DIY MDF CNC Machine Is Small And Solid


In the world of hobby-level CNC cost and simplicity are usually the name of the game. Using inexpensive and easily found materials makes a big difference in the feasibility of a project. [FreeRider] had built a CNC router before but it was big, flexible and not as accurate as he wanted. He set off to design his own table top router, influenced from other designs found on the ‘net, but also keeping the costs down and ease of build up.

The machine frame is made from 3/4″ MDF and was cut on [FreeRider’s] first router, the JGRO. Notice how all the holes are counterbored for the many bolt heads. It is clear that much attention to detail went into the design of this machine. Aluminum angle act as linear rails on which v-wheel bearings travel. Skate bearings support 5/16″ threaded rod used as lead screws. Lead nuts are tapped HDPE blocks and seem to be doing a satisfactory job with minimal backlash.

[FreeRider] says his new machine is capable of 60 inches per minute travel, double that of his old machine. Since the new machine is stiffer, he’s able to route aluminum and has successfully made some brackets out of 1/8″ plate. He reports the dimensional accurate to be about 0.002-0.003 inches. For more inexpensive MDF-based CNC machines, check out this drawer slide bearing one or this one that uses a drill for a spindle.

21 thoughts on “DIY MDF CNC Machine Is Small And Solid

    1. Some people may have not seen it yet and others may have new insights. And no the hacks are not running out, as logic would indicate increasing complexity of machines and hardware require longer periods of time before successful iterations of modifications. However, I think we are beginning to see a paradigm shift in the maker/hacker movement with a new “materials age” in which we will see many more independent tinkerers come up with amazing things. I would expect the number of “hacks/DIY projects” to increase exponentially in the next 20 years.

    2. Get used to it. When the car and tractor manufacturers among others get legal protections against hacking and things get more and more complicated, that’s what the world is going forward to, blackboxes. When hacking is illegal, only criminals hack. Sorry for being an electron, but that’s how i see things going.

      1. Nope, your world view is irrational and not very useful. Had it ever occurred to you that proprietary systems inspire people to create and share completely open alternatives? If you don’t like a product being closed then don’t buy it. Forget about fighting with big companies, you can’t win, because they can always stop selling equipment and only lease it out to people, then you will never be able to own it, or modify it regardless of what law is in place. It is better to create something new, a better alternative, than it is to mutter paranoid and negative warnings to people on social media.

        1. Although I believe in alternate open source solutions, i don’t agree with most of what you’ve said. Problem being that if industrial giants(John Deer) get their way, legally people will be leasing out the vehicles they bought on the premise of being the owner. Stemming from this is that such companies could control how and who is allowed to repair and maintain these vehicles, and charge astronomically for it. If Companies were able to simply switch over to leasing products, they would have done so, this recent legal motion is their alternative, they shouldn’t have any say in what someone does with their product after being sold, assuming they are not conflicting with any patents through resale. Though I don’t believe in the possibility of human utopia, people need to realize that if we are to make progress as any form of civilization, then we need to build off of each others accomplishments, and not force others to waste their time attempting to recreate our ideas and accomplishments when they could be progressing much further and faster by simply building off of them.

          1. Nonsense, you are confusing very basic terms that have clearly defined meanings. OwnLease, one is a product the other is a service and in fact there are many advantages to leasing solutions which is why it is such a common practice. My point is they can just lease to you if they do not want you messing with whatever new technology they plan to put into their products so there is no point wasting your energy in a fight they are guaranteed to win one way or the other. All you can do is not do business with them and if enough people do that they will have a motive to change the way they operate. In the mean time you have acquired something from another company who does see the advantage of open systems. The essence of what I am saying is, the OP has an attitude problem that is self defeating and there are better, more productive ways of making the world a better place.

      2. I can think of a number of good reasons not to hack the firmware in your car, but even if there were a copyright mechanism to prevent people from fixing their tractors, don’t you think MPAA’s armies of lawyers would have used something like that already to prevent people from ripping their own CDs? They’d just be like: “You don’t own the music. You license it from us.”

    3. Does this mean if I submitt something I might now have a chance of seeing it posted? I gave up a while ago.
      I just made a 3d printed gearbox that uses those cheap china gears… its almost a HaD fail…

      1. Yeah, as I said, definitely not water based, but perhaps an other solvent will carry the hardener? The “turn to mush” issue is why I like the idea of hardening MDF. The ideal would be a thermosetting epoxy that you could load into the parts under vacuum and then bake to cure.

        1. Obviously if you what to be a complete god of hacking you would then use electro deposition to coat the parts with a very hard shell of nickel chrome alloy then use your laser cutter to etch the surface with a holographic diffraction grating that depicted spinning 3D Hackaday logos…..

        2. Checkout the CNCzone linked above. I used to be active there around 10 years ago – before the maker movement got started.

          Alas, there is much discussion and even examples of poured epoxy and concrete frames for machines.

          Also checkout the link to flickr from the above post – there is another machine in the builders photos that has a very heavy MDF frame – that is very similar to the design the epoxy and concrete guys were working on.

          Interestingly, those guys were making their mold templates of MDF.

          Anyway, I think MDF will swell too much with any liquid – water or otherwise – vacuum or not.

        3. If you are going that route why not just use High Density Fiberboard. I’m not for sure on all its characteristics, but I would thing increased strength would be a plus. I do know they use it in subwoofer enclosures because it vibrates less. That would definitely be a plus to machining.

    1. Given the cost of MDF, additional material could be added to this machine to make it both stiffer and heavier – deadening vibrations as well as providing greater potential accuracy when under load.

      For instance the bottom could be boxed in, the gantry could be boxed in, and the back and front frame could be doubled up.

      Lots of glue and screws to hold it together. This would likely improve this particular machine as shown, but make it clunkier.

  1. 60 inches per minute? Something I didn’t fully understand until I built my first cnc router is that you have to balance the speed of your router bit and the speed of the machine in order to get reasonable life out of your router bits. Given the 10,000+rpm speed of a router or dremel, the motors need to be able to move much faster than 60 ipm to adequately cool the bit if your are cutting wood. Otherwise, you will start to dull/wear bits very quickly, and at $20-50 a pop, this starts to hurt. You really need to be able to cut wood around 200ipm without your machine deflecting before these machines really get useful.

    1. Feed rate is only one factor to consider in any discussion regarding heat buildup in a tool. There is also the plunge depth of the tool and the “bite” of each pass, the material, the bit or end mill material (HSS vs. Carbide), whether you are taking a “climbing” pass or not, and how many flutes the tool has. Router bits typically have two flutes, but a person could use an end mill if the mandrel in the router would accept it. Those are the factors if you consider that no cooling is introduced. You wouldn’t want to use liquid coolant on this machine for obvious reasons, but you could use a cold air gun. Cooling guns (and liquid coolant although not recommended in this case) would be an advantage in that the cold air would both cool the tool and work piece, but it would also clear the chips out of the immediate work area. If you want to know the optimal feed rate and speed for your material and tool type you can either use the formulas (Google is your friend here), or refer to the Machinery’s Handbook which has the formulas as well as charts. I think the Machinery’s Handbook is in its 29th edition.

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