Bought a used Shapeoko 3. What now?

I picked up a basic S3 the other day. I originally wanted to jump in with a bigger one of course but this came up and I figure I can probably sell it for what I paid so I thought I’d learn on the smaller machine.

So my questions are (the first of many to come I’m sure) is there anyway to date the machine I bought? Chap said he bought it last summer.

It came assembled but is there anything I should check for quickly? I downloaded the assembly manual but I’d rather not disassemble and reassemble when there’s not a problem to begin with.

So far all I’ve done is the hello world sharpie thing.

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The single most common thing that seems to cause people problems that I see are that the set screws in the rollers and pulleys are present and tight on the shaft flats.

Checking for square, adjusting that, compensating for belt stretch, and so forth can be a little tedious, but really doesn’t need to be done until you find it to be a problem. After moving the machine, it’s likely a little out of square. If it’s not causing visible problems with the projects you’re trying to do (and you’ll know when it does) then I wouldn’t worry too much about it.


Maybe start with cutting a circle to make sure x and y are appropriately calibrated before you cut anything in expensive stock? Then of course there are the diamond and square parts of the test perhaps a little later?

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The big revision was Summer 2016 — it changed/added:

Things to check:

If you have any difficulties, please let us know at and we’ll do our best to help out — just let us know clearly the status of your machine and what you want and why.

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Just put some safety glasses on and cut something!


Thanks for the replies. I have the homing switches and the wider belts so presumably it would be a relatively recent machine.

I’d consider myself a pretty solid woodworker but finding getting started with this thing intimidating.

Welcome Marc.
I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’m a long time woodworker joining the maker world. A couple years ago, when I purchased my Shapeoko 3, serial #1212, I had an idea of what CNC meant but not a clue as to how to use one. Not to mention the software learning curve.

My advice, start simple. Stick with Carbide Create and Carbide Motion. Buy 2 endmills, 1/8” and 1/4” flat carbide 2 flute endmills. Cut a few projects from the C3D tutorials, go from there.

Any questions, we’re here to help.

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While CNC can seem intimidating, they are fundamentally simple machines at the hobby level — the problem becomes one has to get every step of design, setup, machining perfect — suggest working things out step-by-step, systematically, with simple projects which cover one aspect of the machine at a time:

  • Hello World — this covers homing and setting zero
  • clamps — workholding and feeds and speeds
  • coasters — design and CAM

We’ve tried to get everything one might need to know covered at: — if there’s some tutorial which you want which isn’t there, let us know and we’ll try to work it up.

I bought mine a year ago and assembled it with students at my school (middle school technology class). Then I let it sit over the summer vacation. When this school year began I procrastinated (intimidated). It was put together but I needed to run tests and all that.

Monday one of my long-term students kept nagging me to get it up and running so I gave in (he was right). We did the sharpie “Hello World” test and then did a quick test cut.

My opinion is that when cutting for the first time, double check your numbers to make sure that the router bit doesn’t plunge too deep or move laterally to quickly.

Also, setting up the size of the stock, making sure you zero out each axis etc. is important.

I used really soft pine for test runs. But I’m just getting started as well. We’ve made about four signs using birch plywood, cutting letters about 3mm deep. It’s working out really well.

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