CNC stands for computer numerical control, and the most expensive industrial CNC routers are used by woodworking companies to produce furniture, doors and other intricately shaped products. The lower end of hobbyist CNC routers are self-built to make everything from models to musical instruments. Materials consist of the router table, a movable mount and an integrated circuit board. Typically, CNC-controlled machines use an electrical motor to make a slide or table move, with the cutter path programmed via PC software sent to the router through a USB port or printer port.
Things You'll Need
- Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
- Wood screws
- Power drill
- Drill bits
- Scrap wood
- Aluminum rails
- Linear slide bearings
- USB cable
- Soldering iron (optional)
- Electrical solder (optional)
Choose a plan. Ready-made plans provide a complete list of parts and materials, and kits can be bought with all router components. A router table increases the capabilities of your router much like a table saw increases the capabilities of a hand saw.
Buy your CNC PC software. Software directs the width, length and height of the router movement with the precision required to produce the three-dimensional shapes of drawer knobs, table legs and wood instruments.
Construct the table base. Use 3/4-inch to 1-inch MDF for the base and legs if you're making a stand for the table. Cut the wood with a saw to the sizes you require according to your CNC router plans.
Cut the top from 1-inch-thick MDF. MDF is flatter than natural wood, as well as denser. Cut the table top to a size of 22 by 16 inches using a circular or table saw.
Cut the front, back and sides from 3/4-inch material. Drill pockets holes in three locations on each piece. Pocket holes are oval to accommodate the screws that connect the table pieces. Their exact location is not critical. For the table size above, use two 18-inch-by-2 1/4-inch pieces for the front and back supports, and two 10 1/2-inch-by-2 1/4-inch pieces for the ends.
Cut two 1/2-inch-wide slots 1/2-inch deep across the 22-inch lengths of the table. Measure 2 inches in from each edge. Use a router or power drill to make the cuts across the entire wood length.
Attach the metal guide tracks in the table slots of the table base. Cut the guide track to size with a hacksaw to the length of the base. Use a screwdriver and flathead screws to secure the metal guides.
Build the router stand. The stand holds the router, and it contains rails along which the router moves up and down as it travels the length of the router table. Use medium-density fiberboard or plywood from the main sheet you purchased for the stand, and cut the wood with a saw to the size dictated by your CNC router plans.
Cut two 1-inch MDF pieces that are 8 inches high by 5 inches wide. Cut a third piece approximately 15 inches long (the width to reach the stand legs) and 5 inches wide to attach between the MDF legs. Attach these wood pieces with 1 1/2-inch wood screws drilled through the legs into the 15-inch-long piece.
Attach metal rails near the top and bottom of the router stand cross member. Use the same L-shaped rails as you used for the table base. Cut them to size with a hacksaw to the length of the router stand.
Mount the router to a square of MDF that is slightly larger than the top area of the router. Use 3/4-inch wood screws to secure the router to the wood.
Screw linear slide bearings or other ball bearings to the wood router stand and attach the router to the router stand.
Attach the router stand to the table base. The linear slide bearings fit within the table rails, and the router fits into the stand section in the same manner.
Connect the router to the integrated circuit board that is the hardware to direct the router's movement. Use USB cable for all connections.
Assemble the circuit board. Solder the capacitors and other electronics into the PC board, applying electrical solder with a small soldering to the underside of the board. Alternatively, use the ready-made circuit board from the router table kit, if using a kit.
Connect your computer to the circuit board, and connect the circuit board to the router table motors to direct x, y and z-axis movement. Use USB or parallel cables for connections, depending on the connections used in your kit or for your project.
Run the CAD program on your PC to precisely direct the router to produce the final wood object, in much the same way that an inkjet printer prints a document.
Tips & Warnings
- Online videos offer tremendous aid in seeing the construction process of any CNC router table.
- The software instructions read by CNC machines are usually written in a human readable format called G-Code.
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