New to all this - asking for advice

Good afternoon all.

I have been a hobby woodworker with about 15 yrs. I have wanted to get into CNC carving etc. for some time but have always been put off by the cost. Seeing the price of the kits available here, it now seems more within my reach - however, I have absolutely no idea where to start. I purchased a laser engraver (Sculpfun S9) a couple of months ago but other than that have no experience with design software.

I make a lot of cutting boards and like the idea of carving and/or inlaying logos into them.

So my questions:

  1. What kit should I consider? I really would prefer a ‘complete’ kit that includes everything needed.
  2. I am confused by the size options - 25.4mm, 25mm etc. Can you help me understand this?
  3. How difficult are the kits to assemble.
  4. Do the kits come with the design/CAD software? If not what is the best/easiest/most versatile to use? I have been slowly learning LightBurn with the laser engraver.

I sure all these questions have been asked many times before - so please feel free to just point me to another thread.

Thank you for your time and patience.



Hello and welcome Ian,

Here’s my thought on the subject of which design to use. The designs by Ryan are all very brilliant of course, and we are grateful for his efforts and contribution. The various designs represent an evolution in development of high value/low cost cnc technology. However, regardless of which design you choose you still need to purchase stepper motors, drivers, controller boards and so on. The latest design is the low rider 3 and this is the design I would recommend.

The size options refer to the outer diameter of steel tubing such as electrical metal conduit or stainless steel tubing.

I wouldn’t say the kits are as easy to assemble as something like an ender3 3d printer. I sourced all the parts myself and found it took some time to sort out various issues, nothing major, but it still took more time. Purchasing a kit would save you some troubles.

Also, I would take a look at the software and firmware section of the forum since it describes the recommended cad/cam software and firmware to use. My preference is open source software such as Freecad, but this is perhaps not as easy to use.

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  1. What kit should I consider? I really would prefer a ‘complete’ kit that includes everything needed.

For V1 machines, currently there is no complete kit. V1 sells most of what you need. Note that the V1 machines target people who have a 3D printer. If you don’t have a 3D printer, it will be more expensive, and you may struggle to get everything needed for a functional machine. It can and has been done, but it is more work and expense. If you decide to purchase a kit and parts from V1, you can run your proposed order by the forum to get feedback before you place the order.

In addition to parts from the V1 store, you will need to provide:

  • Base board, typically 3/4" plywood
  • Spoil board, typically 3/4" MDF
  • Tubing
  • Router
  • Table or bench to put it on.
  1. I am confused by the size options - 25.4mm, 25mm etc. Can you help me understand this?

The 23.5 parts use electrical conduit purchased from a hardware store. It is cheap and easily available across the US. The 25.4 parts are for 1" stainless steel tubing or DOM tubing. The 1" tubing is somewhat stiffer than the conduit, but is also significantly more expensive. The 25mm is for countries that sell tubing in metric measurements such as the countries of Europe.

  1. How difficult are the kits to assemble.

Let me divide the job into multiple parts. For me, the mechanical assembly was easy. I found it slightly more taxing than assembling Ikea furniture. Once I had all the parts gathered, I assembled the mechanical aspects in a weekend.

The electrical/electronics took more figuring out. Since there are multiple possible control boards, and a few different ways to assemble things, it is less of a step-by-step process. If you purchase your control board from V1, it will come preflashed with tested firmware, which is a big help for many people.

  1. Do the kits come with the design/CAD software? If not what is the best/easiest/most versatile to use?

No software comes with the kit. Take a look at the software workflow page, and the diagram in this topic. Most people with an MPCNC use EstlCAM. The next most used tool is Fusion 360. Both tools have free or inexpensive options for their use.

I have been slowly learning LightBurn with the laser engraver.

I have a laser module on my MPCNC and use Lightburn frequently. Doing woodworking with a CNC router and CAM is notably more complex than using Lightburn. Expect a significant learning curve. To some degree, this will be true of any CNC machine you purchase.

Currently the MPCNC sits between a homebuilt machine and a full kit machine. It does require you to figure some stuff out, but there is a lot of flexibility on how you build your machine, and the forum is active and helpful.


Welcome Ian,
I was a skeptical pro woodworker balking at the price of the more mainstream CNC’s for years, even though I knew they could make my life easier.
Answer to #1: The MPCNC for your needs would be the best choice, It does not come as a “kit” but you can get all of the parts on the V1 shop. My second MPCNC I did this way, it was well worth the extra cost, as I had 3d printed the parts for the first one.
Answer to #2: The primary thing about the different sizes is cost and availability as some of the sizes are EU/metric standard. When I made mine I used the 25.4mm (1 inch) sizes and used locally sourced DOM tubing for the rails.
Answer to #3: Be prepared to spend a weekend getting it all assembled, squared and tested. Depending on your skills it may take less or more time. My best advice is to take your time and follow the docs, double check every step.
Answer to #4: You can use Inkscape or other software that can create SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) for design. Though this is limited a bit it can generate the needed art to import into the basic low cost CAM software, Estlcam, that creates the tool paths for cutting. Estlcam’s creator has worked with V1 to have the machines here included. Estlcam can be used for some time for free, and costs $59 USD, quite reasonable to get started in CNC. Take a look at it,
Advice not asked for: For inlays there is many threads on the forums, those folks who do them a lot are worth the weight in whatever you consider valuable. Most of us have had the hard road of failure in the learning curve, you and other new people to the V1 CNC’s can benefit from our trials and tribulations. Also do not ever be afraid to ask questions or ask for help for problems.
Best regards


Using the kit from Ryan with pre configured electronics will save you a ton of time, reduce the build complexity and only comes out a few dollars more expensive than the diy path.

Most woodworkers seem to struggle on the software end of cnc just remember there are 3 parts.

Design - Where you create your shape in either Cad or graphics software

CAM- turns your design into tool paths for the machine to follow - gcode file

Production - where the machine runs the gcode file you created


Wow you all are making me look good. Thanks for complete and friendly answers.

Ian it looks like you snagged a good group with your first question here. I will drop in my two cents. Everyone has different sticking points in this process. It is hard to be sure where yours will be. It seems each of the responses above all had different sticking points, kinda funny to see that. The important point is if you have questions just ask here, no reason to suffer or get frustrated alone. Typically, we can get you over a hurdle pretty easy, worst case we will ask for a couple pictures or screenshots.

P.S. I don’t think the software (CAM) side is much more of a learning curve than Light burn. It just adds depth to the equation. Lightburn is pretty flawless though and the best software in this space currently in my opinion.


Thank you all for taking the time to respond - I very much appreciate it.

So I was initially looking at the MPCNC Build Kit - Primo Version with the SKR PRO & TFT, Set of printed parts and mount to fit my current BOSCH trim router.

What additional items would I need to purchase / source to turn this into a working CNC?

Thank you all again.


No problem, good designs and good support is what it is all about in my opinion

If you want a dual endstop setup that allows you to home your machine, you need to add:

I don’t know if it is an issue for you, but the endstop plugs will need to be soldered to the limit switches. The Rambo board comes with switches and plug wires that don’t require soldering.

mount to fit my current BOSCH trim router.

While I’m not positive, I don’t believe V1 sells a mount that fits the BOSCH trim router. There are models for mounts out on Thingiverse that can be adapted for use with the Primo, but they would need to be 3D printed. This kind of issue is why I mentioned the 3D printer in my original post. As an alter solution, you could purchase something like this. This router is cheaper than the Makita, will fit in the Makita mount, and it comes with an 1/8" collet…something you would pay $25 extra for many other trim routers.

Beyond these items, you will need something to protect the wires. The three solutions are cable chains, sleeving, and sleeving with the tape measure trick. Since you don’t have a 3D printer, I would recommend sleeving. Sleeving of various diameters is readily available on Amazon.

The last thing to consider is an emergency stop solution. It could be as simple as mounting a power strip for use by both the control board and the router such that the switch is readily available. You just want one place that is easily reachable that turns off both the router and the control board.

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Thank you Robert

I am reasonably proficient at soldering, so that should not be a problem.

I appreciate your time and advice.


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I’ll add that the Bosch is a pretty good small router, but WRT finding a mount it is an odd ball. The makita is fits a 65mm diameter mount, which is actually very common with CNC routers. So you’ll find a lot more good options with a makita or other 65mm vs the bosch.

What CAD software is best is mostly a personal preference. I think most ppl agree that inkscape is one of the better tools at creating vector files that can be used for inlay work. It’s not technically a CAD suite, but for inlays and other 2d work it’s all you really need. If you venture in to 3d work (relief carvings etc), you’ll hear all kinds of advice. Around here ESTCam is the supported choice, but there are plenty who prefer Freecad, Fusion 360, and even Solidworks for certain advanced features. Regardless which road you go, take time choosing it… you don’t want to put a ton of time in to learning one program, only to find out it won’t do something you need and then have to start from scratch learning another program. If you read around, you’ll see most folks here end up married to a particular software, because it’s a lot more work than most ppl want to put in to change to something else.

For the CAM side of things, you will see ESTLCam, Freecad, and F360 come up most often here. I personally prefer F360, as it has a lot of powerful advanced features for free, however it’s annoyingly closed source and Autodesk has in the past pulled the plug on important features. That means it isn’t as certain for future use as ESTLCam or Freecad. ESTLcam again, is supported here, so I’d suggest that to start if f360 licensing is an issue for you. Freecad is about as powerful as F360, but takes a while to learn. So I can’t comfortably recommend it for beginners.

Specific to inlay work, I’ve found the free version of Carbide Create to be easiest to work with. I prefer using it over F360 for inlays. F360 requires 3d modeling, CC does not (can make inlays with just an stl). This also means F360 sometimes will crash handling more complicated models, models that CC can process quickly and reliably without using 3d geometry. CC has come up in these forums a few times recently… lots of good info available. I think you’ll end up liking it if you try it on inlays.

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