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About 6 months ago I decided I really NEEDED a cnc machine.  Kind of like really NEEDING a new Loco, car or accessory. 

Every year at the Big E show there was a booth in the corner showcasing Stepcraft CNCs.  Every year I said, "Gotta get one of those."   This was the year, but they weren't at the show... and I've found a more affordable alternative.  Me to wife, "It wasn't THAT expensive!"

So here's the first piece I've made that complements my train hobby:


It's a diamond-bit engraved plexiglass wall hanging.  Took a while, and a lot of Youtube and cnc forum reading, but I think I'm getting it down!  It took about 25 hours of line drawing from a few photos and diagrams of the real, it's not a rivet counter's dream... I took some "artistic license" with the details.


It's LED illuminated, and about 21" high.  The black is a 1/2" mounting backboard that supports the plastic and LED base.

A new addition to my train room... thought I'd share it here.

The more I think about it, there are lots of ways to integrate cnc projects with my train interests... currently making some trestle parts for our club outdoor G Gauge layout

Anyone else cnc'ing and train'ing?


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Last edited by eddiem
Original Post

I would love to learn how to use machine tools, in general.  Drill press, lathe, etc.  From my perspective, CNC and 3D printing are at the "top" of that pyramid.  I would be glad just to start with the basics.  WAY too old for high school shop class.  Where does someone begin with this sort of thing as an adult approaching retirement??

Look around for junior colleges that might offer these classes as "new job training" classes.  If you find something, then ask if you can "audit" the classes and see what you might learn.  If allowed, you will get no class credit, but you might get the introductory training you desire at little or no cost.


A few months ago I ended up with a friends CNC machine in my basement.  So I have also been playing with it and have done several bridges and buildings for my layout.  I have been using 1/4 and 1/2 inch plywood.   It’s a lot of fun creating something from scratch.  I am using a free program called Carbide Create to create the files. 



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If you go on the Carbide 3D website and forum, they will let you download a license for CC PRO, the fancy version for a year (from last march or so).

Why, they've been doing a lot of updates and I think they are trying to break into the big bucks software offerings, but, CC isn't there yet quality-wise.... new versions often have a few bugs here and there... Great company and their Shapeoko product is well designed and well supported! (you do have to assemble it from a pile of boxes!)

That being said, so far I only use Carbide Create (Pro) and I'm making all kinds of interesting stuff!



For Christmas I bought a Sainsmart 3018 ProVer... it's a great unit, and learned a lot using it.  Then recently I started looking for something a bit bigger and ordered my Shapeoko XL.   Both are fantastic products and both use Carbide Create as a design program (along with many others that can be used.)

My CNC shopping is done for a while!

Last edited by eddiem

Never have done CNC but I had access to a laser cutter in high school which allowed me to make some cool train pieces as part of our 3D design course (with the teacher's permission). My high school high valued visual arts which allowed me to be creative with both train and non-train pieces; the 3D design courses are what I miss the most from high school (was supported to have my 5 year reunion this year). If I had the option to have an at-home machine, I think I would still stick with a laser cutter over a CNC router because laser cutters allow you to etch glass/acrylic which allows for amazing looking pieces. Nonetheless, definitely complementary hobbies; great idea for a thread!

Last edited by Prr7688


Many of the cnc machines available may be modified to add a laser module.  The advantage of a cnc is the ability to cut much thicker materials.... I've cut thru 2x4s with my cnc, a laser is limited in thickness and the types of materials it will cut.  I thought about it but didn't want to get into all the safety issues, eye protection required, etc.

Etching on the cnc is done with a diamond drag bit... router doesn't spin, just holds the bit.  Then, as in my loco above, a router bit is used to cut it out.

I purchased a Axiom Basic CNC router a few years ago and am using Vcarve Desktop software.  I wanted to use it to create structures for the train layout.  I only have a 2 by 2 cutting envelope.  Would have liked to purchase a larger CNC but the prices get up there in a hurry.  I really enjoy using the CNC but must admit I use my traditional wood working tools much more at this point.


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