perfect we will want a bigger one :o)) regards Gus
I have my dremel mounted on it nice veriable speed one. I have also had an idea for a rotery table attachement for it. this is good training for building a real milling machine, already thought about a 5'x10' model for the garage :)
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi all, hope everyone is having fun. Found that the steppers that I am using keep missing steps etc, down to the fact that I dont know anything about there volts/amps etc. Never mind will find something out, also found a cicruit that could added to Toms great interface to allow the use of 4 wire stepper motors. It would go just after the BCD to Decimal chips outputs and is a simple H bridge circuit so you wont need the Fets there. But be warned it uses twice as many transistors instead, but would allow you to use 4 wire steppers, or 6 wire or 8 wire ones? Hope you dont mind me adding that Tom, you made a great base for experimentation here. regards Gus
Nuno gus_4520006 years ago
You should be able to fix the missing steps by increasing the "ON-pulse" width, or giving them a little more power (if they don't get HOT during long time usage). The 4-wire stepper are usually of the bi-polar type (like all head-moving steppers from old 3 1/2 floppy drives). They have more torque than unipolar motors (the ones with 6, maybe more wires) of similar size, but they require 2 H-bridges (equivalent to at least 8 transistors per motor) for control.
gus_452000 Nuno6 years ago
Thanks for info Nuno, not sure how to increase the On pulse as I am using CNC Pro software (great free ware program). What I have tried is upping the voltage that I was running 10volts and used my 2nd hand variable power supply (bought at local ham radio sale for 10GBP (20 USD) and tried upping the voltage to the Z axis stepper (34ohms coil resistance) and went up to 25volts, at 25volts the stepper gets warm (not HOT) and positivley flies along, could almost pull my son on a skateboard (joke). Dropping the power down to 15 volts it was unable to goes as fast and had no-where near as much torque. If anyone has similar problems I hope this helps, try slowing down feed rate/jog rate and if this makes it so slow as not worth having (I was down to about 5" per minute) try upping the voltage, CAREFULLY. 2nd hand steppers out of old machines may have some strange voltages, so may need the voltages looking at. BE CAREFUL, you don't want to blow anything up. regards Gus this is great fun :o))
gus_4520006 years ago
OK anyone want to try here for some thoughts?? Got 3 steppers all the same size, but all different resistance for the windings. Got 5.6ohms, 13.5ohms and 34ohms. The 5.6ohms on 10volts is great and has a fair bit of pull, 13.5ohms on 10volts is er OK, the 34ohms is working but only just. 5.6ohm stepper is developing 17watts of power (mathematically) so to get the others to do the same, I need to run 13.5ohms stepper at 15volts and the 34ohm stepper at 25 volts. Does anyone know enough to agree or disagree with these figures. Going purely on what I can work out, measured the coil resistance and the current consumed at 10volts. So have I done my maths correctly? the 5.6ohm stepper gets warm NOT hot just warm at 10volts so I think thats about OK, any thought? regards Gus
Nuno gus_4520006 years ago
I'm using some fairly weak steppers, but since the gear reduction provided by the threaded rod is quite high, they have no problem moving the table (as for the Z axis, I'll see in the next day or 2...). Why don't you just feed them at their rated power and use the strongest to th z axis? As long as they can move their axis, there's nothing else to worry about.
Midi_boy6 years ago
Hi it looks as a great machine but, what is the real accuracy ? ¿I will able to make PCB's for SMD (pin spacing of 0.5 mm)? Thanks.
Well I dont really know I am at present trying to wrk out my backlash issue (how much or how little there is per axis). I have a digital vernier attached to the Y axis and with my simple set up I can see that I have at present an accuracy of +/- 0.02mm and this is with the steppers pinched from printers with 48steps per reverlution. I sall bite the bullet and buy some 200 step motors and use them. The real issue about accuracy as I see it is as Tom the designer said earlier was 'the accuracy is down to the construction'. I have altered the design for what I can get in the UK and also the liner rails slightly and it seems to be working very well already (no Z axis chips arrived yet :o(( ) But when the do I shall try all the axis and see how small a track I can make on a continus basis. regards Gus
In some ways I regret buying X-Y motors with a .1 degree step. =[
Hello first i like to thank you for your amazing instructable and i have been wanting to build a cnc machine for about 2 years now i believe This is the one a could actually build . I would like to ask what is specs. on your guys stepper motors or would you have any adive on what motors i should get. Thanks Tyler P.S. Im on a high schoolers buget if that helps with the motors
r_w_king6 years ago
As my Dad and I were working on the electronics, we found out something very significant. There's an issue with the schematic that could vary from PC to PC, so it's hard to say if it will actually happen or not. In any case, the power output by the parallel port may not be enough to send data to the chip providing the clock pulses. This can drive you potentially mad thinking your circuit is soldered wrong, or something is incorrect when in fact it is not. The fix is to use a 5.1v Zener diode instead of a 6.2 v as specificied in Tom's schematic. Unfortunately the only way to know if you have to do this is to break out your multimeter and start checking voltages. Once we replaced it with a lower voltage Zener, it worked like gangbusters. If this has been covered before, my sincere apologies, but if not I hope this tip will save someone out there some time & frustration. -Rob
If you have a radio shack near you, here's the part page--

There's a product search function in that page right below the cart panel, so you can determine if one near you has it.
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi all, me again, doing some more playing and looked up the spec. sheet for the CD4028 and saw that the outputs didn't match mine, hmmm most strange. Well checking the sheet I saw that pin 12 needed an input (guess who missed off the 100k resistor) down to operator error. I think that most of you guys knew that already hi hi. OK got the Y axis zipping backwards and forwards very nicely, very very pleased. Problem with the X and Z axis the steppers keep stalling if I try and do anything more than a slow 'jog' with them. I think that they need more power (volts) but not sure what voltage they are as they came off various printers, any ideas more volts to get them to jog along?? regards Gus p.s. great fun this, if making PCBs is as much fun I will be very happy.
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi Tom, a bit more info for you here with my PC interface. I have noticed that by slowing the jog speed down very slow that the stepping sequence is not linear? For example 1st then a very short pause, 2nd step then a slightly longer pause, 3rd step longer pause and then 4th step with longest pause. The stepper makes a sound a bit like this, dit, ditt, ditttt, ditttttttt and then back to the beginning. Thought it ws perhaps the old laptop went to something very quick and found that the turbo unit also produced the same effect. Most odd, still learning and still building and still trying hi hi. regards Gus
gus_4520006 years ago
Hi Tom, can you do me a favour, I have a strange question for you? With a multimeter connected to the 12volt line could you go down the line of Logic FETS and check what voltage they give out?? I have found that on my set up on both axis that the voltage drops with each FET. That is to say when the 1st Fet is on its output is 12volts say (all other FETs Off. 2nd FET On (other FETs off)is about 9 volts, 3rd FET On is about 6volts (other FETs are Off) and 4 Fet is down to about 3volts. Which I can't quite understand, would have thought that as each FET turns on it would give out the same voltage to the stepper. Any ideas?? regards Gus, these are the teething problems that I was expecting hi hi
Tom McGuire (author)  gus_4520006 years ago
I'l have to study that one and get back to you. Keep trying.
gus_4520006 years ago
OK thanks for info, heres what I did, I attached a 12volt light bulb to the 12volt + line and the other end I went around the 4 output lines of the FETS to see them come On and Off. Soon spotted the ones that where on all the time, being caused by dodgy soldering by me. Fixed the dodgy soldering and X & Y axis now working very well. However Z axis does not want to move at all at present, no FET outputs being altered so I shall check the signal and direction in wires and then see which chip is not working (think ones faulty). Will keep you informed, its all very exciting :o)) regards Gus
gus_4520006 years ago
Tom, having interface problems here wonder if you can help. I used a 5 volt regulator as I had one instead of the zenor diode, other than that its the same as your design. I used some vero board (strip board I think you call it) and the motors wont turn they seem to just shudder?? Any ideas voltage for steppers is 13.8 volts, bit at a loss here but never used steppers before. In an attempt to sort wired in a free stepper sat on desk and that does the same also. regards Gus
Sounds like the motor isn't getting the correct stepping sequences. Have you tried swapping the motor phases around to see if there's one combination that works? If that doesn't help, there's probably a mistake in the rest of your circuit somewhere (or even in the original schematic!) I'm wiring up a driver next chance I get, so I'll see whether I get any similar issues.
Tom McGuire (author)  pelrun6 years ago
That's probably right. If the motor shudders the step sequence could be off. Make sure the step rate is set really slow so you can see each step. then switch the wires around so all the steps are in the same direction. Take a close look at this video:
pelrun6 years ago
It's great seeing all these mill projects progress! I've been working on my own for the past few weeks, and I've got a build log up at

I'm pretty much at the point now where I'm adding the motors and drivers, so not far to go! :D
Nuno6 years ago
Ok, I've basically finished the platforms, and this is how it looks like. I've already test them with a quickly cooked controller and driver based on a microcontroller and general purpose transistors (my step motors have 50 ohm windings, so they consume "little" current and I don't need to limit the current externally). I used very low alum U profiles and so I ended up having to open a small pocket for the long nut and fastening mechanism to fit without touching the X platform (very tight spacing here!). I've been wanting to build such milling machine for years, and I so had already bought a cheap (20-25 euros I think) mini drill (12V, 0.5A, 16000 rpm), which is smaller and lighter and, since it's 12V, I'll be able to control it electronically in an easy way (1 mosfet!)
Tom McGuire (author)  Nuno6 years ago
Very nice. Your really getting in to this using the Atmel controller to test the motors. I'm glad to have opened up your inner machinest.
Hehehe, yes, I have to say thanks to you for that :) I'm confortable with ATMELs, I've been using them for sometime now. The board you can see is a design of mine, which is a small set consisting of the small PCB w/ a tiny26 exposing all I/Os + 3 leds + 2 buttons + programming cable and a small solderless breadboard, both glued on a plexiglas base. I also built a software library which abstracts almost all hardware devices. I built a few sets like this for a future project but I'm using them all the time for fast prototyping of stuff.
r_w_king6 years ago
I'm working on a version of your plan, but I made some design changes which I think simplify things and add a greater amount of accuracy, easily. Photos coming in a few minutes.
Tom McGuire (author)  r_w_king6 years ago
Very nice job on the motor mounts. That makes it simple.
Thanks Tom ;). Also, I am using these two pieces to connect the motor drive shafts to the threaded rod, which work *perfectly*. The open end is slightly smaller than the drive shaft, giving a really good seal around it. The other end is threaded 1/4x20.
C:\Documents and Settings\Windows User\My Documents\My Pictures\1014071719a.jpgC:\Documents and Settings\Windows User\My Documents\My Pictures\1014071719.jpg
Nuno r_w_king6 years ago
There's actually a reason to use a slightly flexible material to connect the motor shaft to the rod: it tolerates alignment errors. If you use a rigid connect, then you'll have to align your motor and rod very perfectly. A flexible connect will bend allowing quite some alignment error without problems. I'm using shrinkable tube. That's it, the one you use in electronics, and it works very well. My motor's shaft is very thin compared to the rod, so I started by adding a tube layer only to the motor, to make it ticker. Then I involved both the rod and the motor shaft in another 2 layers. It has exactly the same stiffness that you can see in Tom's video. (the photo below is from my first attempt, in which I used only 2 layers, but it works OK anyways)
r_w_king Nuno6 years ago
Nice. Actually that black piece is a piece of rubber, with a threaded screw shaft in it, so it's somewhat flexible. The only issue with it is that there's no stop to threading in the rod; if you keep threading it will pull the rubber piece right off of the motor shaft, so I may have to get a small pipe clamp or use a zip-tie or something to hold it on if it becomes a problem.
Hi all, the only problem with the flexible connectors that I have had is with the Z-axis, I will try and rebuild the Z-axis so its not as tight (but hopefully with little free-play) as the various types of rubber hose and shrink tube all failed. I was lucky a friend of mine had a small modelling lathe and reduced the threaded rods to the same size as my stepper motor output shaft. regards Gus
Nuno gus_4520006 years ago
Good point... I think I'll try to fasten the shrinkable tube (or another kind of ticker tube) with those plastic "bracelets" (I don't know the name, sorry) as you can see in the above image (from another project of mine, but same technique).
gus_452000 Nuno6 years ago
Hi in the UK we call them 'cable ties' not sure what they call them in the USA. regards Gus
The only difficulties I came across is that I had to additionally file out some of the screw holes to make them slots because it was hard to be 100% accurate when drilling through metal. Also, some of the margains were tough (as you can see in the diagram the screws go almost to the edge of the L-channel). I used star-style lock washers to keep the screws in place.
Nuno r_w_king6 years ago
Very nice looking! As for the difficulties making the holes, it's probably easier if you drill everything at once, as a single block; fasten the motor to the 2 alum L profiles and then drill the holes in "one drill", top L, tube and bottom L.
r_w_king Nuno6 years ago
The y stage was all drilled each hole at a time. The X stage was somewhat difficult because we had to make sure the pitch and yaw were correct.
Foolishly, I also forgot to add a picture of the entire project (so far)... also here's one of the motors I'm using to drive the X-Y axis.
Nuno6 years ago
Just want to share another detail. I used a piece of an L aluminum profile to fasten the "long nut". I also put the threaded rod closer to the bearing side, because that's where the forces will act more, and this helps keeping the balance.