By David Benson
"Easy CNC, A Beginner's Guide to CNC" is an interesting take on a somewhat complex topic. This book is the author's guide to the techniques and software that he found to be the shortest path to completing most simple CNC projects. He lays out the software and methods he uses to complete these tasks. The book is not a general guide to CNC, or a complete manual on the subject, but rather a personal lesson in the simplest route to take for a beginner. As I read the book I found myself thinking "But you could also do this...", or "What about that piece of software..", however this book isn't about exploring all the options, it's about getting your mill making chips when you first start out. This is a refreshing tack for a book to take and a help for those who, having unpacked their new CNC mill, ask "well now what do I do?"
The first major section, "CNC Concepts", covers the basic theory of CNC machine tools, axis, toolpaths and the like. It then goes into a good generic description of CNC control programs, which are usually machine and or user preference dependent. The "G-code" part has an excellent in depth exploration of the four fundamental G-code commands, G00, G01, G02, G03 as well as how to write G-code programs from scratch. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then this is the book for you!
The next section covers the various drawing programs the author uses, and what type of drawings are produced and how they are utilized in CNC. This section contains good instructions on using Corel Draw Essentials for producing bitmap (raster) pictures, and Autosketch for producing CAD (vector) drawings. I use Autosketch myself for most 2D drawings so I concur that it is a good program when beginning to learn CAD. He also covers converting a bitmap image to a vector image using software (DeskCNC) and milling the drawings in a block of wood. The only quibble I have here is that I use Autosketch for most text engraving as it has a great text to polyline conversion, instead of using a bitmap program to do my text drawing. Again, if you don't know what I'm talking about, this is the book for you!
After learning how to draw, trace and draft the parts we want to make, he moves on to CAM programs, which take a vector drawing and produce the G-codes that a control program requires to run the machine axis. The lessons revolve around one particular CAM program, DeskCNC, so while the concepts will extend to other CAM programs, the actual practice is only relevant to those planning on using DeskCNC. He covers how to mill the various parts that were drawn in the previous chapters, which is great for showing the procedures and steps involved in turning a drawing into G-code. If this still sounds like a foreign language to you, then need I say it, you need this book.
So who should buy this book? Anyone who doesn't understand a word in my review but who also wants to get into the exciting world of CNC machining. Also if you are considering using Autosketch or DeskCNC, it is a good primer in the use of the software. If you are already making chips with your CNC mill, chances are you don't need to buy this book (and instead would be better served by a text such as the "CNC Programming Handbook"). If you want to teach someone to use a CNC mill, starting at square one (coincidentally also the name of the publishers of this book) it is the only book available that will get a complete neophyte started.
You can order the book from Square 1 electronics