First CNC for Furniture Production

While considering his options for a first CNC, an owner asks colleagues for their recommendations. February 25, 2005

We're looking into getting our first CNC in the next year. We do mostly solid wood furniture and some plywood case goods. A lot of the work we want to do is milling 5/4 hardwoods to size and routing in dados and rabbets of varying sizes and depths. I've looked at ShopSabre and ShopBot machines. Any experiences using them for this type of work? Our total budget for this will be in the 25-30k range including the router and any software needed. I'd like to have something that will work with TurboCad. Any input on what will work well for us is greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor K:
You might think about expanding your search to include the MultiCam. Many people do not realize it, but MultiCam makes an entry level machine called the 1000 series machine. It fits the price budget that you have listed with software. I would recommend that you visit a local technology center, have some parts cut and discuss your production needs.

From contributor R:
You should also look at Techno's LC Series machine. Great value that will give you a big return.

From contributor W:
Since your main purpose for the machine is to cut 5/4 hardwoods, it might be advisable to look at a used heavy framed machine. A new machine that fits in your budget is going to be very lightweight. Machining solid wood furniture parts with a lightweight will require you to do a lot of sanding after the parts come off the machine. You can get a good used heavy frame machine several years old (easily within your budget) that will produce a very good surface that requires minimal sanding. Be sure to purchase the machine from someone who will help you learn to use it!

The previous owner may have needed higher machining speeds (NBM, etc.) that are less important when machining hardwoods, so you can get a good machine at a value.

From contributor D:
I would strongly recommend looking at a heavier used machine for your application. There are a lot of older machines out there that do not move fast enough or are not big enough for the high production guys, but still have several good years in them. I would look primarily at Heian and Shoda machines. Kitako is also a good machine, but there are not very many out there. All three machines are usually pretty simple and come with the best supported controls in the world (Fanuc). Parts are available for controls all the way back to the early 80's and phone support is free. Post processors for these machines tend to be plain vanilla, and communication is straightforward ASCII file transfer via RS232.

Support for used equipment is a real issue, and should be factored into your budget. If you have no CNC experience, I would allow $3K to $5K for hiring someone to set up your machine, train your people, and be around to answer questions down the road.

From contributor A:
I agree with the last couple of posts. The very idea of machining 5/4 solids on small, lightweight machines sends chills down my spine. The aluminum machines and other lightweight machines were originally made for thin plastic sheet cutting for sign making, and they did seem to work okay on 1/2 plywood sheet stock for a short time, but they just will not last long enough to justify the investment.

A good used Shoda, Heian or Andi would do you well.

You should be able to find machines from the mid to late 1980's to early 1990's for prices starting as low as 25k. But be sure you find a company that can install and train you on the machine and help with programming as well.

From contributor C:

When you are looking for a used machine, make sure that the head configuration is what you need to do the job.

From contributor J:
Do your research on software before buying a machine. Decide on the product you intend to make. Develop a "show me" attitude and be sure that the proposed software will run on the proposed machine. It's your money and if the vender can't show you how to make the product you want to make, then how can you do it?

The software is the key to success. Spend a portion of your acquiring money and travel to look at the system in action before you buy. Remember, you are buying a wood machining system, consisting of software, CNC machine and training before you sell your first product.