New xxl on the way! Need help with ordering essentials

Hi guys!
I just ordered my XXL and it arrives on Friday! I am a custom car builder/tinkerer and wood worker. I also have extensive experience with 3d editors building levels for PC games. I am hoping to be able to transfer my 3d level editing experience to CNC model building.

Here is an example: Video of Level Design

I recently spent 50+ hours making some brackets by hand for my project Corvette and got to thinking there must be a better way…
Link to photos on Corvette forum: Brackets
I started looking at CNC routers and was blown away at how affordable machines had become that can handle aluminum. After looking and comparing for a few days I was sold on the XXL due to the ability to make such large parts and after seeing the Hardcore Aluminum Parts thread that Vince.Fab created it was a done deal.
I am ready to invest in what is needed to make thick aluminum parts!
I would like to start out with some half inch brackets with 45 degree edges and work my way up to curves and round shapes.
I checked out Carbide Create and was able to reproduce my brackets in about 10 minutes by adding nodes but it does not seem like it is capable of building parts like Vince does? Example: Intercooler

Can you guys please help me with a list of what software, tools and upgrades I will need to purchase?
Any guidance will be much appreciated.

Thank you for the assistance!


Machine hardware: it’s highly recommended that you get acquainted with your stock Shapeoko before upgrading anything. Really. Give it a few months, CNC has a steep enough learning curve that you don’t want to be overwhelmed. This being said, once you’re comfortable with your machine, the typical upgrades that people cutting metal end up doing are:

  • steel-core belts
  • a mister / air blast setup for chip clearing
  • a “heavy-duty” Z axis (HDZ or similar)
  • a metal bed to replace the MDF one for better rigidity
  • a spindle to replace the router, to get lower runout and more power

EDIT: and of course, endmills that are optimized for cutting e.g. aluminium like ZrN coated ones
EDIT: get one of these high-precision collets, too.

Software: if you are into 3D modelling, you will need more than Carbide Create (though the “Pro” version has 3D-ish features, but no real 3D CAD modeling). The de facto standard up to recently was Fusion360, which is what Vince has been using (for a while at least). The licensing model is undergoing some changes right now, so if you are going to use it for a small business, you will need to think twice and inquire about their licensing.

Tools: a good set of calipers (you probably already own those), dial indicator, test indicator, 123 blocks, a good low-profile vise


Thank you for the help Julien!
I found this XXL wasteboard on Ebay for a small fortune: Wasteboard

Suckit for HDZ: Suckit

Have not found a mister, steel core belts or a spindle yet, any links?
Could also use a link to what bits I will need?
I have been watching videos and reading as much as possible, but could use guidance on exactly which bits to buy. Is there a variety pack with everything I need to start with?
I want to start out cutting slotted half inch aluminum brackets with 45 degree edging.

Thank you!

I know it’s hard to resist the urge (I should know, I have accute gear lust syndrome) but I will say it again: don’t buy all of this just now :slight_smile:

  • aluminium bed: yes, they cost a lot, especially so for an XXL. Definitely postpone that upgrade until you know you need it (in all honesty, chances are you won’t), in the meantime just reinforce the center of the wasteboard to avoid sagging (here’s an example, but search the forum for other ways people have eliminated that problem on their XXL)
  • HDZ: probably a sensible upgrade you could do upfront if you are going to cut a lot of aluminium. Note though that since it is tougher than the stock Z axis, it is also less forgiving (i.e. if you mess up the toolpaths or zeroing, and someday you will, the HDZ won’t be damaged, but the endmill and/or the wheels might :slight_smile: )
  • Suckit for HDZ: note that if your are exclusively going to cut aluminium, a dust shoe won’t be of much help, its primary use is to deal with wood chips.
  • Mister: search the forum and you will find tens of links to cheap (~20$) mister heads. But that is the easy part. You will then need a compressor to generate enough airflow & pressure to use it. I keep hearing about California Air Tools models here on the forum, they must be doing something right.
  • Spindle: that is an expensive but also slightly difficult update to be doing. I recommend you search for “spindle upgrade” here on the forum to get a feel of what this means before committing to buying anything.
  • Endmills: for aluminium, you want ZrN coated endmills. Carbide 3D store sells great ones, look for the one with “Z” in their reference (e.g. #278Z). I think a couple of single flute ZrN 1/4" square endmills woudl be most beneficial to your usecase. Then get a 90 deg Vbit to do these 45degrees chamfers.

Hi @BubbyDog

Great yo have you on board and we’re all keen to see how you get on!

I’d recommend start with stock and learn the machine. It’s not a science but it’s a learning curve. I’d start off looking to reproduce the project you have in mind - don’t go crazy with upgrades to begin with. Pick up one of our single flute ZRN cutters and that should have you hogging aluminium, ping me a DM and I will see if I can do anything about steel belts for you. Then maybe look into a tooling plate and or a HDZ if you feel you need it

I’ve been running an XL stock for month or two to remind me of what a machine is capable of, and it’s allot. Whilst I love a HDZ, aluminium base and 2.2kw water cooled spindle, you don’t always need it.

Also check out Winstons videos, he’s done a huge amount of experimenting with aluminium, our end mills etc. There are lessons to be learned from his content.



Thank you this helps very much!

Some resources/ideas which weren’t mentioned yet:

  • Winston Moy’s #MaterialMonday video series: #MaterialMonday on YouTube
  • the big advantage which Fusion 360 affords is adaptive clearing/trochoidal toolpaths — this really helps a lot on our machines, and in addition to Vincent’s rigorous methodology and excellent craftsmanship and skills is a big part of what makes him so successful with such parts.
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I saw Fusion 360 costs 60 a month for a subscription. I will learn it asap.
I will also watch those videos today thank you for the link.

Note that there are other tools which offer similar toolpath options.

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Fusion 360 is free for home use.

If you happen to be a US or Canadian active duty member or veteran, you can get the educational version of Solidworks for $20US/$40CAD per year. I am on my fourth year. You have to go through the process every year, but hey, $20 US/$40 CAD (Ouch!) for Solidworks…

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Wow that’s a great deal! Unfortunately I do not qualify.
Working on my tool list. I already have a magnetic dial indicator.
Will these pro tram gauges also serve as a test indicator?
Pro Tram on Amazon
Just noticed it has a 1/2 inch shank. Is there a 1/2 setup for the carbide router?
Thank you

The pro tram is for tramming the router/spindle with respect to the wasteboard (while a test indicator would be used for example to check runout on an endmill). I am not aware of any collet for the carbide router that would accomodate a 1/2" shank. However, there is a “mini pro tram” version that comes with a 1/4" shank.

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Nice! Just found it thanks. Any suggestions on a top mount test indicator that does not cost 400? All I am finding is front and side mounts…

Autodesk has just announced a personal license for non-commercial use, which limits what one can earn while qualifying for the personal license in a given year:

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Wow thanks for that link!!

I have been using a personal license for couple years now.
Though this is first time they have specified earnings I think.
I dont find it very intuitive but then I dont use it that often to understand it fully.
Also though i have local copy it still relies a lot on internet and with slow connection I have it freezes up a lot. In coming months we are supposed to have a fibre connection installed and then I might get some quality time on it to.

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