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When your space is limited, the smaller CNC mills are a great way to get the benefits of this amazing technology, without sacrificing much floor or bench space – or too much cash – both of which the bigger units demand.
In this article, I’m going to help you to narrow down your search so that you can get CNCing quickly and begin to enjoy the features that these ingenious little machines offer.
Along the way we’ll take a quick zip through how these mills operate. We’ll also learn what sort of tasks you can perform with them.
I’ve been doing my research too.
Here's the five best small CNC mills available in 2019 -
Small CNC Mills
Work Area (cm)
DIY CNC Milling Machine
Best for DIY
Power Milling Machine By Feiuruhf
Best Budget Option
What To Look For When Buying A Small CNC Mill
An easy interface.
If you’re like me, you hate to spend all day reading instructions and let’s face it, we’re here because we like woodworking – not looking at technical drawings.
Make sure to consider how easy the mill’s systems are to learn and use before you buy.
I mean, these machines can get a lot done for you, but you don’t want to be nodding off to sleep because the user manual is longer than War and Peace.
Size of the working area Vs floor space.
This is a big deal if you’re in the market for a small CNC mill. Footprint versus what you can get done with the machine’s working area.
You want a compact enough unit so that it occupies as little floor space as possible in your shop. But you also want to have a reasonable working area so that you can do the jobs that you want to do.
Figure out what sort of working area you need before you buy.
How solid is the frame?
It’s a big factor with CNC mills. Frames will deflect under load easily if they’re not made of strong enough stuff and they’re not put together well.
You’ll be operating a motor that spins at maybe 10000 rpm and the loads on the frame while cutting will be immense.
It’s well worth paying close attention to construction materials and methods when you’re looking to buy one of these smaller mills.
How much assembly is required and how easy is it?
This is an even bigger factor if you have less engineering know-how than more.
Some kits require a high level of engineering aptitude in order to put them together correctly.
You don’t ever want to be buying something that’s so far above your ability to assemble it, that it never gets set up and used. If this might apply to you – look only at the machines that require minimal or no assembly.
The best part?
This is really important. When you’re looking to purchase a CNC Mill, you need to make sure that service and replacement parts are readily available.
All machines will at some point require at the very least, basic maintenance and repairs.
Make sure that the machine that you choose is still in production, or at the minimum, still supported by the manufacturer.
Technology moves fast, and versions come and go. Find out if the machine you choose will remain serviceable.
So, We Know What NOT To Do – But What Can We Do With These Machines Anyway?
This is a great question.
Before you go and spend your dollars, you really want to be looking at what jobs you’re going to be able to do around the workshop with this thing.
And how it will improve and enhance your woodworking.
The Rise of the Machines:
Now, it’s no secret that lots and lots of hobbyists have caught on to what these smaller CNC mills can do for their craft projects. And more and more people are using these machines in their own woodworking.
And it doesn’t take much to work out that there’s many good reasons that so many people have taken the plunge in the first place.
CNC mills can add real depth and detail to larger projects and are great for making many identical parts or components.
They’re amazing at wood carving and you can transfer exact copies of pictures, portraits and more geometric designs, from computer code directly onto solid wood.
The possibilities are endless with a CNC mill. With the right machine for your workshop, you can get very professional results in a very short time.
As Easy as XYZ:
The CNC mills we’ll be listing here are a bit like a robotic router. They are controlled by computer code that specifies vectors on three different axes.
Each axis – X, Y and Z, - sets the position of the motor, and in turn the cutter, in 3D.
One axis is up and down, one axis is left to right, and the other axis is front to back. So it’s not as difficult to get used to controlling and using these machines as you might think.
5 Best Small CNC Mills of 2019
1. 3018 PRO GRBL (30x18x4.5cm)- The Best
The 3018 Pro GRBL is a great little CNC Mill.
It takes up a really small area of your workshop or benchtop, but retains a very respectable working area of 30 x 18 x 4.5cm, making this the ideal setup for most amateur woodworkers or for smaller woodshops.
Assembly of the rather robust phenolic resin and aluminum frame is easy and quick. The whole unit feels really well made and it is brilliant value for the price.
Offline Control Unit:
A great feature of this machine is its offline control unit, which means that you don’t need to leave a computer plugged into the mill whilst it cuts. This is convenient in many ways. Not least of all if you don’t have a brilliant dust extraction system in your shop.
A great mill at a fantastic price.
All in all, the 3018 Pro GRBL CNC mill is impossible to beat, and its simple interface is great for beginners and experienced CNCers alike. It will handle lots of engraving and light carving jobs in wood – it’s a great addition to even the smallest of workshops. The clever and convenient control unit is a great idea.You don’t need to make space for a computer.
2. Wisamic Eleksmaker – Smaller Aternative
The Wisamic Eleksmaker is another small CNC mill that runs on GRBL software.
This is a tiny and lightweight unit at only 26 x 26 x 26cm, however it does have a way smaller working area than the number one rated mill here – less than half that area in fact – at only 13 x 9 x 4cm.
For that reason, potential buyers should only consider this if they intend to work on very small pieces exclusively.
The Wisamic mill is constructed of acrylic and is strong enough to handle light carving and engraving jobs in wood. It features a convenient carry-handle, and it’s lightweight, so it’s pretty easy to store the machine away when it’s not in use.
Some users of this mill have reported problems with an unlevel bed, and the lack of any adjusters to rectify the issue.
It’s a great little starter mill but it’s hard to justify the extra spend.
So, listen up...
The Wisamic Eleksmaker is a decent little CNC mill – and I do mean little! Although you sacrifice working area with this unit, it still makes number two on this list. That’s because its best features are its lightweight acrylic construction and its easy portability, due to its carry-handle. So, it is a great option for someone that wants to move it around frequently, or even doesn’t have a permanently allocated area for it. If you can afford to lose the working area on the bed, then the little Wisamic Eleksmaker is a brilliant option if you’re severely limited for bench space.
3. DIY CNC Milling Machine - Best for DIY
With the DIY CNC Milling Machine, we’re entering different territory as this is a true DIY kit.
This means that you have to assemble this completely – from scratch. You’ll need to be very handy mechanically and electronically to even consider this CNC mill.
If you are brave enough, though – and brave you must be because the machine doesn’t come with assembly instructions!
You’ll end up with a big working area for your spend, at 24 x 17 x 6.5cm. However, this is to be traded off against the fact that this unit has a large footprint compared to other machines is this class, at 43 x 43 x 33cm. It takes up quite a big space on your floor or bench.
Another plus with the DIY unit is that it boasts great accuracy, with a tiny tolerance of only 0.04mm. This means that if you’re doing very accurate work indeed, it could be a good option for you.
A drawback with this CNC mill is that it doesn’t come with software, so you’re going to have to hunt around for that, and it may cost you. Price-wise, this isn’t the cheapest mill in this list, and it isn’t the most expensive either.
Truth to be told...
It’s a fact that this CNC mill isn’t going to be for everyone here. Assembly requires a very decent level of mechanical and electronic skill – don’t buy this mill if you haven’t got the knowledge. Its large size will also make this option a no-no for many woodworkers, although it does offer a pretty large working area.
4. Power Milling Machine By Feiuruhf - Premium Pick
We step up in cost with the Power Milling Machine, by Feiuruhf. Not only is it really hard to to pronounce – it’s pretty hard on your wallet too, at more than double the cost of most of the CNC mills on this list.
You do get a very well-built machine for your hard-earned cash, though. The frame is constructed of heavy aluminum alloy and the runners are super-strong chromed steel, so they won’t deform very easily over time.
The working area is pretty nice at 38.5 x 27.5 x 6cm, and it’s reported to be a very accurate unit, which is no surprise given the standard of its construction.
This mill’s best feature is probably it’s large bed – at 320mm x 530mm. Depending on what you intend to use it for, this is potentially very useful. Even though the cutting area is still only 38.5cm x 27.5cm, the larger, flat bed means that you can do detailed work on far larger boards and blanks
A big drawback with this machine, and why it’s near the bottom of our list of small CNC mills, is its footprint. It measures up at a whopping 61 x 48 x 40cm. This really isn’t a tool for a hobbyist shop with limited space.
The Feiuruhf does have some nice build touches, such as covers for assembly screws and reinforced housings, but this comes at quite a cost.
So, what’s the verdict?
The Power Milling Machine, by Feiuruhf is a very well-manufactured product. It’s a big investment for a first time CNC mill buyer and it’s a big machine to find the space for in the workshop.
The Feiuruhf won’t be for every amateur woodworker. But it packs a punch if you have a big budget and have a large enough work space to house it.
5.MYSWEETY 1610 - The Budget King
The MYSWEETY 1610 CNC mill is a really impressive little unit with a lot of things going for it. It’s another very lightweight and portable machine. It also comes with ten spare cutters supplied.
Software is included with this CNC mill. This is a kit but assembly is fairly easy once you’ve managed to square everything up. You will need a certain level of engineering know-how to assemble it accurately and successfully, though. Users have reported that the axes are difficult to get correctly aligned, and so assembly can take some time to complete.
A laser head is available for this unit, however this does cost extra. The overall build-quality of the mill is pretty good. It’s made from well-machined aluminum and the whole thing looks way more expensive than its actual cost when you do manage to put it together.
The footprint of the 1610 is tiny, at 26 x 24 x 22cm. It’s the smallest machine on this list. It isn’t at the bottom end of the range here for working area, though, at 16 x 10 x 4.5 – although that area is relatively small.
This is another great machine for tiny workshops, as it’s lightweight and portable. If you’re really pushed for space this thing is small and lightweight enough to store on a shelf when it’s not being used.
So, is the MySweety actually sweet, or sour?
The answer is that it depends what you want to do with it, and it depends how much space you have in your shop. For the money, if you don’t have lots of room, or you want a portable mill, then it isn’t a bad option.
If, however, you want a reasonable working area and the footprint isn’t your primary concern, there may be better options available on this list.
So, Let’s Cut To The Chase; What Have We Learned Here Today?
Well, we’ve been looking to solve the problem of wanting to get the professional and highly creative benefits of a CNC mill. We’ve looked at the best small cnc mills because our work space is small.
An added benefit it seems, of sticking with smaller mills is that they’re also a lot cheaper. Therefore, they’re actually more suitable to entry-level CNC use, which works out well for us – and for our wallets.
We know about the stunning and detailed results we can achieve with the right small CNC mill.
We’re even the sort of computer whizzes that have a basic understanding of how these amazing machines work.
We’ve looked at a list of the best small CNC mills out there, compared costs, abilities and features.
And we’ve found out that they’re all slightly different – so we’ve probably worked out which one best fits our own workshops and spaces.
My work here is done then!
What are you waiting for? Start your CNC milling now. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.