Introduction: DIY CNC Router Plans : How to Build

About: I have this page to show people that you don't have to be an expert to try to make something, or paint something, or weld something, or design something. Just get in there and try it. Get your hands dirty!
NOTE: I originally posted this on my arts and crafts blog, Make It With Jason, and you're welcome to go visit and check out my other tutorials, reviews, and step by step drawing and painting lessons.

Ever since I saw my first CNC, I knew I wanted to own one.  I'm a realist though, and I also knew that I wouldn't own a REAL $20,000 one. 

So, on a whim this spring, I decided to design and build a homemade 3-axis Computer Numerical Controlled milling machine myself.

I looked all over the web and decided to build one using drawer slides as my rails, an arduino as my microcontroller, and try to keep everything within the $300 mark.

So far so good.

So, without much ado, I am going to show you the steps I took to build my diy cnc router project (please realize, as of April 16th, 2013, this project isn't quite finished--in fact, it's at the halfway mark). 

Onto the Instructable!

Step 1: Designing the Plans for the DIY CNC Router (Step One)

You can find this on my blog, Make It With Jason, too!

First things first, you need to do some designing.

I usually go to Sketchup for my design work.  I'm comfortable with how easy it is to create working drawings for the relatively un-precise things that I make (haha--a CNC is 'unprecise!').

I will have to combine my experience in woodworking, conceptual design, and learn how to properly align 3 stepper motors for true, calibrated 3-axis cnc production.

I plan to control all three NEMA 17 stepper motors with an arduino UNO microcontroller and stepper motor drivers. I hope to use all of the free (or cheap) open-source CAD, CNC and design software, and I want to keep this build under $300.

I started first by researching online. I read about DIY CNC projects on Instructables, CNC forums, and various other spots on the interwebs, and decided on making my design move on heavy duty drawer slides.

Go to Step 2

Step 2: CNC Design Videos (Step Two)

After I start slowly, piece by piece, building up my design, first from the z-axis base to the y-axis gantry, I try to make an animated video to see how things will move.  Just to make sure my basic concepts are correct.

Below are the sketchup videos that illustrate the movements of each x, y and z-axis of this Homemade CNC table.

First, is the video illustrating how the z-axis will move.

After that, we want to see how the gantry y-axis will move in the video below:

After that, we add the z-axis to another video


Step 3: How to Build the Homemade CNC Machine

In this post, I'm showing how I built  the x-axis of my CNC machine based on a sketchup design.

 I did some research, and even read a couple books and e-books on the subject.  I decided that this would be the way I want to do it.

I designed it to move back and forth on heavy duty drawer slides, and it will be controlled by NEMA 17 stepper motors.

I'm using 24 inch telescoping side-oriented drawer slides.  Not perfect, but I can get them to work with some tweaking.

Make sure to keep everything square when you're screwing it together.  I'd suggest, when you're making your CNC, you don't glue anything--there will probably be many times you'll need to take it apart to re-do.  I'm expecting this to happen with mine, at least.

I had a bit of beautifully-warm sunny weather in late March to begin building my DIY project. Here is the video of the x-axis base of my homemade CNC Machine that I made out of wood:


Step 4: Adding the Diy CNC Router Gantry -- Y-axis and Z-axis (Step Four)

I got to the next phase of building my homemade CNC router machine.  This is on my blog, too.

The other day, I added the gantry, on which the y-axis drawer slides were attached.  These slides will move the router plate which will have a vertically-moving z-axis router (or plasma cutter) attached to it.

The frustrating part about building these kinds of building projects is that I only have sooo much time to do them.

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I am aiming at getting more traffic to this website so I can devote ALL of my time to building fun diy projects, like CNC machine, 3D printers, and do a lot more painting and drawing.

Here's another CNC video:

Step 5: Adding the Z-axis to the CNC Machine (Step Five)

I seem to only get any building done on Sunday nights lately.  Having a day job puts a real damper on my "Making" aspirations, but I try really hard to get something done each week.  I post all of it to my blog, Make It With Jason.

This past Sunday, I added the z-axis to my diy CNC router project.  It certainly has that homemade quality and look to it.  I'm building it down in our 6'4" high basement.  I am 6'6" tall, so I have to sit or stoop the whole time I'm building.  Sucks not having a real shop.

Anyway, I added smaller drawer slides (14") to the vertical framing of what will be the holding plate for the router (or plasma cutter) that will eventually be fitted to the CNC.

All of the drawer slides that I’m using to move everything are kind of stiff, and I’m expecting to log in some hours entirely to the task of “tweaking” all of the axes in order to have as frictionless movement as possible.

If there is a lot of backlash and stickiness to the slides, it may severely affect the cuts and ability for the stepper motors to move things effectively.

I also rough-cut and drilled where the x-axis threaded rod will run along the middle of table top.  I’m finding that I’ll probably need to re-think my placement of the NEMA17 motors considering how they have only shaft-top placement for the mounting screws.

Here are the two newest videos I’ve added to my youtube channel.  You’ll see how sticky the slides are–especially for the z-axis–I think some of the wood may have warped a little.  I didn’t necessarily adhere to strict precision guidelines in its installation.  In fact, I stuck to my philosophy that “eyeballing” everything is pretty accurate, within feet.

Here is another video about the CNC Z-axis build:

Stay tuned for more steps!