While our Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine is optimized for prototyping aluminum, it’s more than capable of machining engineering plastics (e.g., Delrin, acrylic, HDPE), FR-1 (printed circuit boards), machining wax, and hardwood. But when it comes to machining wood on the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine, you’ll need to take additional care.
In this guide, we cover:
- Items you’ll need to clean and maintain your machine when machining wood
- Best practices for dust management when working with wood
- How to perform routine maintenance checks on your machine
Note: We also have a general Cleaning & Maintenance guide.
Cleaning Your Machine
Cleaning your Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine after every job ensures peak precision and performance. When working with wood, you may even need to pause your job and vacuum dust and chips.
To clean your CNC machine when working with wood, you’ll need the following:
- N-95 mask
- Safety glasses
- Disposable gloves
- Vacuum cleaner with narrow wand attachment
- Microfiber rag
- Compressed or canned air
- Isopropyl alcohol, 91%
- Lint-free wipes
- Tweezers, fine-tipped
- X-Acto knife (or equivalent)
To clean your machine after a woodworking job, complete the following steps:
- Without moving any of the X, Y, or Z carriages, vacuum the machine bed, machine floor, and the part you're milling.
- Remove the part from the machine and set it aside. If you used double-sided, high-strength Nitto tape to fixture your part to the T-slot bed, be sure to remove any excess tape from the bed using a few drops of 91% isopropyl alcohol and lint-free wipes.
- Use compressed air to blow out the spindle house and around the limit switches.
- Vacuum the machine again.
- Then, in the Bantam Tools Milling Machine Software, go to the Settings tab and launch the Clean-Up Wizard.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to clean out the machine.
If you don’t manage it properly, wood dust can have a significant impact on the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine’s performance. In some cases, you may want to use compressed air to blow out parts of the mill or the wooden parts you're cutting during a job and then use a vacuum to remove sawdust and chips after your jobs.
Rails. Pay special attention to dust building up on the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine’s rails. This can cause binding issues and result in lost steps. Notice in the picture how the dust is beginning to build up into a “wall”? If you don’t clean this, it can continue to be packed down and harden over time.
Limit switches. There are three limit switches in the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine, one for each axis.
These switches are a calibration sensor that use a pressure switch to detect moving parts of the mill. As a result, they play a crucial role in the homing process, probing routines, and more. Notice in the image below how dust and debris is building up around the Y-axis limit switch. You’ll want to vacuum it, blow it out with compressed air, and then vacuum again.
Bearings. The linear bearings are the circular pieces that the rails pass through. There are linear bearings in each axis. Use a small brush to loosen the debris, and then use the vacuum to remove the debris. Notice in the image below how wood debris has built up and hardened. If this is the case, place a few drops of 91% isopropyl alcohol onto a lint-free wipe and gently rub the debris around the bearing. This should remove a lot of the debris. We also recommend using fine-tipped tweezers to remove any leftover swarf (debris).
Note: While the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine is fully enclosed and does contain most of the airborne dust and debris, if you’re working with other CNC machines or routers that are not, take the time to clean any computers you’re using in your shop. Dust can easily get into the internal electronics of your computer. Be sure to take the time to blow out and vacuum your computer periodically.
If you’re machining a variety of materials in your shop, we recommend keeping a separate and dedicated waste flow for wooden chips, sawdust, and other wood scraps. This includes a dedicated wood vacuum for cleaning your machine. Wood swarf is much easier to handle and repurpose when it’s uncontaminated by things such as aluminum or plastic chips.
Cleaning End Mills
As you mill more materials using the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine, we recommend having designated end mills for specific materials. When it comes to CNC woodworking, this becomes even more important because it allows you to keep a closer eye on any residual buildup. In the photo below, notice how there are brown marks on the end mill's shank (or shaft). This is residue from wood. While it may not seem like a big deal aside from aesthetics, the residue is actually built up debris that can cause your tool to deflect.
To remove this residue, you’ll need the following items:
- 91% isopropyl alcohol
- Lint-free wipes
- X-acto knife
To make sure there’s no other sticky debris on your end mill, dip the lint-free wipe into your 91% isopropyl alcohol and carefully wipe down the tool. Then take the X-acto knife and gently scrape off the debris. Be mindful of the sharp tips.
Regularly inspect the spindle belt and collet for visible wear or dust buildup. Remember, no matter how good of a job you do cleaning, wood dust can and will get everywhere. If the collet looks dirty, clean it by unscrewing the collet nut and gently tapping it on a hard surface to dislodge debris and then use a combination of tweezers, microfiber rags, or canned air. If you do need to use 91% isopropyl alcohol, be sure to only administer a few drops and have a lint-free wipe ready to soak up any excess liquid. Do not pour the alcohol directly into the spindle house.
If your cuts sound rough or uneven, inspect the spindle:
- Use the Z-axis jogging arrows in the software to lower the spindle so the belts are in reach.
- Power the machine down and unplug it from the power source.
- With your finger, grasp the end of the spindle that holds the tool and wiggle it gently to make sure the spindle doesn't move side to side or up and down.
- Make sure that the spindle spins freely.
- If you feel horizontal or vertical movement in the spindle, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Maintenance Tips
If the metal rods in your milling machine get sticky with sap, tape, or glue, carefully remove the adhesive with 91% rubbing alcohol, lint-free wipes, and tweezers.
You also may need to apply Break-Free CLP lubricant to the metal rods. This solution will help keep the rails from corroding and will lubricate the bearings. Apply only 1–2 drops of Break-Free CLP to the top of the rails near the linear bearings. The bearings are the part of the X, Y, and Z carriages that make contact with the rails. After applying the lubricant, use the jogging arrows in the Bantam Tools software window to move the machine back and forth along each axis, which will spread the substance over the surface of the metal rods.