NEWB debating a purchase to learn CNC. What all should I buy?

I’m interested in the Nomad for CNC learning because it’s small and quiet enough and I think gets the nod over the competitors. But I have no idea what accessories to get when it comes to endmills n’such. I plan on just starting with wood (real or fake) and probably a few experiments with Corian and that type of material. There’s a great variety of mills and they all start looking alike to me.

What’s a good starter collection to snag?

C3D sells them at a pretty good price when you consider they come in sets of 2 and 3. It depends on what you’re making but a set of 1/8 and 1/16 will cover a lot of nomad sized projects, 1/32 if you anticipate doing fine detail work. A vcarving bit is always useful as well.


Start with:

A basic suggested set:

  • five 2-flute 1/8" straight endmills (such as the #102 endmills from Carbide 3D
  • two 2-flute 1/8" ball end endmills (such as the #101 .125" Ball Cutters from Carbide 3D)
  • two smaller straight endmills (say 2 mm or so) (such as the #112 0.625" endmills from Carbide 3D)
  • V-carving bits (say 30 and 60 degrees)

Thanks all, and Will… good to see you basically everywhere I go online. :wink:

Why do you want to get a CNC? What sort of things do you want to make? Do you have any background in anything related (woodworking, engineering, etc)? What’s your budget? Some machines are better than others, depending on the answers to those questions :slight_smile:


I echo @Adam_Xett, your goals should drive your purchasing decisions. V-carving requires v-bits, 3D reliefs require ball mills, while prismatic carving just needs square end mills, with other project types requiring other bits.

For me, (I started about a year ago with zero CNC experience) I started with 1/4" and 1/8" square end-mills, and then added bits as projects demanded them. Today, I have a good assortment of square, ball, V, engraving, two different styles of drag knives, and other specialty bits, just from various projects I’ve done. Buy good bits, and they way outlast the initial project they were purchased for, and you end up with a collection that handles 95% of your spontaneous needs.

Don’t forget to factor in software purchases as well. The Nomad comes with MeshCAM and Carbide Create, both of which are awesome for their intended purposes. MeshCAM is great for cutting files from CAD files, and CarbideCreate is perfect for creating things from scratch, in a relatively basic / easy-to-use environment.

I ended up additionally purchasing VCarve, which makes designing things from scratch in 2.5D very easy (as well as adding 3D elements to custom designs), and also SheetCAM, which is designed for cutting flat materials (anything I do with the drag knives).

Carbide Create and MeshCAM are awesome, but they have limitations that I started running into less than a week after purchasing my Shapeoko 3 (I was doing things they were not designed for).

Having said all of that, if you’re not 100% sure what you’re going to do, @WillAdams list is a perfect starting point.


Thanks, all. My first goal is to just learn to make anything at all - without breaking anything. Then my goal is to learn how to use it to make the things I’ve been making on my 3D printer. (Ultimately, I’m trying to get away from plastics for more than just prototyping.) I currently make things on a 3D printer and a laser and those are still limiting. Then there’s materials: Some of the stuff I want to make, I can do on the laser, but not the material. For instance, I want to use small Corian pieces that I can’t laser. I also want to make a bunch of molds. I currently do everything in Fusion 360, design-wise.


Hi, Scott,
I’m in a similar boat that you were in. Did you purchase? If so, how does it stack up to your printer? Were you doing all PLA or some SLA as well?

1 Like

Heya, JoBuck. I did buy a Nomad 883 Pro with all the trimmings and so far, so good! I’m only now getting some post-holiday time to play with it and learn, so I’m taking it slowly. 2D is cake so far but I’m just starting to attempt some two-sided jobs and different materials. Wood has worked well and Renshape is just fun to work with. (To answer you question, I was only doing some PLA before with the 3D printer, mostly Hatchbox wood – no SLA experience.) A roommate moved out, so I’m trying to dominate the extra space in the garage and make a workshop for everything and that’ll let me make more progress.

I’m happy with everything, although I’d like a more formal tutorial out-of-box experience.


What tutorial would you like? We’ll gladly work one up for you.

Just did a box one here: A Simple CNC Box --- in-depth

Will, I saw you posted that one recently but I just haven’t done it yet. I’m home with a bad back today, so I’m :cough: going to do it now.

My only failure so far was basically guessing how to use the flip jig and I guessed… badly (Z boo boo). As a software QA guy, I like to brute force things through and find issues, but I do appreciate the good tips you’ve given along the way. Thx!