SO3: Total newb worried about XXL assembly (and hello!)

Hello forum! I’m brand new on here, brand new to CNC, and I just got my XXL yesterday! (So I very much apologize if this doesn’t follow etiquette – just let me know if not and I’ll step in line!)

(I’m pretty excited about it as you can see :slight_smile: )

I’ve been following a couple threads about folks getting their XXL machines, and I’ll be honest, I’m getting a little worried. I’m pretty handy and good at figuring things out when it comes to building furniture, etc., but this is certainly out of my comfort zone. So when I hear that certain parts I’ve never even heard of are missing or too short, you can see how I’ve got some anxiety creeping in! I saw that Edward mentioned he’ll have some instructions posted soon (or maybe he already did??), but I’m unfamiliar with how this forum works and where such a thing would be posted.

So I suppose my main questions are:
-Are you guys waiting for those XXL-specific instructions to come out to assemble your machines, or are you just using the regular manual and skipping the sub-assemblies that have already been assembled?
-Should I just keep an eye on this general forum for need-to-know info about any missing parts or issues with assembly?
-Do you guys know of any good resources I could look up to help me out with assembly, aside from the original instruction manual? I’m generally pretty fearless when it comes to tough builds/assemblies, but this one has me spooked I’ll mess something up and either break something or have the whole thing just explode in my garage :wink:
-Anything else I should know before I get started; things along the lines of “Oh man, make sure you connect this little thing to this otherwise the router will fall out and kill you.”

Thanks so much for any insights, and nice to meet y’all!


Welcome to the club!

When I first got my first machine (a Shapeoko 1 I had to re-build, then expanded), the instructions were rather sparse. When I got my Shapeoko 2, all I got were some drawings and notes (but I was tasked w/ doing the assembly instructions — you know, the chicken-egg problem) — the machines are fundamentally simple, w/ the complexity hidden away in the electronics, so it’s not too bad.

We have a bit on the SO3 on the wiki:

as well as a page on assembly troubleshooting:

but the first version of the XXL instructions has been posted: SO3: Assembly Guide Availability?

EDIT: second version: S03: Assembly Guide (XXL)

You may find the Parts Overview page of interest:

and you may enjoy looking through the assembly instructions for the similar SO2:

That said, the SO3 has been Designed For Assembly, and much of the tedious work is already done. Since the electronics just plug in, it’s unlikely you could do anything to damage anything (the major thing to look out for would be plugging a power supply or router set for 110V into a 220V outlet).

I’m in south-central Pennsylvania, and there are people all over the place if you need help, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple it is to put together and use.

A lot of the basics are covered on the pages, and the balance should be on the wiki . Edward Ford (the Shapeoko’s designer) is also writing a book which you may find of interest: — list of other books at:

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There are a few build threads already so definitely read those first! As most of us have some sort of handyman like skills, if should be fairly simple to put together. The original manual does cover the “General” ideas as far as where things go so definitely review it for part orientations.

As far as blowing things up, not likely but you should to a few try “Movements” through the software without the spindle on, or at least not plugged in and running so you can verify the proper movement and direction and get comfortable with how to position things without worrying about breaking things. Also before you turn it on, put the X and Y about in the center, this way when you start moving, if it goes the wrong direction you can flip the 2 Y wires and not worry about running into one end or another.

It’s fairly easy to put together, I put mine together in 3 hours. The missing parts are on their way to me now, those include mounts for the drag chains. I made my own with a 90 degree bracket in the mean time. To get the cables in the drag chain, pop off all the little cross parts on one side, then put them all back on after running the wires, it will save you a lot of time this way, they come off easily and go on easily it just there are a lot of them.

You are a treasure trove of information–thank you!! I’ll be scouring these pages :slight_smile:

And just to be clear, (and this is really going to make me look dumb) but I’m not even positive if the outlets in my garage are 110 or 220. They’re the same kind of outlets as inside the house, so my understanding is that’s 110? And you’re saying that’s what I want, correct–that it would fry the machine to plug it into the bigger 220 outlets (that I don’t believe I have… I would know, right?)

Thanks so much for your help! That’s something I just want to absolutely clear on!

If you’re in the U.S., then the voltage should be 110 for normal outlets. 220 volt outlets are the larger ones w/ angled connectors which are used for a dryer. This caution should only apply to outside the U.S., where 220V is common for house current, since the countries were trying to economize on copper usage.

You can tell from the sockets. Do they look like the ones in your house (110) or for a clothes dryer (220)?

I strongly suspect they are 110 VAC sockets. Few houses are wired for 220 VAC in the garage. Electric cars and plug in hybrids are change this. YMMV.

If you’re going to have a computer in the garage, power protection is an issue. I wrote about this here:


Thanks so much, Roger! (And you’d be surprised what I’m able to blow up :wink: ) And I was definitely planning on a few dry runs with a marker or something first, so great idea! Thanks so much for the tips… I wish I could transport one of you experts here to make sure I’m not being a dummy with all this :slight_smile:

So I won’t be able to put it in full use then until the drag chain component arrives, correct? But I’m ok without the limit switches, from my understanding. Haha, I definitely wouldn’t be able to make a mount, so I suppose I’ll have to wait :slight_smile:

Whew, ok awesome–thank you!!

Ok, yes, that’s what I suspected as well. They’re the same outlets as inside the house (and I am in the US), so sounds like I should be good! And thanks for the tip on connecting the computer to a different power source. I just ordered a Dell laptop solely for garage use and I always forget about surge protection for electronics!

I always forget about surge protection for electronics

I strongly recommend a high quality UPS for any computer near a CNC machine.

The article I posted mentions a few recommendations.


Awesome–I’ll check it out–thanks!

Also, the “normal” size manual is available on the site and there’s a corrected/updated version [here] (

There are some things that are different (especially the fact that the XXL is, well, XXL) but the process overall is pretty similar, so you could consult it for some of the steps if that helps.


I have blown a few things up as well, but mostly fooling around with stuff I shouldn’t like Tesla coils and Chemicals but these machines are fairly resilient. Just don’t start plugging and unplugging in motors without disconnecting the power and usb cables ad you will be fine.

Read my post here:

You can see a picture of the bracket for the drive chain. You can buy one for less then $1 at most hardware stores. You just need a couple of bolts and nuts to complete the “Hack”. You can actually run it without the drag chain if you simply “Hang” the wires from a string above the machine. Just tie a string to hold the cables off the machine and it can run just fine. For wood you will be in lots of DUST so be warned that some form of dust collection is recommended. Anywhere from total enclosures to vacuum boots, but it will make your entire garage dusty if you are not careful!.

I run the CNC (The electronic part only), My computer, and my 3D printer on the UPS, and then I plug the router into a separate outlet on the other side of the garage along with my dust collection. This way any noisy electricity is not on the same power line. Brush motors are noisy on electrical lines so I run them off a different outlet,

Hope that helps.

Excellent point!

It’s not just DUST! It’s a broad spectrum of particles including a large number in the size range that make asbestos seem healthy for your lungs. The particles can be chemically nasty (toxica, carcinogens, and teratogens) and with some hardwoods can contain nasty viruses. Nothing one want to breath or even touch/handle.

An enclosure and proper air handling is not recommend. It’s a necessity when working in friable (“easily crumbled”) materials (e.g wood, MDF, FR4, Garolite, carbon composite)… unless one doesn’t care about ruining their health. I had a PM exchange with @Tsamb shortly after her original posting about an enclosure for air safety, hearing, and general safety.

There are many postings about these issues. Here are a few:

An enclosure is really a good idea for general safety purposes (accidental falls, children) too.

I run the CNC (The electronic part only), My computer, and my 3D printer on the UPS, and then I plug the router into a separate outlet on the other side of the garage along with my dust collection. This way any noisy electricity is not on the same power line. Brush motors are noisy on electrical lines so I run them off a different outlet,

Excellent recommendations! See:

for more discussion and details of power issues with CNC.


Ah lovely, thank you! I think once I get everything in front of me it will make more sense and seem more doable–I’m definitely a visual learner :slight_smile: And great advice!

And good points again, Mark! I’ve been scroll sawing for a few years now and the mask is so annoying and would fog up my glasses, I usually just go without it, so I hope I haven’t already given myself horrible latent diseases :disappointed_relieved: But I’ll definitely shape up now!

(And thanks to Jonathan as well!)

And good points again, Mark! I’ve been scroll sawing for a few years now and the mask is so annoying and would fog up my glasses, I usually just go without it, so I hope I haven’t already given myself horrible latent diseases :disappointed_relieved: But I’ll definitely shape up now!

The good news is:

A) Scroll saws do not create anywhere near as many problematic particles as CNC.
B) Damage, if any, is cumulative. If you stop, issues largely stop.
C) Damage is largely reversible, much like the lungs of a smoker.
D) You were using a mask… some of the time.

I wouldn’t worry much.

An enclosure, while it has a cost, provides general protection (falls, children), hearing protection, and air safety protection (when accompanied with an appropriate vacuum system). Not having to use a mask and hearing protection is a good thing… freedom of movement, better visibility of what is going on, and sound levels that avoid hearing damage and lowered focus (constant sound causes fatigue).

Proper enclosure and vacuum system design isn’t hard and can done within any reasonable budget. The key is identifying the critical issues and planning… construction is done in a snap! When the budget allows, I recommend adding sound proofing materials (Whispermat) and using larger diameter tubing for the vacuum system (more efficient) - modest cost increases.


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I was going to say the same thing, although the scroll saw is generating dust, the particles are typically larger and few micro particles. The router on the other hand makes pure dust since it’s going 30,000 rpms and taking small bites at a time. If you are milling aluminum or other metals, the chips are larger and heavier so they normally don’t pollute the air.

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Metals are generally safe (leaving out Plutonium, Beryllium and such). Watch out for Cu (copper) alloys though - stay away from anything with Beryllium in it.

Plastics are generally safe - provided they aren’t machined until they burn. Burning release toxics, carcinogens, and teratogens. Just don’t do this.

Traditional “saw dust” is actually dangerous but some orders of magnitude less than CNC particles. Hardwood “saw dust” can be particularly nasty as some hardwoods contain noxious stuff. It’s best to treat “saw dust” with as much caution as CNC particles and waste.

Friable (“easily crumbled”) materials (e.g. wood, FR4, Garolite, carbon composite, MDF) are extremely dangerous to one health and lungs when CNCed. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is one of the worst as it combines wood and potentially toxic glue. MDF is a common spoiler board material so care is necessary even when machining metals or plastics if it is used.

In high precision machining, the spoiler board is machined flat by the machine - so it is square and flat to the machine - and this generates dust at a incredible rate. There are special tools to make this process go fast - spoiler board tools - and this increases the rate even more.

As I’ve commented previously, a very safe solution can be engineered on any reasonable budget. Combined with an enclosure one can be very safe from CNC particles (“dust”) and from mechanical and auditory issues.

Another reason to deal well with CNC particles is… preventing fires and explosions. Believe it or not particles suspended in air can be quite testy - a “dust fire” or “dust explosion” can occur under the right conditions. This can be totally avoided with a little safe air handling.

Emptying waste barrels and dust collector filters can be surprisingly easy for exposure. It’s a good idea to empty outside and upwind, the use liner bags so rapid closure is possible and to consider a mask. Vacuuming yourself before entering a residence after an empty is not a bad idea.

Here are previous postings that provide some insight into enclosures, air, and hearing safety:


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