Router Alternatives

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    Which router do we want and do we want to scratch-build, assemble a kit, or buy a router?

    Requirements come first, right? As a makerspace, I think that, in addition to cost savings, building a router provides an opportunity to learn more about the router and the technology. This can be used to maintain and upgrade the router in the future as well as leveraged in other CNC projects. At the same time, a lot of people have already cut their teeth maturing router table designs and made them available as kits.

    As for capacity, speed, power, and accuracy, the amount of funding that we receive will drive a lot of decisions. A full 8 foot table is expensive to make accurate and takes up a lot of room. The sheet stock takes up a lot of room as well. Less than a 2×4 ft capacity requires ripping sheet stock and begins to really limit the types of projects that can be supported.

    Below are a couple of sites that I have looked at and my recommendation. I am anxious to hear people’s opinions and suggestions.

    Grunblau Platform CNC,, this is my first choice; steel construction, 30×48 bed, reasonable build price, finished parts. A parts bundle is available from
    Joe’s CNC,, older design, but very popular.
    Solsylva,, great site. If very limited on funds, this would be my first choice.
    Blacktoe CNC,, great site for ideas, the roller chain drive and wood construction make me nervous about longevity for the amount of use I think this machine will get.
    Kronos Robotics,, the KRMx02 looks like a great machine and parts bundles are available as with the Grunblau unit. I just cannot tell how finished the kit is and the longer gantry has to affect accuracy.,, cncrouterparts also makes several kits. This appears to be primarily Al extrusions. This would be my second choice.

    Let me know what you think and what requirements you might have.



    I really liked the Kronos / setup.

    My personal opinion is that a 4×8 table is ideal. The space constraints are real, however, and this size router would take up nearly the entire woodworking area.

    To help offset the cost, a small fee per use might help cover some of the machine overhead. This is probably an unpopular move, and may detract from gaining additional members. I think machining capabilities will really bolster the membership and allow the space to expand.

    There’s always the Shapeoko 2 approach, which has low barrier to entry and can be scaled up with new makerslide rails and belts. This may be an interim approach until the space matures enough to scale up to a larger facility.



    Not only does scratch building our own CNC router have the benefits of bringing our membership together, but it will also give us some real hands-on experience with doing the whole x-y-z table. Knowing this specific piece will allow us to create many more other computer controlled mills/routers/mechanisms which at least is something that I’m very interested in experimenting with.

    IMO a 8×4 is simply too large for the space that we are currently in. Yes we do have an abundance of space in comparison to other makerspaces (when they first start out) but I honestly see that space coming to a premium as we acquire more and more pieces of equipment (laser cutter, more 3d printers, metal lathe?, etc…) that will continue to draw in members.

    I’d be more inclined to go with a kit-build/scratch build vs a right out purchase. Something that can go at least 36″ seems like it wouldn’t hinder too many things that most people will want to build and I’d be okay with that being a min size (for at least one dimension).

    The two above posts really stand out in my mind as to the type of router I think we can start off with and have a very minimal investment (Solsylva and Shapeoko 2). If we get more money (2-4k), the other kits would certainly be my top choice. If getting funds takes a longer time, I’m pretty sure that just between a few of us the cheaper ones will suffice (to help us build a larger one) and be within our grasps.

    Someone want to start a requirements list so that we can actually get into some discussion on what’s important to all of us and whats just fluff at the moment?



    I think that the Shapeoko is probably too limiting, but it brings up a good point, given $800, would we rather have an $800 CNC router or $800 in a fund toward a $2-3k router. My vote would be to hold out for the $3k router, but I don’t want to be presumptuous.

    I think the Solsylva 24×48 machine is going to be $1500-$1800 by the time we upgrade the part specs to something reasonably robust. At this level of funding, I would probably rather go ahead and build it than wait. At least the parts that we bought for this could be transferred to a more robust or even larger machine if we decided to upgrade the frame. The Solsylva 24×48 is not much more expensive than there 18×24 in.

    So, I think that the requirements conversation can be broken down into two pieces; what is the minimum that we would live with and then where would we apply excess funds. For me, the Solsylva 24×48 would be close to the minimum. I would first apply funds to standard NEMA 23 drive components, ACME lead screws, rack and pinion or some type of linear bearing as these can all be used on more robust frames. Then I would apply the funds to a metal frame like the KRx02 or cncrouterparts models, then to support equipment like improved dust collection and dust collection and clamping, then to a beefier router or 2.2kw spindle. (I have a 1.5hp Craftsman router I will donate to get us off the ground.) After that, I would spend money on a vacuum table, larger footprint, larger drive motors, larger spindle, and more seats of more robust software. I would probably start applying excess funds to operational costs and other equipment at some point… before the 4th axis or the tool changer.

    Kickstarter or just start a fund on the site… like United Way?



    I think this i a good approach. Build the “hobby” machines for now. When demand and membership builds, expand the space and capabilities. Maybe a second tier membership could be offered for use of the “production” facilities.

    We should definitely work for getting on the CFC ticket next year. The United Way approach is valid, but they skim more than Kickstarter in handling fees. It is easier to manage, though.



    Just to show how well something as simple as Shapeoko does, here’s the link (673+ preorders).

    Now, if we made something better and kickstarted it ;) I’m sure we could team up with Triton to cut a few thousand sheet metal parts out.

    On that topic, have we thought about bringing Triton, Chesapeake Plastics Manufacturing, Ship Point, etc. in as industry partners? I think that we can use this to form the manufacturing connections for the incubator.


    Alex Warren

    So have we decided on 2′ x 4′ as our main constraint?

    What if we could come up with a way to make the table foldable? We could double the size of the CNC router and open up more space to cut material. If we’re done with the router, we can fold it up and roll it to the side.



    I have talked to Kevin and Jason about PaxSpace and they are aware of what we are doing. I have not talked to Radnor or ShipPoint yet, but it is on the to do list. Other than making them aware, I am not sure that there is a real “ask” to the conversation. I think that a lot of those discussions about making project parts will happen on an individual member level. I am talking to them and others about repurposing parts and pieces for the space.



    NOTICES: We have decided to establish an internal funding campaign rather than launch a kickstarter campaign for the CNC Router Project. The link to donate in support of the CNC Router project may be found at If we need make up funding later, we may launch a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign.

    We will be having a project design party (I hate to call it a meeting) at PaxSpace next Thursday, December 5th, at 6:00 PM to discuss some of the design considerations and options for the router. Jim is working on a first cut at a BOM now that we can work through. The hope is that we can lock down the plan and items that need to be ordered, order them, and have a build party before the end of the year to put a machine together. It may not be the perfect machine, but we will learn a lot and we can make improvements as we use the machine.



    Ross just sent me a link to an interesting local company…

    Their machines are expensive, but they may be a good company to talk to about the makerspace.



    The foldable table is an interesting idea. I don’t know that we are that desperate for space yet. I would worry about rigidity and I think that the machine will get a lot of use; it may make more since to figure out ways of storing some of the other, more portable equipment, rather than the router table.


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