I bought the standard size when it was the only size available, great to learn on but i felt quite limited with it. I sold it (to an elderly woodworker with no CNC experience, no less!) And bought the XXL. My advice if you’re tight on room is go the XL, try and make it work.
CNC is intimidating, and I came to it with 3d printing and CAD experience. However with the ebook @Julien has developed, all the documentation that @WillAdams linked to, the carbide3d support team, and (most importantly) the amount of helpful people on these forums, you can definitely succeed at it.
Woodworker here. I’m in the camp of going for the larger size, I went with the XL and anticipate at some point buying an additional machine in the XXL size (if I can make space for it). You’d be surprised at how you will at least occasionally want the additional cutting area, and you’ll need to remember that it’s best to have clamping space around your work piece which will take up some additional area. So if your max area is 16 x 16, but 2.5" of that is going to be used for clamps then you’re really only working with small material.
And hang in there for the learning curve! Having woodwork experience is great (understanding the cutting capabilities of the router, being familiar with various wood species etc…) but it’s still an interesting new process, once you learn the software it’s really exciting to integrate this tool in the shop. Good luck!
Hobbyist woodworker here, mostly oak furniture. Purchased an SO3 three years ago when there was only one size. And, you put the whole thing together from bags of parts.
Upgraded to XL as soon as the kits became available. Mostly because I needed more room to make legs, aprons, skirts for tables.
For me, the learning curve was/is steep. Zero experience CAD. Zero experience CAM. Zero experience CNC.
The good news for you is the progress Carbide 3D has made across the board. The machines come mostly assembled. Their CAD/CAM software are quite good now, especially for noobs. Support is peerless.
Plus, lots of help here on the forum.
Jump in, you’ll be glad you did! (I’m an old geezer too, 70)
Perpetual noob here. I got the original S03 and upgraded to XXL. Truth be told, I probably could have gotten away with the XL, but I’d rather have the extra space–better to have it and not need it, etc.
I am wondering if you may find that some of your traditional woodworking tools are no longer needed as you skill up on CNC. For example, I made a fairly simple vertical work holding jig on the front of my enclosure and just using the couple inches that the router hangs over the front of the machine when the Y axis is at 0, I made some completely functional mortise and tenons, and I also did some very nice finger joints as well, and I could do dovetails as well, just haven’t done it yet. You might have some dedicated jigs that handle these tasks that you won’t need anymore–other folks may also have some creative techniques that make other traditional tools obsolete.
First off all let me say thank you to all who replied. It was very helpful and very much appreciated! I am looking forward to being part of this forum! That being saved I believe I will be ordering the SO3 XL. I will need to rearrange some things in my shop and build a new rolling stand and enclosure but I will make the space issue work. I am in IT and have been for about 30 years - mostly on the development and management side but I believe (as others have said) that learning the software will be the challenge. I am sure I will be posting again. In the meantime I’ll be searching the forum looking for info on what accessories I need to buy (bits, etc.) - Here goes nothing!
One last (at least for now) question. Any suggestions on whether to go with the Carbide Router or purchase a Dewalt or Makita unit ? If I get the Carbide I assume I would also want to order the precision collets for the Carbide unit? If I get the Dewalt or Makita are there collets available. ??
I have the DeWalt…but rather wish I had the Makita because of the better speed range. The Carbide3D router is very nearly the same as the Makita so should be fine. The precision collet fits the Makita also
Dewalt has finer-grained speed control, Makita lower and higher range of possible speeds (the lower speeds are especially useful on plastics and wood)
Dewalt has a longer clamping area which affords multiple precision collet options (standard ones as well as the ER-style collets from Precise Bits), Makita has a single source for precision collets (albeit in a variety of sizes) and an option for a 3/8" collet (larger than the 5/16" or 8mm the DeWalt collets top out at)
Dewalt has a plastic button on the Body, which limits Z plane positioning inside the mount, Makita has a more Robust Tool changing mechanism, with a cylinder push lock below the shaft, which will allow more mounting options in the Z plane
Dewalt has a longer body and can be mounted so as to reach lower
Makita bearings easier to change
Makita brush life longer and replacements less expensive and easier to change
Note that spindles may be upgraded w/ better collets. Some are merely replacements for the standard collets in different sizes, while at least one manufacturer offers specialized systems which allow one to use ER style collets. These are more convenient and easier to change (esp. if one buys a matching nut for each collet) and afford a greater clamping tolerance (e.g., a 1/4" collet can hold a 6mm endmill).
Also I’ve noticed that you never hear of people wearing out brushes in the makitas, whereas there are a lot of people that say the dewalt brushes only last 6-12 months of heavy use… could just be because there are more dewalts out there though.
Another piece of advice while you make your decision, is to download Carbide Create Here and follow a few of the tutorial videos Here and get your head around the software, so when you get the machine you have one less new confusing thing to work out
To add to the discussion, the Carbide Compact Router (CCR) has electronic speed control similar to the Makita and comes with two extra sets of brushes. I guess they are expecting them to wear out, but a set of DeWalt brushes will set you back about $12-13.
The spindle lock button on the CCR is easier for me use than the DeWalt’s. I haven’t had trouble with the collet sticking like the Makita on the video…yet. The LED lights on the DeWalt are nice…the CCR does not have any.
Mainly I would say the lower speed capability of the CCR vs. the DeWalt (~11k vs. 16k rpm) is useful. When using a 1/4" bit with 2 flutes, I don’t have to run as fast a feed rate to make decent chips. And it is quieter at the lower rpms.
So I bit the bullet and ordered an XL. Should be here next Tue. I’ll start building my work stand and enclosure this weekend. I’ll start looking on the forum for a potential list of bits to buy. Oh, and I don’t even have it yet and I’m already going to start looking for spindle upgrade info LOL. thanks for everyone’s input. You guys are great !
three 2-flute 1/4" straight endmills (such as the #201 endmills from Carbide 3D — one will be included with the machine, a pack of two will fill one out with: 1 for initial experimentation/roughing, 1 for finishing passes, and 1 spare
two 2-flute 1/4" ball end endmills (such as the #202 endmills from Carbide 3D) — if one wishes to do 3D modeling or cut parts which have rounded profiles along the bottom (often a good idea in woodworking for increased strength)
two 90 degree V-bits such as the #301 from Carbide 3D — if one wishes to do V-carving or cut joints which use this angle
If getting a 1/8" collet for detailed work:
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 0.0625" endmills from Carbide 3D)
heck yes; I moved from Europe to the US a decade ago and this metric/imperial mixing scrambles my brain.
But 2mm is sort of a sweet spot for me; it gets much finer details compared to an 1/8" endmill, but 1/16" endmills seem to be much more fragile and unforgiving and end up in much much longer cut times… the 2mm size seems pretty strong against small mistakes/etc while still getting good detail and reasonable speeds
Well I guess it may be worth a trial at that price. In Canada, we have a foot planted in both system, I get that but the way these endmills are presented, I had to do the conversion on the shank size before I realized that it was an 1/8in shank.