Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

Just so you know, there are a lot of options for workholding, and one of them does not require drilling any holes: using painter’s tape and CA glue. Here’s a quick overview, for you to check if this could be of interest to get you up and running, and decide later to mill a fancy drilled wasteboard once you are familiar with the machine and the CNC process.


I have several clamps made with the Shapeoko XL (and even four from Carbide3d) but I have become fond of super glue and masking tape.

Excellent suggestion by Julien.


Thank you for the reply but I have seen a lot of post about that. People say it pulls up and ruins their projects and bits. Just looking to do it right to not mess up my machine. I have a 40watt laser as well and didnt have this much of a learning issue.

Those people don’t do it right, I’ve never had this happened to me, if anything I sometimes struggle to remove the piece after cutting :slight_smile:


Same experience for me. The only securing method I’m not as big a fan of now for certain jobs is double sided foam tape. When doing throughcuts the bit will grab the foam tape and spread adhesive over the stock, which is a pain to clean after it’s been heated and pushed into the wood grain. I haven’t had a part release from the wasteboard with any of these methods though.

FWIW, my decision for the next time that I have to revisit workholding is that I will have a 3 layer system:

  • structure/bottom: original MDF baseplate (sealed with spar urethane or lacquer) with some holes and threaded inserts installed from underneath for adding points to secure from above — a replacement of the original may be easily fashioned by sourcing a piece of MDF, removing the original, clamping it to the blank and cutting it to size and transferring the holes using transfer punches, drills, and countersinks.
  • workholding/middle: a threaded insert board no more larger than the working area by the reach of a clamp (but, see below) which has holes in that border area which match up with the threaded insert holes in the bottom layer to secure it (making it the same size as the working area may be simpler), a grid of holes in the working area field for threaded inserts installed for workholding, and additional holes with threaded inserts to secure — discussion of bootstrapping this at: Notes on rapid positions and wasteboard leveling
  • spoilboard/top: a sacrificial cutting material the size of the supported working area plus the diameter of the endmill used for surfacing along X, and endmill radius along Y, (with a matching radius at the back corner) which has holes in it to match the threaded insert board for workholding purposes (these may be drilled at need) and holes to secure it to the threaded insert middle layer. Wasteboard Plans with threads

and the middle layer will have new holes for threaded inserts drilled into it and the spoilboard from the top on an as-needed basis using a master file run on the machine — then removed, and the hole drilled through, then enlarged from the other side for the threaded insert — that way I know each insert will get used at least once.

When using super glue and tape I use a straight edge to position the workpiece over the blue tape on the spoilboard. You could use pencil marks as a guide as well - just don’t depend on your eyes.

Any glue squeeze out (not on the tape) will cause unhappiness when trying to remove the workpiece.


Good tip. I’ve been pretty careful with the glue as I don’t want the squeezeout issue either. The difficulty removing is probably more from the linear footage of tape I used (maybe too much?) which can make getting leverage to “pry” it off tricky.

Thank you all for the Tips and advice and your experiences with tape will be giving it a go for now.

Edit… seems less relevant now… I’ll leave it here though

I started with zero experience too, it will get easier just keep asking questions.

This is how I’d do it:

  • Jog your machine around to the furthest extents on all corners, mark the corners with a pencil and measure the size of the square, from memory its roughly 31’x31’ for the XXL. This is your ‘work area’
  • cut a piece of 3/4 or similar MDF to the measured size. Drill some holes and countersink them half the depth of the board and screw it to your bottom mdf boad/machine base. This is your ‘wasteboard’
  • in carbide create, draw a square the size of your wasteboard, and create a ‘pocket’ toolpath with the 1/4" flat endmill, maybe 0.010 deep.
  • zero your machine, ensuring it matches what you set in CC, and run the job. if the edges don’t quite clean up, grab a file or plane and smooth them down or make the square in CC slightly bigger if your machine hasn’t quite maxxed out its travels

when I got to this point, I spent a month or two using the slotted style clamps like Like these with a screw into the mdf wasteboard. this does rough up the wasteboard but I just sanded it between jobs and it stayed relatively flat while I learned how to use the machine. this will also give you time to decide if a threaded wasteboard is for you or you want to try t-track or something else. A lot of people (myself included) use the masking tape and CA trick with success. some jobs it’s great for, others clamps work better.

  • When you’re ready, use the wasteboard file above to drill holes for threaded inserts, watching for the screws you put in to hold the wasteboard down. the above file is just a bunch of circles. you can use that file or redraw them however you want. a google of ‘threaded wasteboard’ will give you some ideas

If you want to run with t-track, cut a bunch of strips of 3/4" MDF 3" wide (can be any size) then screw down the t-track to the base with the strips of mdf in between. make sure the t-track sits lower than the mdf so you can surface it. if you use the same with strips its easy just to cut a bunch and replace them
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I bought the 40w laser after the shapeoko… definitely simpler to get started on, once you get comfortable with the shapeoko (which you will) the laser and cnc really complement each other

Thank you all for the tips. I guess i really do have a lot to learn. Kind of hard to try and start to learn something you don’t have a clue about.

No worries - it is hard, intimidating, frustrating learning to use them, but I tell you, the reward is worth the effort, and the learning curve can go as far as you want it to, check out all the previous and current Contests to see some of the incredible work people have done - and challenge yourself to enter when you’re ready, it really pushes you to try new things

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yes it is very frustrating I’m starting to doubt my decision to buy it.

I did too, keep at it and things will start to ‘click’. Keep asking questions though, and have a really good read through the Ebook @Julien put together HERE It is something that should probably be sent out with the Shapeoko

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Please note that we have a standing offer — if you get stuck on a file or project let us know and we’ll either find a suitable tutorial which addresses the difficulty you are having, or work up a custom step-by-step tutorial to meet your needs.

The big thing is be patient and work through things systematically — start with something simple and build on each success and learn from each problem.

I appreciate everything i just feel like I’m wasting everyone’s time on stupid questions I should know the answers to. I’m not book smart person I am more of a hands on show me kinda person. When i bought my laser the man showed up at 7am and left at about 9pm and the next day i was running glasses and mugs.This i dont think ill get the hang of.

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We all started from zero at one point or another. Don’t forget that walking a way for a while is always an option! Ask away here, the community is a great resource.

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The official position is the only stupid question is the one which goes unasked.

Please, don’t worry about wasting anyone’s time — I get paid to help and answer questions — if you can run a laser it’s much the same, just with some additional steps — we’ll gladly walk you through them.

Have you worked through a couple of the tutorials at:

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can someone tell me why my CC looks different then all the tutorials i been watching.

The software has been updated since the original videos were done — the menu bar in particular has gone away in favour of more screen real estate (the functionality from it is all in the main menus now), and the Library is moving on-line:

EDIT: this has moved to:

and the newest version has switched UI toolkits, making for a more standard appearance.

If you’ll let us know what isn’t working for you, we’ll gladly do our best to work through this with you.