Intro & some Newb questions

Hi folks,

After doing a lot of researching and cleaning up the shop to make room, I now have a Shapoko XL somewhere in the production line. I’m looking forward to getting it together and making the usual newbie mistakes. Having said that, I have a few questions to help me get my shop set up to get started. None of these are really critical and I realize that some of them are based on opinion or what parts are available locally but I’d appreciate some input:

  1. Wasteboard/Spoilboard–I’m not quite sure whether these terms are interchangeable and whether they refer to the MDF board forming the bed of the machine or a board fastened to that (at the expense of some cutting depth in Z) that is sacrificial when cutting all the way through parts. Can someone please clarify?

  2. Hold downs-- There are countless ways to hold down material (hold down clamps, cam clamps, double-sided tape, masking tape and superglue etc.) All of the hold down types seem to rely on some form of hole pattern and screw insert in the bed of the machine or a board fastened to to the bed. A lot of people seem to use threaded inserts in these holes. It seems to me that T-nuts would present a better alternative as the clamping force would be distributed over a wider area. Am I missing something? Has anyone used nylon bolts in scrap areas of the stock to prevent accidental hits from destroying a cutter? Would that type of bolt have too much stretch for proper hold down use?

  3. I have an old laptop that I will be initially dedicating to running Carbide Motion. I suspect I’ll have to replace it some time in the near future as it barely meets the minimum requirements. Any thoughts on laptop vs. small form factor computer (Intel NUC or equivalent) vs. just an inexpensive PC that can be opened up and blown out for dust periodically?

I guess that is all for right now. I’m looking forward to getting more involved in this community once I have my machine.

1 - Wasteboard vice spoilboard is mostly interchangeable, but usually means:

  • wasteboard — MDF work area bundled with machine
  • spoilboard — additional board fastened on top of original, possibly slats placed in-between T-track

2 - quite a bit on this at: https://wiki.shapeoko.com/index.php/Workholding — yes, where possible I’ve used nylon bolts, they work fine and usually are stronger than the wood I’m cutting, but I have torqued a couple hard enough to stretch them so that they won’t thread properly.

3 - I prefer sealed / fanless tablets — affordable enough, just one part, and easily moved / adjusted at need. An Intel NUC running Carbide Motion 4 and accessed over the network interface would be quite nice though.

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I use a KangarooPC to run my sender software. Was Carbide Motion, now UGS. It’s more than adequate.

Hold downs: Well, yes, lots of people use t-track. Some use both t-track and other methods (I have a bed-of-holes wasteboard with inserts mounted to the top of a larger t-track wasteboard). I find I use the insert board almost all the time - it lets you do lower profile mounts than typical t-track clamps (think woodworking clamps you might use with them) - which ends up being a big deal because it’s easy to run the router into the knobs (and bodies…and bolts…) . Remember, there’s not a TON of force required to hold things down in general, it’s not a bridgeport.

Wasteboards/spoilboards - effectively, same thing. I’ve gotten to the point where I rarely -need- to cut into my wasteboard, and if I’m expecting to, I’ll “pack up” the material I’m cutting with 1/8" MDF shims under the clamps and leave a gap for cut through. This is a bigger deal when you make a more sophisticated “wasteboard” you don’t want…um…wasted (ie. a big aluminum bed-of-holes is expensive)

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Thanks, Will. I haven’t gotten all the way through the documentation, let alone the Wiki, yet. I appreciate the pointer.

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Thanks, Mike. That KangarooPC looks interesting. Was the atom CPU limiting at all when you were running Carbide Motion?

Not at all. It’s more than sufficient. I run that and itunes at the same time in the garage, never any issues. Recently put a big touch screen monitor on it, still working just fine, even runs windows 10 (though the onboard storage is really small!). It’s a totally obsolete system, but no fans to suck in dust in the garage. A NUC, any “micro” PC would be just fine. Some have been using cheap windows 10 tablets and been really happy with them. My experience wasn’t great, but I was being super cheap too ($65). All CM does is really send serial text to the GRBL board - it’s not very CPU intensive.

Thanks again. My experience with Windows tablets has not been great. I had one of the early Lenovo Miix 8 tablets and it basically fell apart on me. Having said that, I’m typing this on a Surface Go and so far so good. I may go looking for an older surface for this application once the budget has recovered from the Shapoko purchase.

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For a PC I’m using an Acer laptop that I bought new for the purpose of running my CNC. I use it for running Aspire as well as CM when I’m in the shop. I bought some dust filter mesh, opened up the case and used thin double sided tape to secure it over the intake vents. Then I got some external 2.5" square stick on filters to go over those same intake vents. I vacuum those filters off occasionally because dust does build up on them. A year of almost daily use and the inside is as clean as the day I bought it.

I used my Fujitsu Stylistic ST4121 for over a decade — would still be using it if a Pentium III running Windows XP were viable (or I could get Mac OS X 10.6.8 installed on it)

Thanks, Max & Will. I know that just about any kind of laptop will work for Carbide Motion and that’s what I’ll be using initially. I’ll be doing my CAD work on my main desktop machine (Ryzen 7 2700/16GB/GTX1080ti) that will run just about anything. As the shop is unheated, it tends to be too cold to sit there playing with design software. Because of the way that my shop is laid out, the only place to put a PC (laptop or otherwise) would be between the Shapoko and my router table or the Shapoko and my drill press. Neither is ideal due to sawdust and I really can’t afford to sacrifice the workspace. That’s why I’m looking at something I can mount either under the workbench or over the Shapoko. A monitor on a suitable arm and wireless keyboard/mouse would complete the setup.

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