Easy to Build Desk Top 3 Axis CNC Milling Machine

FeaturedContest Winner
Picture of Easy to Build Desk Top 3 Axis CNC Milling Machine
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).

Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

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.

Step 2: The X Stage Rails and Motor

Picture of The X Stage Rails and Motor
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\MotorX.JPG
Next its time to add the rails for the X axis stage. These rails are 3/4 inch U chanel aluminum that you can get from the hardware store. Put a washer under each end to space the rail off the pipe just a bit. Don't worry about the rails being perfectly parallel. You'll see why later. Now mount the stepper motor with a bracket like you see here. Connect a length of 1/4 by 20 threaded rod to the motor shaft with a short piece of rubber hose (1/4 inch fuel line). Now your ready to set the movable part of the X axis(the stage).

Step 3: X it Stage right

Picture of X it Stage right
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\Bearing.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\LeadNut.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\Xstage.JPG
Take a piece of plastic(I used Plexiglas) or metal, something strong and flat and mount a piece of the U channel to it. Now the tricky part. The round thing is a bearing. You can get them out of motors or buy them at a hardware store. Mount it to a short piece of aluminum like so. Then take a 1/4 in. coupling nut(a long nut) and wrap it with aluminum like so(see pic.) The bearing will hold the X stage to the X rail and the coupling nut will allow the motor to run the satge back and forth. It wouldn't hurt to grease the skids a little and the nut too.
Here's a video on making the bearing fixture.

Step 4: The Y stage

Picture of The Y stage
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\Ystage.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\XYstage.JPG
The Y stage is just like the X stage but turned 90 degrees. Mount two rails and a motor on the X Stage and then take another piece of flat material and a U channel and make the moving Y stage. Make the little bearing thing and a coupling nut for it too. When your done it should look like this.

Step 5: Zee Z Axis

Picture of Zee Z Axis
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\Zstage.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\Zaxis.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\ZextraBearing.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\ZfullAxis.JPG
Again we are going to reproduce the X and Y Stage to create the Z axis stage. Take a flat piece, here I used a piece of white Plexiglas. Mount some rails and a Motor to it. Then make a moving stage piece with a u channel and a roller bearing. We'll do something a little different with the nut(see picture). The four posts you see on the stage will hold the motor tool. Now since this stage is going to move up and down the weight of the motor tool will make it want to come off of the rails so lets add a few more roller bearings to each side to keep it together.

Step 6: Get it together

Picture of Get it together
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\ZaxisMount.JPG
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\Desktop\Pictures\Mill Blog\complete_mill.jpg
Now we slap the motor tool into the Z stage. Then its time to mount the stage to the frame. And there you have it. This is the mechanical structure. From here we will need to hook up the stepper motors to a controller and get some software running on the computer but I'm going to save that for future articals.

Step 7: What's it Do

Picture of What's it Do
C:\Documents and Settings\Tom McGuire\Desktop\C6cut.JPG
If you were interested in this project it's likely you have already seen what can be done with an 3 axis(XYZ) computer controlled milling machine. What is suprising is what kind of accuracy you can get out of this thing after you tinker with it a little bit. Make sure all the rails are held firm and straight. Tighten the roller bearings so the stage doesn't shift.
I used it to make PC boards. It's real good for engraving name tags and signs. And it's pretty exciting to see it carve a 3D object out of a block of foam or plastic.
WARNING there's a lot to learn about the software. Some venders offer package deals of motors, drivers, and software. That makes it easier but you pay for it.
I'll add more to this later. Send me comments and questions.

Step 8: Easy Mill the movie

If the literal instructions are confusing try watching the YouTube movie:

Also check out the follow up instructions on Stepper Motor Control: Easy Mill Stepper Motor Controller

Step 9: Engraving

Now that I got the machine back together after making the instructable and I did some engraving and made a PC board.
Cutting plastic is no problem but doing the PC board the bit went a little too deep on the left side of the board and took out all the finer traces. This is when you start tweeking on it. Just take some aluminum foil and put it under the rail of the Y axis. So as the stage travels left to right the height of the bit should stay the same.
Notice I'm just holding the material down with masking tape. What I like about this thing is, it's easy to fix these kinds of problems because it's all made from simple elements.
Here's the new video:

Also check out the follow up instructions on Stepper Motor Control: Easy Mill Stepper Motor Controller
crreed7 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.
SebastjanS crreed6 months ago

Hello I am a beginner, if you can be with you help I have stuck to trapezoidal Data do not know. Thank you.

vfvfv crreed7 months ago

sir,will you please tell me the diameter of x-y axis shift and what is the size of thread on that shaft for e.g(1 mm, 2 mm or 5 mm)...please

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 crreed6 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 Tightwad6 years ago
the weight of the table itself, the anchoring provided by the x axis motor provide stability and prevent wobbling of it.
altomic crreed6 years ago
fish tank pump- sweet.
carabac5 years ago
 This is my version of Tom's CNC. It uses the stepper motor 3 Axis CNC Driver Kit from chromationsystems.com (Jeff from Chromation Systems was a ton of help and his instructable is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Parallel-Port-3-Axis-CNC-Driver-Opto-Isolated/) and I am using KCAM for the software. I named my machine CNCme. You can also watch the Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzli11WJeo4.  Thanks Tom, Jeff and Instructables. 

sharbin carabac5 years ago
Nice Carabac!  Where did you get the slides that you used?
carabac sharbin5 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.
daney1985 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!
narpas6 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!
sefi7 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?
DSC00100.JPGDSC00101.JPGDSC00106.JPGDSC00088.JPGDSC00092.JPGDSC00107.JPG������ ��������������08 002.jpg������ ��������������08 001.jpg������ ��������������08 003.jpg
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 (sefi.tk) 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 sefi7 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 codex7 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)  sefi7 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.
Roidy7 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
fjr1227 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)
userhck7 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 userhck7 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 fredan7 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 userhck7 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 userhck7 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 fredan7 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 userhck7 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)  userhck7 years ago
Try MPJA.com 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 wpflum7 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 www.allelectronics.com, 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)  wpflum7 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 wpflum7 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 wpflum7 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)  fredan7 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 McGuire7 years ago
Oh yes...and don't forget to grease the rails. That aluminum will grind into powder.
Tom McGuire (author)  userhck7 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)  userhck7 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)  userhck7 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.
fjr1227 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)  fjr1227 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)  fjr1227 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 http://www.skatebearings.com/
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 http://www.vxb.com .
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 mcmaster.com (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_4520007 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_4520007 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.
elliotnash23 days ago

Dude, this is so cool. No need to be a skilled worker or a tech wizz to have a milling machine. Next thing you know 3d printing machines become a standard in all households.


I want to make it. My e-mail - morningshofi@gmail.com

Tell me the details. And how much to pay.

Thanks & Regards

kevin.d.timm4 months ago

"I know I'm late to the party but is there a bill of materials anywhere?

prowland4 months ago

Is it possible to post a material list?

Hello. I absolutely adore what you built but I am wondering have you or anyone else done a parts list for this project as I am not very good about building things from just pictures. Plus I can also see some changes that I would do should I get the chance to construct it. :-)


vfvfv7 months ago

will somebody tell me the diameter of x-y axis shift and what is the size of thread for e.g(1 mm, 2 mm or 5 mm)...please

davidbarcomb8 months ago

Great tool. I would share my work when I'm done with it. Thanks

Pramithus8 months ago

Hi Tom,

I really very much appreciate your job. I too like to have such a machine built by my own. Would you please do me a favour by informing me about its hardware, electronics and mainly the software?

Yours sincerely,



Hi Tom,

You've concieved of an amazing machine. My wife and I made a milling machine we call the ThrAxis based on your frame and stage design. I've written a blog post about what we built at http://itsprojectday.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the...

Thank you so much for your inspiration and hard work getting this design made and documented.

jameshumig1 year ago

You know, I started looking at instructables for CNCs about two years ago. I started building your version, then I saw the drawer slide version, then started looking at the buildyourcnc design. At one point I decided to try out a hybrid of the three and had the x and y axis going, but never finished the Z axis. After starting on a new version that was mostly based on the buildyourcnc design my family and I ended up moving across the country (south to north, not that it matters). I'm just now getting back to building a CNC, and although I won't be building your design I do feel that it is worth saying that your instructable was definitely an inspiration. Thank you.



fenwaydog1 year 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?

haseogu1 year ago
What can we do so this CNC can mill the metal?
And where will i get that pipe (frame)?
PCgee1 year ago
Could i use other types of pipe such as pvc as they are a lot easier to drill through?
david xu1 year ago
Cool ! if any one want the parts of the machine , frame , driver , motor,spindle,ball screw ect ,please contact me at david@live.cn or skype:david02162
lewac1 year 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.
Diynitesh1 year ago
could you tell me all the elecs used
jsanders9382 years ago
Is this anything like these Vertical Milling Machines? Looks awesome. http://majesticmachinery.com/Machines/Milling_Machines/Vertical.php
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.
rfelts1 year ago
Tom I love this design. What kind of resolution are you getting for circuit boards?
R-A2 years 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.
ksafaet2 years ago
great ... i should try....
dmlong2 years ago
What is the brand and size of the motor used for your CNC machine?
blinkizod2 years 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

vkorie2 years ago
it is time to put all that we know together in other to propagate the gospel of technology...
batonas2 years 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 :)
timbit19852 years ago
Also, approximately what size did you make your stages?
timbit19852 years 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-rhod242 years 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.brad2 years 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 ?
brcoenen2 years 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.
jde castro12 years ago
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 ^^
ADNANABOSTH2 years ago
Thank you
rock04122 years 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... ;)
kunchu3 years ago
What should i do once i engrave the pcb? Can I use it right away or should use an etchant again?

Interest3 years 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-main3 years 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. http://www.datasheetcatalog.org/datasheets/90/502505_DS.pdf

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!
Jane113 years 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
squrillbait3 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 Dyck3 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
Rorion3 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?
welafong3 years ago
steper motors no longer for sale surjest some other type? please
ChuckieDub3 years ago
Umm. Maybe I missed it, but do you have an actual parts list?
dflam3 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

welafong3 years ago
they dont make the steepper motors any more what do you sugjust to replace them with
thank you
richard westerfield
Omni DIY3 years ago
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-- http://www.adafruit.com/products/81

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 :)
fgleich6 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 fgleich6 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): http://www.amazon.com/Bearing-Shielded-Diameter-Miniature-Bearings/dp/B002BBICBK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313250027&sr=8-1
bluumax bluumax6 years ago
They come in plastic tubes too, not bags.
cbaron34 years ago
I won't be making this but your video was the best instructables I have seen. Great job.
teamhaha4 years ago
thak .....
kawal244 years ago
Can i use my own dimensions for the machine ?
Derpancakes4 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...
samirdz4 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
mtiwari34 years ago
wat type of motor is this nd where it can be available???????
dscott24 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.
anupamdubey4 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.
treflip4 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!
tjuxed7 years ago
Remember to cut away FROM your finger so you don't cut away the finger.
bobbval tjuxed5 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 bobbval4 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.
mjm20084 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.
dmlong4 years ago
Do you know anyone using your CNC to make parts out of balsa wood for model RC airplanes?
freakysuwin4 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.
panickjba4 years ago
bilal_dmx4 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 Project..now this wont get me into Stanford but itll help me along the way iA :p
Here ya go!
The House4 years ago
Hey Tom...... your instructable looks pretty sweet.

Ok I have one question......

Can I do this http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-LED-Wedding-Table-Cards/

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.
hey.im 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.
onlyjus4 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: http://onlyjus-cnc.blogspot.com/
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.
dpsilver4 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?
pietzeekoe4 years ago
I think am ganna make a manual version of this.....the electronics seem a bit daunting
chinda.raul4 years ago
you can get a pack of 8 bearings from a skate store ... high quality, high volume = good value.
tool box4 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
polilies4 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_uk4 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?
apache644 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.
sutek4 years ago
Mate that is amazing!!. so simple, I have to try and make this
dbuilder24 years ago
could you post a list of what you used e.g: router,stepper motor make etc
hondaman9004 years ago
DIY CNC hits mainstream in an O'Reilly Radar tech blog report today. See

hondaman9004 years ago
Here's an interesting new DIY CNC kit just launched on Kickstarter.com.

simon6614 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 ( electronic_ci@live.cl)
canedyt4 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?

Kilopondio5 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
smartrobot4 years ago
Would this be a good motor ?

Haku10044 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-1a4 years ago
To Tom McWire:

Can you modify your cnc To become a 3d printer????
ahmed-1a4 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
woodspinner4 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.

Kilopondio4 years ago
TOMpleaseeeeeeee!!!!!! ......talk to me!!!!!!....and please send the SIZES of the project!!!!!!!!!

Kilopondio4 years ago
Hi TOm!, how do we know the right position of the mini tooll when it touch the plexiglas?.
Kilopondio4 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
shenzer4 years ago
can i use a printer stepper motor?
tesla67 shenzer4 years ago
ya i do easy and cheap
Coinnich4 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
shaadmahmud4 years ago
hello everyone i have done the circuit driver and it 100% works thanks to tomMcwire.... here is my work ( http://must-info.blogspot.com/2010/08/easy-to-build-cnc-mill-stepper-motor.html )
Orista5 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 http://www.cncdudez.co.uk/ 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 Orista5 years ago
Also found this one now http://rc.cis.si/projects/cnc_motion/ 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.
FABBER6 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)  FABBER6 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 FABBER5 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
dogtown015 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 www.buildyourcnc.com
jcskyhawk095 years ago
Where can i buy a step motor at.
heroseac5 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.
yosoytamez25 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.
Motta5 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)  sandipgarg19126 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
shaadmahmud5 years ago
here is my cnc driver same as Tom mcwire

despx5 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!
ydeardorff7 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 300oz.in 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 077 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 077 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
Whackmaster5 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?
tomtortoise5 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..
iklln65 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?
Pawl5 years ago
I was just wondering if you know the accuracy af the machine? Would the resolution be fine enough for say . .  jewelery wax?
solrobot5 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?
0655 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?
john104525 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.
fruitkid1015 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 16.in oz or 160 oz.in,
and correcting you (in a polite way) ... it's supposed to be oz.in not oz/in
I guess that would be divide wouldn't it ;-)
I used 16oz.in on my mini mill. Because it transmissive you don't need 460oz motors. 16oz was a bit light, but it worked.
I run 30oz.in 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.
fruitkid1015 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 alltronics.com.
twhello5 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.
fozzy555 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 fozzy555 years ago
Unipolar 5-8 wire.
Size NEMA 17
Dodgy6 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 Dodgy5 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 Dodgy5 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.
korkarn5 years ago

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

Thank you.

lcisneroslm5 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.
robotron9975 years ago
hi i want to know how much will the motor tool on the z axis will cost
mgrc5 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,
fruitkid1015 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
ianstein9515 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.
fruitkid1015 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 
bluumax5 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.
TJLaw5 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 TJLaw5 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 TJLaw5 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.
frmco5 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-595 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. www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-cnc-controller/

ekis5 years ago
 great job 
achollowell5 years ago

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

Plasanator5 years ago
chikku986815 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.

dop37 years ago
hi great idea! :)
but will the driver work with MACH3 CNC CONTROLLER

mfg dop3
zoot686 dop35 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.
danlenz5 years ago
Where can you find Stepper moters? Not too expensive.
check weirdstuff.com. 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 danlenz5 years ago
Old printers.
danlenz Jodex5 years ago
Thanks like dot or ink jet printers?

Jodex danlenz5 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 Jodex5 years ago
As a ham radio operator and general messer arounder one can never have too musch ... stuff.
bluumax danlenz5 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 bluumax5 years ago
Ok I stand corrected. Thats too funny
Jodex bluumax5 years ago
Wow, cool! =D
bluumax danlenz5 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 cristiantutuianu@gmail.com
ruawake5 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 ruawake5 years ago
It's kind of a DIY thing. Look at the ones I build, that might help.
ruawake bluumax5 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 ruawake5 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 pcbgcode.org 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.
vkgoku20125 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.
Jorg7 years ago
What kind of rubber hose did you use? I'm still searching for it.
Tom McGuire (author)  Jorg7 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)
bluumax5 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.

king5star5 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 http://www.cadsoft.de/
and PCB G Code http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pcb-gcode/
with the optimizer, you will find it in the files I think.

bluumax bluumax5 years ago
A small board I made as a demonstration for the mini-mills I sell.
mariosk8s5 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) 5 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 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Hobby_CNC/

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.
decarus5 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 decarus5 years ago
bluumax bluumax5 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.
NZSmartie5 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?
prosi096 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?
Davetech6 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: http://cerebralmeltdown.com/forum/index.php?topic=19.0

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
ruawake6 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
landru7 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)  landru7 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 cre8ev6 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 volto6 years ago
Ah nevermind on the 4 posts, those are based off the dremel/roto zip dimensions.
Redgerr6 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
ruawake6 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_a6 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!
ruawake6 years ago
Really inventive ideas, wonder how linear guides would work?
bluumax ruawake6 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.
Sovaka6 years ago
Would this kind of device be able to cut aluminum?
bluumax Sovaka6 years ago
Yes, take light passes. Weigh the table down too.
matroska6 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 matroska6 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.
jpablo786 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


rahilm6 years ago
I purchased 3 of these 12v stepper motors: http://www.mpja.com/prodinfo.asp?number=17757+MS

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?

kalabog766 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...


allegfede6 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 Dee7 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 Dee7 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!
JuniorEng6 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.
allegfede6 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!
kasari0016 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
trooperrick6 years ago
Would you be able to cut some aluminum with this setup?
josheeg6 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 josheeg6 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_kap6 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.
lenny256 years ago
Any progress on the controller and software. Is there any open source software that will work?
josheeg lenny256 years ago
Looks to me like linuxcnc is free open source and uses ubuntu. It only runs on a decent computer thow.
Akair6 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_S816 years ago

Kcam looks OK, there is a crippled Shareware download, http://kellyware.com/kcam/

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
duke3d6 years ago
Hey Tom, nice work, what software are you using for this CNC and where can one obtain such a software package?
ooda556 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 ooda556 years ago
Hi Chris. I sell ready a made version on my site www.bluumax.com & 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 cnc4pc.com
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. http://www.applied-motion.com/products/stepper/motors/size17.php
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: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Three-Axis-CNC-Machine-Cheaply-and-/\
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 oz.in 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 yahoo.com. 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 bluumax6 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)  bluumax6 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 McGuire6 years ago
P.S. Nice Cat.... :)
its a guinea pig
bluumax narpas6 years ago
He was referring to the cat on my site:
narpas bluumax6 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 ooda556 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 BMG6 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 ooda556 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)gmail.com Cheers :) Alex
josheeg6 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 josheeg6 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 josheeg6 years ago
here is a drawing of what I was thinking please comment and mention the problems...
josheeg josheeg6 years ago
here it is...
cousinles6 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.
marco19706 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 :)
marco19706 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?
spud218a6 years ago
Is there anybody out there from CA?
That's... Random.
no; east coast
msalhi6 years ago
Tom you did not mention anything about the motor specifications ... what kind should i get ?
josheeg6 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...
userhck7 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 hobbycnc.com has got some good deals on there complete package.
vykk3 userhck7 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 vykk37 years ago
thanks man.
cousinles6 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
rrsquez6 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 rrsquez6 years ago