Hey just a future beginner looking for tips

Hey I’m a 17 year old from a rural town in Minnesota. I came across CNC about a month ago and am very interested and done a nice amount of research but am lost in a few areas and don’t feel comfortable buying one yet. I am considering buying a 48x30, just mainly looking for a experienced person to ask questions I have about the whole process too.

A few questions I have
Size of table needed for longmill 48x30
How hard is v carve pro to learn?
Any additional info about v carve or is there something better for a beginner than vcarve pro?
Tool paths in general.
Could I make a small business out of CNC to recoup costs?
What would sell?
Where to sell?
How to find customers?
Is buying files worth it?
How to transfer a file if you buy one
Lifespan of bits

Hello Riley and welcome to the forum. I think I can answer some of your questions but not all as I haven’t started a business, yet.

  • Pretty sure Sienci recommends a 4’x6’ table for the 48x30 machine.
  • I found VCarve pretty easy to learn, I have the desktop version.
  • I think VCarve is a good way to go. As an alternative you might check out Carveco Maker. I think most people here use VCarve or Carveco Maker.
  • Tool paths is a pretty big subject but in VCarve there 2D and 3D tool paths. For 3D tool paths you import an stl file and use the 3D tool path. For all the other tool paths you will be making or importing 2D vectors and making various tool paths from those. The basic workflow for the whole process is make tool paths, then save them using a post processor for your machine (grbl inch or grbl mm for LongMill). After exporting you have a G-Code file that you load into a G-Code sender. Sienci has an excellent sender called GSender, info here. The G-Code sender sends the G-Code to the LongMill.
  • You can make a small business, I know others have done it, but I haven’t so I can’t answer the other business questions.
  • Buying files is up to you, I like the design process so I tend to make my own designs but there are a lot of plans on Etsy that are cheap. For the files that I bought it’s kind of hit or miss as far as the documentation goes. Some had excellent documentation and some you just get the vector files and have to figure out how to make tool paths from them based on a couple a pictures of the finished product.
  • If you buy a file it is usually stl for 3D and svg, pdf, etc for 2D. You then just import them into VCarve and make your tool paths. Sometimes you might find a crv file (VCarve’s file extension) that you can open directly and you already have tool paths made.
  • Bit lifetime depends on several factors like the manufacturer quality, how hot the bit gets (they can burn the wood at the wrong feeds and speeds), what you are cutting etc, not to mention if you hit a clamp or something. I recommend making your own wooden clamps so there is less metal to hit.

I hope some of this is useful to you. In case you haven’t found this the LongMill resources pages has a lot of good information.

Again welcome to the forum!

Michael

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Hi Riley. Huge questions and very large area. you will have as many answers as there are people. consider what sort of things you wish to make. If they are well made, you will find a ready market. People always like nice hand produced goods so you will have no great need to worry about a business venture.

You may not hear this often but I would suggest that you get the smallest machine that will accomplish everything you wish to make. The reason is that the larger machines will have more issues with flexing under load and this can be quite difficult to control. A heavy milling motor will make the longer X rail flex as the cutter bites into a hardwood or metal. Have a look at many different machines and CNC output before you decide upon a machine.

All CNC machines will be configurable in software and hardware to a greater or lesser extent. Any well set up machine will cut hardwood, softwood and metal. The use of a drag engraver will engrave metal and glass. the use of a laser head will engrave and cut wood, glass , slate and ceramics. The machine class that you will look at for your needs is likely to be named ‘hobby’ class. Just so it separates out the machine from a production machine which will be much more expensive and probably less versatile.

Recovering costs is an attractive idea but I am sure that cutter costs, material costs, dust extraction costs and waste management are all going to make it tough to price work economically during the first years. Any software has a whole ton of official tuition materials and then YouTube has a large number of machinists who demonstrate their work and techniques. Initially, software learning should follow the manufacturers guidance until you feel comfortable enough to change it or experiment.

CNC is a great journey to undertake and it is both frustrating when you cannot get something right and exhilarating when you succeed at something complex. It will probably take around a year to get comfortable with techniques, terminology and concepts in engineering. You will start producing stuff and refine it as the time moves on.

I was starting to look at some of things we should consider before we adopt a CNC machine. I have attached the half finished file.

want a CNC machine.pdf (83.7 KB)

I also point you to a few of my own YouTube videos (all short duration) and that may show you want can be produced. Of course you will be free to look at many other techniques and projects so that your decisions are informed. My own CNC machine has a work envelope of 16 x 16 x 3.5 inches and I have modified the belt tensioners and the baseboard and my work-holding methods.

Hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Jeff

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@RileyCole Most of my CNC experience is on a large commercial machine. I have dabbled on a friend’s Long Mill and recently bought a used Mk1 30 x 30. I am using VCarvePro as the CAD/CAM application and gSender as the code sender.

I can’t really disagree more with @jepho on his advice about which machine to buy. His is a gross simplification when he talks about smaller machines being more rigid than larger ones. I expect that he knows this and just chooses to exaggerate. Take a look at the deflection specs for for the LM Mk2. They are excellent. They are far and way better than most of the inexpensive smaller machines that you can find. There are exceptions, of course, but the deflection specs on even better small machines are rivalled by the Mk2 specs. The absence of belts on the LM is another strong point in its favour. I know that some bitch about the V wheels and argue for linear guides instead. There is an argument to be made, but look at the maintenance requirements of linear guides in a dusty environment before jumping. Also, look at the quality of the guides. I looked at building my own machine before buying the Mk1 and good quality guides were VERY pricey. Cheap ones were all over the net, but their specs were terrible when I could find them.

In terms of buying only the size you need, the problem is that clearly, you don’t know yet what you want to make. In my woodworking career, I learned to buy the best or biggest machine you can afford at the outset. If you go small and/or cheap, you will almost surely find that you want to upgrade. You will always lose money when you sell your previous machine.

In terms of what to make and where to sell, I would suggest that you scope out what is selling locally in your area. Go to craft shows, look online. In my area, the market is saturated with cutting boards, charcuteries boards, cottage signs and right now halloween boxes. There is absolutely no point in me even trying to enter that market unless I want to try to race to the bottom in pricing. Thankfully, that’s not why I bought the LM. In my market, I can’t see how I can possibly make a living or even pay for tooling and materials.

VCarve is an excellent program if you can afford it. There are great youtube channels showing how to get the most out of it and vectric has excellent tutorials. This is the only non-proprietary program I have used, so I can’t comment on the competition.

I wish you luck with whatever you decide on. You seem to have the right idea when it comes to doing your homework. You will find may people on here willing to help and offer advice.

Not an exaggeration but a known fact. My machine is modified with a fixture tooling plate, modular vices and improved belt tuning system, which resulted in a much more rigid work environment. I had wanted to machine metal to a tolerance of ±0.0001" I was able to tune my machine to work reliably to a tolerance of 0.0004" when cutting T6 6061 651 aluminium with a new zero flute carbide uncoated cutter.

The depth of cut was 20mm in the example given. A much larger machine of the same hobby grade (by the same manufacturer) would have been unlikely to have worked to that tolerance or maintain that tolerance in a stable manner.

The rail section of my machine uses the illustrated 5mm thick extrusions. A longer length (1 metre) will not react to a bending moment more rigidly than a shorter length of .5 metre. The attached image demonstrates the cross sectional view of the extrusion showing the 5mm thick walls.