Shop use for a Shapeoko?

I have a Shapeoko 3 (standard size) that I’ve been using and slowly precision-icizing now for ~3 years. Both of the main side rails were taken to a machine shop and cut to be exactly the same length long, I upgraded the Z-axis to their HDZ (high rigidity) setup, and upgraded the wasteboard to the T-Track kit.

I have used it to mill larger pieces of 7075, and apparently it is good enough to do 303 or more if your careful. Allegedly.

Anyway, I was talking to some people tonight and it sounds like there’s some discomfort moving from the mini-mill to the Tormach. I have a lot of complaints about the Shapeoko, but one thing that it’s done for me is help me understand the mistakes you can make (while in a low risk, slow moving Shapeoko environment). “Oh, that’s what cuts look like if the Z-axis isn’t trammed.” “Oh, that’s what happens when your tool is deep in a slot, and the machine is told to go to zero without retracting the Z axis all the way first.” Etc.

It has been a great tool to learn what happens when you make mistakes. I’m not sure that there’s much use for it beyond that though. Both the mini-mill and the Tormach would be better to use (by miles?) if you know how to use them.

So, with all that being said, would the shop have much use for it? I’m guessing “no”, but I’ve guessed “no” in the past with other things here and have been wrong.

Again, I just see it as an educational tool for metal CNC-ing. It’s probably quite practical for wood stuff, but I’ve never used it for that myself.


I 100% agree. I wonder if its the challenge of CNC in general or “big boy” metal milling. I’ve found that my (dozens) of hours on a CNC router an (countless) hours on a 3D printer have given me enough mental model of what’s about to happen that it minimizes the variables of what can go wrong on the Tormach. Perhaps we should encourage the Tormach not to be your first or only CNC experience?


I’ve owned several Shapeoko and have been teaching CNC for five years using Shapeokos. They’re excellent beginner machines because they’re affordable and because their software is easy to master. At the same time, most of what you learn is directly transferable to beefier CNC.

That said, I don’t consider the v-wheel construction of the Shapeoko 3 to be rigid enough for any satisfying metal work. It works fine for wood with conservative feeds and speeds. While the Shapeoko 4 still uses wheels, the Z-mount is much sturdier. With the Pro you get linear rails and with the HDM you also get ball screws.

For learning CNC I think you’re right, the Shapeoko 3 is a great tool. Adding it to the mix for wood along with the Shark and the Big CNC would probably just confuse beginners unfortunately. Three machines that are so different doesn’t provide an easy on-ramp for people new to CNC.

If our goal is just “more CNC machines” then adding the Shapeoko 3 makes sense.
However, if our goal is to grow more CNC users then I’m afraid it doesn’t help.
IMHO, we’d have two identical beginner CNC machines for training purposes
and some consistency in software toolchain and workflow across all CNC.

Any chance you have TWO Shapeoko 3 to contribute? :innocent:

1 Like

I think Travis summarizes the situation perfectly. I’m open to variety among advanced machines, but for beginner stuff it’s important to be consistent.

1 Like

I agree with Travis’s assessment. I think that we can get linear rails and ball screws for this Shapeoko. There are kits and good documentation online.

1 Like

I do technically have two I could host, but the other is a Nomad, and I do like having it available at home :slight_smile:

Sounds good on the Shapeoko! I just thought I’d check since it’s now sitting around and I don’t think I’ll be doing much with it now that I have access to the Tormach.

1 Like

I have a Nomad too … isn’t it wonderful having a CNC you can use in the house?! :slight_smile: