DIYLILCNC in South Africa

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    Hi guys

    Firstly I would like to thank Chris and Taylor for giving the public access to this project. It is great that you guys are giving everyone an affordable option to have cnc ability at home. I am super exited to use my cnc, when it is done ofcource, to materialise all the ideas I have in my head and on paper all over the place.

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa and I am quite curious to see if there is anybody else in South Africa that are wanting to build one of these. McMaster-Carr does not ship to South Africa, so I am having some difficulty to source some of the parts locally, it is either not difficult to get or hellish expensive. If someone here is interested, we can combine our efforts to make things easier and more affordable. Let me know if you are interested.

    If anyone in the US is keen to help our efforts in South Africa, it would be greatly appreciated.

    My progress so far:

    Got my Hobbycnc kit soldered up.

    Baught my dremel

    Will have my panels Lazer cut next week

    Still need some of the other parts like timing belt and pulleys, transformer, acme rod and nuts, couplers and a few others pieces. Having some difficulty with these.

    Well, thats my story. Thanks again Chris and Taylor

    Can’t wait to get cutting


    Keymaster, thanks for posting!

    I’m curious about the problems you’re having sourcing hardware. What exactly makes those parts so hard to get? Do they exist only in metric form?

    Good luck with your build. We’d love to see some pictures if you get the chance.



    @ Chris

    The problem with sourcing the hardware here, is not so much metric vs imperial, it is mainly cost. For instance: Acme rod is ridiculously expensive here, Not only is their only a small amount of suppliers, but but most of them will only bring it in from germany, or where ever, once you have placed your order. that means another 6-8 weeks before delivery, and a ridiculous price.

    I am sure that I should get the timing belts and pulley’s sorted here as well as the transformer(although, quick browsing on the net found a suitable transformer locally for +- $100) a bit steep I would say as the recommended MPJA one only costs $19.95, but they do not ship here.

    So to me it seems that importing some of the hardware myself, will work out much cheaper than trying to buy through local companies. I seem to recall that someone mentioned in another forum that there is a company that will ship outside the US on behalf of someone. I will look into that.

    Anyway, I am not here to complain but rather to enjoy, I really am looking forward to finishing my cnc, so here’s to that.

    I am hoping that it will open up a whole new world for me.

    Very stoked




    I see you have not posted for some time. Are you done with your build. I am looking at making the kit available here in South Africa for the less technical builders. I would like to discuss with you some of the local issues that you encountered.


    Been a while since I have posted, just a quick update. Completed my build recently. It is looking great.

    Loaded Emc2 and linux on my pc and have gotten my cnc to move. Hooray….

    At this stage I have not cut anything yet, been having some pc issues and miss steps which will hopefully be sorted soon.

    I had to make some substitutes on some of the hardware due to what I could find locally, I will post a list for anyone that is interested as soon as

    I have everything running 100%.

    @ MariusL

    Sounds great, I will be happy to help, send me a mail to, then we can talk about it.


    Ok Guys, got everything sorted, finished and working. Have done a few test cuts and it is running like a dream. Right now, I am really exited, proud and happy, all at the same time.

    For those that are interested, here is some information on my experience through the building process.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I had some issues with sourcing some of the hardware for this project in South Africa, this was probably due to a few contributing factors:

    1. Mcmaster-Carr does not ship to South Africa and we do not really have an equivalent. Most suppliers are much more specific and not as broad ranged so I had to source a lot of the parts individually from different suppliers.

    2. Here we do everything in Metric (although I did not have too much difficulty in sourcing the Imperial sized shafts for my rails)

    3. A lot of the parts needed are only available as imports in South Africa and are therefore quite expensive and not easily available.

    4. I am not the most technically informed person, so there are probably a lot of places and options that I overlooked. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Please note: I am not sharing this information as a complaint about the difficulties I faced in order to complete this project, I am just putting my experiences out there for anybody to see that might be in a similar situation than I am. I would gladly go through all of this again (although I will be somewhat wiser).

    Here is a list of adaptions or substitutes I made on my build due to the above mentioned reasons:

    Transformer: Ordered a Toroidal Transformer from RS Components. Specified transfomers not available for shipping to South Africa. Wiring information found in the HobbyCNC group at yahoo groups.

    Using 6mm All Thread instead of Acme thread and nut(Will go for ACME later but very expensive locally compared to Europe and US)

    Using 19.1mm mildsteel tubing instead of 3/4″ aluminium tubing for bearing assemblies and belt clamps, 3/4″ in aluminium unavailable with 1/8″ wall thickness, only 1.6mm wall thickness available here.

    All nuts and bolts I used are metric. T-bolt slot and grooves secured with 4mm nuts and bolts.(Unfortunately only realised after I had the laser cutting done that my 4mm nuts where slightly too big for the joints, so I had to use the dremel to enlarge all the grooves a little bit for the nuts to fit in.

    Could not source MXL timing pulleys, so went with XL Pulleys(10 teeth) with 6mm inside diameter for the drive shafts. Belt width 9mm so I had to enlarge the holes on the vertical braces so that the belts did not rub against the MDF panels. Due to the pulleys being slightly larger than the MXL pulley’s, the belts where also rubbing on the laser cut panels where the x-beam intersects with the vertical braces. Once again, a little bit of sanding with the Dremel sorted it out quickly.

    Driveshafts are 6mm not 1/4″ (which are 6.35mm) with corresponding bearings with 6mm inside diameter.

    Motor couplings: I struggled to find rigid shaft couplings and also I needed couplings which had different inside diameters at each end. In the end I got a power transmission company to make up Sprocket couplers for me which are 6mm on the one side, for my 6mm drive shaft, and 1/4″ inch on the other to fit the Hobbycnc motors.

    I had to enlarge the hole in the Y-motor mount panels for for the Y-coupling to fit as it was larger in diameter than the specified couplings and did not fit.

    Used 6mm mdf for the lazer cut panels, worked great, I had to adjust the drawings at a few places due to the fact that a few bearings that I used had different outside diameters than the specified bearings.

    And that is pretty much all I can think of right now. Not too much trouble.

    I must say that the soldering up of the HobbyCNC board seemed like a very daunting task, but with a few practice soldering efforts and with the help of the accompanying instructions, it all went well, specially considering I don’t have much experience with that sort of thing. (zero in fact)

    I have set up EMC2 and Linux(Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron) on my 7 year old PC, and so far it is working great. I did struggle a little bit with some bad latency issues, but after a bit of research I managed to sort it out. Mainly I had to disable everything in the BIOS, including onboard sound and an old stiffy drive, yep my PC still has one. I did a lot of reading on the net, there is a lot of information and forums to go through and you can be sure that if you have a problem, you definately are not the first person to have it and there will be plenty of posts about solutions. Even running a Nvidia GeForce card without any problems (for now).

    With regards to a CAM package for now I will be experimenting with opensource or freeware software like CamBam Free, HeeksCNC and Freemill. Probably until I know what I am doing and what I need to be looking for in a software package. (That is if I end up purchasing a CAM Package at all and don’t just stick with some opensource package)

    I really enjoyed the process of building my DIYLILCNC. It has been 10 months since I first came across this project on the web and now there is one in my studio at home.

    And that is awesome….




    Wow! Great post. Your comments really make our efforts feel appreciated and supported.



    Check out the images of Charles’ build in the gallery!




    I was really excited to find this post! I have been looking at building a CNC machine for a few months now but have felt discouraged due to unavailability of parts and financial constraints. To read that a fellow countryman has achieved this is quite an inspiration. I would be really interested to hear more about the challenges you faced and how you overcame them, where you managed to source the parts etc…

    Well done, I think that is awesome!



    Reminder: If anyone would like to supply a long-format response to this kind of question, we’re happy to host it in Word/PDF form if that’s more convenient.

    Also: We’re in initial talks to participate in Maker Faire Africa. Nothing for sure yet, but it sounds like cheap milling and NC are in the air on the continent! Keep it up, y’all.



    Awesome. I look forward to working on my build. It seems like it was an amazing experience for you.


    Hi MarcR.

    Send me a mail to I will send you my phone number and we can have a talk. I would be happy to pass on any advice and details for local sourcing of the parts. So pop me a mail.

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