What Tools Will My New CNC Replace?

A cabinetmaker contemplates buying a CNC, and thinks about how to make room for it on his floor. November 26, 2007

I do mostly full-access cabinetry, with some face frame or other solid wood jobs. I'll do whatever customers will pay for. If I get a CNC for my one-man shop, the only place it will fit is where the slider sits now. Can I assume, if I made this purchase, I could sell off the slider and the line bore and perhaps get a decent table saw for those odd items? Could I live without that scoring blade? Does anyone have a one man shop and run a CNC and find they are more profitable? Any regrets? Have your job turn-around times increased very much? Going to the Vegas show and might make the big move... depending.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor Z:
Rather than making that big investment right away, why don't you find a CNC job shop in your area to cut your parts? We cut parts for a lot of the other cabinet shops in the area. We charge $25 per sheet for machining. The customer gets all their parts cut to their specs without making the big investment and going through the learning curve of CNC.

From contributor B:
A CNC router would be a great addition to your shop, but I suspect you would regret parting with the slider, and perhaps even the line borer. A good table saw is absolutely nice to have, but in the cabinet business the slider can be important. You aren't going to want to cut every cabinet part on the CNC... only most of them. The slider could remain an important part of your shop even if you got a CNC router. It will be interesting to see what others who are in the cabinet business have to say about this.

From contributor J:
I'm not a one man shop, but the slider and the liner borer are gone and no regrets. You should have a table saw. Using a CNC router requires a different approach in cutting wood. This approach is not simply grabbing a piece of wood and throwing it on your slider and making a cut. You must draw the piece in your CAD program, apply your tool path, load your CNC, and let the CNC machine your part. This is just a sample of a simple one-piece cut. Everything you do on your slider can be done on the router. I must agree with contributor Z - if you don't have the volume, you should look at outsourcing. I did this for about 2 years before justifying a router.

From contributor D:
I have a three man shop. I bought a CNC router a few years ago and had 3 table saws, line boring machine, CNC beam saw and a slider. Through the years I have been eliminating equipment as we find more ways for the CNC to do the work. First to go was 2 table saws, then the line borer. The beam saw went this spring and the slider will stay, as it does come in handy if a part needs to be remade. It's just an old Rockwell with a 60 in stroke, so it doesn't take up much room.

I was able to more than double production and my product is always on time. The CNC has paid for itself in increased volume alone. Get the biggest tool changer you can get, because as you find ways to do all your cuts, you will want a tool ready to go. It may take a couple of years to find a use for all the tool slots, though you will use them.

From contributor L:
The line-bore can go, but I'd keep the slider. Unless you are getting a router with the ability to do odd angle cuts, you won't be able to do all the parts on the CNC. Running nested on a router is a great time saver, but there are many times you'll want to do something on the slider. Like was said, get as many tool changers and vertical drills as you can afford. Not having to change tools manually will save time and mistakes. We rarely use our horizontal spindles. If you are getting a pod machine, the horizontals can be more useful. Get your software act together before buying the router. Don't be too dazzled by high cutting speed claims. As a small shop, cutting speeds are not much of a factor. Lay out your shop so you can be doing something else while the machine cuts. A saving of 2 minutes per sheet means nothing if you are doing something else while the machine cuts a sheet. If you plan to run 8 to 10 hours a day on the router, then look for more speed.

From contributor E:
All good sound advice if your software doesn't mesh well with your CNC. (Also good advice if it does.) Remaking parts is a simple task for us. After you understand how to hold parts, skin, tab if you must, etc., you should have very few remakes. Odd angles can be produced in CNC as well as any other tool. I would still keep the saw, however, because it will come in handy every so often.

Keys to making the move:
1- Get a piece of software and learn it well (1 year or more).
2- Get a machine that works very well with that software.
3- Get sufficient hold down (15hp or more).
4- Have very good dedicated dust collection with big capacity so you do not have to shut down during the day to clean out.
5- Pay yearly for software upgrades and machine support. Worth every penny the first few years, especially.
6- Expect to struggle for the first 6 months or so. It isn't as easy as any salespeople will tell you. It takes a lot of extra time and commitment to get it right - then smooth sailing.