Introduction: Bigtime Basement Build CNC for Laser and Wood Projects

About: I'm a lifetime Maker before I even knew it was a thing. Today, my hobby is bestowing my skills and life lessons to my son.

For this CNC build, I went after a laser, wood, and aluminum cutter/carver. Comparable units from reputable manufactures are over $2000. This one came in under $800.

While I was at it, I made an Arduino Shield to simplify connections and developed new software for hobbyists to drive their custom CNC machines, called the Raising Awesome Carver. This Instructable is to show other enthusiasts how to design, build, and assemble such a thing - as well as offer insights to making your own GCode pusher to GRBL. I also share all my Autodesk 360 design files in case you want to modify for your own design.



Set of Allen Wrenches (usually comes with some of the parts)

Wood Screws

Drill and bits


Chop Saw with Aluminum Cutting Blade

3D Printer


Below are direct links to the US store where I bought the materials. The parts are common and readily sourced even with the present world supply chain woes. Links surely will not work in all countries, but to the enthused, you can surely source items by the descriptions. In hindsight, it's a lot of little parts, but because I built from the bottom up over a couple of months, I was able to sneak in such a large project a few parts at a time without getting in trouble with the wife. :-)

Arduino Uno

Partical Board and MDF to your size desire

2x4's for frame underneath the partical board

POWERTEC 71389 T-Track Mini Hold-Down Clamp, 3-5/8" L x 3/4" W – 2 Pack - -

POWERTEC 71372 Double-Cut Profile Universal T-Track (36") W/Double Cut Profile | EZ Mount Predrilled Holes, 4 Pack - -

isscx 4PCS F8-16M Inner Dia: 8mm ;OD: 16mm ;Thickness: 5mm ;8mm x16mm x 5mm Miniature Axial Ball Thrust Bearings High Grade Chrome Steel: Industrial & Scientific

uxcell F688ZZ Flanged Ball Bearing 8x16x5mm Shielded Chrome Steel Bearings 10pcs: Industrial & Scientific BIQU Big Aluminum Alloy Gantry Plate+ Plastic Pulley Wheel with Bearing Set for 3D Printer : Industrial & Scientific (x2)

24 Volt 6 Amp Power Supply Adapter,100-240V AC to DC 24V 6A Power Adapter with 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC Output Jack Transformers US Plug for LED Strip Light,Security Cameras, Computers - - (for Laser)

TOBWOLF DC 12V 5A Power Supply Adapter 50/60HZ, US Plug, 6.2FT Power Cord, AC 100-240V to DC 12V 5A Switching Transformer Jack 5.5mm x 2.5mm for LED Strip, Light, Cameras CCTV : Electronics ( (x3)

Fulton 110V Single Phase On/Off Switch with Large Stop Sign Paddle for Easy Visibility and Contact for Quick Power Downs Ideal for Router Tables Table Saws and Other Small Machinery: Tools & Home Improvement

BEMONOC GT2 240-2GT-6 Timing Belt in Closed Loop L=240mm W=6mm 120 Teeth 2GT Rubber Drive Belts Pack of 10pcs: Industrial & Scientific

BEMONOC GT2 240-2GT-6 Timing Belt in Closed Loop L=240mm W=6mm 120 Teeth 2GT Rubber Drive Belts Pack of 10pcs: Industrial & Scientific Wendry 3D Printer Motor Mount Plate, NEMA23 Stepper Motor Mounting Plate, Aluminum Mount Plate Flat Bracket for CNC 3D Printer, 3D Printer Parts Motor Mount Holder, 3D Printer Accessories(Black) : Industrial & Scientific

300mm 8mm T8 Lead Screw Set Lead Screw+ Copper Nut + Coupler+Hexagon Wrench + Pillow Bearing Block for 3D Printer: Industrial & Scientific(just need the copper nut and lead screw actually)

GZYF CNC Spindle Clamp 65MM 80mm Mounting Bracket for Spindle/Silver, 65mm Gold - - Jusnboir TB6600 Stepper Motor Driver Nema 17 42/57/86 32 Segment 4.0A 42VDC Suitable for 3D Printer CNC Engraving Machine Woodworking Machine Mini Lathe (1pcs) : Sports & Outdoors (x4)

URBEST Black Plastic Flexible Nested Semi Closed Drag Chain Cable Wire Carrier 1 Meter for Electrical Machines (Small (7x7)): Industrial & Scientific(x2) 80W Laser Module, 10W Optical Power, Laser Cutting Head with Sliding Plate, Compressed Spot, Eye Protection, Compatible with DIY Laser Engraving Cutting Machine/CNC Machine/Metal/Acrylic…(optional laser)

ReliaBot 2PCs Aluminum 2GT Timing Pulley 30 Teeth Bore 6.35mm for 3D Printer 10mm Width 2GT Timing Belt: Industrial & Scientific

5Pcs Synchronous Pulley,3D Printer Accessories 2GT Aluminum Timing Belt Pulley Wheel 20 Tooth 5mm Bore Without Teeth for Belt Width 10mm: Industrial & Scientific

STEPPERONLINE CNC Stepper Motor Nema 23 Bipolar 2.8A CNC Mill Lathe Router - - (x4)

Zeberoxyz 2PCS Anti-Backlash Nut Block for 8mm Diameter, 2mm Pitch 2mm Lead POM Screw Nut for CNC and 3D Printer (2mm Lead-1-heads): Industrial & Scientific

iOrion 3D Printer Timing Belt 2GT-6 Closed Loop Rubber Belt 110mm 112mm 122mm 158mm 200mm 280mm 300mm 400mm Width 6mm: Industrial & Scientific

Befenybay 2Kit 2GT Synchronous Wheel 20&60 Teeth 8mm Bore Aluminum Timing Pulley with 2pcs Length 200mm Width 6mm Belt (20-60T-8B-6): Industrial & Scientific Zeberoxyz 10 PCS/Pack 8mm Shaft Lock Collar T8 Lead Screw Lock Ring Stainless Steel Material Isolation Apply for 3D Printer Accessories (8mm-Silver) : Industrial & Scientific

Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP Compact Router - Power Laminate Trimmers -

150 Pieces 2020 Series T Nuts T-Slot Nut Hammer Head Fastener -Plated Carbon Steel Sliding T Nuts for Aluminum Profile (M5): Industrial & Scientific Befenybay 10PCS Hexagonal Eccentric Column, 10PCS Round Column, Height 6mm Inner Hole 5mm for V Wheel 3D Printer Parts (Eccentric Column 6mm Height) : Industrial & Scientific

OpenBuilds C-Beam Linear Rail (40mm x 80mm) (Silver, 1500mm): Industrial & Scientific

GT2 Open Timing Belt for 3D Printer, 5 Meters (16.4 Ft) Length Open 2mm Pitch 10mm Width Rubber Fiberglass Reinforced for RepRap Prusa i3 3D Printer: Industrial & Scientific

Linear Rail Guide 2Pcs SBR20 1000mm(39.4 inch) Linear Slide Rail + 4Pcs SBR20UU Bearing Linear Guide Slide Blocks for CNC Machine: Industrial & Scientific TECBEARS PLA 3D Printer Filament 1.75mm Black, Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.02 mm, 1 Kg Spool, Pack of 1 : Industrial & Scientific

iexcell 250 Pcs Metric M3 x 4/6/8/10/12 Stainless Steel 304 Hex Socket Button Head Cap Screws Bolts Assortment Kit: Industrial & Scientific

Step 1: Build the Base Table

For the base table, I first screwed particle board to 2x4s. I had Home Depot cut the widths for me to make it easy to haul home and save me the trouble of cutting.

I then installed the rails. I made sure they were perfectly perpendicular simply by measuring with a yard stick. After that, I installed a "spoil board" which was just a MDF panel in between the rails. Optionally, as I did, you can install a Tee Track for hold down clamps as pictured. (Make that your first carving project - just carve right into the spoil board)

Step 2: 3D Print the 3D Gantry Mounts

I actually didn't buy anything beyond the lumber and rails until I made this part and assessed if it would work. It was the deal breaker for me. It needed to not shatter upon the first machine crash. It needed to lock the c-rail in place with zero play.

So, I winged the design from my gut with Fusion 360 against hand measured rail bearing blocks. The results were impressive. If you don't own a 3D printer - stop here and get or build one. It is the most useful of the CNC for the home maker.

Step 3: Assemble the Gantry

You can buy a fully assembled linear actuator kits from or you can print and assemble from my supply list. If you buy, wait until it arrives to confirm the spacing between your rails in Step 2 or you'll either be short or too long. If you assemble, refer to the pictures above to see how they Lego together. Below is the 3D printer file for the end plates.

Step 4: Assemble the Z Axis

The Z axis is very much just like the X axis, just shorter. Refer to the picture above to see how it Legos together.

I use a Makita router as my spindle. It has a variable speed dial. Compared to having a separate variable speed drive and spindle, this is a much, much more affordable solution. I don't see me outgrowing it - but possibly it may spin too quickly for aluminum milling. For wood Carving, of course, it is awesome.

My laser is one of the new designs that combines two 5W lasers. It can cut through 1/2" plywood in one pass. Crazy awesome. The bummer is, it's about a 1/3rd of the cost of the entire build. However, I find myself using the laser more than the wood carving - primarily to mark cut lines and paint stencils.

Step 5: Install the Motors

For the Y axis (pictured left), the motors mount with 3D printed brackets. For the Z (vertical axis), I used a purchased metal bracket as shown above. For the X axis (the cross member), I made a bulky 2-piece spacer that allowed me to adjust belt tension. You may just be able to use the same metal bracket I used on the Z access, though. The 3D printer files are below.

Step 6: Install the Electronics

For the electronics, I used off the shelf motor drivers. You wire them up per the labels on their cases. To make the connections strong on the Arduino, I designed and made a shield at PCBWay. You can make one out of protoboard, buy one online, or get mine at PCBWay.

To wrangle the cables, I 3D printed some brackets found below.

Step 7: Run a Project

Now for the fun part - Driving around the gantry and carving a project.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is best for generating GCode. It's free to the hobbyists. With that, they are changing the future of the world. As I see with my son, the next generation of engineers will do remarkable things - with a great thanks to Autodesk Fusion 360 team making this product available to young inspiring minds.

You will also need software to push that Gcode to the Arduino with a firmware that will drive the stepper motors. LaserGRBL and Candle are two very well supported free packages for this, but I'm looking to introduce a third that handles both Laser and Wood carving.

Let's talk firmware. To control the stepper motors, the Arduino Uno runs a github package titled GRBL which you need to flash to the Uno. The easiest way to do that is to install LaserGRBL on your Windows machine and use the Flash option in the menu. LaserGRBL is good to have regardless for laser etching.

However, with LaserGRBL and Candle, I found myself getting frustrated with my mistakes when driving the gantry. I'd drag my bit along my work piece or accidently push a wood carve gcode to the laser which would end in me staring bare eyed at a laser beam when the Z axis suddenly raised the laser 20 mm into full view.

Sure, call me a CNC rookie, but by today's standards, software can be a little smarter to prevent such mistakes. Heck, cars are driving themselves these days - why not have the CNC coded to know when it's about to ruin your workpiece. So, I continued this hyper obsession on to the Unity Engine to make a CNC driver.

You can get my software here: Raising Awesome Carver

To avoid repeating info, here is a link to another Instructable I made for the Raising Awesome Carver: 3018 CNC Getting Started Guide With the Raising Awesome Carver : 6 Steps - Instructables

Step 8: Summary

That's it! As you see, it's really just a big-boy Erector-Set. Excluding trimming/pulling cables, it takes longer to order and print the parts than to assemble. Our first project to be made with it is a Stratocaster Re-imagined Eddie's Guitar from Stranger Things 4. Pictured above the pickguard and body design we made.

If this project seems a bit daunting, a quick way to get into CNC is simply buy the cheapest 3018 CNC you can find. This gives you a handy tool great for indoor projects at the kitchen table. That is what inspired me. I hope this build will inspire you!

See ya',


Step 9: Bonus Tool

After using our CNC for a week, we quickly realized we needed a way to manage dust. It got very old holding a shop vac which still just left dust everywhere. So, we researched some images and designed our own. This is somewhat of a tool-for-a-tool, so we figured we would include it with this build.

The attachment can be a tight fit, so if you look to use it, you be sure to double check measurements and modify to your design.

You'll need to repurpose some old paint brushes or even better, buy this:

BestTeam Vacuum Cleaner Engraving Machine Dust Cover, 70mm/100mm Brush Vacuum Cleaner Engraving Machine Dust Cover for CNC Router for Spindle Motor Milling Machine (1M*70MM, Black) - -

Happy Carving!

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