What are folks using for machine/work logs?

I’ve been trying to do better on this sort of thing for a while now, and am hoping to be impeccably disciplined about this for my next machine.

Failed to start w/ a nice new blank notebook each time — was always too excited about the machine and didn’t have a notebook handy somehow (which is weird, 'cause the house is full of them).

I’ve taken to mostly just using filenames for notes — at least they’re visible and transfer from app–app and wish there was some better system. Was hoping to use Inkbook from Xmage Software on my new MacBook Pro, but it doesn’t work on Catalina.

I suppose I could use a template page for either OneNote or Nebo.app — thoughts on what it should include?

I guess a page which listed:

  • date
  • project name
  • endmill(s) used
  • material(s)
  • dimensions
  • origin(s)
  • fixture(s)
  • setup notes
  • estimated time
  • begin time, end time, actual time
  • &c.

Anything else folks think would be worth tracking/noting?

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I have a wire bound notebook which has ruled lines. I write the date on top of the page and then what ever project I am working on. I use my phone camera and send pictures to a printer and print them on 4x6 photo paper and use Scotch glue to paste them in the pages. I bought a small paper trimmer and sometimes crop the pic to eleminate wasted space or to put multiple pictures in.

I have used the same journal for about a year and it is getting quite full and am ready to either go to volume two or to another method. The easy part about a written journal is it right by the machine and if I wait until later to journal with a digital format it might not happen.

What I like about the journal method is you record your success and more importantly your failures. By recording the failures and analyzing why it failed it makes you not make the same mistakes over and over.

If I stay with the written journal or change to digital format is not as important as recording your projects and what happened. Keeping good notes is important and should not be ignored.

I call my journal the Shapeoko Log but occasionally I will put things in that have nothing about the Shapeoko. For instance I was sitting outside updating the journal and commented on what a nice night it was and how the moon was shinning. Although this not a journal about my life it is in a way just mostly limited to the Shapeoko.


I’ve used this kind of journal for many years.

(2-Pack) Pocket Notebook 3.5" x 5.5", Small Hardcover Journal with Pen Holder, Inner Pockets, 100gsm Thick Ruled/Lined Paper, Black https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DF8FDDS/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_3Y8ZEb6AWWRBE


I print the setup sheet from fusion 360.

Has the majority of that on it already. I keep notes on the back and make changes to the program when needed to keep it saved right.

The goal is for someone to be able to order something. The wife can pull it up in the binder and cut it out. Make it as simple as can be. Trying to stick to a limited number of stock sizes. I can have a little more waste but make it easier for her.


The CAM tools I use include most of that on setup sheets (Inventor most these days, but sometimes Fusion or other), so that is my reference when running each setup. The layouts of the setup sheets are not always ideal, but a few additional notes takes care of it.

For a job as a whole, I use either a bound engineering notebook (I go through several a year, a general one that lives in the shop, one for proprietary things- including client proprietary-, and a carryaround that sits in my truck, and often one dedicated to a particular job, if the job is large enough. I went through two last July for one control system job. WAY too many iterations of the primary state machine, but it had to get by client H&S as a safety critical application) or filecards, depending on complexity and where in a design process I am. File cards are easy to move around.

General job layout goes in one place, usually the shop notebook, including things like what setups will be, process sequence, and so on. The setup sheets from the CAM system may not ever make it there.

I tend to prefer the bound books, as the pages don’t fall out easily and there is never a question later about when things were done. The engineering type have 5mm grid paper, so sketching is easy. I rarely insert any other pages, though I put in references to computer files or sheets in my file cabinet.


Does using post-it notes and then losing them count ?
I have a weird relation with post-it notes: I don’t like them, but they happen to be what my hand grabs to make a quick note/ feeds and speeds calculation etc…
And then when there is no space left I stack them.
And after a while they don’t stick so I use tape to hold them.
And then I curse against having so many unsorted post-it notes.
I probably need to go see someone about that :slight_smile:


As I noted, I was trying them (Post-It Notes) for a while attached to endmill holders but it didn’t work out.

The big thing for me is I’ve never been good at journals — closest I managed was buying a new appointment book each year at my previous job when I had to live my life around the publishing schedule of a journal which no one else could manage to produce.

Otherwise, post-its have usually worked out well for me, but I always put them in notebooks, and at one point in time was using a Roll-a-taq glue applicator to make my own out of newspaper clippings and so forth (really do need to replace that).

I’m thinking I’ll try a tabloid sheet folded in half and inserted into a disc notebook (which I’ve been using in various sizes and incarnations for a while now).

Here’s an example of an Autodesk Fusion 360 setup sheet as referenced by @quicky06:


from: https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/fusion-360-manufacture/help-with-font-size-of-set-up-sheets/td-p/6850445

Should be able to work up a first draft based on that and the discussion here presently.


“Everything in its right place”

This method predates my CNC, been doing this for (oh geeze) 20+ years. I’m a windows computer programmer so in-mind organization easily transitions to computer directory/file structure. Even before Microsoft introduced “My Documents” was using a drive (D:) for my own personal documents.

At some point a D:\Projects\ started (for personal non-work projects). So I would have directories under there like “D:\Projects\2001 - Data Recovery”. Within that folder I would keep all files associated with that project, pictures, documents, whatever. So as the projects progresses from “research” to actually doing something everything associated with that project is in one place. Even plain text “.txt” files for notes, measurements, etc.

When I started using a CNC for my “Projects” (almost) nothing changed, I still just have folders collecting files. However now I seem to have more pictures of my completed projects. Well and as I have aged the percentage of projects that reached a “completed” stage has increased. There is a potential flaw in that I put dates on my project folders, which seems to only point out how long ago I started “thinking” about some projects.

My father in law is a (retired) weather scientist. He has notebooks for different subjects, not talking about work, everything else. The discipline and detail is shocking and impressive, but after watching Mr. Tornado I realized this is how organized people did things before computers.

There are now software products that do a lot of this for you. For work I use “Evernote”, and my kid is a big fan of Microsoft OneNote. But the concept is the same, a place to collect things that are related. Like having a place to keep all your CNC bits, only in the digital world.

But this only works if everything is in the right place, which age has taught me just does NOT work for some people.


I’m with you. Memory is so inexpensive “these days” that it makes a lot of sense to store things digitally and provide an easy way to access it. I’ve been using my evolving SFPF Excel workbook to facilitate that

2020-05-21a SFPF.zip (146.0 KB)


I use a OneNote notebook with logs in it for all my projects and everything you mention. I log pictures and notes I have for the next time I run it (if I ever do). I find it works really well. I can add recorded voice messages too.


Spiral bound 8.5 x 11 and pencil here.
an idea i might share though, I also use the back cover for common reference items and about the last 5 or 6 pages where I keep notes on bits. When I see something about that bit that’s noteworthy, I write it down (sometimes)… there are certain ways a bit can be used besides plunging it into material and creating a trough.
Easier for me to take the cumulative written info, and when it is apt transfer to my personal tools list as parameters for creating “new” tools.


I was looking at making a OneNote template.

Interesting Vectric makes a .html file:


which one could “print” into a OneNote Notebook.

I broke down and bought Nebo for Android in addition to the Windows license I got ages ago, so may have to try it (unfortunately, it doesn’t do templates as such).

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For a while now Carbide 3D has been including a Machine-use Log page. See pg. 65 of:

It would be great if Carbide Motion kept a record of the jobs run. But, for this logkeeping exercise, only the filename and timestamp and possibly the offsets for each instance, nothing else that one usually finds in the ‘Log’ file.

I find that is the most tedious part of logkeeping, and I know the software could do it quicker/more legibly than I ever seem to be able to make it…

I keep a journal for my Shapeoko. I paste pics of setups and write about what worked or more importantly what did not work. In Vetric software they have job set up sheets to aid in setup of a job and record job specs. I am sure other software has the setup feature.

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A sort of work-around is to move/copy all files into a “machined” folder once they’re done.

I’m hoping to be perfectly disciplined about doing so on my Pro and Nomad 3 (and to also keep a notebook each on their usage).

Please dont laugh at my Shapeoko Journal cover, it was on clearance at Walmart. Here are a few pictures of my Shapeoko log book. I have just about filled this one up and will need to go to volume 2. I wish I had made this electronic from the start but if I had made it electronic it may not have ever got done. I print my pictures 4x6 on my printer and then paste them in with some 3m paper glue. For some pictures I have a paper trimmer and make them small enough to remove the blank space.


One thing that might be useful is to add similar jobs (that use the same tooling/material/origins). That way if you have one job setup your setup time for the next job can be shorter.