For any woodworker who does modeling, cutting, carving, and engraving projects, a CNC router for small projects is a must-have for you to get it all right. Moreso, you will be doing yourself a big favor if you can get the best CNC router for small shop.
You don’t have to spend huge chunks of money to get yourself the best possible products. I’m aware that most woodworkers get it wrong when it comes to buying a CNC router, which is due to many similar products available in the market.
In an attempt to help you get what’s worth your money, I’ve reviewed the best CNC routers that will make the perfect fit for your small shop.
Additionally, you will find a buyer’s guide to provide you with the much-needed insight that will guide your decision to buy these routers.
The List of The Best CNC Routers for Small Shops
1. BobsCNC Evolution 3 CNC Router Kit
Acquiring this tool is like winning a jackpot. You get a lot of features for its price, making it one of the best CNC routers for small shops. The BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver Kit comes with a powerful CNC machine that can handle some of the heavy-duty gigs you will encounter. Despite its small size, which is suitable for a small shop, this tool is outstanding performance-wise.
The assembly of this tool is not a straightforward one; however, if you have assembled a CNC router before, you’ll find it a breeze. Additionally, you don’t have to worry if you are a newbie as this tool comes with a manual and other tutorials to help you get started.
When it comes to software, the BobsCNC E3 CNC Router Engraver machine comes with an Arduino based microprocessor plus a DW660 router that you can attach to a USB port. The fascinating thing about the software on this tool is that it is a java software that is compatible with operating systems like Windows, OSX platforms, Raspberry Pi, and Linux.
The manufacturer of this tool integrated it with a DeWalt spindle that has a collection port of 1\8-inch and ¼-inches. This size allows the machine to be compatible with rounded and straight bits with sizes between 1/8 to the ¼-inches.
The Summary of Top Features
- It comes with a laser-cut frame that improves its durability
- This tool has a large cutting area that allows you to handle larger projects
- The machine is medium size and weighs 26 pounds which makes it portable
- Its software is compatible with many operating systems
- They provide excellent customer service.
- The tool is excellent for newbies and enthusiasts.
- You’ll find it compatible with any OS.
- It comes with a powerful engine.
- It does not come with the software
2. Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit
If you want to talk about versatility, then talk about the Genmitsu CNC 3018. This tool can cut virtually all types of woods, soft aluminum, plastics, acrylics, PVCs, and PCBs, and a wide variety of materials. It comes with an effective engraving depth of 1.8 inches. What’s even enjoyable is that this tool is self-teaching hence allows you to try out your DIY ideas without having to spend necessarily high amounts of money.
The assembly of this tool is not the simplest. Even so, the manufacturer makes up for this by including an instruction guide to help you. It comes in a small size, which increases its portability and suitability for small shops.
Accuracy is the most crucial thing in a CNC machine. If yours is not accurate, then your design and the material will be substandard and won’t even appeal to your eyes. This machine comes with a high level of accuracy that’s perfect for your woodworking projects.
It has a decent cutting area of 300 x 180 x 45mm, which allows you to engrave a significant size of materials.
Finally, when it comes to software, this router has the GRBL high-performing open-source software that lets you control the movement of the machine. The GRBL is an industry-standard software; therefore, you will find most resources compatible with it available on the internet to help when you are stuck.
The Summary of Top Features
- The tool comes with an instruction manual for easy assembly
- It is highly accurate
- The GRBL software on this tool is compatible with most resources available online
- It is a versatile tool that can cut a wide variety of materials
- It’s a highly versatile CNC router.
- This tool is affordable.
- You can add a laser module.
- It offers you great stability and accuracy.
- This tool has a decent cutting area.
- Not suitable for large projects
3. VEVOR CNC 3018 Pro 500mW CNC Machine
Here’s another CNC router that you should consider for your small shop and home DIY projects. The VEVOR CNC 3018 Pro 500mW CNC Machine has a durable aluminum and bakelite material. Other than its performance, this laser engraver for wood and metal has a good appearance with high precision and durability.
This machine comes with 3 redefined axes that can realize plane engraving, with an effective working area that measures 300(X)x180(Y)x45(Z)mm (11.8″x7.1″x1.8″). The driving units of this router consist of T8 stainless steel screw rods.
It comes with a GRBL controlled board, and all you need is to connect it to a computer through a USB interface. The machine can give an output of 2P/3P, and further support PWM, TTL functions, that guarantee greater practicality.
Additionally, the machine comes with a multifunctional offline controller that has three advantages such that you don’t have to necessarily connect it to a computer and or to download files. All you should do is manually adjust the X, Y, and Z-axis to the starting point of engraving.
You will love this tool because it gives you the flexibility of using it on a wide range of materials such as plastics, woods, soft aluminum, acrylics, PVC, etc.
The Summary of Top Features
- The tool is easy to assemble
- You can use it over many different materials such as woods, plastics, etc.
- It has multifunctional online controllers
- This machine is top performer thanks to its T8 screw rods driving units, the three 42 stepper motors, and a 775 (12-36V)24V spindle motor with a rotational speed of 10000r/min.
- It has an extra 500mw laser engraver with a wavelength of 405nm that facilitates efficient engraving.
- It is not complex making it one of the best choices for hobby woodworkers
- Allows you so much versatility in terms of materials that you can grave
- It’s durable thanks to the aluminum structure
- You can use it offline
- Some users found it hard to assemble
4. MYSWEETY DIY CNC Router Kits 1610 GRBL Control Wood Carving Milling Engraving Machine
The MYSWEETY makes a great CNC router for your home or small shop, thanks to the flexibility that you get when handling light-duty projects. Setting up this tool is a simple one and very easy to use as well.
One of the features that you will find impressive about this tool is that it is loaded with a GRBL-based control and support system that you can integrate with Windows operating systems such as XP, Win 7, 8, and 10. Additionally, this tool can work with software like PCB processing and Toolpath Creation; however, you’ll have to buy them separately.
This tool comes with an engraving area of 160 x 100 x 45mm with the plate created using aluminum for durability.
It is versatile that you can use it on wood, plastic, acrylic, and many other materials. This tool comes with a stepper motor and spindle motor with a top speed of 7000RPM to give you smooth and accurate cuts.
The Summary of Top Features
- This machine weighs 11.2 pounds.
- It has a dimension of 14.2 x 9.2 x 6.5 inches.
- The tool is created using durable aluminum.
- It has a power supply of 24V/5.6A
- This router comes with a voltage of AC 110V-240V.
- Its top spindle speed stands at 7000RPM
- The tool is compact and lightweight
- It is compatible with Windows and Linux OS
- The router has a durable construction
- It comes with a spindle motor
- Only suitable for light duties
5. SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-MX3
The MX3 is not the first Genmitsu product I’m reviewing in my list of the best CNC router for small shops, and you can attribute that to the top performance that you get from this brand.
The Genmitsu 3018-PROVer is the successor of the first version, the 3018-PRO, and it comes with so much improvement on many parts of the previous version. This machine comes with an improved design as well as safety features. Additionally, there’s the pre-assembly, upgraded mainboard, and many more.
It does not matter whether you’re a CNC beginner or a small business owner looking for an industrial-quality in a CNC router because this tool will give you everything you need.
This router comes in a complete kit that makes it perfect for your home or workshop usage. It gives you the flexibility to be more creative and turn your creative ideas into real objects created from a range of real materials.
It works well with materials such as Wood, Plastic, and Soft Metals.
The Summary of Top Features
- It has an effective engraving area of 260 x 155 x 35mm(10.2 x 6.1 x 1.4”), with the working area reduced slightly following the installation of limit switches.
- The frame size of this tool is 400 x 330 x 240mm(15.7 x 13.0 x 9.4”)
- It comes with a framing material made of aluminum+PF.
- Spindle: 775 motor, 24V, 10000 RPM;
- It has a power rating of 60W with the maximum power standing at 120W.
- The tool supports operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows 7 32/64 bits, Windows 8, Windows 10, and macOS.
- The software used in this machine is Mach3.
- This machine can cut through a wide range of materials
- It works with high-quality and open-source software
- The tool has a swift assembly time
- You can use it online
- It’s only suitable for beginners or small projects
6. Upgrade Version CNC 3018 Pro GRBL Control DIY Mini CNC Machine
This CNC router by Mcwdoit will give you all the qualities that you can expect from a router, and above all, it is available for a relatively affordable price. The router has an average size, making it perfect for desktop usage, mainly if you have limited space in your workshop.
One thing you will love about this router is that you can use it offline, all you need to do is to download all of the fundamental files for its operation in a USB and then plug the drive into your offline connection.
The offline tool comes with a capacity of 1GB only, and this is enough space that you can use to run most of your woodworking projects. This size, however, may be too small for most professional users.
If you are looking for a professional machine, then consider these CNC routers and not this particular one. Even so, it remains powerful enough to handle your projects.
This machine comes with about a 12-month warranty. Meaning you have a cushion of up to one year if something beyond your control happens to the device within that period.
The Summary of Top features
- It comes with a warranty of up to 12 months
- You can choose to use this machine offline
- This tool is suitable for carving wood, plastic, acrylic, PCB CCL, a soft metal such as copper, aluminum, etc. It cannot engrave hard metal, jade, etc
- It is an upgraded version with improved features, performance, and durability
- The router is ideal for beginners
- You can assemble it with so much ease
- All the needed software and manual are available online
- Not the best router for large projects
7. 3 Axis CNC 3018 PRO DIY Mini Engraving Milling Router
If you have been in the woodworking industry for some time now, you are likely aware of the RATTMOTOR; if not, it does not break a bone to tell you that they are a reputable maker of some of them the best CNC Routers on the market today. The 3 Axis CNC 3018 PRO is the perfect DIY tool that you can use in your small woodworking shop, home, backyard, or even in the garage.
It is among the best CNC routers for small shops because it is convenient for home and other small scale uses. Much as it is a small machine, it still does jobs the right way and would meet all your need for a router in DIY projects. You will find it a breeze to make great cuts and carvings on a variety of materials.
When you buy this tool, you will have to assemble the parts by yourself that should not worry you because the assembling bit of it is not as complicated as you might imagine. There is a manual video in the CD format that you can watch to help guide you through the assembly process.
Some of the fascinating things about this router include the fact that you can run a motorized spindle bit on this machine for carving, cutting as well as chiseling duties. You can fix a laser to the head of this machine so that you etch beautiful designs over varied surfaces.
This CNC machine comes with an aluminum structure that makes it easy to clean and last all together. The working area that this machine gives you measures 30 cm x 18 cm x 4.5 cm. And, the tool requires 12 V supply so that it works comfortably and smoothly. You can run it on different operating systems such as Windows XP, Linux, and Windows 7; hence it is a versatile unit.
The Summary of Top Features
- It is a great mini CNC laser engraving machine for personal DIYers or engraving enthusiasts.
- This machine comes with a video instruction manual on how to assemble it
- You can add it to a laser head to engrave plastics, wood, PVC, PCB, acrylic, and similar material.
- It has an aluminum alloy material that has high precision and long service life.
- You can use it to engrave different materials
- It’s excellent for DIYers
- It has an aluminum body for durability
- It’s a bit expensive for the features it offers you
8. GRBL Control 3 Axis DIY Mini CNC Machine Wood Router Engraving Machine
This product is high end yet it will fit perfectly inside your small shop, which is why I have reviewed it as the best CNC router for small shops. The whole structure of this tool is created using aluminum alloy, which makes it very rugged and can withstand continuous usage over an extended duration.
This CNC Router machine allows you a substantial amount of space with a 400mm x 330mm x 240mm volume with an effective work area that measures 300 mm x 180 mm. The spindle of this tool moves to a height of 45mm, and it requires a 24 V AC power source running at 10A current. What’s more about this spindle is that it is professionally made with air cooling systems that ensure you enjoy smooth operations.
The GRBL software allows you to position the components in the X, Y, and Z-axis. You can choose to position them manually, thus giving you superior control over the machine plus all its applications. The spindle moves nicely and can cut through many soft materials by reaching a top power of up to 200 W.
Furthermore, you get up to 10 drill bits with this package that can serve you for an extended duration. Additionally, there are 4 clamps for you to use in fixing the workpiece; a pair of anti-light spectacles and other added equipment you would need in the set up of the machine is available.
You can run the machine on the operating system from Windows XP to Windows 10.
The Summary of Top Features
- It comes with upgraded controls
- The tool comes with a 5500mW Laser Module that allows you to print all images easily plus a supported read directly in JPG, BMP, SVG.
- You can use this tool for broad applications such as carving wood, bamboo, paper, leather, PCB, plastic, CCL, acrylic, etc.
- This machine comes with an excellent rotary device.
- It gives you so much flexibility on applications
- This router comes with high-end features and fits perfectly in small shops
- The spindle needs to rotate at 180 degrees to get a 3D.
Best CNC Router for Small Shop Buyers Guide
Anyone can buy a CNC router, especially if it is only money that is involved. However, not everyone can buy the right CNC router for that reason, I have provided a complete buyer’s guide to help you with the decision making when it comes to choosing the best router for your small shop.
How To Choose The Best CNC Router
There are so many brands and models of CNC routers that you can find in the market today. However, the availability of many routers is a problem because most people find it hard to choose the best product for their various uses.
Some of the critical factors that you should consider when looking to shop for a router includes:
Comparison of the Capabilities of the Router against the Tasks
First and foremost, the choice of the router you settle for depends on the type of tasks you’d love to accomplish. Ensure that you go for a model that will resonate with most of the projects you shall be handled using the machine. In that way, you will buy a product that will serve you right.
Compatibility with the Software
This point is very critical and makes every sense for anyone looking to shop for the best CNC router for small shop. Ensure that the model that interests you comes with the software that is compatible with your computer.
The Dimensions of the Table
Why is this important? If you are working on large projects, then it is pretty much apparent that you need a router with large table size. Therefore, don’t go for small routers if you are working with large pieces. Going for routers with a larger table dimension is always advantageous because you can use it for both small and large projects.
The Drive System
There are three types of drive systems that come with CNC routers: the lead screw, ball screw, and Rack & pinion. Of all the three, you will find the ball screw drive system capable of accurately handling various materials though they are expensive.
The Motor System
The motor determines the toque and cutting speed of a CNC router. If you can get yourself a model with a higher motor rating, you can be sure of a tool with a faster cutting process.
Dust Collection System/Port/Chamber
You don’t want the dust from your piece of work to compromise the entire project. Therefore, if you are looking to achieve fault-free and precise results, you must pay close attention to this feature. Go for the model that has a provision for a dust collection port. That’s not enough, ensure that you also check the capacity and power provided by the dust collection system.
This aspect of a CNC router determines how strong the materials are held on your machine. A router with a strong vacuum system can hold down heavier material while you are making your cuts.
You don’t have to spend so much on a CNC router that you don’t need or underutilize. Most people think that buying the most expensive router out there is always the right move; it is not. Just buy what you need for your project. If you are working on small DIY projects, just go for a small router. The same applies to large scale projects. Even so, ensure that you are not strained financially.
Watch this video for more insight on CNC routers:
Frequently Ask Questions About CNC Router
What’s the Lifespan of a CNC Router/How Long Does a CNC Router Last?
Many factors affect the durability of a router. First, the materials and the quality of the machine will determine how long it serves you. Therefore, go for durable products. Another factor that determines the lifespan of this machine is how well you handle and maintain it. Proper maintenance of this machine, including using it for the right projects, will see that the device lasts longer.
What is the GRBL Controller?
It is a software type that sends GCode to CNC machines. This controller is useful as it allows the user to get commands down to any controller.
What is the “axis” as used in a CNC router?
The term “axis” is the number of directions that the router can move. For example, on a 3-axis routing center, the router moves across the X, Y, and Z linear axes when approaching the material.
Your small shop needs a CNC router if you are into different creative projects in woodworking. These machines give you so much accuracy and precision and further allow you the flexibility to be creative using various materials from wood, plastics, acrylic, and even soft aluminum.
Having used different routers in my 15 years of woodworking, I’ve settled on BobsCNC Evolution 3 CNC Router Kit, as my overall best CNC router for small shop. My selection is guided by many factors, among them personal preference. You will find other routers that I have reviewed suitable depending on the use you have for them.
Do you have a question, opinion, thought, or any form of contribution regarding CNC routers? If so, kindly share it with me in the comment section below. In the meantime, enjoy your shopping!