How to Build a CNC Wood Carving Machine

By Tom Lutzenberger ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Computer
  • Computer-aided drawing (CAD) software
  • Cabling
  • Computer-compatible wood router
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Apron
  • Protective plexiglass shield (optional)
Industrial CNC machines use lasers to burn exact cuts through material.

Woodcutting and carving continues a craft that has existed since early times. However, modern wood-cutting methods include the benefit of technology and computer accuracy to improve product output. Building your own computerized wood-cutting system involves a bit of mechanical know-how, but it can be set up in a basic garage. With enough practice and finesse, the system produces products comparable in quality to small, professional operations.

Obtain computer-aided design software and a computer. Load the CAD program on the computer and become familiar with how to use the software. Create your wood designs so they are ready to transmit either to a printer or cutting machine. Check that your design details have all been confirmed as correct and to scale.

Obtain wood material that will work consistent with your wood-cutting designs. Place the wood on a router-attached table. Either clamp the wood into position with teeth clamps or with a suction clamp from underneath. Try to move the wood to make sure it is locked into place.

Use computer cabling to connect the automated router itself to the computer. Go back to the computer and confirm that the operating system "sees" and recognizes the router as an output device, similar to a printer. Reconfigure your computer software drivers until the system confirms the router is online. Place a plexiglass shield or wall between you and the computer and the position of the router table, preventing harm from flying debris.

Put on gloves, goggles, and a work apron for safety. Boot up the CAD software. Bring up one of your wood designs on the screen. Go to the software's print command option. Direct the computer software to send the design to the router and begin the output. Monitor the feedback to the computer from the router as it progresses through the design.

Allow the router machine to work through the design as it carves away at the wood material. Wait for the computer to confirm the cycle is completed. Shut off the power source to the router. Take a look at the end wood-cutting product and compare it to your software design.

Make changes to the software and the controls on the router if the product created is not up to par versus desired results. Repeat the process above until the finished wood item passes your expectations from the CNC process.

Tip

By obtaining a CAD software program that is compatible with a given router system, you can bypass problems that occur trying to tweak software drivers between different company systems.

Warning

Always stay behind your protective barrier when the CNC router is working. Going near or sticking your hands into the table area creates a high risk of physical injury from the router or debris.

About the Author

Since 2009 Tom Lutzenberger has written for various websites, covering topics ranging from finance to automotive history. Lutzenberger works in public finance and policy and consults on a variety of analytical services. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Saint Mary's College and a Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing from California State University, Sacramento.