Shapeoko Upgrade Questions

We had some unexpected funds for our youth programs, so we decided to upgrade our 2/2017-era XXL Shapeoko with some new bells whistles.

We already have a T-track set, Suck-it and Touch Probe (BitZero now apparently) (but dying to swap the alligator clamp). We opted for the Makita our main board is fortunately a v2.4d

Being delivered is the following

  • Bit Setter
  • BitRunner
  • Z+ (Z plus)
  • and smaller items (Shapeoko HD Eccentric Nuts, Precision Collets & Corner Square)

Questions for you more experienced folk:

  • I have heard that the Z+ may not reach the T-track wasteboard which is on top of the baseplate. Is that correct? That seems a touch strange if so, but options are to mill a new bracket or add anther 1/2" or 3/4" sheet.

    • What is typical clearance between the wasteboard and a standard bit? Our kids mill a lot of 2" foam, will that be an issue? (we could switch to 1" or 1.5" if needed.)
  • I presume that our Suck-It will not directly fit back onto the Z+ - Correct?

  • My hope is to make things as easy as possible for youth & staff to experience milling – Any great guide developed on machine operation with the new features? (Obviously they each have their own video examples independently)

  • Also, is the best practice still to remove feet and set on foam? Any other details? (We’re having issues with sag that we want to fix as we complete the other upgrades)

  • Any guidance on finding the Z+ upgrade instructions?

Thanks in advance for your insight!

the “Z+ reach the base plate”… depends a bit on the router (dewalts are apparently longer than others)

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We are using a Makita… Edited post to include this info…

I have seen posts that with #102,1/8, the z+ cannot reach stock base board. Solution is to add 3/4 to 1 inch supplemental spoil board.

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And this is where the confusion lies. The Shapeoko ships with what they’ve started referring to as a ‘base plate’. It is anticipated that you will install a waste board of your preferred design - T-track, Myers, etc - on top of this plate.

I had seen conflicting information that an additional board may be required in order for short-ish bits to touch this waste board above the base plate…

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Here’s the support answer on this:

The Z Plus has a single mounting point for the router mounting collar. The Belt Drive X/Z has two mounting points one higher and one lower. Depending on where the user installs the mounting collar on the Front Z plate of the Belt Drive Z axis, there are two different operating heights. The Z Plus advertises 3 inches of travel and provides more than that. Your reach is different from that of the lower mounted point of the Belt Drive Z axis. There are 2 options for reaching work when using the Z Plus. A longer endmill or lifting the work up with say a spoilboard.

Plan for DIY EZ tram plate:

Unfortunately, while those two links the describe the general issues and possible remedies, it doesn’t directly answer my question and leaves some confusion. Will the XXL equipped with the Z+ with Base-plate & T-Track kit installed per Carbide3D instruction allow a standard shortish bit like the #102 to reach the wasteboard?

I presume yes, but nothing has been super clear in indicating that.

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You are right Ben, Those answers do not actually address the question you posed. I was very interested in the Z-plus at the time it was first released and asked similar questions which did not get a definitive answer - and I gave up…

There are several factors to consider …

1, The Makita/Cardide3d routers are supposed to be the same dimensionally (so I believe but do not know) - BUT the DeWalt (that I have) brings the collet somewhat lower. Whichever router is used it is assumed it is fixed as far down as it can go in the mount. Some people need to raise it in the mount to accomodate thicker workpieces - clearly that is a whole new set of measurements.

2.The “baseboard” is usually moumted on the steel frame. In my case it is the “official” aluminum baseboard which is 0.5" thick and therefore about 0.25" lower then the standand 20mm? MDF board that comes with the Shapeoko. (I may be wrong on the thickness since I have never seen one…)

What really counts is the distance from the bottom of the collet to the top of the “baseboard” - this tells you how thick the additional wasteboard needs to be to allow the bit to cut right through the workpiece if that is required.

It is likely that you will need at least 1-1.5" thickness of wasteboard if you are using a typical shorter 1/8" shank bit or a typical wasteboard surfacing bit (which is usually shorter with less stick-out even though it has a 1/4" shank). The uncertainty of these latter guesses of mine has put me off getting a Z+.

Of course, raising the height of the working surface with a very much thicker waste board will reduce the overall maximum thickness of the workpiece that can be used - by how much is also a guess because of the missing crucial measurements.

Some (perhaps most?) people have found that they need to add TWO MDF wasteboards on top of the baseboard to cut with small bits (if they need to go all the way through). It is also somewhat of a surprise to them after they have been using the machine for a while with a standard 1/4" bit and don’t realise they cannot reach !

Really only someone with all the combinations of router and baseboards can give the answer required (e.g. Carbide3d) - and this should not be difficult at all!

So all we need is the distance from the bottom of the collet to the top of the “baseboard” for each of the two routers (Makita/Carbide3d and DeWalt) at their lowest travel with the Z+ - and confirm the supplied MDF “baseboard is indeed 3/4” or whatever it really is…

I an sure everything else can be worked out from that !


Note that a #102 isn’t a longer endmill.

From the bottom of the Z-Plus carriage to the surface of the wasteboard on an SO3 is ~100mm (this distance is greater on an XL or XXL).

The Z-Plus carriage puts the bottom of the mount at ~28mm higher when it is fully lowered.

If you install the adapter from the bottom of the mount the tip of the collet nut should project almost 100mm from the bottom of the mount.

So an endmill which sticks out some 30mm should just be able to touch the wasteboard.

Note that the above measurements are based on the machine I’m waiting for my son to finish assembling, so YMMV.

The MDF wasteboard thicknesses should be noted in the PDFs at:


Thanks for these details, Will. I understand the Rule of Thumb for Endmill stickout is 7-8x diameter for carbide bits. For a 1/8" bit, that translates to no more than 1" out of the machine – 25.4mm.

You indicated ~30mm to touch, which means a no go for any 1/8" bit clear to the wasteboard, but 1/4" endmills would likely be ok if the shank was long enough. But it appears likely we might need to add at least a 1/2"-1" or so spacer to under or over the t-track to ensure most bits will reach when we do full-cutout passes.

Any insights to the other questions?

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