If you are the owner of a shop or factory that does modeling, carving, cutting, and engraving work, you will know that you need complex equipment to do it the right way.
We are not saying that you have to go over budget in order to be successful at this business — on the contrary; with proper research you can find affordable and high-quality products that are perfect for your small shop.
But for most people, that process is a burden and they go ahead buying the first thing they see whether it is the best quality or not.
One of the products people seem to forget about is the CNC milling machine or router. It is a must if you own a shop that does a lot of carving and engraving in the soft and hard materials, and as there is a number of high-quality options offered on the market, finding the right one shouldn’t present a problem.
With a good CNC router, only the sky’s the limit, as you will be able to create models and items from aluminum, PVC, PCB, wood, and silk. With the intent of helping you make the right decision, we came up with a list of the best CNC routers for small shops.
Also, we have included a buyer’s guide as well as FAQ in order to give you more insight into this product, including all the benefits of owning a CNC router.
Top 5 CNC Routers for Small Shop Comparison chart
Best CNC Routers for Small Shop Reviews
1. Benbox DIY Mini Engraving Machine
Last but not least is this product manufactured by RATTMOTOR as an ideal machine for commercial use. At a high-end price compared to what we have previously listed, it offers an exquisite performance, with an average working area.
We know what you are going to say — why is the working area so small? Well, this product has the purpose of ensuring the best accuracy and stability for creating smaller models, thus it is ideal for a shop that you are about to open.
While it doesn’t offer a massive amount of space, the 775 spindle and 8,000 rotations per minute are going to ensure that even the toughest material is precisely carved and engraved (126mm x 88mm x 38mm engraving area). It has a four wire stepper motor as well as two axis ensuring efficient performance.
The design is sleek and sturdy including an aluminum frame that protects it from falling apart after strenuous use. It can run on all Windows as well as Linux operating systems, and looks pretty attractive, catching the eye of any customer that enters your shop.
Still, the instructions on electronics and assembly are not ideal, thus causing room for concern especially if you are a beginner. Apart from that, we would recommend this router mill to anyone who wants the best for their small workshop and plans on working with a variety of materials including aluminum, wood, and glass.
It doesn’t make a difference between carving and cutting through the aluminum, glass, and wood thus being the perfect choice for a newly opened workshop.
It does lack clear instructions and from what it seems, the customer support is not that ideal either.
#1. Benbox DIY Mini Engraving Machine
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2. MySweety DIY Router Kit
If you are looking to have some simple fun, then buying this MySweety DIY Router Kit is going to be one of the better decisions you have made in a long time. It is among the most affordable products on the market, and while it doesn’t offer a large working area suitable for heavy commercial use, it is still good for a small shop experimenting with aluminum and wood models.
This MySweety product is indeed a great budget investment as, apart from the product itself, you are getting a number of accessories, including 10 CNC bits, one ER11 as well as an extension rod and four CNC plates.
It is quite a shame that it doesn’t include a user manual related to the assembly and software, but you can directly contact the retailer to get the relevant info. As for the specifications, it is a well-built model, with a working area of 160 x 100 x 45 mm which seems to be just enough for your home use.
Also, it includes 3 axis and runs on 110-240 V. It can run on any Windows operating system (up to 10) as well as on Linux, while for iOS devices, you will need to install a specific program to get it going. The software this router uses is the industry standard Grbl with an Arduino microprocessor.
As for the power specifications, we are looking at a 17-stepper Nema motor, that is accompanied by a Spindle 775 motor good enough to provide carving and engraving features for both hard and soft materials. While the product may not look that sturdy, you still have a 1-year limited warranty that should cover any manufacturing defects.
The assembly is quite fun and shouldn’t take you longer than an hour or so. Still, the material does look somewhat cheap but you shouldn’t expect much more taking into consideration the low price.
Also, we can’t say that it is an ideal choice if you are a beginner given the lack of instructions and info. Other than that, it is a great budget pick for your small milling shop.
Starting a business can be quite expensive, so it is great when you can find an essential item for quite an affordable price (which is exactly what this MySweety CNC Router is).
Also, it features a good spindle motor, which plays an important role if you need a machine to cover carving and engraving work on smaller models.
It is clear that the material is not of the highest quality, and that the customer service lacks efficiency. Also, it is quite loud.
Apart from that, we have to admit that given the price and the brand that stands behind it, this product is one of the best budget choices for the owner of a small shop.
#2. MySweety DIY Router Kit
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3. TopDirect CNC 2500mw Laser Engraver Kit
As one of the best CNC routers for small shop offers, this Top Direct product does come as quite a surprise.
The brand that stands behind it is not as renowned and doesn’t have a lot of history, but it still seems to do a good job providing a CNC mill machine for hobbyists and owners of a small business.
While this product has a primary focus on laser engraving, it provides a fair performance when it comes to cutting and carving as well.
What you are looking at is a 2500mw machine, with a 500mw laser head. It can be adjusted up to a 5-20.5cm distance in order to achieve the optimal positioning and results.
As for the working area, you are looking at 350 x 500 mm which is enough to ensure stability, as well as precise cutting and carving. On top of all that, it doesn’t have an engraving height limit, which is quite cool if you are just starting off and you don’t want to get things wrong because of positioning.
Now, the offer itself includes a number of items, ranging from electronics, frames, and boards, to the laser glasses that you need to wear when using this product.
It can read JPG, BMP, and SVG files making it an ideal choice for a small workshop. The aforementioned dim light and aluminum rail ensure great precision and stability, making the picture printing stress-free.
Featuring two axis motors as well as a three-stepper motor, it offers a high performance, especially taking into consideration the price it comes at.
Still, you can’t expect that this kind of a carving mill will withstand heavy use, so you should be conscious and follow the given instructions both during the assembly and while you do carving and engraving work.
Also, installing and using the software is quite tricky.
Other than that, we are satisfied with what this product offers, as the laser head is quite powerful, and there is a good working area in case you want to create larger models.
What is so good about this product?
The two highlights have to be the laser head that runs at 500mw and allows easy adjustment, as well as the large working area of 350 x 500 mm that is quite a surprise given the price it comes at and the purpose of this product.
Overall, a solid budget buy for your small business.
From what it seems, the material that this product is made of is kind of is cheap, meaning that you need to take multiple precautions to ensure its durability.
Also, we don’t like the fact that the software isn’t user-friendly.
#3. TopDirect CNC 2500mw Laser Engraver Kit
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4. DIY CNC 2-in-1 Laser Kit
If you enjoy carving and engraving in your free time, or you own a small workshop from which you have or plan to make a successful business, you are in the right place.
This easy-to-assemble CNC router is going to serve its purpose when it comes to doing heavy work on soft and hard materials. An affordable choice, with a simple yet sturdy design, it has all you can ask for.
Who doesn’t enjoy getting more than what they pay for? Well, that is exactly what happens with this offer as apart from the high-performance CNC mill, you will be getting a laser head that is essential for price engraving.
Whether you are looking to add that specific accent of wood or an aluminum model, or you are carving one right from the scratch, this product will serve its purpose well.
The highlight of it is, as we said, is the 500mw laser head that perfectly fits the mill, and works well on PCB, PVC, wood, aluminum, and other hard and soft metals. Unlike some other models, which are partially assembled, this one requires you to put in a bit more effort, and do it yourself.
Still, it shouldn’t come as a problem as there is a detailed user manual instructing you on how to put the electronics, boards, motors, frames, and all other accessories together.
It runs on the Grbl software which is quite common for both personal and commercial CNC routers. Simple to use, it is fine for those just starting and who are not familiar with the whole concept of this product.
The spindle motor is at 775, with 10,000 rotations per minute – it can be replaced with the laser head if you are looking to get the optimal engravings.
As for the work area, it is somewhat larger than that of the previous model, sitting at 240 x 180 x 40 mm and thus being perfect for a small shop. To be honest, this product doesn’t come with any big concerns.
Yes, a bit more work space and a sturdier build would be handy, but for the price you are paying and the laser head you are getting, you should be more than satisfied.
Where should we start? This superb 2-in-1 kit includes both the spindle motor and a laser head thus allowing you to create your models from scratch and accent them with proper engraving.
Also, the assembly process is quite simple, and while nothing is preinstalled, you are covered by the user manual included in the box.
As we mentioned above, the material this mill is built of could have a somewhat better composition.
Also, it would be cool if there was a bigger working area, but as you will be working in a small shop (for now) this is more than enough.
#4. DIY CNC 2-in-1 Laser Kit
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5. Craftsman 3000mw Laser Engraving Machine
Another one in the range of high-performance laser engraving machines, this Craftsman product is the ideal choice if you have just started your business and you are on a limited budget.
The large working area and a great spindle are all you need to create great wood, aluminum, and copper models.
This product is somewhat pricier than the above mentioned three, but we have to suggest that it offers a much better performance as well.
First, it has an output of 12V 5A and requires an input of 100-240V which is great if you own a small workshop, as the electricity bill will not be as high.
It does include a number of accessories like a user manual, laser glasses, laser head, as well as all electronics, boards, and frames that need to be assembled into one compact machine.
Highlighted by light positioning and grey scale engraving, this innovative machine will allow you to come up with exquisite and custom wood, bamboo, aluminum, and other material prints.
It is quite sturdy, given the aluminum and acrylic frame, and you can expect to get more than a few years out of this bad boy. As for the software, it runs on the Grbl, with an Arduino microprocessor. The most important thing?
A large working area offering more than 400 x 500 mm of space for you to engrave on. Overall, a superb product, that is loud but efficient and sleek, making it one of the best CNC routers for small shop offers.
The best thing is that you get what you pay for, which is not the case with most of its competitors.
A superb spindle and a laser head, as well as a machine that runs on 3000 mw, this Craftsman router will allow efficient engraving, carving, and cutting using a variety of different materials.
It is a bit too loud which can be a concern if you are in a small workshop with a lot of neighbors around.
#5. Craftsman 3000mw Laser Engraving Machine
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Best CNC Router for Small Shop Buyer’s Guide
As always, we like to emphasize the importance of knowing the critical points that are a part of making the perfect choice.
Much like any other product, the CNC router does have a few features that it should include in order for you to reap all the benefits of such an investment.
Thus, here is a list of the five most important points that you need to consider.
If you are buying a CNC mill, you better ensure that it can carve through and engrave on a variety of materials, including wood, aluminum, glass, copper, and other soft metals.
Without proper software, you shouldn’t expect your CNC router to run on its own. The Grbl software is considered the one that does the best job.
Still, you should make sure that the downloading and installation comes with clear instructions in order to escape potential troubles related to a user interface that is not so friendly.
Working with a CNC machine will leave you with a lot of dust on the engraving area.
So, in order to escape the stress of cleaning for a few hours, invest in a dust separator or search for an offer that already includes one.
Interchangeable router bits are a must to ensure optimal performance and the long lifetime of your CNC engraving machine. You should expect that a CNC mill includes at least 10 of these.
It all depends on whether you are looking to have all the features included or you will be fine with a smaller working area and a 775 spindle.
You can find a good quality CNC router for around $200, while the average price of a top quality one seems to be around $400.
Best CNC Router for Small Shop FAQ
How to Route Wood
While wood routing can be done using a CNC milling machine, it is best to go ahead and invest in a wood router that is going to not only allow perfect edges on your wood pattern but give you the ability to create exquisite patterns as well.
A product of this kind should include proper instructions on how to use it.
How to Make Money with a CNC Router
Open up a small workshop and start carving and engraving wooden, aluminum, and glass models. People are interested in buying custom models and designs, so making your investment pay is quite easy.
How to Make a CNC Router
Unless you have a lot of mechanical knowledge you wouldn’t be able to do it on your own. Making a CNC router will require that you know how to create electronics, boards, and frames, which is some heavy work.
Assembling, on the other hand, is a simple process that should be done according to the given instructions.
How to Use a CNC Router
Connect it to your computer, download the Grbl or other included software, and load a file/image that you want to print out. Set the material on the engraving/cutting board, and watch the magic unfold.
How to Set up a CNC Machine
Assembling a CNC machine can be a process that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. It all depends on whether you are doing everything from scratch or certain parts are pre-installed.
Check out the user manual and be sure to start by assembling the core parts ending with frames and core accessories.
In our opinion, buying the Benbox DIY Mini will allow you the optimal carving and cutting performance needed to run a successful workshop.
On the other hand, if you are on a tighter budget, the DIY 2-1 kit will ensure the best value by allowing you to work with a spindle motor and a powerful laser head needed for custom engravings.