Posted by & filed under Milling, Project.

Two useful CNC techniques to know when you’re first starting out and looking for projects are image vectorization and tool changing. Being able to create toolpaths from jpegs and performing multi-step milling operations will open up a lot of project possibilities. Here’s the results of my own experimentation with these techniques.

Some other thoughts: Inkscape may not be the most user-friendly tool to use, but if you focus on learning a few features at a time (like image tracing) you’ll find the program progressively less daunting. At least that’s how I felt about it. Also, buying a variety of carbide bits on ebay is a great way to experiment on the cheap.

Posted by & filed under Community, Milling, Project.

We all know the Shapeoko is good for carving designs in soft materials like wood and plastic, and is capable of cutting through copper-clad boards and aluminum (albeit slowly). But Shapeoko Forum users Xaracen and KevinB have been playing around with something a bit further off the beaten path: Slate

As it turns out, slate is a viable material for engraving because although it is very rigid, it demonstrates very little fracture propagation. Instead of an end mill gouging out large chunks of material, slate readily pulverizes locally. This allows fine designs to be laid into the stone without a lot of unsightly chips forming.

As for sourcing the slate, you can scour your backyard for sufficiently flat specimens OR take a trip to your preferred hardware store and ask for floor/wall tiles.

I often go to the Shapeoko Forums for inspiration and these were two projects that really intrigued me. I’ll definitely be trying this out for myself in the future.

Photo Credit: Xaracen (top), KevinB (Bottom). Click images for direct links to forum posts.

Posted by & filed under design, Project, prototype.

CNC projects can be as simple as plaques, or as complex as something like a geared clock. Building up to the latter means understanding what is CNC-able, and planning out the kinematics of your desired mechanism. Here’s a fairly basic project I undertook last week, a shoulder stock for my plywood hex nut slingshot. I designed a set of interlocking pieces that ratchet backwards when adjusted for user comfort.

Posted by & filed under Shapeoko, Software.

For my past few projects I’ve been using MeshCAM to generate gCode for my Shapeoko. So far, it’s worked quite well for my needs. But for those of you who are just starting out in CNC, you might be wondering if you really need to shell out two or three hundred dollars to enter the wonderful world of 3D milling. The short answer is: no. There are a handful of options out there you can download for free and start using with just a few clicks.

The long answer is a little more complicated. While there are indeed free 3D CAM programs out there, you really need to try them out for yourself to see if their features, capabilities, and limitations are a good fit for your application. This week, I’m taking alook at two options: FreeMILL and PyCAM and discussing where they excel and fall short.

Posted by & filed under Milling, prototype, Shapeoko.

A quick weekend project to fix one of my minor office annoyances.

Having to pick up your phone to read your notifications may seem like a first world problem, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be dispatched in an elegant way. In the pursuit of desktop nirvana, I set out to make myself a simple smartphone stand with as little assembly as possible. The plan of attack was to machine out a predetermined shape in Acrylic and then thermoform it in what would essentially be plastic origami. You can judge the results for yourself, but I think version 1.0 doesn’t look too bad.

You can read about some recommended cutting parameters for different materials here:, but from my limited experience, I would say the most important thing in cutting acrylic is to keep your passes fast and shallow. Thermal dissipation in a small diameter cutter tends to be very poor so heat management is key. You may want to do some test passes in scrap plastic at different spindle speeds to find the sweet spot for your machine.

There are a few things I would improve such as widening the back “foot” for stability and upgrading to 0.125″ thick acrylic for more rigidity, but those plans will have to wait until next time.

Posted by & filed under electronics, Open Hardware.

Adding 802.11 wireless networking to your ShapeOko is easy thanks to the really neat RN-VX WiFly module

For those of you who might have tried this using Xbee’s fear not, this mod really works, what’s more its cheaper and you get the benefit of controlling your ShapeOko from all your PC’s etc. and LESS WIRES Read more »

Posted by & filed under Shapeoko, Software.


One of the most difficult parts of starting out in CNC is the software, that digital purgatory between idea and product. RamCAM There are dozens if not hundreds of CAM software options floating around on the internet and figuring out where or how to start is a problem the guys (and gals) over at Inventables are trying to tackle with Easel. But while we wait for it to become publicly available, there are still plenty of good options for CNC hobbyists to make use of. Some of them are free (like MakerCAM, HeeksCAM, Freemill, etc), and some of them are for-purchase (like CamBam, VCarve Pro, and MeshCAM). Which one is right for you depends largely on your needs. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Milling, Shapeoko, Software.

The following post is the first of many to be written by Winston Moy, the newest member of Team Shapeoko.

Winston caught our eye with his amazing series of videos documenting his Journey into CNC via Shapeoko. We touched base with him and, he agreed to come aboard and help show everyone what you can do with a little knowledge and some ambition.

Without further ado, here is Winston!

Read more »