Yet another Shapeoko vs XCarve question... from a guitar maker

The biggest problem with the Shapeoko 3 is the lack of tech support for the control software (Carbide Motion). After more then a year of release Carbide 3d still wants to put it of as being in Beta.
The newest version has serious problems, unless you are just clicking run. They sell (when available) the probe that only works with V4.xx C.M but again don’t address long standing issues like not being able to view a current Log after a $H command. Makes it very difficult to calibrate a machine when you cant home in between changes and verify said changes with $$ command.
The machine is much more rigid than the X-Carve but I believe X-Carve tech support (software) to be FAR SUPERIOR than Carbides 3D.
When I purchased my XXL I had an opportunity to purchase the larger X-Carve in basically new condition for $1000.00. This was before X-carve upgrade and the rigidity was severely lacking. I know the X-Carve upgrade has helped their rigidity but the S3 is still going to offer better.
You just have to deal with a lack of supported software (with Shapeoko3).
Good luck either way.

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Thanks for your input, Ray. Would it be fair to say that said software issues would be negated if using something like Fusion or Aspire?

Also, it’s been recommended that the probe is not worth the cost as one could be had cheaply from China or even made.

Any thoughts on this?


pretty sure he was reffering to the motion software fusion or aspire dosent offer motion control

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The community has notes on alternative software at:

and commercial alternatives at:

That said, we’ve worked very hard to make Carbide Create and Carbide Motion simple to use, reliable, and capable, and they work well for the majority of our customers — you can see how they work out in out tutorials: and if you have any troubles with a project or file, let us know and we’ll do our best to work things out with you — in some instances, we have made up custom tutorials for customers.


Hey gents -
As an update, Robot Shop offers free shipping on orders over $75 which puts me close to the Carbide 3 price once converted and that’s with buying a router separately (the only item they don’t include).

This said, I have a few more questions:

  1. The XXL ships with the Makita adapter / spacer as a standard item. wants $119 CDN for the Makita but $169 for the Dewalt. I’ve watched the comparison video on YT and the only slightly limiting factor I can recall for the Makita was depth of cut. Any thoughts on this / router choice?

  2. DUST BOOT: I haven’t seen one in the shop… are most of you using the ‘Suck It’ aftermarket boot? Thoughts / comments / other recommendations?

  3. BIT RECOMMENDATIONS: I have no idea what would be a good ‘starter kit’ for my needs (cutting out fretboards, radiusing fretboards, bits for headstock logo inlay, position markers, hogging electric cavities, smoothing transitions., etc.). Is there a good ‘general’ starter kit to get a guy going / must-have bits? How about ordering from China by way of AliExpress or Ebay?

  4. 1/8” Collet: Is this requires for finer bits? If so, any recommendations to source one? Are they specific to router manufacturer?

  5. T-Track and clamp kit: worth it?

Thanks guys!

1 - the community has notes on this at:

2 - there’s supposed to be one in development by Carbide 3D, but no idea when it’ll be released. The community has notes on options at:

3 - suggested starter set at: — folks have had good luck w/ the Kyocera endmill from drillman1 on eBay as noted at:

4 - yes, if the endmill has a 1/8" shaft. Carbide 3D has one for the DeWalt at: and Elaire Corp. makes them for either at: and and Precise Bits makes a nifty ER-style set available at:

5 - The T-track and clamp are a nice convenience — lots of folks make up their own despite the chicken-egg situation. We have instructions at: and further notes at:


Ray’s not wrong. CM has the tricky job of having to be REALLY easy so as to lower the barrier to entry, however in making something so simple, it really hamstrings it’s capability for anything more than the basics.

The good news is the Carbide Motion Board (not to be confused with Carbide Motion the software) is still grbl at heart. This is the motion control software and it can be controlled with many (free) g-code senders. I’m a personal fan of the grbl-panel project and have got a training video floating around youtube on it. Using a solution like that completely negates the drawbacks of CM (since you’ll no longer use it).

Bits: Grab a 1/8 + 1/4 up and down cutting endmills (4 bits total) and I think you’ll be able to do 80% of what you’ve talked about. The materials you work in and the work you want to do will be the best predictor of what bits you need and sometimes it’s easier to just get the basics, then see what does and doesn’t work.
Check out the ebay seller “drillman1” - he has a huge selection of cutting tools and almost-unbeatable prices, and they’re great quality.

A word on beginner expectations; lower them. Not for the S3, but for CNC work in general. Even for the already-capable woodworker and technical person, CNC has a wallop of a learning curve. You’re not going to nail a tapered & radiused fretboard 20 minutes after setting the machine up. You’re going to mess things up, the machine will behave in ways it seems like it shouldn’t, etc. Not a jab against you, just a reality (IMO). Start basic with some of the C3D tutorials. Then work into some 2.5D CAD/CAM to get the hang of offsets/zeroing/homing/workholding. Work your way up to the 3D CAD/CAM you’re aiming for and life will be better :slight_smile:


This is solid info, Adam. Thanks for this and the reality check ;). I found your video on YT and will need to sit down and digest it. Currently, I’m in shop reno mode as my machine arrived late last week. The table is complete, shop looks / feels great and I managed to get as far as the wiring last night.

As you say, I’ve resigned myself to jumping into some basic projects, getting a feel for the ‘landscape’ and will no doubt gain greater clarity around bit choices and so forth as I scale up my understanding of the machine. Thanks for the bit recommendations as well. Everything you mention makes perfect sense.


I don’t think I can add much that hasn’t already been covered (also coming at it from a Nomad 883 owner, and eventually an S3). I will say that the support has been amazing. I’ve had a video call when I first got my machine used to get a more experienced set of eyes on the machine, and go over basic maintenance, I also had a controller board issue and that was quickly resolved and followed up on (and they sent the part for free, which is crazy). I’ve sent e-mails about work holding thoughts/demo projects, I’ve called support and asked a few questions which turned into an hour long discussion with various topics involved.
I’m working through another hardware issue now, and every e-mail gets turned around really fast.

I’m not trying to be a shill here, but at this point my experience with the Carbide 3d team has been fantastic and even if cheaper hardware is out there I’m okay with the slightly more expensive price to have that support in place.


Fellow Canadian here. I purchased from the robot shop. No problems.Great service and delivery. I also purchased the Makita router from them at the same timne. Maybe they don’t sell them any more. My circuit board failed a month or so later and the manufacturer in California had a new board to me in a few days. Awesome support.
I mainly machine aluminium on a stock Shapeoko 3. Only modification is a leather piece to stop the aluminium chips going into the z-axis belt. Also seal the box containing the circuit board. The smallest hole will let dust in.


Hello fellow Canadian, and welcome! I can’t add much here that hasn’t been said already. From a fellow newbie (about 7 months?) I can tell you that you won’t be sorry for buying from Carbide3D. Support is excellent, a fantastic community, and a really well designed machine. With anything like a CNC machine, with many moving parts and sensitive electronics, users do have problems. Most issues can be resolved by asking for advice and help, but be prepared to do maintenance and troubleshooting.

The best thing about a CNC is that it will do exactly what you tell it to… which is also the worst thing. Learning how to tell it what you want is the biggest learning curve. Having a ready vocabulary of swear words is a necessity. But once you get a design that works, you can run it a 100 times and it’ll produce the same product every time.

I absolutely love my machine, and I can’t imagine doing without it. I have a shop full of tools that have been demoted to just prepping stock for the CNC, or helping me finish a project. Don’t expect things to come off the machine ready for assembly, although with certain techniques you can get it pretty close. There’s always some clean-up to do, but it can get you a long ways. As you learn new techniques, you’ll find new ways to incorporate them into your designs. I just learned how to produce crisp painted v-carve designs today, and I’m super excited for future projects.


Good tips, Tom. I’ll seal up the box. Thanks!

Machine is assembled short of the final ‘dialling in’ as we left for a ten day camp trip before getting a test cut in… looking forward to getting her running upon return.

Good points, Steve. I anticipate a ton of learning (as well as tweaking) and like the idea of getting a run dialled in and then being able to repeat… Nice work on the V-carve!

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You’ll enjoy the machine. Once you have it dialed in you will not have to tinker with it much. They are workhorses. You’ll always have to be careful about human error, but the machine will function well.

Good luck.


Hey gents - thought I’d jump back in and post an update.

The machine arrived a few weeks ago and I spent most of the weekend building by table, arranging the shop and assembling. A camping trip put the brakes on for 10 days, but once back this past weekend, I got to running the ‘Hello World’ file - seemed like an appropriate ‘rite of passage’.

My next project to get my feet wet will be the hold down clamps from the ‘Tutorials’ section.

  1. I’m wondering if the 1/2" HDPE plastic used is essentially what the white cutting boards are made of. Google showed mixed comments on that. I guess an alternative would be to mill down some hardwood using a 6"x6" piece…

Another thing I did was create a waste-board; essentially, I copied the ‘kit’ as closely as I could that is available here. I had a ton of 3/4" MDF that I ripped into strips and separated them w/ 4 lengths of T-Track.

  1. I’m wondering if there is a tutorial out there on how to level the wasteboard. Because mine covers the entire bed of my machine (like the XXL Kit), I’m guessing the levelling process won’t get right to the edges.

Here is the bit I bought from Amazon as recommended by another member:

I just don’t know where to start with the levelling process. Also, what is everyone doing with this ‘full-size’ waste-board in the areas where the router can’t reach?

Thanks in advance.

Great to hear!

1 - yes, most plastic cutting boards are HDPE — inexpensive ones may be LDPE

2 - I wrote up a bit at and Notes on rapid positions and wasteboard leveling and c.f., Wasteboard Plans with threads

The tramming in a lower section is actually something of a problem — that’s one of the things I like about my previous wasteboard / T-track setup w/ the loose pieces — I’d cut and re-arrange them and cut them so that the sections outside the cutting area were lower than the cutting area, then I could shim up to make clamping work as necessary, but if I had a slightly oversize piece it would align to the level of the trammed working area.

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Thanks Will -
Is that to say that your wasteboard is smaller than the stock MDF base, in other words, an island?

I’m starting to think I should revise my full sized bed/t-track to fit the working area of the XXL - perhaps I should have researched this a bit more before going to task…

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Clarification needed: :slight_smile:
I found Winston Moy’s video on dialling in the waste board.

At timestamp 6:35, he demonstrates a poor-man’s tool to check ‘square’. I fashioned one and noticed that when ‘west’ is just touching the waste board, east is just under a quarter inch off the board. As a note, I set up a small square on the wooden ‘jig’ to make sure the jig itself was square to the router. I then tried to tilt my gantry upwards as Winston mentions but even w/ loosening the bolts, there isn’t much movement at all in the rail.

A 1/4" seemed like a lot to be ‘out’, so I kept watching…

At 7:12 he mentions running a flattening function, and then checking with his jig and then running the flattening function once again (vs the alternative method mentioned later, which just confused me). Would that be the correct process - 1) Run a levelling operation with the machine ‘as is’; 2) Check with the jig / make necessary adjustments; 3) Run the levelling operation again?

On a side note, is there a section in the forums (that I’m missing) that walks new users through setting up a file from scratch to create a levelling function? The tutorials are great along with the various files one could download. However, it would be great if there were walk-thru tutorials to take users from ground zero to a finished product (i.e., creating the artwork, setting everything up and running the project). Disclaimer: If it’s here, and I’m blind, please ignore the last paragraph.

As a very basic walk-thru, I’d like to learn how to create this levelling / flattening ‘file’ for my XXL (even though it may seem extremely basic and I may thing 'that’s it!). Like anything, it’s easy when you know how.

Thanks again.


You want to have T track at least half a clamp’s reach outside of the working area — that was the mistake which I made when I set up mine the first time. Having the work area be an island/higher than the surrounding area allows you to do things such as cut a board to longer than the work area and clamp it so that it’s flat on the work area, not propped up at the ends.

There are entire books written on this stuff, and it’s always a compromise/trade-off on some axis:

  • convenience
  • clamping rigidity
  • expense


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