Brand new to cnc and looking to buy

Hello all.

I am brand new to cnc. I want to become a hobbyist in the winter months as I do not work during the winter and need something to occupy my time. Over the last week or two, I have been researching a lot. I am torn between the Shapeoko xxl or the x carve.

Now this is not meant to be a versus post as I have searched both site forums and read a lot. I am leaning towards the SO3, which is why I am simply posting here to ask a couple of questions regarding more of the cnc as a whole than machine specific.

I guess my main question is how do you guys hold projects in place with the SO3 right out of the box. I see the x carve comes with a complete clamp kit. Again, I am absolutely brand new to this and I may ask some dumb questions. I apologize in advance.

First off, if considering the Shapeoko vs. X-Carve please see:

The workholding is something of a chicken–egg issue.

Options are:

I’ve documented bootstrapping workholding w/ just the machine and minimal tools twice now:


and we have some tutorials on this at:


If you have any difficulties with this (or any other file or project), please contact us at or post here and we’ll do our best to work through this with you.


Hi Chris,

In addition to Will’s answer there is also a section on workholding in the Shapeoko ebook, which should give you an overview of typical workholding options.

One thing that is not immediately obvious, is that top clamping options tend to get in the way of the cutting, while side clamping provides clearance of the whole top surface of the material. See those C3D side clamps for example


Thank you for the quick reply. I have visited and read the article linked on more than one occasion. I like it.

I have also visited and looked at both of those tutorials. Through all my random reading and research, I have come across More than one person that has had skepticism on drilling into the original wasteboard. Is there anything I truly should be concerned about by doing that? If that’s the route I choose to go.

My preference is that one minimize drilling into the MDF baseplate — instead use a 3 layer system:

  • bottom: original MDF baseplate (sealed with spar urethane or lacquer) with some holes and threaded inserts installed from underneath for adding threaded inserts to secure
  • middle: a threaded insert board larger than the working area by the reach of a clamp which has holes in that border area which match up with the threaded insert holes in the bottom layer to secure it, a grid of holes in the working area field for threaded inserts installed for workholding, and additional holes with threaded inserts to secure
  • top: a spoilboard 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

I’m putting in an order for:

and once those arrive will finish up my tutorial — the balance of it should be obvious though — unfortunately, the order is supposed to take up to 6 weeks. I’ll probably not be able to wait that long and will just get some steel screws locally.


after you mill through clamps a few times… for more art-like things one goes to either double sided tape or blue tape+superglue

for heavy duty metal milling sure I’d use clamps. But for most things tape holds enough and simplifies a lot of things (no more tabs etc)


I will most definitely be on the look out for that tutorial. I am a few weeks out from pushing that buy button. But, the research has me antsy to get started.

@Ckaminski - As you can see the support and enthusiasm on this forum is second-to-none and that continues after purchase with Carbide3D. I know both machines have improvements since I bought my XXL, but the rapid response you’ll find with this group once you have the machine in your shop will be priceless. Pretty obvious which way I’m pushing, eh :wink:


Lol. I’m not looking to be pushed any certain way. And I wasn’t trying to create a versus thread. I posted on this forum because I am leaning this way more than the other. I am quite eager to push the buy button will be holding off a couple of weeks.


You can get started now by drawing up designs, researching feeds and speeds for materials, appropriate tooling:

and then try previewing the design.


That is an awesome guide! Thank you for that.

Also, is there a recommendation of other tools that I should be amassing?

Which tools you get depends on what sort of work you wish to be doing.

  • for additional endmills (one is included with the machine, but they’re consumables: ) If one is starting with just a 1/4" collet:
    • three 2-flute 1/4" straight endmills (such as the #201 endmills from Carbide 3D — one will be included with the machine, a pack of two will fill one out with: 1 for initial experimentation/roughing, 1 for finishing passes, and 1 spare
    • two 2-flute 1/4" ball end endmills (such as the #202 endmills from Carbide 3D) — if one wishes to do 3D modeling or cut parts which have rounded profiles along the bottom (often a good idea in woodworking for increased strength)
    • two 90 degree V-bits such as the #301 from Carbide 3D — if one wishes to do V-carving or cut joints which use this angle
  • If you wish to do small-scale or precision work you may want a 1/8" precision collet (we sell one for the Carbide Compact Router (also works for the Makita): — note that it is now bundled with Carbide Compact Routers sold directly by Carbide 3D):
    • five 2-flute 1/8" straight endmills (such as the #102 endmills from Carbide 3D
    • two 2-flute 1/8" ball end endmills (such as the #101 .125" Ball Cutters from Carbide 3D)
    • two smaller straight endmills (say 2 mm or so) (such as the #112 0.0625" endmills from Carbide 3D)
  • Additions:
    • V-carving bits (say 30 and 60 degrees) — these are excellent if doing text
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I had planned on grabbing the two different sign making bit kits and starter pack bit kit. But I was referring to as other tools. As in calipers, other drills, etc.

I will probably start off pretty basic just making signs and letters. And then get more advanced as I get into it more. I am a complete beginner but always jump in deep with two feet once I make a decision.

For other tools, there’s a list on the FAQ:


I would consider the following tools/supplies:

  • A decent set of calipers
  • Dust collection setup - shop vacuum with dust separator or a dust collector
  • Some sort of E-Stop setup - A power strip with both the router and controller plugged into it would be a good start

Thank you all for the replies. I enjoy learning and preparing for my adventure into the cnc world.

(then you might be interested in the (free) ebook)


As others have said,

  • Read the e-book, it’s a great intro (whichever machine you end up with)
  • Workholding, clamps etc. have as many variations as there are people using them, don’t assume any particular kit will work for you or your jobs, you’ll start with some stuff, decide what you like about it and add / change as you wish
  • Don’t buy too much extra for your first step, get the machine, a dust extractor and E-Stop and a few basic cutters, then make some things with it to find out what you like doing and how you want to do it
  • Buy the extra stuff as you need it, once you have more of an idea of what you need and how you want to work

The original question seemed to be which machine to buy. 2 years ago the question would have been a toss up. Both are belt driven, similar size etc…

However today the Shapeoko is way ahead with BitSetter, BitZero and BitRunner the Shapeoko has pulled out ahead. The ability for the automation on the Shapeoko has left xcarve in the dust. Both have a Pro version machine but the Shapeoko is still ahead.

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I was pretty set on leaning towards the SO3. Wasn’t trying to make it that kind of thread. My main question was “work holding” now that I know that term. The x carve kit has a clamp kit and was just trying to find out what the options where with the SO3. And now that I have posted here. The support is great. So I’m pretty sure I’m convinced on this buy.

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