Looking to buy my first CNC

Hello everyone. I am here looking for some help/advice. I have been researching my first CNC, and have spent countless hours on line, exchanging emails with machine/tool suppliers, reading forums, and trying to digest reviews. First and foremost I am a home user, with a garage converted into a heated shop space. I have looked at numerous brands and models, including the Hammer HNC3 825, Stepcraft M.1000 or M.1400, AXIOM, AVID, etc. My ‘short list’ is now between Stepcraft and Onefinity Elite FM. Hammer is desirable, but quite expensive up front. AXIOM, and AVID may be great machines, but again, seem to be quite costly up front. I want ball screws for accuracy and repeatability.

Stepcraft uses UCCNC as the control software, and seems easy to use. The Stepcraft has a multitude of options designed to integrate seamlessly with their machines. From a laser to a drag knife, and an ATC that is purpose built for their machines. I like that aspect. The dual height table design is a nice feature.

Masso control with the pendant looks great and I assume the control software is just as functional as the Stepcraft. I do not want to use a router motor (the noise is unbearable), so I realize I need to buy a spindle. PWNCNC seems to be a popular option, but agin quite expensive. The PWNCNC ATC kit is even more spendy.

One aspect I am having trouble with is finding anyone who has experience with both Stepcraft and Onefininity. Is there anyone out there who can shed some light on a comparison between the two?

Size is not the ultimate determining factor me. Cost of course is a big consideration. Tooling and software would be a wash between the two. I am a big proponent of buying quality tools, therefore I am not averse to spending the money for the quality.

Finally, as a Canadian, Onefinity is a Canadian company, and I feel a strong pull to support my economy. I know there is much to learn, but I am excited to try the process. Any and all responses would be greatly appreciated.


Hi and welcome Bill, one of the biggest considerations for any CNC machine is rigidity. I’ve built multiple machines, converted manual mills to CNC and owned a few off the shelf machines. When it was time to replace my CNC router with a machine with a larger work area, price was not a huge factor as I know what works for me and the things I do. I looked at them all - in person. By far the best bang for the buck for a super rigid machine is Onefinity from my experience. My previous machine was a home brew with aluminum extrusions and precision ball screws - very similar to the Stepcraft M series (I used it as a reference when I built this machine). It worked fine in the 24" x 24" work area I built but I was concerned that scaling it to 48" would introduce flex that I wanted to avoid. I primarily mill wood and plastic but having the ability to do some simple aluminum work was important to me. Stepcraft is a more mature company (although Onefinity has been at this for a few years now) so they have a more developed eco system of add ons. But really, there are so many aftermarket options for the hobbyist machines that anyone with a little mechanical ability can upgrade their machines.

Other considerations: the Elite Foreman at $4000 has a much larger build area - a real 48" x 48". It also has closed loop steppers - this costs an additional $439 on the M.1000. The Foreman also has ball screws and really beefy tubular rails. The M.1000 adds $1000 for ball screws. I’ve owned lots of machines with linear rails (all high quality rails) and I have to say, I really appreciate the genius of the tubular rails - they are very rigid and much less prone to gunking up than linear rails.

You’ll be able to do good work with either machine and there are always pros and cons. Some folks don’t like the MASSO Touch controller as it is a closed system (compared to an open controller or the extremely capable and overly complex Mach 4 software) but having used Mach 3 and 4 for 20 years and many other controllers along the way, I am enjoying the MASSO. For me, I really wanted a plug and play CNC this time with minimal tinkering. I got the original Onefinity and upgraded it to the ELITE primarily for the closed loop steppers and the beefier Z carriage. I now appreciate the simplicity of the MASSO. I am upgrading to the PWNCNC 220V spindle. Again, I’ve built spindles from components and could do that but I just don’t have the time or desire to do it again. Do your research on the spindle and tool changer options from Stepcraft - I am not a fan. They are basically glorified routers with upgraded bearings and are nothing like the 2.2kw spindles on the market (and used by PWNCNC). The Stepcraft is a 1kw spindle. With spindles, more power is more better!

Good luck with your choice, you will be able to live with either machine (or any of the others on your list), it all comes down to what you want to do with it, how often do you plan to use it, etc. I recently purchased a track saw. I stressed over getting a Festool but at the end of the day, I only plan to use the track saw in my driveway to break down sheet goods when I return from the lumber yard. I have high end tools in my shop and don’t need the precision or reliability of a Festool for this application. I could purchase 4 of the saws I got for the price of one Festool. I’ve used the saw 4 times now to break down ten 4x8 sheets of 1/2 and 3/4 ply wood and it performed very well. I mention this because, more expensive and better features are not always the best option for everyone and every application!

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I forgot to mention, I do have a lot of experience with UCCNC control software too (with several of their motion controllers). It is best described as a “Mach lite”. It works well and is reliable but it requires a dedicated windows PC or laptop. The MASSO Touch is free-standing and has a large touch screen. I really like that about it.

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And one more thing…

The Onefinity machines need to be mounted on a table (or the extra-cost QCW stand/wasteboard) whereas the M.1000 could just be sat on top of a workbench. In practice, mounting to a rigid bench/base produces better results as shakes and vibrations while cutting can (and do) cause cut defects.

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I’ve taken the plunge and I have ordered the Elite Foreman after months of research. I too am happy that Onefinity is a Canadian company.

I have decided for now to go with the 2.2 kw water cooled spindle from PWNCNC with plans to go to ATC once they have figured out a retractable ATC system so as to NOT loose the 1.5" of cutting of the current ATC.

The reason to go 220 is I want the extra power and I have 3 dedicated 220 volt circuits in my garage (2 15 amp and 1 30 amp for a space heater). Additionally I went with water cooled now since the ATC is only available as water cooled so I will enjoy a bit less noise without a fan. I also went with a chiller for additional peace of mind.

Later when I go with the ATC most things will be set up - correct voltage - water cooled etc. Then I will have a spare spindle.

I went with the QCW complete with legs. I did draw up a plywood (baltic birch) cabinet but determined that the costs were similar and I’m pretty busy so assembling the QCW will save much time.

I am a cabinet maker and a software engineer. I have CabMaker32 and CutMaster software and am paring it up with VCarve Pro. I get a free upgrade to version 12 which has the new feature of converting an image into carving instructions (similar to CarveCo) and cheaper.

I know I have a lot to learn - however I am confident that the Elite Foreman will full fill my requirements. For instance I have been researching on using a single flute 1/8" compression bit for cutting apart cabinet parts. This and Tiling with VCarve willl allow processing 4 x 8 sheets.

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Thank you the very detailed and informative response(s). I understand about the need to mount the Infinity machines to a base. I am nearing retirement, and although I like to ‘tinker’, perhaps it is time to go the ‘plug and play’ route. Plug it in and get to business. Setting up a VFD for a spindle is not insurmountable, but the PWN package is very attractive as a plug and play device. According to my calculations, I could save a significant amount by going with the Onefinity Elite FM with a PWN spindle, as opposed to the Stepcraft M.1000. The larger work surface would be a bonus. Once I think about that of course all the additional ‘add ons’ come to mind (water cooling, laser etc). Does it ever end???


Thanks for the response. I do have 220 in the shop so that is not really an issue. It would be nice to have the flexibility to power from both 120 and 220 if the VFD would allow the two input voltages, but it is my understanding that the VFD is ‘locked’ to the input voltage of choice depending on which spindle is chosen. Some VFD’s allow for the two input voltages.

The QCW is a nice option, but I am leaning towards constructing my own.

Lots of options to think about.

I am not a cabinet maker, nor a software engineer. But I have no fear of jumping in with both feet when it comes to learning software. Adding on the the Infinity through the Masso does not intimidate me, as I would most likely add an after market touch probe so I could find the centre of a circle etc., and of course a tool setter.


In the past year I’ve moved well towards that attitude for everything where I’m not adding any particular value or twist on things. Even if I can do things, it doesn’t mean I have to do them. Some things I do vs buy because I can’t buy what I want, but more & more I’m looking at the life minutes I lose when I d-i-y vs. going with plug & play. The buy option allows me to spend my time on the stuff I find fun. When I was younger with 4 kids needing just about everything, doing it myself was the only thing I could afford. Now that they’re all off on their own I can spend the money saving myself the time.

Well I finally made a decision. I ordered an Elite FM with XYZ plate, tool setter, dust boot, and the upgraded Z brake motor. Went with the 80 mm spindle mount, and will 3D print a shim to use a Dewalt palm router. As I gain some experience, I am pretty sure I shall graduate to a proper spindle. With some experience I am sure I will be able to make the best decision on what type of spindle will be best for my needs. Thanks for the advice, and I look forward to having some fun. Feel free to throw any advice or tips my way. Thanks.


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Congratulation, excellent choice! I want to repeat my statement that PWNCNC’s spindle is albeit more expensive, is totally plug and play, and the customer service will help you solve any issues. Totally worth it.

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