Tools: Shop Bot

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Tool Description

The ShopBot is a 3-axis CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router. It is capable of cutting pieces out of 4 foot by 8 foot sheets of material (i.e. plywood or MDF); Smaller pieces can also be used.

It can make vector cuts (and pockets and drill holes) for shapes like boxes, circles, arcade cabinets, flat-pack furniture, gears, and airplanes; as well as carving 3d models of things like faces, terrain, plaques, ceiling medallions, door panels, or Carbonite prisoners.


  • Many members use Fusion 360 for their toolchain (bypassing VCarve). This has been accomplished by going to "Manufacture in Fusion 360 to generate tool paths and export to SBP format." It is recommended you perform an "Air cut", with the router high above your work surface, before performing the actual cut.

We use VCarvePro for layout, toolpath creation, and to save toolpaths with post processing for ShopBot.

VCarvePro can import these formats:

Creating or importing vectors in VCarve and assigning them toolpaths is fairly straightforward, once explained. Setting up 3d models requires more tweaking.

Members can get the VCarve Pro Makerspace Client for use on their own computers.

The Makerspace Client edition will allow users to design from scratch or import their data from other packages and includes the ability to both generate and simulate toolpaths, however it will not save these in a format that can be understood by the CNC machine. To complete this last step though the user can then bring the VCarve Pro files from the Client edition into the Makerspace and save their toolpaths to cut on the Makerspace’s CNC machine using the Makerspace edition of VCarve Pro licensed and installed at that location. (Source and further documentation)

To get the software, go to to download the VCarve Pro Trial Edition. Once installed, you will need to "enter the Makerspace ID to connect the trial to the Makerspace client". This ID number is pinned in the #CNC channel on THS slack.

Materials (what to use, and not use, it on)

  • Wood (MDF, plywood, hard woods, soft woods (pine, poplar), etc)
  • High density foam
  • Acrylic?
  • Metals can't be cut because the spindle (router) doesn't turn slow enough
  • Other??

General and Special Safety Considerations

This is not an exhaustive list!

  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Read, understand and follow all warning labels, instructions and safety manuals.
  • Hearing and respiratory protection are recommended.
  • The ShopBot may start and move in unexpected ways. Stay well clear of all moving parts during operation. Warn any bystanders before you command the ShopBot to begin a motion.
  • The ShopBot's router may create dust, chips, and larger chunks. These may be thrown from the cutter. Be aware of possible projectiles. Always wear safety glasses.


  • We are currently working to build a class, however, William Stillwell and others (Bryan Lee, David Redding) do offer 1:1 training when they are available ( Generally Open Make night is good, please coordinate with him a ahead of time, and have material ready )

When asking for training on the ShopBot, you should first have (per-requsites):

  • Taken the wood shop class so you know how we want things cleaned up.
  • A basic understanding of work holding, feeds and speeds, and conventional and climb cutting (as taught in the machine shop class).
  • A project idea, and have either already generated vector files for your project, or, for simpler designs, measurements of the pieces you want to cut out. This could be as simple as a couple boxes and a circle cut from a piece of plywood.
  • Material to use to cut. This could be a sheet of wood, or an appropriate scrap from the wood bin. Your material should be relatively flat, free of any metal (nails, screws, staples) and in good condition. I.e. not rotting, splintering boards you found on the side of the road.
  • Recommended reading: ONSRUD Cutter LP - CNC Production Routing Guide

Pre-Use checklist

Before using the ShopBot, you should:

  • Ensure that the gantry (y-axis) is square to the rest of the ShopBot frame.
  • Zero out your X and Y axises to the desired location.
  • Ensure you have the desired bit installed in the router.
  • Zero out your Z axis.
  • Triple check that your intended cut path will not impact any hold-downs
  • Wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Activate the dust collection vacuum system.
  • Before hitting "Cut Part", do a bladder check.
  • "Cut Part". You will be prompted to turn on the router. ("Spindle")

Post-Use Checklist (cleanup, etc)

When you have finished using the ShopBot, be sure that you:

  • Return the tool to the traditional [0,0] position in the lower-left corner. Zero the axises if they have been changed.
  • Install a standard cutter bit if you have changed to a specialized bit.
  • Use compressed air to blow dust off the ShopBot itself, the computers, and the work bench.
  • Vacuum or sweep wood chips, debris and dust off the bed and the tool.
  • Sweep up dust and debris within 4 a foot area around the ShopBot.
  • Return any other tools you have used to their storage location.
  • Turn off the ShopBot CPU.
  • Turn off the NUC (smaller computer).
  • Unplug all electrical cords used and return them to stowed condition

Tool Use

Please take a class or ask for individual instruction

Tips and Tricks

For those who are looking to buy Bits, Here are the current Recommended Bits to purchase for your "Tool Box"

  • Whiteside UD2100 Spiral Cut Bit (Compression), .25 Diameter, .25 Shank, 1" Cut Length, 2.5" Overall Length -- Good For Wood and will give nice clean cut - Available via Woodcraft Special Order Item # 818489 $38.49
  • Whiteside RD2100 Spircal Cut Bit (Down Cut), .25 Diameter, .25 Shank, 1" Cut Length, 2.5" Overall Length -- Good For Wood cuts downward pushing work against table - Available via Woodcraft Special Order Item # 812126 $20.99
  • Whiteside SA2100 O-Flute Straight Router Bit, .25 Diameter, .25 Shank, 1" Cut Length, 3.5" Overall Length -- This is for Plastic - Available via Woodcraft Special Order Item # 405215 $27.99
  • Whiteside is the best bits you can buy, they will last as long as you live, and you can pass them on to your children provided you take good care of them.

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