Buying a CNC for the First Time

I’m pretty sure everyone here will advocate for the Shapeoko 5 Pro — I work for the company (off-site/remote tech support), so not unbiased, but here are some things to consider:

  • we write all of our own software above the firmware level, and fund Grbl development, so there’s no finger-pointing if there’s an issue — we own it, and will work with you to solve it
  • we stand behind our machines: Carbide 3D Machine Warranty and have an initial 30-day warranty which no one else offers to my knowledge: For 30 Days, Mistakes are on Us
  • The Shapeoko 5 Pro includes one-on-one training — 4 30-minute sessions
  • we have a standing offer: If you get stuck on a file or project you can write in to us at and we will walk through the project with you or find a relevant tutorial

Also see:


and the various other videos at: Carbide 3D - YouTube

Please write in to — I’m sure the folks there are better at speaking to the advantages of the machine than I am (I’m just a guy who pitches in on tech support some and kibbitzes about machines and projects here from time-to-time and my SO5 Pro just arrived today, but I need to rearrange my basement and assemble a workbench for it).


I had an issue with my Nomad. The folks here sussed out the issue and sent me a new board with helpful instructions at no charge. It’s worked flawlessly since then. Plenty of expertise and help on this forum too.


I dont have a OneInfinity so I cannot comment on what they offer or support them. However what I would suggest is you subscribe to both community forums. CNC machines are not identical but are very similar in the competitive hobby market. What makes the difference is the technical support you get from the company itself but equally important is the support you get from the community forums. I started with a Shark and there are two forums, one a company sponsored and an independent one. Both were dull as dish water. So having support is very important.

When it comes to features and software C3D is pretty advanced. The BitRunner, BitSetter and BitZero are amazing. The Carbide Create software for CAD is very robust and free. They do have a paid pro version but it is not required and only needed for more advanced functions like 3d carving. The Carbide Motion is the gcode sender for your C3D machines only. So check out what OneInfinity offers for CAD/CAM software. Some other OEM offer discounts for Vetric or like XCarve has Easel which is free but also has a paid pro version.

So depending on your experience level there will be a significant learning curve no matter which machine you buy. The learning how to operate the CNC, the CAD/CAM software is a steep curve and will require a commitment of time, energy and MONEY. The reason I bring that up is how many stationary bicycles have you seen in someone’s house with it really being a clothes horse and not an exercise machine? So be realistic in your commitment to spend your time and money to learn. The curve is steep but very learnable with the time put in. No CNC machine is automagical where you insert the wood at one end and out the other end comes a finished product.

In addition to the learning curve of operating a CNC there is still the matter of the traditional woodworking of the material and finishing the projects when done machining. Those skills also take time and energy and money to master. You need to feed any CNC machine with prepared wood. Some preparation can be done on the CNC but it is better if your material is cut to size and surfaced before you place it on the CNC machine.


The making money part is my number one reason for wanting one. My second reason is that I just love making things with wood. I like the versatility of it and being able to cut other materials too. I had to stop everything in 2000 due a car accident. Being able to do something and make a living is crucial right now and it will be very rewarding to be able to be productive again.
You showed a video making $1000 a day. I know nothing is guaranteed since having the right products, your target audience, the marketing and so on all play a part. But if all that is right, How long do you figure it might take, just a “guesstimate” on average, do you think that would take starting at 20 hours a weeks going to 40+ after a few months providing things are going well?
I am thinking on the low end of hours for “just in case” life gets in the way and Murphy’s Law steps in, which it seems to do quite often sadly. But I am a stronger person for it.

1 Like

There is one more thing, I am not an avid computer user or social media. I have always found all that stuff including gaming, or watching too much tv which has gotten so bad anyways lately boring. I like being more active if and when I am able.
But my main reason for explaining this is so you know that computer stuff isn’t really my thing. I can learn it but I will need help and practice. My husband knows so much LESS about computers and the internet than I do. There is a very funny story behind why he stays away from computers. Maybe another time when I haven’t written a book on here…lol.
So as long as help is available to learn this stuff, I should be fine. but having the cost of the machine and materials needs to come back very soon after. I am starting other things too to help with income working from home. But working for yourself allows for you to stop when needed for a day or two if you are suffering at that time. The CNC will help make it easier so even on a bad day I could still get something done. I think I have over explained enough, but you get what I mean regarding the income, especially in today’s times.
I look forward to your response and I am going to go watch those videos no. I am a night owl sadly.


You’d have to check in w/ @KevBarn14 or one of the folks who actually knows marketing or who actually sells stuff — while I’ve chimed in w/ an opinion on pricing here:

I’ve never sold anything I’ve made on any of my machines, but give them away to make room for further projects, or because it seemed more important for the recipient to have it than myself, i.e., this box:

was gifted to a co-worker when she was leaving our workplace — a similar box went to the person who had been running a local coffee shop where we make our daily coffee run because she was getting a new job in counseling.

How much money you make will depend on:

  • the local market
  • what you make to sell and the profit margin
  • cost of raw materials

On that latter front, my suggestion would be to find a local sawmill — see if they will sell you their shorts/off-cuts (a place near my mother-in-law’s sells such by the truckload as firewood), but organization is key — have standard stock sizes which match what is easily sold, any scrap after cutting stock is evaluated to see if it can be cut down to one of those stock sizes and stored — anything which can’t goes into the compost bin or burn barrel. That said, if one of your stock sizes is small squares (say 1" x 1" and half that size) for making cutting boards, you should be able to keep this to a minimum.

A luthier I knew in Texas noted, “Mistakes go into the firewood pile — the shop has never been cold.”

Some potential markets:

  • wedding planners — they want customized things for weddings and the father of the bride does not have control of the checkbook
  • real estate agents — a customized memento is a pittance compared to the commission on a house
  • stores which need custom fixtures

My suggestion would be to download Carbide Create:

watch the videos and follow along:

If you don’t like videos see instead:


and try to work up a simple design, all the way through to getting a 3D preview — if you have problems, ask and we’ll do our best to assist.

I definitely agree that being able to make stuff such as:

(that’s the drawer front to my current project, a reproduction of a Thos. Jefferson Lap Desk)

can turn a bad day around.


What are you planning on making, and is there a market for it in your location?

1 Like

One thing to keep in mind is if you don’t have any prior experience with a cnc, I wouldn’t count on getting a profitable business up and running right away. Echoing what others have already said, there is a pretty steep learning curve to operating these machines. It’s absolutely doable and its nothing to be intimidated by, but it does take time to learn. And even after you’re comfortable operating the machine and the software, it often takes much trial and error before making parts you’re confident in selling. I say this because i was a little naïve when i purchased my first cnc, the pro xl a little over a year ago. I thought i’d be up and running making things to sell right away but there wa a much steeping learning curve then anticipated. That all being said, C3D and the community is fantastic and has helped me with pretty much every issue I’ve run into.

1 Like

I have some other projects that can help get things going until i learn the CNC. We Cammy get it till our taxes get back and we just filed. Thought id learn and plan now so I’m ready for it when it does come.
I was thinking it will take maybe a month to get comfortable using the CNC and learning with it and maybe another month to practice making the products we’re thinking of selling. I particularly love boxes. I have some ideas in mind but what i thought id do is make some small custom things that I can hand out to various businesses around town. I love in a smaller town that takes at most, 8-10 minutes to go from the farthest part of one to the other in town. But hey, we have a Walmart Supercenter so we have something…lol. There’s a few more places than that but we are smaller. I love 3D but I don’t intend on making a ton without it being profitable as I have heard that is very time consuming.
So for that, is 2 months grace period to learn the CNC and practice enough time you think? It’s just a ball park time frame to keep my expectations down. The CNC will also help me with some remodeling that we’re doing.
I have to look at the market still and now it’s the best time to research that. I am a big planner, my husband is the do things spontaneously guy. Together we balance each other out. But for me I like boxes. I was thinking about making a sign for the city or something like that that I can donate, if they like it maybe they’ll say something in the newspaper about it. It can be a tax deduction and free advertising, maybe. Never count the chickens before they are hatched.

I will look into @KevBarn14. I’ll see if he had some tips. Thanks for the info.
I haven’t seen anything like these things here yet so we’ll see. But I want to go craft fairs and such as well.
My ultimate goal is to make a table. But the table I want to make will be an heirloom and very interesting and one of a kind. Still planning it.

1 Like

With one product in mind, you might be able to make it in 30 days. But to learn it completely will take some time. I have been working on making this work for making money for some time… By the time I finger out something to make the market has changed. Also I am a perfectionist, a minor flaw is scrap to me. That’s who I am.

The people on this forum are great! Taking their time to help out. I have learned so much from them. Don’t get frustrated when things don’t work right away.

Your dedication to your new craft is only limited by your imagination and your learning ability. If I can sell a few things, you can sell a bunch more.

So, I would go with Carbide again and again.

Good Luck

1 Like

We’ve done a lot of boxes:

1 Like

Alright, this thread got me thinking, so hang on:

It’s all about building an audience for your stuff and increasing your skills. People LOVE custom stuff. There is no lack of demand or market saturation for the area of custom. (no matter what some people claim)
Set your prices appropriately from the beginning. If someone can “do it for cheaper” or “buy it for less”, fine. Wish them good luck. Stick to your business on price.
If you make stuff people love, price is not an issue. You want people who buy your creativity and capability, not “Price Shoppers”. Those people ARE NOT your customers.
Machine time is a minimum of $50/hr (no matter where you live). In most cases it should be $75/hr.
Charge a “Setup Fee” for runs of items.
Charge for Materials.
Charge for time to acquire those materials.
Charge for shipping
Add 30% on top for your profit, this is your business.

People who under value themselves will chime in on FB and other forums with their negativity, telling you that you’re “too expensive”. Do not listen. Those people are wrong.

You are not an overseas sweatshop, so don’t price yourself that way.

Start with personalized cutting boards, coasters and signs. These are the easiest for you to execute at the beginning. Watch “First 5” over at There I lay out the progression and several principles I used in my own business. Things like “Give 1 Sell 5”. Take your custom creativity to every party or event and give away custom boards and signs to the host. You will seed the marketplace with those freebies. Buy those boards at Target or Ikea or a similar store, so you don’t have to make the board itself. Use real wood: Bamboo / Walnut / Maple
Quality materials make a huge difference.
Comb through the community forum, Facebook Groups and our videos for ideas, tips and skills.

Building your skills and happy customers who pass along your information to friends is critical.
Post on IG. Create a separate account to showcase your work.
Tell people about it.
Promote yourself and your stuff.
Be confident about it.

“A closed mouth don’t get fed”

Enjoy yourself and be enthusiastic when talking about what you make. That makes a huge difference.


There’s a book on sale on this topic:

which gets reasonably good reviews on Goodreads:

and may be available at your local library.

1 Like

Thanks for all the help. I absolutely will check that all out.

1 Like

That is a very very nice drawer front. Yes 2 verys.

1 Like

WOW & Great!! You are right and thank you so much. I am saving these posts on my laptop.
I watched all the videos, brain is fried and researched what I could. We just sent our taxes in last week so it will a few weeks yet but I want it all ready to buy the moment it gets in, that’s why all the pre-buying questions.

1 Like

That is some excellent advice.

What is a “library”? Is that some new Google vertical?

1 Like

Libraries will get you through times of no money
better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
—Anne Herbert


I am a advanced hobbyist and have had one of the early shapeoko XL cnc machines using the carbide post processor (carbide motion, and carbide create.) The software is free, while other machines you have to purchase these softwares separately . I choose to use carbide, because it works, no issue with the machine compatibility. I speak from experience there is a simi- steep learning curve that you will face, but carbide has been there every step for every issue and answered many questions. Their software is intuitive and very capable to provide you a basis of your company. As you grow in techniques, you may desire to move to more advanced software, the shapeoko digests very easily, but the learning curve is again presented for creation. Of all the machines in the market, Shapeoko is my choice for quality, service and support bare non. Cruse to YouTube and search CNC and you’ll fine many videos of many machine , many techniques and this will give you a good idea of the needs to contemplate for jumping into the cnc purchase. Besides the CNC machine , you need space for the machine, basic cutting bits and some help to assemble the machine, some form of vacuum system as the CNC is a dust and chip maker. Do you homework. Tom