New to CNC - Considering the Shapeoko 3 XL

Hi All, looking to get into my first CNC machine and considering the Shapeoko 3 XL since it be big enough to do any larger projects down the road. I’ve done lots of reading up and looks like a great machine. My question (and hesitation) is the reliability of belts. It looks like the upgrade to 9mm belts helped make a difference but really wanted opinions on how much of an issue this really is? I understand some maintenance needs to be done but don’t want to be constantly messing with it or worrying about it. The other machine I’m considering is the Mill Right King Carve since it is screw driven but my fear is outgrowing the smaller cutting area.

Belts are surprisingly effective for the smaller hobby CNC machines.

I had one (defective) belt break early on on my SO3 (6mm from the initial batch), and Brandon Fischer got a years worth of hard use out of his back in the SO1/2 days (6mm MXL). Some folks feel buying U.S. made belts from SDP/SI is a marked improvement in reliability (ought to be for the price difference) — not sure where Carbide 3D is sourcing belts from at the moment.

The community has some notes on this at:

I haven’t seen that page yet. Looks like there is a lot on the subject and will read up. Thanks!

Can’t speak for everyone, but my machine is 2.5 years old…and I use it HARD almost everyday, 90% of the time on metal. I have never replaced any parts…I did switch to a Makita Router because of the lower rpm spindle, but the Original DeWalt is fine. Runs as good as…no better then the day I bought it. Have particular questions? Ask away.

PS Two years on the SAME Brushes…3000 + hours is my estimate.

FYI Oh I did break a micro switch during a vacuuming (clean up) accident… but that doesn’t count.


Thanks Rich. That’s exactly the type of feedback I’m looking for and answered the other question kicking around in my head about performance/durability with metal.

Have yo seen some of the stuff I make? Make sure you go back 2 years…

Instagram: JPL_Richard

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I never upgraded from 6mm belts. I have the 9’s just haven’t needed them yet.

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Is that because of the sock?

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Pre Filter as I like to call it, and yes…

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Hmmm, now to get all forumy on you, can you share the thread count, material of construction, country of origin and how often you wash it? With what soap? Ha ha, just kidding.
I’m putting a sock on mine tomorrow.


PS I only wear/use Gold Toe…for over 40 years now…If it matters.

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my machine is 2.5 years old…and I use it HARD

Even with the caps, understatement of the year!

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I haven’t yet but will definitely check out your work.

Somebody post a pic of the sock/pre-filter installation? Just so this noob can be clear. :slight_smile:

The first post in this older thread contains a couple of pictures with the sock on the DeWalt. Best I could find with just a quick search.

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Thanks Adam! I appreciate the help.

Photo Instructions…made fresh, just for you!

Regardless of the Router Brand…


I’d like to throw in my 2 cents about this as I bought a shapeoko xxl as my very first cnc and the learning curve on everything was intense for a newbie.

what is it you plan on making? Metal? wood? what size do you actually need? This is super important. I also had the thought of, well bigger is better if I ever need to cut something big. I later realized trying to cut small things on the XXL with tight tolerances was difficult with my at the time knowledge. My cnc experience would of been dramatically better had I gone with the nomad first, and just focused on cutting and CAD, making parts. Then as I got more into learning about what makes a machine rigid, deflection, feeds and speeds, adaptive strategies it made more sense to me how to properly use a shapeoko.

If the nomad is in your budget and has enough space for you to work with, turn key solution is the best for a beginner. I was often frustrated at how long I had to tinker to get the tolerances I wanted on the XXL. Being a complete new to anything CNC I often regret going with the shapeoko first. The first few weeks was me just trying to figure out why it wouldn’t cut a perfect circle. Looking back at what I know now, this is an easy fix, but at the time I spent more time reading the shapeoko wiki more than CNCing and that can be frustrating after spending money on something and can’t make stuff on it.

If you have never done anything CNC before, then you have a learning curve ahead of you. This curve can be smaller depending on your mechanical background. I had none, and no one to call so asking here for help and reading a crap ton on my own and processing the information was doable but not that easy.

I just want to say to you, what I had wish some one had said to me. The shapeoko is a great machine and super affordable. But it is a hobby machine so be prepared to buckle down and read and learn and troubleshoot. That means spending nights not cutting and just tramming or squaring up the machine etc. Had I bought the nomad first ( I own 2 now) I would of been less worried about a well setup machine, and could of just skipped to making cool things. Carbide Create is super easy to learn and I could of eased into it. Eventually learning more about the ins and outs of a CNC.

I personally messed up because I’m trying to cut things that are 3mm wide, 60mm long and I bought the biggest machine and that made my life super difficult. So it’s not the machine, these machine are great, the company is great, and the customer support is fantastic. I would just advise, from one newbie to another, kinda figure out what you want to make and choose a machine specific to your needs. I would put turnkey solution - Nomad at the top if you can, if not, then then smallest shapeoko, I think the shapeoko 3? Easier to manage than a 40’’ bed with the XXL. I ended up buying a lot of tools and a 1/4’’ thick plate of 6061 aluminum to replace the MDF bed on the XXL to gain some rigidity. Some of these guys on here are super smart and mechanically inclined. I am not. Just giving a different perspective.

Sorry for the wall of text!


This is great and really appreciate the feedback and things to consider! I’m pretty mechanical and tech savvy so the learning curve doesn’t scare me but know there will be one. I’ve been doing a ton of research about how the whole process works and challenges that I may have to overcome.

I mainly plan on using it for wood. Maybe mess with metal down the road but not a priority. I also would consider getting a laser cutter too. I’ve landed on the XL since it will fit nicely with the rest of my workbench area filled with scroll saw, drill press, etc unlike the XXL which is too deep. I plan to use it for my own hobby purposes but may pursue a side business once I get good with it.

Two of my first projects require the larger area. 1: Designing and building my own Bartop Arcade 2: Converting my plywood template for a rocking horse into the digital world. I’ve made them by hand in the past and struggle with consistency using regular power tools on the rockers and horse head. I’m in Denver so I’ve designed the template to have the shape of the Broncos :smile: My wife is good with traditional crafts and has a Cricut so we are going to meld our skill sets together and make some cool things.


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