"Helping woodworkers for the last 17 years"

CNC Routers 101

cnc shark


CNC (Computer Numerical Control) is a computer "controller" that reads G-code and M-code commands and drives a machine tool by numerically interpolating the points along a cutting tools path and directing the servomechanisms that translate the data into movement.


In 1919 Oscar Onsrud and son Rudy built the first router, it was an air turbine powered machine. In 1928 they patented and over arm pin router that revolutionized woodworking factories just as CNC machines are doing today.

Small CNC metal cutting lathes and mills have been available to the home hobbiest for several years, CNC routers have finally become an option for the home woodworker. Small relatively inexpensive machines with fairly easy to use software are now available. CAD experience is not necessary, but definitely an asset when it comes to intricate work.

Some machines come with software for either PC or Mac computers, others are PC only, fortunately the latest Mac's are capable work arounds to run PC software.

Your Choices

Zen router kit

Under $1000

The least expensive way to get a CNC router is to put together your own.

Zen offers a kit to get you started, it has a very limited capacity 7 X 7 X 2 inches of travel and you need to supply additional components to get it to work.

More info available from Amazon.com  


Under $2000

The CarveWright was one of the first small machines availabe at a reasomable cost for the home user.

It has a small footprint 18" X 26" but is capable of working 14 1/2" wide X 5" high X 12 feet long stock.

It is programmed through a memory card with its own onboard computer so it is not necessay to have a computer in your shop. Software is PC and Mac compatable.

More info Available from Amazon.com


shark cnc router

Over $2000

Machines such as the "Shark" brand are very popular, featuring a moveable head over the fixed material they offer a high degree of accuracy. These machines require a router and a computer to operate. They are not cheap but you get a lot of machine for your money.

More info available from Rockler.com


The CNC Piranha Fx

CNC Piranha Fx

The Piranha Fx is the first ever "make anything " machine. It features modules to carve, laser engrave and even 3D print.

More Info from Rockler.com

Laser Engraver/Cutter Package


This machine harnesses the power of laser light to cut material up to 1/4'' thick and create photographic engravings—all in a compact benchtop package!

More Info from Rockler.com