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My wife and I have been doing woodworking professionally for about 10 years. We've had a ShopBot CNC machine for 5. For signwork, nothing can touch it. I like the ability to explore the "what if we...." element. The machine has definitely expanded our horizons and brought us business we would not otherwise have gotten.
That being said, I would *never* "make the jump" without seriously considering the cost, your temperament and computer savvy in the larger picture of your work. If you can buy a benchtop or small machine and you're not depending on it for income, good on you, eh? There is a LOT to these machines and the bugs and software can be, at times, frustrating beyond measure.
For the record, the people at ShopBot, without exception, provide THE FINEST technical support. Weekends, weeknights, holidays..... The SB community is truly an amazing group and the jobs and work done are an inspiration. If you are going to buy a CNC, buy a SB. You WILL need support, you WILL have glitches.
On the argument of handwork vs. having work on the CNC, I don't see it as an issue. It's ALL handwork. You might not be using a mallet and a chisel for every stroke, but you sure as hell will be using every erg of your skills on a CNC machine. CNC allows you to create and build objects and projects that simply couldn't be done by hand.
It is a thing of joy to be building something in the shop, having my wife working up a new job for the CNC in the studio, and have the CNC machine in the next room knocking out parts for speaker boxes.
We have a 5x8 CNC with a 3HP spindle and a lathe. Spindles are very expensive, compared to routers, but noise is a big issue for us.
We spent about $18,000 for the machine, shipping and a computer. Bottom line, would we make the investment again? In a heartbeat!
This would be a great addition to the High School Wood Shop Library. So far I have had three freshman ask "What's a Hammer" when I asked them to bring me one. 'nuff said.
Clear Lake High School
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