Shapeoko e-book [V4 released]

Fellow Shapeoko users,

There’s a famous quote that is supposedly attributed to Albert Einstein that goes “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. I’m in the mood for testing that statement on myself, to check what I really learned (and understood correctly) about CNC in general and the Shapeoko in particular in the last 2 years.

I fancy writing an e-book that could guide a new user from unboxing the Shapeoko kit to mastering the theory and practice of its most common uses.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate the huge amount of effort that was put in the Shapeoko wiki, and the treasure trove of information that this forum is. But I’m oldschool and I think that an actual book with a beginning and an end can come in handy as a roadmap/support in parallel to navigating the gazillion links and youtube videos and forum posts out there. Most general CNC books I have seen are targeted to more rigid/pro machines, while hobby CNCs call for a different, humbler approach.

It would my own endeavor, and would be available for free once completed.
However, and this is the reason for this post:

  • for it to be more than a superficial tutorial, it will take a significant effort.
  • I would probably be unclear or plain wrong one some aspects, and would need someone more experienced to point it out.
  • English is not my native language, so it would probably sound a little weird, if no one checks/fixes my English.
  • I only own a standard SO3, so my understanding of problems/tricks specific to the XL and XXL (e.g. bed sagging in the middle) is very limited.

The table of contents would be something like this:

  • CNC concepts

    • mechanical: coordinate system, home position
    • overview of the machine
      • controller overview
      • steppers & belts
      • router
      • bed & wasteboard
    • general CNC lingo
    • feeds and speeds basics
    • toolpaths basics
    • Worflow from CAD to G-code
  • Assembling the Shapeoko

    • Tips and tricks for assembly
    • Squaring
    • Tramming & surfacing
    • X/Y/Z calibration
      • use of Test indicator, Dial indicator, 123 blocks, DRO scale, etc.
  • Setting up a workspace

    • dust collection
      • dust shoes
      • cyclone + shopvac
    • enclosure
  • Workholding

    • clamps (and clearance issues…)
    • tape & glue
    • vice, etc…
  • Endmills

    • overview of the different types and associated pro’s and con’s.
  • Carbide Create, Carbide Motion, and cutting wood

    • types of toolpaths
    • homing & zeroing
  • Feeds & speeds charts

    • sensible/common starting points
    • tips & tricks to tune them
  • Alternative/advanced CAD/CAM tools and G-code senders

    • Fusion360, V-Carve
      • roughing + finishing approach
    • UGS, CNCjs, etc…
  • Cutting plastics

    • typical feeds & speeds, tips & tricks
  • Cutting metal

    • typical feeds & speeds, tips & tricks
  • micro-machining / small endmills

  • Advanced feeds & speeds

    • Theory
    • Parameters, calculators
  • Mods & accessories

    • jog/control pads
    • Probes
    • Z mods
    • bed mods
    • belt mods
    • spindle mods
  • Troubleshooting FAQ

    • top 10 mistakes & issues

The idea would be to stay independant from any specific project, because there is probably a great Youtube video already for every possible project, but rather going behind the scenes and getting a good grasp of WHY and HOW.

Anything obvious missing from the TOC ?

If I were to actually do this (motivation is a strange thing that comes and goes), would anyone be interested in either contributing to some chapters, and/or help with proof-reading it when a draft is available? No deadline, just a background initiative that could mature over the next 6 months or so.

EDIT: the latest version of the ebook is available here:

Online version :

PDF version :

I also re-generated the ePUB version, it’s not as good (it has a few remaining format issues in places), but might be of interest to someone:



If you were to actually do this, I would certainly volunteer proof-reading and such, and I may be able to offer additional contributions. (I suppose writing several utilities, Inkscape extensions, and QGIS plugins may have left me at least somewhat knowledgeable on at least a topic or two.)


Great, noted. I’ve been following your contributions on the forum and would love to integrate some of the coding wonders you came up with.

The Shapeoko wiki is compatible with this sort of thing, and there actually is a nascent Hobbyist CNC Machining wikibook:

There is however:

which is available as an ebook at least on the Kindle:

and I know there’s a follow-on which is available in fascicle (occasionally it has been provided to folks who have asked for additional assistance).

I actually found a very promising series of public domain texts which I was planning on copying into the wiki and reformatting:

Anyone who wants accounts on the wiki has only to ask for them — the concern here is that Carbide 3D wants control over what’s available for the machine — ideally everything you’d need to know would be on: — and the wiki started out for the SO1/2 and is more inclusive than a new text would need to be (though of course one would wonder if one should include the Nomad or no).

The other issue then becomes what format should the book be done in — my suggestion would be as a Jupyter Notebook — I actually got started on one for feeds and speeds a while back:

which I should get back to. Part of the problem there is the presentation wasn’t as high tech as I was able to manage at:!/vizhome/Carbide3DCNCFeedsandSpeeds/Sheet1?publish=yes

(see: Tutorial on feeds and speeds )

which I found frustrating.


Hi Will,

I knew you would jump in and provide great info! :slight_smile:

  • Wiki: again no criticism intended, this is a great tool but personally I use it when I need to look up a specific info on the machine, or search for something very specific (mods, usually). I’m not so fond of wiki pages as a learning tool when you initially have no clue what all those scary words mean and can’t tell what is basic from what is advanced. Plus I tend to click links, so after 15 minutes I’m 4 levels away from where I started. I’l like the book to have as few external links as possible.

  • Edward’s ebook: definitely super helpful, but aims at showing how easy it is to get started with a Shapeoko and start making projects in no time. I am more interested in focusing on the machine and CNC as a hobby.

  • : helpful, but does not go beyond basics (and rightly so: there is no reason to scare newcomers into thinking one has to spend months learning a million details before being productive)

  • Carbide’s control on what’s available for the machine: is that applicable to the wiki content, or a more general statement ? I wouldn’t like to be starting something that would be frowned upon. I did ask Edward for permission a week ago, but he must be busy so I figured I would go ahead anyway.

  • Tool for the e-book: Jupyter notebook certainly looks like a good candidate. Gitbooks also.

I think this is a great idea, it takes time to gather this knowledge and providing well structured and concise informaton would be a great reference. I caution you however that you may want to make this modular because such a book would eventually require revisions to keep it current. The machine and software you mention will have significant revisions over time.
Here are a few comments on the TOC.

The controller IMO needs more than an overview. People use it to add functionality and there are limitations.

CAD, CAM and GCode Sender maybe should be in separate sections as there is a lot of information to cover some is specific to the software while other is more general. Maybe go over the strengths and weaknesses of Fusion, VCarve and Carbide software. Should CC and CM be in a separate section or within the CAD/CAM section? You should cover the 2, 2.5 and 3D info/definitions/examples.

Project workflow should probably be included and maybe even in a separate section.

Just my $0.02, I’m looking forward to reading this.

EDIT: Forgot to add this book a pointer toward references

F&S, calculators and how to use them.


Put this up with some links at:

One likely place for this would be the Shapeoko subreddit wiki:

Sounds like a great project. I would assist as time allows. Proofing etc. Also maybe a bit on popular mods like z-axis upgrades and spoil board designs would be a good adition.

Sounds like a big project. I agree that the Carbide3d tutorials and help are good but very thin. The User Guide for Carbide Create is a good starting point but needs a more advanced section. I understand it is designed as a beginning guide and does a good job at that but there is a wealth of knowledge in the user base that needs to be collected into a more in depth user guide. I signed up for the RocketCut beta site and the projects have templates and files that are useful but do not go into depth about why someone designed their project the way they did. Again Carbide3d has good starter content but more advanced topics would also be good. If you give a man a fish he eats today, if you teach him to fish he can eat forever.

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Hi Julien,
I would be most interested in the book you propose but would like it to be available as PDF rather than just online. Like you I often find when using links I finish pages away from where I started and have to work my way back to take another direction.
I backed WillAdams book on kick starter for that very reason.
I’d offer to proof read but not confident of picking up any procedural errors given my limited experience so far
Best of luck with this which I think might be a lengthy process given the breadth of subjects you envisage covering.
Don’t worry about English not being your first language…a few here might say the same about our American cousins😋 but we all get by in the end

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Hi Alan,

I have now started working on the book, I chose gitbook v2 to create the content, since their new online editor is so easy to use and clean. What I did not notice initially, is that they have removed the capability to export to PDF. But there seems to be an unofficial/unsupported way to do it anyway, so I’ll try that.

In any case, one of my objectives is to have zero hyperlinks in the book, so even if it ends up being online only, hopefully it will still be ‘distraction free’. The wiki is much better suited at providing lots of useful links anyway and there is no point recreating something similar. I want to focus instead on all the little things “that I wish someone had told to me early on”. I have also concluded/confirmed that I would not be including any specific project tutorial content, which again would be redundant with so many existing ones, but rather document the underlying principles/theory/tips.

Hopefully I’ll post a draft here for review in a few months.


This will sit nicely with Will Adams proposed book and the one from Edward Ford…now if someone published a magazine like those for woodwork/wood turning all options would be covered.

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Hey everyone, I have been actively working on this since the last post. I am including plenty of illustrations from my own setup and tests/projects, but I would appreciate if someone could send me snapshots of

  • their T-tracks
  • their setup for using a vice

assuming you would be ok with me using these pics in the book.



I guess you will have to prepare a second edition already since @Luke will soon get the Shapeoko upgraded. :wink:


Thanks everyone for your help .
After having lived in person the lack of knowledge, I see this very important issue for people like me without prior knowledge.
I am 2 years old with my happy Shapeoko, but if I need more knowledge, I would like to know much more in the future.
I always believed in the ability and the facility to improve this machine, @ Vince.Fab has shown me with its improvement and through it I also see my ignorance.


I have a t-track setup if you want some photos.


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If you could PM me a shot of your setup, ideally with something attached onto it, that would be really cool thank you.

I already received nice photos of a vice setup from @snaterst (thanks!), so for now I’ll be set (I try to refrain from writing about anything I do not have firsthand experience about, but I was not going to change my setup for T-tracks or buy a good vice just for one chapter in the book, so these are the exceptions)

This thing is eating up almost all of my garage time lately, I hope to have something to submit here within a “few” weeks. Since I only have one shot at this and no one is holding their breath anyway, I’d rather have something reasonably complete and polished before I post it for review.


(holding breath in anticipation)