So frustrated thinking about selling

Yes, this! Great write up Gary. The issue resides deep within the imperative of making of sales (attractive images, advertising, pricing) to survive as a business and assisting the new users to discover what they do not know after the purchase was made. They are almost certainly mutually exclusive activities.

I made two previous mistakes. One was a so-called ‘upgraded 3018’, which was so poorly made it only worked for a few seconds before the control board died. I realised that the construction of parts (that easily could have come from several different factories) was part of the issue and it could never have been a satisfactory purchase.

My second mistake was to go for a turnkey solution in buying a Snapmaker. The bed was 5 inches square but CNC work was restricted to 3½" square. The 3D printer was not great, the laser was ok and the CNC use was impractical. The software was dire. That company also failed to explain obscure software and there were no practical tuition materials.

The users of all of these hobby grade machines are probably going to fall back on looking at YouTube videos and specific techniques. It is putting the cart before the horse really. One should learn first how to make the machine behave in predictable and known ways, because this way lies learning. Follow the instructions and look at the actual results and compare them with the expected results.

The reason manufacturers do not support this approach is that there is a high level of resources required to follow it up, especially with users who are struggling. As with any highly technical pursuit, the users may not even know that they are struggling.

It ought to be possible for those of us who are near enough to the delivery date of the SO3, that we can remember what we could have known and did not. Maybe that would provide the basis for a course of tuition. Graduating the activities so that important lessons are learned at the correct time is also likely to be helpful.

A Carbide 3D repository of perfectly made test pieces of advancing complexity, with downloadable files would also be of great utility value if used in conjunction with well designed lessons.

Until that is undertaken with any degree of commitment to assisting new users, understanding all of the factors required to get something, anything, out of their machines, will have people asking the same questions repeatedly. They must then rely on the technical expertise and the willingness of respondents to their postings requesting help. Not an ideal situation for a technical pursuit.

Arguably, the test pieces of advancing complexity would be:


the problem is, our customers want to make wildly disparate things and have wildly varying levels of experience and expectation — we are trying to balance having enough documentation to help folks along, but not so much that folks ignore it as too much to read.

Preparing custom tutorials at need is the best balance we’ve found.


Yes, Will, it is because of this set of unknown variables that a formal introduction to truing the assembly is required. This is setup 101 and every user needs to know it.

After setup 101, there needs to be simple profiling exercises along with DOC, WOC, spindle speed, cutter selection, feed speed, origin and depth settings. This would allow the new user to draw and cut shapes of specific sizes. Square, rectangle, circle, triangle, diamond, oval.

The vexed issue of feeds and speeds could be handled by requesting that everyone use the provided #201 cutter to run the lessons. Just following the tool library recommendations will ensure that people achieve the expected results.

Where measurements are inaccurate after the profile is cut, it would indicate easily resolvable setup inaccuracies. Thus far, all new users could benefit from this type of approach. Delivered technical information may not be readily assimilated by people who are new to the technical discipline of making something with a machine and a computer.

Of course, this approach says nothing about software use but the tutorials for CC and CM are part of the way to where they could be used in conjunction with such elementary lessons.

Work holding via painter’s tape and CA glue is easily sufficient for a start in CNC. What would a lesson be likely to look like? I envisage one for each shape to be cut in profile.

A discussion of tooling (simple #201), work holding, work positioning and locating the workpiece, positioning the spindle and cutter, the shape to be profile cut, the material to be cut and the final result with accurate measurements, based on downloaded .c2d files from Carbide 3D. Sending GCode to the CNC machine through CM.

I would be delighted to try and assemble something (while putting it out onto the verandah to see if the cat licks it) along these lines, purely as an example to see if new users may find it useful.

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I guess you also have to consider, CNC is not for everyone. Just because someone see’s the projects completed by others and wants to do similar things, a person clicks the “Purchase” button. No practical mechanical experience, maybe not even a “Hands on” background, just the desire to create items.

I have seen issues posted here that make me wonder why some people even have a CNC.
Some have absolutely no real expectation. Just type in a few variables and hit enter and the machine goes to work…that’s not how this works. Actually, I kind of fall into the category of a person who does not want to design things, just purchase the licenses to reproduce items and click Run. But even in that realm, one does have to be able to correctly measure, design, position, secure, and choose end mills and materials.

The Shapeoko is priced low enough that most anyone who wants to try can afford to do so. The thing is, “Experience” and practical skills are not available as “add-on” packages.


When asked about this, my suggestion has always been that folks should:

  • work up a design
  • draw up the design in a suitable tool
  • import the design into a suitable CAM tool
  • select a material to cut it out of
  • research the tooling and feeds and speeds necessary to make the cut
  • assign toolpaths
  • preview

folks who are successful with that, and who find it a workable way to work up a design usually enjoy having a machine.

That said, it would be nice to be able to use a customizer to make files.

For a while there was:

as noted at:

unfortunately, the .c2d file format has changed and the tool seems to no longer work.

I wrote up a bit about such designs at:

and put up a couple of examples on Cutrocket:


and if anyone has difficulty working up a box of a particular size for a particular thickness of stock, please let us know and we’ll do our best to work things up.

True that. CNC is a buy on trust package too. There is no place to see or touch a demonstration model.

Hmm, I’m not so sure about that! I may be old, but I still think of myself as NewTo This!

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There is much more to it then thet my guy. You don’t just turn it on and it cuts

@jepho your list is a great start and a lot of the videos and resources are out there but they could be compiled into a list like you have. Here is a start that I quickly put together of resources I used over the last few months as I got started. The assembly video was obviously changed to the Shapeoko 4 assembly.

Assembly of the Shapeoko 4

Yes, Will, it is because of this set of unknown variables that a formal introduction to truing the assembly is required. This is setup 101 and every user needs to know it.

Tramming your Shapeoko

Squaring, tramming, and calibration

Nick M was AMAZING at helping me out on a Skype session…but the things he had me do (looking back) were so basic (depth settings, speeds, zeroing techniques)

After setup 101, there needs to be simple profiling exercises along with DOC, WOC, spindle speed, cutter selection, feed speed,

Shapeoko Feeds and Speeds Chart

Again, if someone knows of a video summarizing this it would be awesome

origin and depth settings. This would allow the new user to draw and cut shapes of specific sizes. Square, rectangle, circle, triangle, diamond, oval.

Shapeoko First cut basics

This is a great resource but is probably too long for someone just starting out. If someone created a video to cover some of this that would be a great addition.

Tutorial Projects

The vexed issue of feeds and speeds could be handled by requesting that everyone use the provided #201 cutter to run the lessons. Just following the tool library recommendations will ensure that people achieve the expected results.

This is kind of handled by the resources above.

Work holding via painter’s tape and CA glue is easily sufficient for a start in CNC. What would a lesson be likely to look like? I envisage one for each shape to be cut in profile.

is another great video by @wmoy

This is a quick summary of lessons and could definitely be improved. I like the idea of putting together a basic course for getting started with a combination of existing videos as well as some new ones that maybe @wmoy could create. I learned so much watching his videos during my wait for my Shapeoko to arrive. When I have some more time during an evening I may try and put together a course and lesson plans for each topic. I would definitely need help with it though since I am just getting started and really don’t know what I don’t know yet.


I own one and use others, I’m simplifying a bit but I stand by my overall point that a laser cutter is a drastically simpler machine than a CNC router/mill.


Will, I have nothing but huge respect for your skill set and the manner in which you assist everyone who needs it. I have derived great benefit from you excellent demonstrations and explanations. I am not everyone else who may need help and @DennisG may need things that cannot be easily provided without having a sense of the person who you are dealing with and what skills of theirs you are going to be marshalling.

Looking at your list with the eyes of someone who has become inured to the technical terms in your bulleted list since October 2020, I can see that on first arriving in the community forum, I would have been struggling with accurate meanings. That is not because I don’t speak English but because the shorthand in use may not mean the same things to people at the beginning of this CNC/Maker journey.

◉ work up a design ??? How or where should it be ‘worked up’. This may be common parlance in the USA or more restrictively in the graphic design/3D design communities. Are you using a shorthand that you understand very well? New users will probably be unfamiliar with terms and the concepts.

Think about what you want to produce and design it with all of the parameters taken care of like openings, hinge placement and opening direction, materials, material dimensions and final finish.

I hope that I have demonstrated that reading that bullet point can lead to a lot of confusion right there if one has never designed or made anything.

◉ draw up the design in a suitable tool

Take what you have thought about as a final product design, find some suitable Computer Aided Design software and draw your design using all of the actual sizes you wish your final machined product and its component parts to be.

There is far more implied in that simple sentence than will be inferred by a person new to the discipline.

◉ import the design into a suitable CAM tool

Know that we are talking about a Computer Aided Manufacturing software, understand the different types of control they exert (GRBL in this case), know how to export and import from CAD software to CAM software, know about post processor requirements and configuring the CAM software for your machine

At this point the bulleted instruction must seem a little lacking to the new user.

◉ Select a material to cut it out of

What materials may I use for my project and what are the size and thickness limits which I must stay within. Will I need any special mill bits to do this on a material of my choosing. I have chosen brass as my material of choice, what else must I consider.

The implication is that there is a free choice when the reality is there is not at the very beginning. If you cannot mess up MDF, you surely are going to struggle with brass or aluminium. Hardwoods are easier to machine than soft woods and are much more expensive to practice upon. Plywood is largely unsatisfactory for the beginner.

◉ research the tooling and feeds and speeds necessary to make the cut

Feed means what exactly, speed of what precisely and where do I research this? Research can have variable results depending on which authorities are chosen to be trusted. Which cuts are necessary?

New users will probably have little understanding of the terms tooling, feeds and speeds and your simple language hides much that we should research and almost certainly will not find when first looking. c.f. Conventional v climb milling, tool engagement, depth of cut, width of cut, flute length, flute number, ramping cuts, helical cuts, helix angle, adaptive clearing, pocket clearing Contour following, V carving et al. Your simple sentence does not begin to give any of this away to the new user.

◉ assign toolpaths

What is a toolpath, where do I get one and how do I assign it? What is the significance of a toolpath? Can I work without one?

This statement assumes far too much for a new user who has had no previous technical contact with a CNC machine.

◉ preview

What am I going to preview and what will I be looking at and for when I preview something? How am I going to find a preview and what will it mean for my CNC job?

Insufficient detail in this one word bullet point for a new user to begin to understand what is meant by your word.

The foregoing is not trying to make light of your bulleted list, Will. It is to demonstrate that new users will likely not understand your carefully constructed list. This speaks to the point made very well by @GJM. It was such an important point that it can stand to be repeated here.

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With every new endeavor/skill, there is the problem of terminology.

Anyone who is confused should research that and learn the specifics of language used in the field which they are learning.

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Hi Ryan. I really appreciate you for producing this considered input. I think a central repository of material relevant to all manner of tutorials at the 101 level, is a very worthwhile undertaking.

I built my SO3 with the aid of the accompanying instruction manual and watching the assembly video. My SO3 duly produced a good likeness of the Hello World Sharpie test. Of course, I know now that the Sharpie test only informed me that my drive belts were connected, the stepper motors all worked and the X axis moved when it should. I also knew that CM could talk to the control box.

For 6 weeks after the completed assembly, I was pulling the SO3 asunder and slowly rebuilding it with an improved understanding of what was required. Nothing was square or true when I had first built the machine and I had no idea why it needed to be anything other than thereabouts as judged by the mark one eyeball.

When I realised what needed fixing, it was all done… baseboard tightened and levelled, Y1 and Y2 vertical to the baseboard and parallel to each other. X axis rail at right angles to both Y rails, both ends reaching the stop equally and perpendicular. Z axis, square for pitch and yaw and tramming plate to ensure the spindle was vertical. All V wheels changed because I had a spare set of hard wheels and all belts adjusted and tuned to 110Hz with the Gates app. It speaks volumes to me that 5 months later I am still using the same settings that I had made in December 2020.

While that information may not be found in the assembly video. It is more pertinent to the tramming and squaring video. Which I have to confess I had not watched until after my build was seen as unfit. The calibration video was also helpful but that initial assembly video could have contained the relevant warning points that would affect the build after the assembly.

The feeds and speeds chart is likely to be a copy of the tool library values so pointing people to the tool library is probably more efficient when people are new users.

I agree that a simple short presentation may be more appropriate. I do think the c2d files would show up deficiencies in build or operation, rapidly. The files should be Carbide 3D generated and known to work and the new user could have confidence that what they produced is on all fours with the file that they downloaded.

Yup, this is exactly the issue with the current tutorial material. When we do not know what holes in our knowledge there are, we will never know if we are doing everything correctly.

I think there is a very strong case to be made for helping new users to work safely and work coherently so that the skills learned can be built upon. I see value in having downloadable files with a known result when machined. That would enable the new user to see if they are working correctly.

The results produced by the new user could also be used by the support team for diagnostic purposes. It may free up support from repetitive and mundane requests if they could assume that every user had reached the same point after assembly of their machine.

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I was hoping to demonstrate that it is not just the terms in use but the variable and obscure meanings which could be attached to the terms, even where the term itself is unequivocal in its meaning. I would not expect the Carbide 3D company to only sell their products to people who understand everything that is meant by the words and phrases used. Perhaps that is the way forward… positive vetting of potential owners. :wink:

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I don’t see that any of the terminology used was obscure.

Yes, folks buying and using the machines should be selected for to be that group of folks who can read and understand the owner’s manual for the trim router and the machine and abide by and adhere to all safety guidelines as well as the checklist:

We will gladly work with anyone who wishes to learn to use the machine, providing them with any information or clarification which they ask for either here, or at, and will afford folks the chance to do their own customized didactic sequence.

Hey Will…Are you saying that there is nothing more that the company should do as far as education, documentation, etc.? What you guys have now is what you feel is all that needs to be done?

Will, they are your normal words and there is nothing wrong with them. I am only trying to identify a point where the rubber does not meet the road in respect of new users to CNC. I would not try to suggest that Carbide 3D is the only company that foments the untenable situation, where new users have to run around to assemble all the information which they need for safely and successfully running a hobby grade CNC machine. I think it is reasonable to assume that every hobby CNC supplier engages in practices which are not especially helpful to the new user.

I have not tried to buy a Stepcraft, Tormach or even a Haas. Would the support services be any different? I could not say but it is likely that by spending far more money (commensurate with making a much bigger and longer term investment) and having a more capable machine, in all probability it bestows a responsibility on the supplying company to ensure that the users are au fait with its capabilities and are truly satisfied customers.


I think that position could not possibly fly… because it amounts to a needlessly restrictive and probably illegal practice. The only way that could work is if Carbide 3D refused to sell to people like me who had no previous experience of using a CNC machine.

Only Carbide 3D can say whether the sale of an SO3 to me was worthwhile to the company or not. My purchase has supported several other companies like JTech Photonics Lasers & Niagara milling cutters. Both of those are American companies. My local timber industries, my local machine tool and hand tool suppliers have benefited from my CNC ownership.

I intend to use the company and people at Saunders Machine Works when I order a fixture tooling plate and supporting rails. I have purchased an amount of software as well. All of these transactions have derived from my purchasing and owning an SO3.

Good to know.

I am saying that anyone who needs any sort of assistance should write in to and we will do our best to assist.

Based on what we see there, additional content will be made as is deemed appropriate by the folks who decide that sort of thing.


I think that Carbide3D goes above an beyond what most tool manufacturers provide when it comes to education. It is honestly the main reason I selected the Shapeoko as my tool of choice. When I saw the 1 year warranty with the 30 days warranty covering my own mistakes I figured there was no one else offering anything even close. The option to email support, call or do video support as well was very enticing. Pair all of that with and sites as well as @WillAdams being so active on Reddit as well as this forum. Also the various Youtube videos from multiple providers but mostly @wmoy you can’t get much better support. I have seen multiple instances of staff providing step by step tutorials in this community along with fixed Carbide Create files for people.

Yes it would be nice to have a place where all the things that I needed to search for in one place but the support available from Carbide3D is phenomenal. I think it also is difficult as Will Adams said since everyone is at a different starting place and has very different needs. I think that anyone starting out has to be willing to ask some questions and search a little too. Most people starting out seem to get the help they need from this forum or support if they are willing to ask the question and provide the details needed to answer it.


I appreciate everything everyone has done to try and help but I’m done and I’m leaving this group. I’m tired of being talked down to because I’m no expert CNC operator so good luck to you all.