Shapeoko cutting area, spoilboard & work support

Greetings - I’m a new user and just put together my Shapeoko 3 XL last week. Assembly and first tests went well, and I’m looking forward to a fun summer. :slight_smile:

The biggest thing that’s left me scratching my head about is the specified cutting area as it relates to the spoilboard inside the machine frame. The XL has a cutting area of 17x33 inches, but I’ve never seen mentioned the fact that 2 inches of that 17 inch Y axis travel are outside the frame.

I’ve also never seen any photos of the XL or other sizes which show any modifications or accommodations for supporting work outside the machine frame. Lots of fancy T-track, threaded inserts, or aluminum extrusions for clamping, but none of them are made to support or clamp work as large as the machine can cut… is that weird, or am I? When I realized this quirk and couldn’t find anything about it, I thought I must have somehow assembled the machine incorrectly in some way…

I’d love to know what others are doing to support work outside the frame or factory spoilboard? My work with the machine will mainly be using sheet stock, plywood, and composites, and I’ll be using every square inch I can reach…

Here’s a pic of the built-up and out spoilboard I installed:

Strips of 3/4" MDF to rase the height above the frame, then a big 3/4" MDF spoilboard cantilevered out about 4 inches - the upper board is oversized for clamping work outside cutting area. This seems to be a solution that will work for me, just find it curious that it doesn’t seem to be a common topic.

Cutting area and the overhang for it are mentioned here in the context of the original SO3: Shapeoko CNC Router, Rigid, Accurate, Reliable, and Affordable

Note that it is possible to mount stock at the front of the machine, or to cut a hole in the Wasteboard and cut things which otherwise would not fit.

Well, there it is… albeit a small and buried mention of an aspect of the machine that I was not expecting. Maybe it’s not that big of a concern, with workarounds relatively easy to implement - however it’s an important detail that I would have thought deserving of some inquiry before now. I certainly would have liked to understand this sooner and gotten a couple more hours of sleep. :wink:


I had a series of emails with a Shapeoko staff regarding this. There was some resistance to acknowledging that the base design (the SO3 that is not XL or XXL) is incapable of cutting a piece of stock that is the size of the full advertised dimension of 16" x 16" x 3" unless the setup is altered in some way. The response was that it could indeed cut 16" x 16" if one were to extend the front wasteboard, and that it could also cut material 3" thick if the Y dimension fits within the front lip. To me that is not the same as being able to use the machine as sold to cut within the full dimensions. And even so it seems like something that would be addressed in the instructions so that users would know up front what would be necessary to use the full X and Y dimensions.

After some emails back and forth they acknowledged that what I said was correct. I have been surprised to find barely any mention of this issue in forums – because for me it was significant limitation as I cannot mill the size of material for which I bought the machine. They have offered me a refund, and I respect the commitment to service that represents, but despite my disappointments, I still think this machine is a good choice at this price point. And I mainly wanted to know if I built the machine wrong, or if not then I wanted them to be clearer in their advertising so that prospective customers do not have to dig so deep and parse descriptions to figure out these limitations. I am hopeful that they will make that improvement in the future.


Thanks for your comments - agreed, and sorry to hear. I’m curious what you wanted to do with it that wouldn’t work. I don’t feel particularly limited by this aspect, but will change the way I develop processes somewhat. This thread may help others looking for information.

Even with the 2 x .75" built up wasteboard support on top of the factory piece, I still have just under 3.25" of Z work clearance, and the full 17 x 33 on xy - as specified. I’m extremely happy with my XL so far, despite the quirks.

Yeah, it’s somewhat disingenuous to note the 3" vertical cutting area — but the travel area is ~4.25", and it is possible to make projects which are 3" or more in height — one just has to mount them to the front if they fit, or cut a hole in the Wasteboard area. (And use a suitable endmill and design and workholding system)

I’m kind of surprised no one has yet turned around the front and back end plates, bolting them to an open frame, so as to be able to place the open-bottomed machine over objects and cut / engrave — there were some folks who did this w/ the SO1 — found the image on a European site as I recall.

Actually, this may be better since it doesn’t require any modifications. Take a look at this clever vise to hold vertical work just past the front plate. The creator intends it for joinery work, i.e. box joints, dovetails, etc.