SO3: A Good ROI for a Commercial Wood Worker?

HI I own a custom furniture shop and we hand carve with routers as a enhancement to our product.

We have never used CNC before. But we do create all our own designs in sketchup and in Viacad. In yall’s opinion is this a good startup cnc for carving 1x6’s, 2x4’s, etc?

Is there anything missing I need to buy besides the basic shapeoko3 system?

Thanks JB

The SO3 would be awesome for the purpose you’re describing.

CNC machines generate particles when they machining friable (“easily crumbed”) materials (wood in your case) that are extremely hazardous to your health. Proper particle/dust management is critical. We can speak about this aspect more.

One of the most frequently stated mistakes CNC purchasers identify a year or so out from their purchase is… they didn’t spend enough initially. They discover that the machine can do so much more than they envisioned that they would have done things quite differently…

Learning CNC in a production shop requires a delicate balance of keeping things moving while spending considerable amounts of time time becoming proficient with the software, hardware, tools and developing work flows appropriate to the shop.

That’s not a discouragement! One need to know what they are getting themselves into!

Once you’re over the initial learning curve, you’ll have effective production but then you’ll grow and want to do other things.

There are special tools (end mills, specialized tools), collets, software packages, an optional (but very useful) enclosure, particle handling (air/vacuum) equipment that should be considered.

I would strongly suggest you look into a package called VCarvePro (by the company Vectric), as it can handle virtually everything you’ll need to do within a single package. Only one software to learn.

We can talk about the details further.


The ShapeOko 3 is a hobby-level CNC kit — it’s at the high-end of that spectrum, and may be better than some low-end commercial systems. I believe it represents the best value, and optimal mix of rigidity, light-weight (I carry mine up from the basement to my back deck to use it for potentially hazardous materials), speed and cutting area. Not impartial though, but when Make Magazine was selecting CNC machines, the only thing which beat it out in the Mid-size category was a Shopbot Desktop costing several times more (it should do better in the larger category once expansion kits are available).

A number of people used upgraded ShapeOko 1s and 2s for production as documented on the wiki and forums.

In addition to the kit you will need:

You will want:

The major thing to do is to start by trying out CAD if your’e not familiar w/ it. Then, once you’ve got a file ready for cutting, try out CAM programs until you find one which suits you, then simulate the G-code in GrblGru’s machine simulator (available from the front page of the wiki which is at: )

Vectric’s VCarve is popular w/ people doing production work. Details on using it (and other commercial software) w/ a ShapeOko here:

Let us know if there’s anything else which you might want to know.

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I actually use my Nomad883 to make custom wooden teethers and rattles for babies / toddlers. I can cut 5 teethers out of an 8"x8"x0.5" piece of maple hardwood - and I wholesale them for $6 each. So minus the $5 cost for the wood, I gross $25 per board. It takes around 20 minutes to cut them, so this works out to $1.25 per machining minute. Which I think is pretty good.

Of course the finishing work hurts the profit margin - rounding the edges, doing a finish sanding etc… But this is a little side business for me so I am doing it because I love to work with wood.

In any case - just sharing this as an example of how you can make money with a carbide product. I would think that if you are moving high volumes of products, and you are fast at finishing, it can be a really profitable little investment for your business.


The SO3 price point is very hard to beat for a CNC machine. I’ve more often seen a cluster of these machines each setup to perform a set of specific repetitive tasks in a production environment. For example, one would drill holes; another a cutting out mortises; etc. It’s much easier to have cheap, dedicated CNC machines for this, rather than a large, expensive, multi-purpose machine, when doing these tasks are just a waste of time on them. But, this all depends on the space, the needs, and know how.