Thinking about Buying Shapeoko 3D

I’m think about purchasing the Shapeoko XL and I’m wondering how easy it is for someone with no experience. Will i be able to upload images and get them to cut? Can i get a rundown of what I should expect as a entry level person.

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We have tried very hard to make the machine as simple-to-setup and as easy-to-use as possible.

The kit goes together like a Lego kit (w/ a number of pre-assembled components) — finding space for the machine is usually the biggest challenge.

All the tools are bundled with it, but one wants a few additional things usually:

  • hearing and eye protection — some materials warrant a filter mask
  • vacuum
  • spare endmills — small / detailed work wants a 1/8" collet
  • some sort of workholding solution
  • calipers
  • a tape measure or pinch sticks (to measure on the diagonal)

The software bundled with the machine:

  • Carbide Create
  • Carbide Motion
  • Grbl

doesn’t directly allow one to use a pixel image — one can import vector graphics (SVGs) and CAD files (DXFs) and process them in Carbide Create, send them to the machine using Carbide Motion and they will be cut by Grbl controlling the machine.

Sometimes files will require cleanup in an editor such as Inkscape.

Learning how to use Carbide Create w/in its limitations is sometimes a stumbling block — but we have tutorials:

It is possible to load a pixel image and use it as the basis for re-drawing w/in Carbide Create:

That said, it is possible to use a CAM program which will directly process an image — MeshCAM which we bundle with our Nomad (but which is an additional purchase with a Shapeoko) is one commercial tool for this and it works quite well and affords a lot of control.

The community maintains a list of free / opensource options: and there are many other commercial options as well.

Please let us know specifically what you want / need and we’ll do our best to fill in!

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  1. Please watch the video’s in Will’s reply.

  2. It’s ART to PART, but it’s not ANY art (picture) a SVG or DXF file works very good (usually). Google a NOUN.SVG file (Example Heart.SVG) and you will see that it returns many good usable files. Other files types need special software to convert then into readable formats.

  3. You can draw your OWN pictures in Carbide Create (CC), Which comes with the machine purchase. I have used nearly ALL of the CADCAM stuff out there and it’s one of the easiest

  4. Can the machine cut 3D? YES. A Cube is 3D and it can be made using CC.

  5. Can I cut complex 3D shapes? Yes, but you will buy to but some software. Watch a few of Doug’s YouTube videos. He’s does some amazing 3D carving:



Thanks guys for the info

I wrestled with the process at first because just one or two wrong assumptions can have you spinning your wheels for quite a while. Now that I’ve gotten a feel for it I love using my SO3 and find it very easy to use. I use VCarvePro software which is around $800. It allows you a lot more creative options than Carbide Create but CC is probably just fine to start with. VCarvePro will trace images for you then you have to manually move or reshape the lines that are not the way you want them. There are probably free online tools that will do that for you too. If you ever decide you want more just start watching the VCarve tutorials on YouTube. They are interesting to watch plus after you watch 4 or 5 of them you start picking things up by “osmosis”.

They probably have their quality assurance in better shape now but don’t be surprised if you have some issues during assembly of your SO3. I had to adjust almost every eccentric roller and put loctite on a bunch of screws that came loose. I had one of the early SO3’s almost a year ago though so hopefully C3D has worked through those issues by now.

If you describe exactly what kinds of things you want to do with your machine you will probably get more responses to your question. Welcome to this group and good luck.


Yea I’m looking at doing this as small business making signs and things. I’m wanting to make sure that I will be able to create the things I want before I put the money into everything. But thanks for the info.

Ok so I played around with create for a bit, but I can’t figure out how to make what I made be cut. Like if I want the letters cut out or if I want the letters out and everything else around it cut. I hope my question makes sense

The first link will provided shows you all that

watch the toolpath video it will explain the different operations. what you are describing is a pocket cut i believe.

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With No experience, the Shapeoko is your best avenue to learn and get results. The Machine is extremely well thought out in its current iteration, and the software that comes with it is very useable, but something you will likely outgrow as your grasp of the capability of the machine improves.
The biggest challenge is actually putting the machine together, as the instructions are a work in progress-but the more complicated assemblies are shipped already assembled!..The instructions are some what challenged, but .the secret is upon frustration, search the forum-contact Support and post on the forum when something is not clear-in most cases the progression of assembly makes sense-even if the instructions are lacking. You will have a learning curve, but it is neither insurmountable nor long!
Your ace in the hole is the Carbide3D Customer support, between this forum, and Technical Support, you Willl be suprised at your success rate!. Explore this forum, the proof in in every post by a Newbie… Frustration is not rampant here, it is solved! Everyone helps…Everyone, WillAdams can fully answer most questions off the top of his head, as can several others. Everyone speaks from personal experience, in english from Carbide3D facilities,
I have had my XXL since January, and I have never in my 53 years been treated as a more valued customer. The only dumb question is the one you are too dumb to ask…I have never posted a Standing Ovation for any other companies idea of support…except in a thread in this forum
Carbide Create and Carbide Motion will get you in and teach you, but as your understanding and confidence grow it is likely you will want more capable and flexible software as the Shapeoko is 3D capable, but Carbide Create and Carbide Motion are not. Still, they are very capable and limited only to make them easier to use, There is nothing here that is actually hard, some of it is detailed, and some of it is completely unfamiliar, but so was Reading, and Writing and you mastered both of those when? Look how much more capable you are now!
I looked at everything out there, from Plasma cutting tables with hidden pricing and support forums to Inventables, to Imported kits, and I chose Shapeoko. Before I bought they sent me a free CNC overview, and were completely transparent about what they would provide, where their business came from and where it was going, and to beat it a ll they are USA made. That transparency is all over the web…They aren’t ashamed of their growing pains(instructions) and don’t hide their challenges they simply meet them head on and do better… There is no better way to learn than to have a company that is as interested in your success as they are with selling you a machine- That has been my Carbide3D experience. I don’t believe you will be more quickly successful with any other company or any other machine.


Yep, what Mr. Stokes said. The Shapeoko is not a set-it-and-forget-it machine that performs background voodoo to create things out of thin air. But, with a little patience, it is an incredibly powerful tool. I just used it over the weekend to make simple (but very precise!) pocket cuts for a planter box build, while on Friday night I used it to carve Half Dome and it’s surrounding valleys into a block of scrap wood… because why not! :slight_smile:

It is more than capable of making signs, but as was previously mentioned, you’re going to want to look elsewhere at some point for creating 3D toolpaths like the Half Dome project. I’d add that, if you plan to make a business out of this, get thee to a bookstore and start reading up on gcode, or take a class on CNC machining at your local community college. The source material can be a bit dry, but you won’t regret it in the long run.


Sounds like you didn’t watch all the training videos.

One of the things which can be difficult to grasp is what will be cut and how when one first makes toolpaths. If you select one path, or multiple paths which are not nested, either their perimeter or their interior will be cut out. If one selects multiple paths which are nested (say a border and a piece of text within it), then the pocket will begin at the outermost path and leave the interior paths uncut as islands.

Another concern is that some poorly constructed fonts or drawn path geometry have the incorrect winding (outermost path starts as clockwise, not counter-clockwise) which will prevent Carbide Create from generating and/or previewing a toolpath.

Also, Carbide Create doesn’t have a full suite of endmills defined, so one has to set up a V-bit if one wishes to do any V-carving.

In addition to the videos we’ve got a formal user guide:

and there have been a few additional tutorials worked up by the community which ought to address what you’re having difficulty with. Please see:


as well as Inlay Work (Woodworking) - #2 by WillAdams and Inlay Work (Woodworking) - #25 by WillAdams

I’ve been working on an addendum to the manual at: Shapeoko CNC Router, Rigid, Accurate, Reliable, and Affordable — I’ll see what I can work up there about regions and toolpaths.


Check out the"CNC Router Tips" FB group if you want to get inspired by what can be done with a CNC router.


Ok perfect, the video cleared up that question. Thanks

The Vcarve has 30 trials - fully functional, so you can see it works with your hardware
There is Vcarve Desktop for about $350 - main limitation is 25"x25" job size

Vcarve has a lot of YouTube tutorials from Vectric, but also the user base

Meshcam is easier to learn than Vcarve, but Vcarve is more powerful in long run in my opinion

Fusion360 is free to design in, and you can probably produce the gcode for carbide motion.

I use Vcarve Desktop, make gcode files, use carbide motion to send to Shapeoko XL

Best of luck,



As with most technical things, it’s always a slow start and that start may cover a long period of time depending on how much time and effort one puts into the endeavor.

The tutorials are very helpful but they seem to be scattered about. I find out about a tutorial here and there by someone referring to them by answering a question on the blog here. There seems to be no central location except for the very basic tutorials. This has and continues to be a very slow process for me but I have no regrets. It’s a good machine. One thing I don’t like about the unit is the MDF waste board. One will have to shim up the thing to get level cuts and that will change over time also. Oh and another is part of the work area is off the front side of the unit passed the frame. I guess what I expected would cost thousands of bucks.

I have tried to collect all the official stuff at:

and Nomad users may find: of interest.

See also:

(I’ve begun a similar page on MeshCAM, but it’s nowhere near done)