Think & Tinker, Ltd.
P.O. Box 1606, Palmer Lake, CO 80133
Tel: (719) 488-9640, Fax: (866) 453-8473
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New to CNC

Welcome to the world of CNC! This article attempts to address the many variables that go into successful use of your ENC equipment. The article is broken into the following:
  • Selecting Your Machine
  • Implementing Your Machine

Selecting Your Machine

Before making a purchase of CNC equipment, there are several thing to consider. First you should define your requirements, then you should review products, and finally you should begin shopping.

  1. Requirements

    There are several requirements that you need to consider when selecting a machine. Some are better thought out before shopping for a machine, others will come after you begin to check them out.

    • What is the application you are going to be using a CNC machine for? What types of materials do you plan to cut? How large are the materials you need to cut? What type of cut do you need (will it be 3 axis or more)?
    • What level of precision is needed? Wood workers are typically used to achieving 1/16" tolerances. Do you need more precision?
    • What speed (inches per minute) do you need the machine to go? Typically manufacturers try to balance the trade off between speed and precision. Machine speeds are all over the map.
    • What is your level of comfort/knowledge with similar types of tools?
    • What is your level of comfort/knowledge with a personal computer? Specifically, how much do you know about 2d and 3d cad packages? If you are not very comfortable with them, do you have a resource that can help?
    • Determine how much you want to spend up front.
    • How should I fixture the item I want to cut? See our fixturing article.

  2. Review Products

    There are literally hundreds of CNC machines on the market today. They come in all types of shapes, sizes. Some are designed for specific applications, while others are more general purpose in nature.

    • Talk to people who are already using CNC
    • Visit a CNC shop in your area
    • Attend CNC seminars
    • Check out internet sites

  3. Shopping

Implementing your Machine

There are several steps required to begin using your CNC machine successfully.

  1. Set-up
    Setting your machine is critical to early success. Make sure the platform is stable and your CNC machine is secure. The less movement that occurs the better.

  2. Material Selection
    The right material in the right size and thickness are all important attributes to consider.

  3. Fixturing Selection
    Proper fixturing will save you time, money and frustration. See our fixturing article.

  4. Bit Selection
    From a bit perspective, we recommend you start with larger sized bits. They are cheaper and tend to break a little less than the smaller bits. Once you get the hang of it (count on a month or so) get some smaller bits as needed for your desired application. Some of our 1/32 in. bits are relatively inexpensive and are a popular size for new CNC users.

    To select the correct bits for your application, contact our Technical Support team at 719 488-9640 or

  5. Testing
    We recommend you plan on spending an extended period of testing before moving to production. There are several different variables that you need to work with including:
    • Type of cut
    • Type of material to cut
    • Machine type
    • Spindle type
    • Depth of cut
    • Feed Rate
    • Spindle Rate
    • Type and size of bit
Once you have secured your bits and identified your application, we recommend you complete an test we call application calibration Application Calibration. Here, you push your equipment (machine and bits) to see the outer limits of its ability, then back it off 20%. For more information, go to the article listed.

Established 1990

On the web since 1994

Sales: 1-(719) 488-9640    Tech Support: 1-(719) 488-9640    Fax: 1-(866) 453-8473
Copyright © 1994 - 2014 Think & Tinker, Ltd.