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 Post subject: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2015 9:33 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Salutations...

I would like to step into a CNC come spring.

I am currently looking at Zenbot's 48x48.

I am basically computer illiterate, which doesn't help, but I do know a guy with a great deal of guitar specific CNC programming experience who is willing and wanting to do the hard bits.

I need it for neck carving primarily. My ole bones can't handle the volume.

As well, fingerboards and bridges would be an added bonus, and any other tidbits that might come up.

I had the idea of setting up quadrants on the bed, one for bridges, one for neck carving etc to minimize fixture changes.

Anyway, are there machines other than Zenbot's in that price range I should be looking at?

Thanks...


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 Post subject: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2015 11:04 pm 
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Koa
Koa
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Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:17 pm
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City: Escondido
State: CA
Zip/Postal Code: 92029
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
Do you live in a community with a shared "maker" workshop? I ask because I would highly recommend actually spending some time with a CNC before you spend the thousands it costs to get set up with a machine and software to carve necks on a CNC.
I grew up on computers, took my first programming class at age 11, and am a competent programmer with professional level skills. I took CAD classes as an art major. I fix my own cars, appliances, electrical and plumbing. Oh... And twelve years ago I decided to build my self a guitar.
I decided to get into CNC as its own project/interest. I took all that knowledge and DIY experience to the task and built my own CNC machine. It took me four years to finally be able to carve a useable neck (and I still have blowouts and problems that cause me to scrap one in about five necks).
Running my neck program on the HAAS machine at the local Community College gets lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" from the lutherie students. But the professor can still hand carve a neck in about the same time as it takes me to set up the machine, holding jigs, index the stock, load the tools, get the tool offsets, secure the stock, and run the program. He hasn't spent thousands on tools to get there. And his "pucker" factor hoping nothing weird happens ruining a blank, destroying an endmill, or damaging the most expensive tool in the shop is much lower.
I'm thrilled with my CNC machine, but I would never get one thinking it will make a task I can already do easier. I am sure Andy Birko has spent hundreds of hours and, correct me if I'm wrong, thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars putting himself in a position to make necks faster and more economically than just having some skilled laborers hand carving them a dozen at a time.
I don't mean that CNC is no good, I just mean that you should consider one if you have the interest in exploring this new technology. You can do some amazing things with it. Just don't expect it to be a tool akin to a good jig that will simplify a task you already do by hand well.



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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:13 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
That's a good thought for sure.

But...

The thing is, I need to remove the labor from my life. It's not about how fast a CNC can do it, so much as it's about me not to have to physically do it. And, theoretically, the CNC should be able to do it a lot more consistently than I can, I mean less variance from neck to neck.

As for the programming, my friend has already spent the thousands of hours on guitar specific programming.

I'm pretty determined to follow through with a CNC, I'm just looking for recommendations for specific machines, and whether a 48x48 is overkill.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:13 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Tue May 02, 2006 9:02 am
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Location: Canada
First name: Bob
Last Name: Garrish
City: Toronto
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Don't get me wrong, I'm obsessed with speed and super-fast toolpaths, but it is true that it isn't all about the speed. Anything a machine can do consistently for you is a win, because you can be doing something else while it does it. With CNC in lutherie I'd say the main question really is whether you've got the right motive (financial and nerd-wise) to set up on your own VS getting Andy Birko to do it, but that's an individual's choice.

You can fit a neck fixture, a bridge fixture, a fretboard fixture, and a decent vise on a 24x24 table without ever having to take anything off and it's going to be more rigid than a 48x48 machine all other things being equal. There is substantial benefit to having the extra space for making tools, though, like radius dishes and molds etc without having to clear off your machine's table. The other option is to just stick a couple dowel-pin inserts in the table and put alignment holes in your fixtures, it's fast to swap them out.

You want twice as much Z as your tallest part plus a smidge, so the 5" of Z on that machine is going to be a problem unless you're only making electric necks.

On the fast neck-carving instructor: I bet you beat him on the second one pretty decisively once the machine is set up :)

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Former Canonized Purveyor of Fine CNC Luthier Services


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:26 pm 
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Koa
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City: Escondido
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Focus: Build
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Bob Garrish wrote:
On the fast neck-carving instructor: I bet you beat him on the second one pretty decisively once the machine is set up :)

True that! I made five necks after the initial set up. Still...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 1:07 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

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First name: Ed
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City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
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Bob,

I wish you'd just hire yourself out to me so I could get 3 minute bridges, but you can't afford my rates...;)

I appreciate everyones responses very much.

What I am particularly interested in presently is if there are other machines beside the zenbots that I should be looking at in that price range...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 2:47 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:55 am
Posts: 951
Location: Traverse City Michigan
Mine cost around 6 grand for just the hardware and controllers. It is 30x60x5.5 machining capability. I have 2 motors on y and I don't know any better since I have never had a single y router. I use Mach 3. I write a lot of my toolpaths and use Rhino and Madcam. I am learning as I go. I can machine necks, electric bodies and jigs. I can create 3d toolpaths with out a problem. Truthfully, the machine has slowed me down. I have a shaper and all the woodworking equipment in my shop so I can do things manually with jigs very efficiently. I don't regret changing over to CNC machining since most of my jigs now are unnecessary. It saves me on my joints, poor elbows etc... I don't think that Zenbot will limit you and it is a lot better than building one of the cheaper ones IMO.

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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:43 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Thanks,

Yes, this machine is meant to save my elbows...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 7:48 pm 
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Walnut
Walnut

Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 3:06 pm
Posts: 6
First name: Scott
Last Name: McKee
City: Cumberland
State: BC
Zip/Postal Code: V0R 1S0
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
You should check out XZero Automation

http://www.xzerocnc.com/

Most of the action happens on his CNC Zone thread which is many pages long. The link below is from my bookmarks and will take you to page 311, the thread is up to page 352 now.

http://www.cnczone.com/forums/xzero-cnc/109757-xzero-cnc-311.htm

His machines are probably the most rigid ones you will find for dollars spent. They are definitely not turnkey though, you will have to assemble the machine.

And George is Canadian, eh. (Toronto)


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 7:56 pm 
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Koa
Koa
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Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:17 pm
Posts: 657
City: Escondido
State: CA
Zip/Postal Code: 92029
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
I seen a lot of positive things about the XZero raptor. If I'm not mistaken several of the luthiers on this board use this machine. Definitely more expensive than a Zenbot. However with 6" of gantry clearance you should be able to carve acoustic necks on the XZero which would be a problem on the Zenbot.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:32 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Well, if those are Canadian dollar pricing, they're not that much more...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 6:01 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Would a 4th axis mitigate a short z?


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:00 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Tue May 02, 2006 9:02 am
Posts: 2347
Location: Canada
First name: Bob
Last Name: Garrish
City: Toronto
State: Ontario
Country: Canada
Status: Professional
meddlingfool wrote:
Would a 4th axis mitigate a short z?


In general, a 4th axis exacerbates Z issues. You're right about the Canadian dollar, though (ugh).

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Bob Garrish
Former Canonized Purveyor of Fine CNC Luthier Services


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 5:37 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Then I guess the Raptor with the 8" z might be worth the extra money, plus the aluminum gantries...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:52 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Ouch, prices in USD, so nearly double what a Zenbot is...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:54 am 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:51 pm
Posts: 488
Nearly double the price but Aluminum vs plastic and linear bearings vs steel tube and bearings. The extra money is going in the right place.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:21 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
I definitely want to buy our second machine first. The 8" z might be the clincher.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:50 pm 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 7:59 am
Posts: 314
Location: Southwick,MA
City: Southwick, MA
I built a Joes CNC design from scratch 48X48 for about $3000 - I used his EVO design - its ridiculously easy to do - if you can drill a hole in aluminum and tap it, you can build one of these. Its fast and accurate for what it is and I've used it to build everything from elaborate carvings to cabinets. if you have a guy to do the software side of it, you might want to check it out. There are kits you can buy for the electronics side of it if that is challenging for you. its nice because after seeing how the thing came together, troubleshooting it becomes much easier.

There's another luthier on here that just finished his machine too - Rick Hubka

http://www.joescnc.com

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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:17 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Again the 5" z comes up as an obstacle...


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:34 pm 
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Mahogany
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Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:51 pm
Posts: 43
Location: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
First name: Alexander
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
If you can afford it, I would go with Xzero. I don't have one myself but it would definitely be my next CNC purchase. It is also good to have a system that is NOT turn key. Why? Because that way if anything ever goes wrong, you know exactly how to fix it and that knowledge is priceless when you get into CNC.

I have inquired about the Xzero machines many times from other luthiers and no one has had a bad thing to say about the machine. The only bad thing I have heard was that the owner is very hard to get a hold of sometimes. That is probably because he is always busy working on building peoples machines.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2016 8:22 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
Posts: 4753
First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
Yes, let the saving begin.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 9:15 pm 
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Walnut
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Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:31 pm
Posts: 18
Location: North Louisiana
First name: David
Last Name: Falkner
City: Bossier City
State: LA
Zip/Postal Code: 71111
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I realize I am late to the game on this thread and topic, as well, but I'll be ordering my CNC soon from Nate at Fine Line Automation. The one I'm getting isn't yet on his web site but it's a 2' x 4' (actual cutting area is 28" x 52") with 10" Z travel and uses THK style linear rails and a welded steel frame. I haven't picked out my electronics yet but I hope to order the frame/rails in the next two weeks and then start sourcing the rest of the parts. The last time I talked to Nate I believe he said it will come fully assembled except for the electronics. Some of his machines are adapted from CNC Router Parts but this new one is his design.

Because of cost I'll probably use some higher torque rating NEMA 23 stepper motors but would love to have servos, and I plan on a water cooled 2.2 Kw Chinese spindle with Hitachi X200 VFD.

The 10" Z travel is going to be very useful and I like heavy equipment (this one should be in the 450 pound range when complete). I don't have any connection to FLA other than soon to be a customer but I considered several kits and ready to use machines before deciding on this one. It's gonna' be a fun project and I'll be eager to learn all I can from you guys who have done this a while! I'm still on my first acoustic build but have other plans for the CNC besides guitar building (I can't say 'Lutherie' yet - need to get a few dozen under my belt first [:Y:] ). I can say I'm a woodworker because I've been doing that for over 40 years.

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David

Nothing to do with guitars at all, just our music at church (I'm the guy with the Koa Takamine) - Airline Baptist BC Songs
Romans 3:23


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2016 10:38 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:18 pm
Posts: 771
Location: United States
I'm not a pro, but I've been using CNC for a couple years to make a variety of things (including some guitars). I use a Laguna IQ Pro, which is beyond the price range you're looking at. However, I'd feel guilty if I didn't throw this thought out there.

If you simply want the necks made for you on a CNC without you having to learn to operate CAD/CAM software, then the right answer is to pay someone like Andy to make the necks for you.

A CNC is like any other tool in the shop: It's great if you learn how to use it properly, but it makes little sense to own one if you aren't going to invest the time to learn to use it properly. The notion that you can set-it-and-forget-it is theoretically possible, but practically unlikely. There are always tweaks to make. If you get a batch of truss rods that are .01" wider or narrower than the last batch you were using, it takes only a minute to tweak and get it right if you know how. If your sharp new 1/4" end mill is cutting 002" wider than your old dull mill, it's a simple matter to adjust in CAM. But if, every time you need to tweak, you have to put the whole project on hold until your friend gets back from vacation and has time to help you, that sounds like a recipe for frustration and delay. Maybe your experience will be different than mine, and your friend will deliver a set-it-and-forget-it system that solves all your problems. But I've never met a tool that didn't require regular tweaking.

If you do a google search for CNC and guitarmaking, you'll find plenty of stories about small shops that bought a CNC and relied on someone else to do the CAD/CAM work. Every one of those stories that I've read ended with a statement about how, if they were doing it all over again, they would not have bought the CNC. All of the success stories I've read involve people who dug into the CAD/CAM side and really learned to use the tool. I've taken the time to learn the software (although there's always more to learn), and I can't imagine having to rely on a friend.

If you decide to plunge ahead, I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to hearing how it works out for you.


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 Post subject: Re: CNC recommendations?
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2016 12:09 pm 
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Koa
Koa
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Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:17 pm
Posts: 657
City: Escondido
State: CA
Zip/Postal Code: 92029
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Semi-pro
I absolutely agree with Kelby. The CNC has been a powerful tool for me, but not a magic black box. It is also the most frustratingly complex tool I have. It never, NEVER, does exactly what I expected. Every change I make to my design, or hold downs, or bit affects a dozen unexpected things. I have cut literally dozens of archtop plates and molds and notice something new every time. I find I have to tweak something in the program almost every time I make a run of parts.
It took me a year to lean CAD/CAM before I cut anything. I can't imagine having a CNC and not having first made that investment in time and learning. If I had to rely on someone else to make tweaks I would never have made even one usable part.


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