The Shapeoko XL is a very interesting CNC. It comes in easy to build kit form, costs about $1500 and uses a trim router. Now, there are a number of inexpensive CNCs out there, especially for the hobbyist “Maker” market but I haven’t seen one that I thought was up to the heavy duty task of woodworking. This one is well designed, smartly engineered and just might be up for the job as budget friendly digital woodworking CNC. I’ll be doing a full review at Popular Woodworking later on, after putting one to a good test. In the mean time, here’s my build video on YouTube.
Digital woodworking tools are a challenging, sometimes frustrating and always a lot of fun to work with. But, it’s easy to be distracted by cool high tech hardware, computers, CNCs, laser cutters, digital routers and miss the most important tool of them all: CAD design software. Without it, you won’t get very far. But with it, it’ll take you and what you want to make as far as your imagination will go. If you take the time to learn how to use it. There’s no question about it. If you want to make cool stuff in digital woodworking, you’ve got to design it first. And, CAD is the place you do it.
Good CAD software is worth far more than whatever it costs. Actual price is not measured in dollars. It’s about the vast quantities of time you’ll spend learning it, using it and pushing it to the limits of your skills and imagination. Pro tip: don’t be cheap. Get the one that can take you where you want to go not just today, but tomorrow, too.
Think of CAD as an investment in your future. It’s the place you’ll be living in for a long time. Might as well make it enjoyable and productive. Divide the upfront cost over the many years you’ll use it and you’ll discover it’s a bargain. Invest wisely.
I confess. I sometimes have a problem with self-induced volunteerism. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been consumed many times by a project, cause or group in need of something I could contribute. One of my latest adventures was to design and build 9 workbenches for a community woodworking group. Good folks. Happy to help. But, like a lot of things, I’ve taken it way over the top.
So, besides a new bench design each one got their own unique vise chop. Designed in Rhino3D, programmed in RhinoCAM and machined on my CNCs. I’ve been writing about this project over several blog posts at Popular Woodworking’s online site. Here’s a link if you missed it. And, here’s a link to photos of the vise chops.
Both processes give you great results but there are clear advantages to using a CNC to cut parts. More accuracy, a better finish and speed are three reasons I prefer a CNC for the task. And, it’s great to walk away to work on other things. To learn more about the two techniques, check out my latest YouTube video…
At some point in this online world, you face the reality that you have to do videos. If for nothing more then to explain complex subject matter better. And so, for better or worse I started to post videos on YouTube. I do promise to get better. Really.
First up, is a review of a great small shop size CNC machine: The Laguna IQ. I’ve been putting this to work for a few weeks and have found it to be solid, accurate, spec’d well, nicely engineered and well built CNC.
Check out the channel and be sure to subscribe.
Here’s a link to the channel: digital.woodworking