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Shapeooko CNC Tutorial

Author: <Diego Rodriguez> Email:

Date: Last modified <02/03/21>
Keywords: <woodshop, do it yourself, apron, tools, sewing>

The photo above show's the lab Shapeoko XXL CNC machine, along with all of it's required components. Those components include clamps (three wood boards, three bolts, and three plastic sliders), as well as the NUC which is used to run the machine.

Motivation and Audience

The purpose of this tutorial is to help lab members learn and be able to operate the lab's CNC router, to use in the creation of their own wood projects. This tutorial is a general how to, for the CNC machine and there is not a specific project that will be created at the end of the tutorial. In the tutorial it is assumed that the reader has the experience or interest in the following:

SVG File Creation

Introduction of the CNC machine is the tutorial one may use in order to be more familiar and learn the CNC machine (tutorials which will not be shown here.)

* Understanding the Different Kind of End Mills e.g. video
* What is a Touch Probe and How it Works e.g. video

The remainder of the tutorial is presented as follows:

Parts List
Getting Familiar with the CNC (Hello World)
File Design 
Uploading File and Cutting 
Final Words

Parts Lists

To complete this tutorial, you will need the items listed below:

  1. Shapeoko XXL In DASL
  2. Carbide 3D Touch Probe In DASL
  3. Carbide Create (Software) In DASL
  4. Carbide Motion (Software) In DASL
  5. 1/4 in. End Mill (For Router) In DASL
  6. Caliper/MeterStick/Ruler In DASL
  7. NUC (Computer) In DASL, but is optional

Getting Familiar with CNC Machine

*The software (Carbide Motion) provided by the company Carbide 3D can be found on their website and free to download. This is the software that will be used to home and zero, control, and run the CNC machine. The link for the file used in this tutorial is the following: *

Step 1: Loading File

Upon loading Carbide Motion software the first thing that will be required is to load the desired .nc file. DASL logo .nc file will be used for this step. Once the file is loaded the main screen should change and the file name will be displayed.

Step 2: Jogging the Machine

On the upper green tab there is an option which reads ‘jog’ this is the required next step in the Carbide Motion software. Once inside the jog tab homing of the machine is required, it is important to ensure that the work space is clear to avoid any collisions of the router head. After the machine is homed the main screen as can be seen above. These buttons allow us to control and move the router head in the x,y, and z direction. The buttons on the right which read ‘increment’ allows us to choose the speed of the router head.

Step 3: Zeroing the Machine

Place a piece of paper somewhere on the work space ensuring that it is on a hard surface. As can be seen above for this set up a sharpie is taped to the head of the router, the sharpie must hang below the end mill, the end mill can also be removed for this process but leaving it on is also fine. First the z direction will be zeroed, move the router head so it is somewhere above our piece of paper, move the head down until the tip of the sharpie is just barely touching the paper. Now on the bottom of the jog menu there is a button that reads ‘set zero’ this will open up a new menu this can also be seen above. Once in this menu the button ‘zero z’ must be pressed, this button alone and nothing else. Next the done button must be pressed to go back to the previous menu. Move the router up so it is no longer touching the paper since the zero value will not affect anything. Now the x and y directions must be zeroed. Move the router head so it is above the lower left corner of the paper; this will be the zero position. Going back to the set zero menu now the buttons ‘zero x’ and ‘zero y’ will be pressed, but not the ‘zero z’ as this value was already stored previously.

Step 4: Running the Machine

Now that the machine is zero we can now begin the machine. In the jog menu there is a button that reads ‘Done’, once pressed, the tab that reads ‘run’, next to the previous jog tab, must be pressed. The menu will once again change, this menu gives us the option to start, stop and pause the machine. To start press ‘start’ usually this button must be pressed 2-3 times to actually start running. The completed design can be seen in the picture below. The sharpie used had a very fine point and was not adequate for this project a normal size sharpie should be better. Also ensure that the sharpie is tightly fastened so it does not move out of alignment while it is running.

File Design

*The software (Carbide Create) provided by the company Carbide 3D can be found on their website and free to download. This is the software that will be used to create the g-code for the Shapeoko CNC. The .nc file used in this step can not be linked as this would depedent on the thickness and size of the wood board used but the svg file will be attached to the following link: The purpose of this tutorial is to help lab members learn and be able to operate the lab's CNC router, to use in the creation of their own wood projects. The apron created in this tutorial is sized in a way that allows for universal use for almost all body types. This tutorial assumes that the reader has the experience or interest in the following:*

Step 1: Job Setup

Once inside the Carbide Create software, there are several buttons on the left hand side that are used to create/upload an svg file. It can also be seen that in the center of the screen there is a square with grids inside of it. This is our workspace and it depicts our wood board. Before getting started our first step is to properly dimension our workspace so it matches with our board. On The left upper there is a button with a gear that reads 'Job Setup'.

After the button is clicked the contents on the left hand corner should change as can be seen above. The first value that must be changed is the stock size. The length of the board that is being used will be the x value, with the width being the y value. Measuring tape is helpful for this step as the stock units for the software are inches but can also be changed so any measuring tool will work. Next the stock thickness value must be changed, all this simply means is to measure the thickness of our board. Calipers are recommended for this step in order to have more accurate measurements. After the material which will be cut must be selected, for this tutorial wood will be used. Below there is an option to select the machine that is being used, in DASL our CNC is the Shapeoko XXL this model must be selected. Finally the retract height must be selected, this value is how far up in the z direction the router will move when the router is travelling during cutting. The higher the value the further it will be from the base of the board. This value must be adjusted because the higher it goes in the z the job will take longer since the router head travels quite slow in the z direction. Ensure that this value is not too low while it will reduce cutting time. It can be dangerous as the endmill can hit the clamps used to hold the board or any other pultruding piece on the work space. In this tutorial the retract height value will be set at 0.400 in.

Step 2: Importing/CreatingSVG

Next is to upload the SVG File that will be used. In the left hand side there is an import tab, this allows for saved svg files to be uploaded. Once the file is selected it will appear on the workspace, this can be dragged into the desired space. It is important to keep in mind that where the part is located in the work space that is where it will be in the actual CNC space. In Carbide Create you can also create your own part but the tools are very limited; the options can be seen to the left of the workspace.

Step 3: Creating a Tool Path

Currently we are in the design phase, by now we should be happy with our part and where in the board it will cut. Now we have to create a toolpath for the router to follow. The toolpath tab is on the top left next to the design tab. This will change the window on the left to the toolpath window as seen in the picture above. They are a few options for toolpaths such as contour, carve, pocket, texture etc. For this tutorial we will be using the contour tab, contour is just defined as an outline of a curve so the router will follow all of the curves that are in our svg files and that is where the cutting will take place. Click the contour tab and the menu on the left hand side will once again change and will appear with new options. This can be seen in the picture above.

First thing that must be edited while in the contour tab is the type of end mill that will be used to cut with. If the edit tab is selected a pop up with a list options will appear, the material that is being cut must first be selected then the type of end mill that is attached to the router of the CNC. Currently attached to the the lab’s CNC router is #201 ¼ inch end mill. This end mill is great for contouring lines, but for other jobs which require intricate details such as small curves or text other bits will be required, the video linked at the beginning of this tutorial is great to know which bits are for the project being worked on. Next setting is the cutting depth there is two values that must be inputted for this the start depth and the max depth, for both of these the best thing to do is to select stock top and stock bottom as we have already inputted this values in the job setup menu. Next setting that must be changed is the offset of the lines. Inside offset places the end mill inside of our created/exported lines this will mean that the part will be smaller than our original dimensions. No offset, places the endmill exactly on our created/exported lines, due to the diameter this will also cut the part smaller than the original dimensions. Outside offset solves this issue by placing the router outside of the created/imported lines and it cuts along the outer edge of the part. Depending on the part the offset must be adjusted to give the best results while cutting. For this tutorial the tab function can be ignored.

For the piece that is being cut in this tutorial, two toolpaths are required, one for the outer edge with an outside offset and the cutting depth will be the same as the thickness of the board (stock bottom). For the second tool path the inner two lines will be selected; they will also have an outside offset as this will make sure a groove is cut out, the cutting depth for this toolpath is set to half the thickness of the board being cut.

Step 4: Creating the G-Code

Finally the last step is to save the g-code so it can be transferred to the Carbide Motion software. After finishing creating all the toolpaths, the previous menu on the left hand side should appear. There is a tab that is labeled simulation as can be seen above. If the button that reads, ‘show simulation’ is pressed it allows us to see how the part will look like on our material and how it will be cut as well. Once happy with the created toolpaths and how it is shown on simulation press save g-code this will save our file as a .nc file, and this will be the final step for this software.

Uploading File and Cutting

Step 1: Uploading the File

In order to upload the newly created .nc file, the same steps must be followed as the hello world portion of this tutorial. The only difference for cutting is how the machine will be zeroed, this will further be explained later.

Step 2: Clamping

Before beginning to cut it is important to ensure that the board being used is properly clamped to the CNC workspace this can seen above. Sometimes the clamps that are in the lab take some adjusting in order to ensure that the board will not move. Test out the clamps by trying to move the board with your hands, be rough as it is important to make sure the board will not slide with the force of the end mill as these can mess up the entire project.

Step 3: Zeroing the Machine

Previously in this tutorial the method to zero out the x, y, and z directions was discussed. There is another way to zero the machine that is much faster and more efficient. This method is using the touch probe, the instrument can be seen above, the video linked at the beginning of this tutorial does a great job at explaining how to use the touch probe. If the probe is not available it is perfectly fine to zero the machine the same that it was discussed previously.

Step 4: Cutting

Now in order to run the machine, the same process as the hello world section of this tutorial will be followed, but now the only difference is we have to turn on the router head. There is a switch on the router which turns it on. Now the machine can be started and it will begin cutting.

Final Words

In this tutorial the base for an phone stand was created using the Shapeoko CNC cutter. The stick figure portion was created using the lab's laser cutter, the time that this tutorial was created the end mill required to create such a piece is not available. Learning how to use the CNC is a very important skill to learn as it allows us to rapidly prototype a part to test out it's dimensions. Homing, zeroing, and converting vector files to g-code those are skills that can be carried over to 3D printing and laser cutter so the CNC is a great way to start.

woodshop_cnc.txt · Last modified: 2021/10/11 19:13 by drodriguez