Thinking about getting a CNC like the pros use? Computer numerical control rigs, which use rotating bits to carve shapes from nearly any material, are coming out of the machine shop and into the home, and Chinese-made models like this Tormach are getting cheaper and better all the time. Plus, this unit takes up less space than a fridge. We asked Jerry Blake, a retired aerospace-parts maker who is now a hobbyist auto-parts maker, to put one through its paces.
The 770 uses an R8 spindle with a 5/8-inch, three-slot setup—a common standard that means most people who have manual drill presses will be able to use a lot of their existing tooling. Made in china brings the price to about a third that of comparable American-made mills, but it’s still robust and easy to use. The controller, which comes preconfigured with industry-standard Artsoft Mach3 software, works right out of the box. The 770 is a three-axis machine, but it comes with simple directions for adding the optional fourth axis, which allows for keyways and undercuts for full 3-D milling. There are some limitations, though. The 1-horsepower motor will feel anemic to anyone accustomed to 7.5-horse industrial units. More troubling: The tolerances can vary as much as 0.002 inch from day to day. It’s a great hobbyist’s machine, but nothing to bet your livelihood on.
Wired: Much cheaper than comparable models. Modular for easy transport. Runs off 110-volt outlets. Great online and phone support.
Tired: Slightly underpowered. Doesn’t hold tolerances with pro-level precision. $6,400 and up