What’s the story behind DIYLILCNC?

If you’ve been in the Maker Works woodshop, you’ve seen our ShopBot CNC router—a tool that can do almost anything. It uses 3D modeling software and a 3-axis router to cut hardwood, plywood, MDF, particle board, wax, Styrofoam, acrylic, HDPE, and other materials into an endless variety of objects. Maker Works members have made everything from signs, to furniture, to topographical maps, to display pieces in the shapes of ocean waves.

The DIYLILCNC project arose from Chris Reilly and Taylor Hokanson’s desire to enable individuals to build their own smaller, fully-functional, and extremely precise 3-axis CNC routers for much less than they would cost to buy.


Using a set of plans from Instructables as a foundation for the project, Reilly and Hokanson first worked to make important design changes that would streamline the homemade CNC’s assembly and make it easier for beginner builders to complete it on their own. Among these changes were incorporating laser-cut panels that would fit together with finger joints and be secured with common bolts and nuts.

After a few weeks of altering, testing, and tweaking the design, Reilly and Hokanson released version 1.0 in November of 2009, posting the free and open-source set of plans to their website, diylilcnc.org. The cost of materials was about $700.

Makers all over the world, from the US to Norway to South Africa, responded by building their own CNC routers and posting tips and suggestions to the DIYLILCNC Builder’s Forum.

In fact, the response was so enthusiastic that, in 2011, Reilly and Hokanson created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for DIYLILCNC 2.0. Contributors could vote for specific design improvements such as hardware part reduction and portability.

The project was ultimately fully funded, and version 2.0, the most recent version, was released in late 2011.

In fact, Reilly recently built a copy of version 2.0 using the Maker Works table saw to construct the base, and the ShopBot to maker the panels.

photo 4 copy

DIYLILCNCs have made a variety of appearances across the US and Canada, including Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, and Chicago, and also at this summer’s Maker Works Open House.

In true maker style, Reilly and Hokanson are continually tinkering and creating new innovations for the DIYLILCNC. Updates in the works include decreasing the number of mechanical parts, in turn creating a larger cutting area, and designing a WordPress plugin for diylilcnc.org that will format the “How-to” section of site.