A DIY CNC Story

By: Ivan Irons

My CNC StoryOne day I knew I had a problem.? I just spent 4 hours with my plasma cutter in my right hand.? I had been cutting out patterns I had traced onto a sheet of metal.? These shapes were going to be my new coffee table.? Everyone complained to me that I didn’t have a coffee table.? I thought, “I’ll show them" and began to build one.

Why make a coffee table out of metal you ask?? The quick answer is that I wasn’t much of a woodworker at the time.? On the other hand, I used to weld professionally and knew I could make anything out of metal.? That is how it all began, making a coffee table out of metal.

Now if you knew me, you know that I can’t just make something normal.? My brain is the scheming type that has to do things differently then the norm.? I wanted to make a table that would knock people’s socks off.? I thought a funky looking table, made out of metal, with casters and lights would do the trick.? You know what?? It did.? I really had a ball making this table. I mean I had serious fun.? So much so that I started to design others.? I began showing photos of my work to everyone I knew.? On top of that, I was getting good feedback.? I had just found a new hobby, furniture making.? Who would have ever thought I would pick up furniture making as a hobby.While making this first table a problem arose.

It is the one I mentioned above with my right hand.? After plasma cutting all those parts my wrist really began to hurt.? While welding professionally there was always the threat of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.? Welders are constantly afflicted by this injury and others because of Repetitive Motion.

If you repeat something over and over and over and over, your body gives out at some point.? After cutting up these table parts, I knew I couldn’t go on doing this for a hobby.? I knew something would have to change or the new hobby would break my body.That is when I began investigating Hobby CNC.? I call it “Hobby" CNC, because that is how I found it.? There were small groups of enthusiasts on the Internet that were building these machines for the fun of it.? I thought this was the ticket.?

My Initial Thoughts on CNC…I thought, “If I could build a CNC Plasma Cutting Table?"I could hook my plasma cutter to itCreate a program of the part I wantedCut out multiple parts to my hearts contentSave a lot of timeAnd Finally…Save my wrist from the dreaded Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

I really wasn’t scared of the technology to start with.? I grew up in fabrication shops across the Midwest and had seen these machines in action.? These machine “Operators" were always held in high esteem at the shop.? They always made more Money and always had as much Overtime as they wanted.? I decided if they could do it, I could do it.

CNC hobby projects were not cheap at the time.? I figured I would have to invest $4,000 - $5,000 to build my table (they have come down considerably).? Keep in mind this was in 2000-2001.? For some reason that didn’t scare me off.? I always liked a good challenge and this was it.? With blind faith, I ordered up a CNC Controller and went down to my local steel yard to fill the back of my truck with steel.

Little Did I know…There was a steep learning curve with CNC.? Building a frame for the machine is only a small part of the project.? Today it is much easier.? The software, components and suppliers are better.? There is an entire cottage industry that has sprung up around CNC to support it.? Some of the best people in the world make their livings servicing CNC Hobbyist needs.

For some reason I figured if I just build this machine it would spit out parts whenever I wanted it to.? Simple, Simple, Simple ran through my head.? Over time, I started to get it.? I didn’t have a teacherPsychology Articles, but I started to learn the ins and out of what I was doing.

Other things I had to learn along the way:CAD SoftwareDesigning PartsCAM SoftwarePreparing parts for machiningSimulating MachiningMachining BasicsCleaning parts

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