Benefits of Preventative Maintenance on Shapeoko XXL

Back in my days as a Field Engineer we got a monthly list of machines that needed Preventative Maintenance (PM) done. It was a chore to get them done and customers never wanted to give up their machines for the PM. But data analysis showed that machines that got quarterly PM had fewer service calls and less down time.

The same is true of your Shapeoko if you regularly check over your v wheels and your belt tensions. I have upgraded to the HDZ so the Z belt is no longer on my list but they still have v wheels to check and the X&Y belts and v wheels need checking.

Today I had a new project to start so I decided to go around and check my v wheels and belt tensions. The left front lower v wheel was not touching and needed adjusting. The rest were good but had some built up saw dust on the v wheels. I have a stiff nylon brush that I use to clean the v wheels and the white 3M non woven sanding pad (fine) to run over the rails to get any debris that gets impacted on them.

So if you are going to start a major project it would be wise to check your machine over before starting. As Ben Franklin is credited with saying “A stitch in time, saves nine”. There will always be sudden breakages but a lot of things can be headed off with a little preventative maintenance.

Along with the Shapeoko are your bits. There are several commercial blade and bit cleaners available. I use one from and it works pretty well. Using my stiff nylon brush and letting dirty bits soak a little bit makes them clean. Recently I discovered that my 90 degree vee bit had a broken tip. So if you have a loupe (hand held magnifier) you should inspect your bits and clean them up. The bits will cut better and during your inspection you can feel the cutting edges of your bits. Carbide is very strong but it does wear out. If you feel the cutting edges and they dont feel sharp you should consider replacing them. You should be able to get hundreds of feet of cutting out a bit but if you overheat it or plunge it too fast you can dull the bits prematurely. Running into a clamp should give you pause before reusing the bit that hit the clamp. Inspect it well and if there are any chips or dings toss it and get a new one. Also take the bit and roll it on a flat table top and make sure there is not a slight bend in the bit.

I bought a maintenance kit over a year ago and it was $99.00 US. The same kit is now $69.00 and has steel core belts. So get one ahead of time so when your machines breaks, and it will, you can fix it quickly and get back to machining.

Stay Calm and Machine On


Is there a certain number of hours for this and/or a standardized checklist? We do PMs a bunch in my line of work, but we have a piece of paper. I was wondering if anyone made something like that for the SO3. Also if there is a checklist template for long jobs, like what to check, when to reposition something, when to change a bit?

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We have a checklist:


Thanks, I have checked that one out! I was looking for something like a “pre-production checklist.” Something really procedural like “clear bed”, “insert collet”, “fixture material”, “don eye pro”. Seems silly, I know, but all the mistakes I’ve made so far were missing really simple steps I missed due to the excitement of wanting to make something I spent time designing. If its not a thing maybe I will try to make one and share it once I learn a bit more. That and a regular PM cycle, such as “After every 5 hours of milling re-check v wheels, belt tightness, etc.” “Every 10 hours re-check gantry squareness, Z tram, etc.” “After 50 hours, complete teardown, cleaning, re-tension all belts, etc.” “post crash check the following prior to running…” and then maybe an hours log to help facilitate the tracking.

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I believe that @Julien has been working on something along those lines in his book:

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There are indeed bits and pieces about troubleshooting and maintenance in that chapter:

but I realize I have not mentioned any typical time-between-checks in there, it could be a useful addition if you guys want to comment on how often you go and check your machine preventively.


This looks like a lot of great info! I’ll check it out.

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