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The Best CNC Kits for Beginners

CNC Starter Kits

Taking up CNC as a hobby enables you to make all manner of things in your own home—from tools and parts to personalized toys and gifts. It can, however, be an expensive undertaking, with CNC machines costing thousands of dollars. A good way to save on this is by purchasing a CNC kit and building your own machine. However, with a myriad of CNC kits available, it’s not always easy to choose one that meets your requirements without breaking the bank.

Luckily, we’ve scoured the web to bring you a complete rundown of the best CNC kits for beginners. These machines will enable you to join the maker community, without being too daunted by steep learning curves, complex builds, or hefty price tags.


Table of Contents

BobsCNC E3
Zen Toolworks
BuildYourCNC blueChick
X-Carve
MillRight CNC
Stepcraft D Series
Next3D
Carbide 3D Shapeoko 3
Ooznest WorkBee
WhittleCNC

BobsCNC E3

Materials machined

Wood, plastics

Working area

450mm × 380mm × 85mm (17.7″ × 15.3″ × 3.3″)

Prices from

$678.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Amazon

One of the newer firms on the CNC scene is BobsCNC, whose E3 router kit is amongst the cheapest on our list. Don’t mistake this for a lack of experience, though: strong reviews for the E3 stand as testament to the quality of the machine itself, and the expertise of the team behind it.

BobsCNC keep prices down for their machine by stripping away the extraneous and ensuring what remains is cost-effective. Saving users money isn’t the only aim of BobsCNC, though—they’ve also created a machine that meets the needs of beginner users with big ambitions.

Starting out is a breeze, with clear and simple assembly instructions provided on the company’s website. Once you’ve put the machine together, you can run the machine simply by plugging it into your PC’s USB port.

The E3 excels at cutting wood, with the ability to cut composites and hardwoods alike at a depth of up to 3.3″. As another plus, it’s easy to change bits even without using tools—and protection against dust damage is included for certain key components. Users, meanwhile, are quick to dispel any fears that the all-wood model may lack robustness: it’s as sturdy as any metal hardware out there.


Zen Toolworks Mill

Materials machined

Wood, circuit boards, foams, ABS plastics, acrylics, aluminum, nylon, metals

Working area

From 177.8mm × 177.8mm × 50mm (7″ × 7″ × 2″)

Prices from

$429.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Amazon

If you’re looking for a compact machine that fits perfectly into even the smallest workshop, then the Zen Toolworks Mill is a great choice. With prices starting from a similarly minuscule $429, this machine does the job without putting a dent in your wallet.

Supporting a wide range of materials, this machine comes in three different sizes. The smallest and cheapest model is the 7″ × 7″ machine, while 7″ × 12″ and 12″ × 12″ models are also available.

You can assemble the Zen Toolworks Mill over the course of just a weekend. The company also hosts its very own dedicated wiki to answer even the most obscure questions you may have. Be aware that you won’t be able to start off straight out the box: you’ll still need a few additional parts to get things going. Nonetheless, this is one of the best CNC kits around for a newcomer, and building it provides a great way to learn more about how your machine works.

New machine? Need a little inspiration? Check out our 11 CNC Project Ideas to start creating something awesome!


BuildYourCNC blueChick

blueChick

Materials machined

Wood, plastics

Working area

From 304.8mm × 914.4mm × 76.2mm (12″ × 36″ × 3″)

Prices from

$1,599.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Amazon

Version 4.2 of the blueChick CNC machine from BuildYourCNC is the best yet, featuring a new drive method and relocating the X-axis motor, alongside a larger gantry and shallower overall height.

This machine may not prove the cheapest on our list, but there’s still plenty going for it. The blueChick is a sturdy, rigid machine, with BuildYourCNC carefully choosing a router that ensures structural integrity. Meanwhile, by including the machine’s motor in the gantry, the length potential of the table is limitless.

Sitting comfortably on a desktop, this machine nonetheless keeps things tidy by collecting dust within a ring of bristles that surround the cutting bit. If you’re after a strong machine that’s built to last, then the blueChick is worth checking out.


X-Carve

X-Carve products

Materials machined

Wood, plastics, aluminum, circuit boards, corian, linoleum

Working area

From 250mm × 250mm × 65mm (9.84″ × 9.84″ × 2.56″)

Prices from

$896.99

Availability

→ Check availability on Inventables

Next up on our list is the X-Carve: the ideal machine for CNCers who want an ultra-customizable experience. Available in 500mm, 750mm and 1000mm sizes, the X-Carve gives you ultimate control over your machine.

It’s up to you whether or not to buy the recommended spindle, mount, motion controller, waste board and stepper motors, or provide your own. You’ll also be given a wide range of options for additional parts and accessories, helping you adapt your X-Carve to meet your needs.

Of course, there are options for users who are looking to get started in a matter of hours, too. Bundles including the core components and rail kit, alongside a limited number of recommended components, start from $896.99.

Users also have the choice to buy CNC software to accompany their new purchase. A more tempting offer, however, is the user-friendly Easel software. This comes as standard with the X-Carve, and is all that’s required for users to start machining. This nifty tool makes it easy to create drawings from scratch, making it quicker to take your ideas from design to CNC fabrication.


MillRight CNC M3

Materials machined

Wood, plastic, foam, carbon fiber, circuit boards, soft metals

Working area

260mm × 260mm × 50mm (10.25″ × 10.25″ × 2″)

Prices from

$499.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Amazon

If you’re a newcomer to CNC, then the chances are that you won’t want to splash out too much while still testing the waters. For those in this boat, giving the MillRight CNC M3 a try means the ability to machine a wide range of materials without breaking the bank. Indeed, the company recognizes that its price point is one of its key selling points: describing itself as “the best value in CNC”, the M3 starts from just $499.

MillRight, however, are keen to prove that they’re not just a one-trick pony, and that users will get a lot from their small investment. Customers have raved over the quality of the machine, with some noting that they’ve been able to go beyond the advertised milling capabilities to cut through steel and stone. As an added bonus, you won’t need any power tools to construct the M3—only some basic tools, making this perfect for a newbie.

Heading to MillRight’s website makes it clear that customers are this company’s #1 priority. The standard of customer service is sky-high, and there are plenty of resources and tutorials for CNC newcomers to sink their teeth into. If you’re looking for a machine that gets the job done, you won’t go wrong with the MillRight CNC M3.


Stepcraft D Series

Stepcraft

Image source: Stepcraft

Materials machined

Wood, plastics, aluminum, brass, copper

Working area

From 210mm × 210mm × 40mm (8.27″ × 8.27″ × 1.57″)

Prices from

$999.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Stepcraft

German CNC firm Stepcraft have only been around since 2012, but they’ve spent that short time making plenty of waves in the community. The company produce a range of computer-controlled hardware, including their laser, 3D printing head and drag knife. Here, however, it’s their D Series CNC machines that we’re bringing into focus.

Stepcraft offers five different sizes of D Series machines, with the smallest coming in with a working space of 210mm × 210mm × 40mm, ranging up to a maximum of 600mm × 840mm × 140mm. You have the option to buy your machine ready-to-run or as a kit.

Luckily, choosing to construct your own machine doesn’t mean sacrificing days of your time: thanks to Stepcraft’s EasyBuild manual, the process takes just a couple of hours.

The kit you buy from Stepcraft includes almost everything you’ll need to get started—but newcomers should be aware that you won’t get a spindle in the box. You’ll also have to provide your own machine control software—though with plenty of open source options available, this should pose no problems for even the most budget-conscious makers.

Once assembled, users can benefit from the sturdy machine’s rapid working speed, high degree of accuracy, and the ability to switch quickly from one application to another. Supporting a variety of materials, this is a great choice for hobbyists looking for a solid CNC machine.


Next3D

Next3D router

Materials machined

Plastic, wood, perspex, carbon, DIBOND, circuit boards, non-ferrous metals

Working area

From 330mm × 295mm × 110mm (13″ × 11.6″ × 4.3″)

Prices from

$891.28

Availability

→ Check availability on GoCNC

Germany certainly has a reputation for the quality of its engineering—so, it should come as no surprise that we’re following up one Teutonic firm with another in our rundown. Next3D aims to raise the bar in CNC machines without raising the price, too.

Years of effort have gone into the creation of the firm’s range of CNC routers, which come in sizes from S to XL. Better still, since they’ve put in the hard work, you won’t have to: even a novice can assemble the machine with little DIY skill, safe in the knowledge they’re creating a machine that can stand the test of time. There’s no soldering, no drilling and no gluing required—simply screw the pieces together, and you’ll be up and running in a few hours.

The Next 3D offers users a torsion-free aluminum profile, which aids ease of assembly. You can operate the router using the included CNC Studio hardware and software. And, while you’re running the machine, you’ll appreciate the lack of juddering and tilting—ensuring a smooth, precise cut every time.


Carbide 3D Shapeoko 3

Shapeoko

Materials machined

Wood, aluminum, plastic

Working area

406.4mm × 406.4mm × 76.2mm (16″ × 16″ × 3″)

Prices from

$1,099.00

Availability

→ Check availability on Carbid3D

Like many innovative CNC machines, Shapeoko started life as a Kickstarter project. Its creator, Edward Ford, learned how to build his own machine from scratch just months after joining the CNC community. After a few years of learning and building, he set out to help others achieve the same goals he’d pursued. Enter Shapeoko: an easy-to-build, cheap CNC mill.

Though the machine itself has gone through some radical transformations since, the core aims of the project have remained the same: a CNC kit that’s simplelow cost, and straightforward to build.

There is one small downside we need to address first: Shapeoko can no longer boast its Kickstarter era price tag of just $300, and now weighs in at a heftier $1,099. However, there are still plenty of reasons why CNC newbies should check it out.

Shapeoko comes partially assembled, meaning that it can be built within just one hour. It’s also capable of full 3D machining, and cuts through aluminum, wood, and plastic. The machine is also hackable, and can be modified to machine carbon fiber, PCBs and steel, as well as to add a range of accessories. It also accepts standard G-code, meaning there’s no need to learn new software: any CAM software works with Shapeoko.

Finding the machine’s working area a little too snug? No sweat! Carbide 3D also offer XL and XXL models. With respective cutting areas of 33″ × 16″ × 3″ and 33″ × 33″ × 3″, you have all the space you need to bring even your biggest dreams to life!

Looking for a ready-to-use machine instead? Check out Carbide 3D’s Nomad 883 Pro.


Ooznest WorkBee

Ooznest WorkBee

Image source: Ooznest

Materials machined

Foams, woods, plastics, aluminum

Working area

550mm × 520mm × 54mm (20.47″ × 20.47″ × 2.13″)

Prices from

£1,195.00 (≈ $1,540)

Availability

→ Check availability on Ooznest

When a company proclaims that “3D printing is the future”, you may not expect them to have much to offer the CNC community. This certainly isn’t the case for Ooznest. They may be on a journey to “bring 3D printing to the masses”, but they’re happy to try out other maker technologies along the way—and we’re certainly glad they did.

The company’s first attempt, the OX, was already a smash hit. Ooznest even described the machine as “the perfect CNC kit”. However, there was still room for improvement, and users didn’t shy away from providing their own suggestions on how to improve. Rather than resting on their laurels, Ooznest listened—and responded with the WorkBee.

The WorkBee machine builds upon the successes of the OX and takes into account the team’s additional experience and customer feedback. This new machine boasts the ability to cut through a variety of materials with depths of over 25mm to 0.2mm accuracy.

As was the case with the OX, Ooznest designed the WorkBee to be easy to assemble even for a total novice, with no use of power tools. The company even provides handy, IKEA-style instructions showing how each piece fits together—but, should you experience any issues, they’re always ready to help out via email, phone, or forum.

One of the key innovations of the WorkBee is its dual drive system: it can either be screw- or belt-driven. This may be a machine for hobbyists, but there’s plenty here to impress even a professional.


WhittleCNC

WhittleCNC

Materials machined

Wood, plastic, wax, foam, aluminum

Working area

From 228mm × 356mm × 50mm (9″ × 14″ × 2″)

Prices from

$434.00

Availability

→ Check availability on WhittleCNC

WhittleCNC started life on—you guessed it—Kickstarter. Its creator, Zachary Adams, had spent years looking for a high-quality, low-cost, desktop-sized CNC machine. Finding all available options lacking, he did what any true innovator does and built his dream machine himself.

What he created is a fantastic machine. The WhittleCNC features a removable cutting bed and adjustable cutting depth, allowing users to cut materials of varying sizes and depths. The machine is strong and durable, and incredibly easy to assemble. In fact, the site promises that “if you have a Phillips head, and scissors, you can be up and running in less than two hours”.

Given the crowdfunded background of the machine, it comes as little surprise to learn that WhittleCNC has a real passion in helping new members of the maker community take their first steps in the world of CNC. The company’s website even offers newcomers a few easy CNC projects to try out as examples.

Meanwhile, even someone who’s never used a CNC machine before will find controlling the WhittleCNC to be a cinch. As well as supporting Inventables’ Easel software, you can also control WhittleCNC from Google Chrome using the app. You can even purchase add ons to use WhittleCNC as a laser engraver or 3D printer. The best part? You can get it all for just $434.

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14 Responses to The Best CNC Kits for Beginners

  1. Kevin Mar 16, 2017 at 11:12 AM #

    Andy, you are right that you can’t go wrong with the Millright M3. I have one and continue to be impressed at the capability and accuracy of a machine that costs so little.

  2. luke
    Luke Kennedy Mar 16, 2017 at 2:50 PM #

    Hey Kevin! Great to hear you’re getting in well with the M3.

  3. Derek from MillRight CNC Mar 17, 2017 at 5:00 AM #

    Cool article guys. This article gives a great survey of the offerings in this space. I appreciate you mentioning us.

  4. Samer ibrahim Dec 24, 2017 at 6:38 PM #

    Hello dear
    I am looking for mini cnc cutting engraving gold ring bangle can you help me please

    • luke
      Luke Kennedy Dec 27, 2017 at 11:39 AM #

      Hey Samer, I would recommend searching for a ‘Jewellery Engraving CNC Machine’ there are a wide range available, even on Amazon. I wouldn’t be able to recommend a specific one.

  5. Rolf Randby Jun 12, 2018 at 9:38 PM #

    What do we need to know. about software and usb compataebility before we buy?

    • jay Jun 13, 2018 at 2:38 AM #

      Almost all kits are designed to be suitable for hooking up to a PC running the applicable software. I’d advise reading the product description on the kit you’re purchasing to double-check compatibility but you should be fine with most.

  6. charles b. strickland Aug 29, 2018 at 3:12 PM #

    I build guitars. Thats it.

  7. Joseph Flowers Sep 5, 2018 at 8:27 PM #

    This is a great place for me to start.
    I’ve never used a CNC machine but I need one badly. I make custom knives and I need a machine to cut out the handles, but also for engraving. Instead of traditional tracing with a diamond stylus, why not make a holder for my diamond stylus (spring tension) that would fit where my router is. This way I’m not limited to fonts Etc.
    As long as I determine my start points Etc.
    I’m considering the WhittleCNC or the MillRight CNC M3. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • luke
      luke Sep 5, 2018 at 9:29 PM #

      Great! It’s certainly worth checking out both of those options. I would recommend speaking to both companies explaining what you’ll be creating. I’m sure they will advise you further.

  8. Alessio Sep 18, 2018 at 10:46 PM #

    Finally a clear overview. Since I am completely new to the CNC world, I would like to ask your advice about it. I have a 3D printer that I use a lot, but for some of my project I would need stronger parts made out of aluminum 6000 and 7000 series. I need for small parts, let’s say 10×10 x10 maximum. Do you have suggestion for a prebuilt or semiDIY (easier to assemble it) with 500 Euro? I am Europe. Thank you very much!
    Alessio

  9. Kartik morwal Oct 1, 2018 at 12:09 PM #

    I want to make a cnc type machine .
    As a biginner how to make

    • luke
      luke Oct 1, 2018 at 12:24 PM #

      If you’re a beginner we’d recommend starting with a kit which you can build. Therefore the list of options in this post is a good place to start.

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