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Magnum Phoenix CNC Project (Help Wanted!)

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Magnum Phoenix CNC Project (Help Wanted!)

Buried deep beneath piles of rubble and old text books, two CNC machines lie hidden and forgotten in the corner of an abandoned shop class. But now, with help from the local community, Analy High School in Sebastopol, Cali. is working to reclaim this forgotten space and convert the building back into a place for learning and experimenting.

Back side of the Phoenix-EZ wood lathe

Leading the way is Instructor Casey Shea, who’s been working tirelessly on the Project: Make pilot program for the past year. Due to its success, Project: Make is moving to a bigger location where the program will have access to even more resources. A few weeks ago, Casey approached me with the idea of trying to get these old CNC machines back in working order. We met on Friday to dig around the mess and identify the make and model of each machine and see if we could stat them up. Without the original software we did not get very far. After doing some internet research, it seems that the company who manufactured these educational CNC machines went out a business a while back, and the original CAD/CAM software is a bit hard to use and a bit outdated.

The CNC router is a Phoenix-GS CAD/CAM model, and the lathe is the Phoenix-EZ wood lathe model. We are missing most of the instructions for both machines. So now, we are posing the question to you, MAKE readers. Does anyone here have any experience with these machines, or even better, own one? Have you updated the electronics or switched over to a different software? Ideally, we would like to configure the machines to be compatible with the Mach3 software and are willing to update the electronics if needed.

If you think you can help, please leave comments below. You can include links, images, wiring diagrams, anything that will help us get these machines running again. Thanks for reading.

20 thoughts on “Magnum Phoenix CNC Project (Help Wanted!)

  1. Christian Restifo (@restifo) says:

    You might want to check over on I bet someone there may know something.

    That said, personally, I’d rip out the electronics, install some newer stepper motor drivers (and maybe stepper motors, if necessary) and a control board, and go from there. You can get a cheap Chinese controller (based on the TB6550) for less than $100 and use EMC2 if you just want to get it up and running and test its capabilities. That’d be a lot easier than trying to use some old software from a defunct company.

  2. Steve Price says:

    I put a good amount of work into getting that CNC machine working about 5 years ago.

    At the time we were considering replacing the control systems with a more current and open system. The software and computer needed to even use the machine at this point would be nearly half the battle.

  3. ECA says:

    Wouldnt it be easier to replace the Control boards and Start over??
    unless they used proprietary HARDWARE that needs certain requirements to move the motors, you should have the resources.

  4. Siddhartha says:

    Those were great machines!!! The guy who made them is a crook named Bob who screwed over GM with some promises of machines and they didn’t work. The Baldor servos on them use fiber optics on the encoders which sometimes break, contact me and I can see about getting you a manual, I have a customer with 4 of the Magnum CNC’s and they have been running 80 hours a week for 15 years. Once you get motion going, its all down hill from there. DOS skills are needed with that controller, but once you set it up its bullet proof.

    1. floridagrandma1639 H. Byrd says:

      I have a Phoenix GS that came out of a local school and plan to resell it. Table size is approximately 21×21 and is in a vertical standup cabinet. You seem to be knowledgeable about these machines. Could you suggest a fair and reasonable price to ask for it. I would also like to have your e-mail address in case I have any other questions. Your comments on this site were helpful. Jim

      1. Mike says:

        The last 2 I got I paid $600.00 each for them in Florida.

  5. bruce shapiro says:

    I agree with previous comments advising new motor drives and control (and motors if they are not standard stepper or servo). I have loads of these components and am located in Sebastopol. I’m out of town until Sept., but would be glad to help with this if you haven’t gotten these going by then.

    1. Nick Raymond says:

      Thanks Bruce, that would be great. The shop is locked up for the time being, but I hope to have access to the machines within the next month. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

  6. mark says:

    Forget Mach. Go with LinuxCNC (formerly EMC2). It’s free, and far more flexible. You’ll be able to.use the machine to teach the basics of control theory with LinuxCNC – it comes with a built-in software oscilloscope.

    By the way, it’s almost impossible to comment on your blog from a smartphone because of the retarded facebook pop up that cannot be closed and has to be visible (if my keyboard is open, it slides up until 90% of the screen is covered)

    1. Nick Raymond says:

      I’ve used a bit of EMC2, not being very familiar with Linux I found the interface a bit tricky at frist. Sounds like it might be worth while to invest a little more time and effort and learn how to use the system (and its FREE!!!). At the time, I was also running the Mach3 trial version and for whatever reason found it to be more intuitive. There are also high quality online video tutorials and lots of info on the forums about fixing common errors that helped me setup my machine at home. Thanks for the advice-

  7. Jeffrey Morris says:

    I have the Magnum Phoenix-GS CNC Router that my wood shop teachers found in a school last year. The wood shop is at the program for mentally handicapped people. After trying to use the CNC router with DOS programs, I forgot about it until a few days ago when one of my shop teachers got me a breakout board and three stepper motor drivers from Probotix. I got the CNC router working with Mach3 program. Is there a wiring diagram for the CNC router?

    1. Nick Raymond says:

      Hi Jeffery, I do not have any wiring diagrams but it sounds like I might be able to source an old manual from someone. If I had a wiring diagram I would be in a lot better shape, but I am interested in learning more about your own conversion. I am very familiar with the Probotix hardware and was considering them as a potential source for replacing the electronics on the router. Can you share more details?

      1. Jeffrey Morris says:

        How to update the electronics on Magnum Phoenix CNC Router
        Buy the following items from Probotix online store (
        PBX-RF Breakout Board
        Three MondoStep 7.8 Bi-Polar Stepper Motor Drivers
        Three 10-pin IDC cables
        Four fuse holders
        Three heavy-duty limit switches with levers
        Hardware Mounting Kit
        1.5in Latching Emergency E-stop Switch
        Buy the following items from Radio Shack store (
        #6 Insulated Spade Terminals (16-Pack) – 2 or 3 packs
        Female Crimp-On Quick Disconnects (10-Pack) – 2 or 3 packs
        22-18 Gauge Insulated Crimp-On Butt Connector (16-Pack) – 2 or 3 packs
        4-40 Hex Nuts (30-Pack) – 1 pack
        3.0A 250V 5x20mm Fast-Acting Glass Fuse (4-Pack) – 1 pack
        5.0A 250V 5x20mm Fast-Acting Glass Fuse (4-Pack) – 1 pack
        8″ Nylon Wire Ties (30-Pack) – 1 or 2 packs
        1 or 2 packs of wire clips with screw holes
        12-Position European-Style Mini Terminal Strip – 1 pack
        One 100’ spool of 18-gauge speaker wire
        Buy the following items from Home Depot or Lowe’s store:
        2’ X 4’ piece of ½” plwood
        2’ X 4’ piece of ¾” plywwod
        1X2 pine board
        One small box of 1” flathead wood screws
        One small box of 1-1/2” flathead wood screws
        One small box of 1” roundhead self-tapping screws
        One pack of 4-40 1-1/2” roundhead screws and nuts
        One pack of 8-32 1-1/2” flathead screws and nuts
        3/8-16 1-1/2” bolts
        Cabinet knob
        #4, #8, and 3/8” Washers
        Buy the following items from Peachtree Woodworking Supply store (
        Two pieces of 24” T-Track – #1018
        Two pieces of 48” Track – #1019
        4 pieces of small hold-down – #1163
        8 pieces of knobs – #979
        Buy the following items from Grainger store (
        Item # 4X208 3PST Toggle Switch
        Buy the following items from any computer store:
        Parallel Port cable – Male DB25 to Male DB25
        USB cable with Male Type A and Male Type B connectors.
        Numeric Keypad that plugs into USB port.
        Buy from Artsoft online store (
        Mach3 Software.
        Computer must have 5-volt parallel port and be running 32-bit version of Windows XP, Vista, or 7.
        Carefully remove gasket from around the rear window.
        Pull out nails holding the clear plastic in place.
        Have someone at the back of the machine to catch the clear plastic as you push the clear plastic out of the window using 1X2 pine wood at the front of the machine.
        Cut three 24” pieces of 1X2 pine wood to form a “U” shaped frame. The inside edges of the frame should be even with the window cut-out and the side pieces should be tall enough to hold the clear plastic after it is raised.
        Rout or cut the slots on one edge of the 1X2 wood to hold the clear plastic.
        Make a 3” piece from 1X2 wood to hold clear plastic after it is raised.
        Attach the piece to 6” piece of wood that you can turn it. Attach the 6” piece of wood to the machine at the top of the window.
        Drill a hole in the clear plastic for a knob and attach the knob to the clear plastic.
        Have someone hold the control panel as you remove the control panel from the machine and support it on something. Label the stepper motor cables. Disconnect the wires from switches, relays, terminal strips, power supply, control panel, and old electronics. Save the wires and clips. Remove the old electronics, relays, and vacuum gauge if it is mounted next to the table. Save the screws. Remove the fuses from the old electronics and save them.
        Cut a 12” by 14” piece from ½” plywood.
        Mount the breakout board, stepper motor drivers, and fuse holders on the plywood.
        Download and print out the wiring diagram for X3 Conversion Kit from Probotix website.
        Wire the breakout board, stepper motors, fuse holders, and power supply.
        Replace the original E-Stop switch with new one.
        Connect the E-Stop switch to the breakout board.
        Wire one stepper motor to one driver at a time. Black and White wires are connected to A+ and A- terminals on the stepper motor drivers. Green and Red wires are connected to B+ and B- terminals on the stepper motor drivers.
        Connect the black wires from the big fuses to the 3PST toggle switch.
        Connect the black wire from the big fuse marked “Main 30A” to the terminal strip marked “Neutral”. Connect the ground and white wires to terminal strips marked “Ground” and “Hot”.
        Connect the power cord with the female plug to the terminal strips. Plug into the outlet on the steel wall inside the machine.
        Connect the capacitor between the hot and neutral terminal strips.
        Connect the black wire from the big fuse marked “Motor 15A” to rocker switch marked “Vacuum Hold-down” using the terminal that’s facing the machine. Connect a wire from middle terminal on the switch to neutral terminal strip.
        Connect the black wire from the big fuse marked “Vac 15A” to rocker switch marked “Dust Extractor” using the terminal that’s facing the machine. Connect a wire from middle terminal on the switch to neutral terminal strip.
        Remove the cover from the electrical box to which the 30A power cord is connected.
        Cut the wires going to the vacuum hold-down solenoid switch.
        Install the cover on the electrical box.
        Set the DIP switches labeled SW1 – SW8 on the stepper motor drivers;
        OFF, OFF, ON, OFF, ON, OFF, ON, ON
        Cut slots on side of machine and a steel wall for USB cable and parallel port cable.
        Connect the USB cable and parallel port cable between the computer and the breakout board.
        Connect the numeric keypad to the computer.
        Install Mach3 software on the computer.
        Go through the configuration of Mach3 software.
        In Motor Tuning Dialog, set “Steps Per” to 8000, “Velocity” to 60, “Acceleration” to 4, “Step Pulse” to 1, and “Dir Pulse” to 1.
        Check the machine very carefully before plugging it into the 30A circuit.
        Reset E-Stop in Mach3 and the green box around the “Reset” button should stop flashing.
        Hit the E-Stop switch on the machine and the green box around the “Reset” button should start flashing.
        Use the keypad to move the X-Axis, Y-Axis, and Z-Axis. They should move in correct directions. If not, change “Dir LowActive” setting. If a wrong axis moves, switch wires from stepper motors between stepper motor drivers by pulling up on the green terminal blocks and plugging them into correct stepper motor drivers.
        If everything works fine, unplug the machine from the 30A circuit.
        If something goes wrong, fix the problem.
        Fasten limit switches on pieces of ½” plywood using 4-40 screws and nuts. Cut the ends of the screws off. Install limit switches on the machine, using spacers if necessary. When installing Z-Axis limit switch, make sure that the self-tapping screws don’t hit the lead screw. Grind the tips off the screws if necessary. Use the terminal strip for the ground wires.
        Plug the machine into the 30A circuit and test limit switches. Click on “Ref All Home” button in Mach3 and the machine should put the router bit at X=0, Y=0, and Z=0.
        If everything works fine, unplug the machine from the 30A circuit.
        If something goes wrong, fix the problem.
        Install the control panel on the machine.
        Cut the 48” T-track to 3 feet and install them on the table on both sides, making sure that the ends of the T-Track extend 1-1/2” from the front edge of the table. Cut 6 pieces of ¾” plywood that is 6” X 3-1/2”. Glue and nail two pieces together. Glue and screw the part to another piece so that it forms an “L” shape. Fasten the “L” pieces to the base of the table. Screw the T-Track to the “L” pieces.
        Cut a 12” X 22-1/2” piece from ½” plywood and fasten to the table and “L” pieces.
        Cut two pieces of ¾” plywood that is 24” x 2”. Mark and drill holes for T-Track bolts. Install 24” T-Track on the plywood using screws and nuts. Cut the ends of the screws off. Attach the plywood with T-Track to the T-Tracks that are fastened to the table with T-bolts and knobs. Attach small hold-downs on T-Tracks attached to plywood with T-bolts and knobs. Use the keypad to move the X-axis, Y-Axis, and Z-Axis and make sure that parts of the machine don’t hit the knobs and hold-downs.
        Cut a notch from a 2” piece of a 1X2 wood so that the notch fits the router motor mount. Drill a hole in a wrench that came with the router and a pilot hole in the piece of wood. Screw the wrench to the piece of wood so that the piece of wood holds the wrench in place and keeps the spindle from turning when you change router bits.

        1. David Nutty says:

          Jeffrey … you mention a capacitor connecting hot & neutral terminal strip but i don’t see it in the part list … capacitor spec?

          1. jeffrey morris says:

            The machine already has the capacitor hot and neutral strips. It’s the large brown disk-like object with two wires.

  8. David Nutty says:

    Nick … I can help with the CNC rebuild. Went by the space during painting and saw CNC machines. I am helping with HP plotter(s) revival and can work on cnc router (& lathe) in some form. Nice detail above from Jeffrey M – thanx.

  9. MrBDeye says:

    Nick, Its not worth time invested to get the old DOS software running. Believe me, It is limited to only 1000 lines of G-code so you’ll never be able to turn anything with detail. Do what I did. Upgrade to all new electronics and use Mach3 software. You will then have a very nice lathe. I have a matching pair Phoenix 421 CNC Router, and the Phoenix EZ lathe. Both are fantastic machines once retrofitted.

    1. John Kapps says:

      andy where did you purchase the retrofit kit? I purchased a cnc lathe from a high school and i am dead in the water. any help would be appreciated

  10. Camron Steele says:

    I have the same CNC Router. True the original software is limited but g-code can be imported from programs like aspire to make awesome details.

  11. Camron Steele says:

    I run Velocity 1.41 and it will run 100000s of thousands of lines of g-code imported from aspire

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