Machining STEEL in the Shapeoko 3 (Simple Part)

The director at JPL was known for saying, it’s not enough to just “Think outside of the Box, sometimes you need to think, in front of the box. That statement was a perfect for today’s activity. I have (about) 20 steel parts and many are very simple to make for this Power Hacksaw project, but the information on machining steel is fairly limited, so I picked one of the easiest parts to help me on my learning curve. I needed a piece of 4” x 2" x 1/8" steel tubing, but my supplier only stocks 4" x 3" x 1/8" so I planed on machining a 1.0" strip out of the tube, and then welding it back together.

Problem number 1

It DOESN’T fit on the machine! The Z axis is all the way up and the Spindle Nut is resting on the part.

Solution: Think in Front of the Box

It will fit out here, and I have plenty of Y-Axis travel, so let’s do it.

The Setup

Two down force clamps, and two C-clamps to hold the machine down to my part.

It Going to be Hot

I pick up a low budget spray mister, and mounted it to the Motor plate. (and TWO trips to Home Depot)

Programmed a simple 13" x 1" (Inside slot) program in Carbide Create, and accepted the default settings for Steel.

It ran amazing (Thanks Apollo for the speed and feeds). NO burrs, and the cutter is still in good shape. PS There IS a mist coming from that tip, it just didn’t show up in the photo

Finished part (Top Side)

I left 1/64 at the bottom of the cut mainly to keep the part together, which would make machining the bottom side a little bit easier. (Note: No Burrs!)

I simply peeled the 1.0" strip like a Canned Ham (You young guys can ask your parents)

I’ll grind a small weld prep and then weld, and grind smooth for a finished tube. Note: This part will still get machined on four sides (Mounting and access holes) at a later time.

Overall it went fairly well. It’s a LOT noisier then machining aluminum, but to be fair, this setup was not that robust. Now my machine is a mess of steel chips and mist coolant, time for a good cleaning…tomorrow.


I had always heard that we could only do aluminum and bronze. Now I see this steel post and one from Apollo earlier on titanium. You guys have just expanded my universe. I hope there isnt a black hole waiting for me to get sucked into.

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List of materials cut thus

See instead:

and the list of feeds and speeds for various materials in Carbide Create.

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Project update: Power unit is complete (less the guards and handle). All the aluminum parts are home brew anodized Now on to the support rails, cutting arm, the vise and the electrical stuff… auto shutoff, relays, etc…as he scratches his head.


Didn’t get what it is? What is it going to be?

Silly me, perhaps it’s the paint fumes…

As noted in the first post:

@RichCournoyer This looks awesome!

I have a question: have you tried trochoidal milling on your shapeoko? I just came across it in @Estlcam. Seems like it could really help when machining steel and other harder materials on the Shapeoko.

Also how long did it take to machine the pulley?

It looks cool! I have tried trochoidal milling and it does amazingly fast passes in aluminum this way.

Question about the hacksaw, is it just a weight on #20 in the drawing that gives it the downward force? or are there springs as well? I think for now I’ll stick to my bandsaw, but it definitely looks like a cool project!


Yes I have tried trochoidal milling, and it kicks ass, I have a short video on my IG. Pulley, took about 12 hours, I spent about 4-6 hours dealing with that damn Cord 33 error on one of the 6 spokes. To be honest, most of the time I slow down my feed rate to make the machine cut quiet. I live in Los Angeles which means my neighbor is about 10 feet from my shed/workshop so I put on my good neighbor hat.


Yes, just the added weight (MK 20) that gives it the down force. What I like about it is that you turn in on and walk away, and it has auto off when it completes the cut. I would like a small horizontal automatic band saw, but my 10 x12 work shop that I share with my Harley is very tight for space. This thing will hang on the wall when I’m not using it. Old school style…for an Old School Guy.

So clean. Now make one of these

That is SO COOL!

Well, I already own a 1929 International 2 1/2 HP hit and miss engine (and it still runs)…so I’m off to a good start.

I’m trying to figure out a way to make one but smaller scale of course. Cutting mesquite into boards by hand is madness.

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If you want a similar tool for wood, then you owe it to yourself to consider the JointMaker Pro:

There are times when I really wish I’d bought one instead of a Shapeoko… I’ve actually been considering using the parts from my SO1 to make something like to it.


What a great device, it was be wasted on me.

Cool! I’m gonna give it a go :slight_smile:

Last hole in this tall (4") steel part. Needed to machine through my weld. Went great!

PS The holes in the table sure saves time with setting things square/parallel.

Necro post, but do you have the speeds and feeds info?

First thing. I always follow the Low side Recommended SFM with a router (e.g. high-speed spindle) that is often difficult unless you are using a small diameter tool. It’s possible to get close using a 1/8 end mill, but my preference is a 2 mm 4 flute from Banggood that run $1.99 each. Cutters will last for days if you are following the proper speeds feeds and using coolant in my WD-40 drip can. Now having said that for steel are usually run 0.010 “DOC at 10 to 15 in./min.

I’ve used Vince’s recipe for cutting steel with 1/4 end mill and it cuts so smooth and beautiful. I’ve yet to make some proper steel parts but the tests were very promising.

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