Shopbot and Tormak

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Device Manufacturers

  • ShopBot website - The classic CNC wood router. Tabletop to 4x8. Shopbot Alpha is 4x4 foot.
  • Iconic CNC website - Midsize CNC routers

Maker Nexus Equipment

The Maker Nexus woodshop has a ShopBot PRSstandard 48-48 with an effective work area of 48" x 48" for cutting soft materials such as wood and plastic. The shop has chucks for mounting 1/8", 1/4", 3/8", or 1/2" tools. There is no automatic tool changer. Spindle speed must be adjusted manually. Jog speed must be no more than 4 ips or the machine will lose position.


To prepare your design for cutting you need to create "tool paths" for the target machine. There are 3 steps to using the CNC. 1) generate some vector-based designs. Any drawing program on any platform will do. 2) Import those into something to specify tool paths (cutting and shaping moves). 3) Export the actual GCODE cut file that will drive the CNC.

In software you define the material your part will be cut from, the tools (bits) you will be using, and the speeds and feeds for each tool.

  • V-Carve is software provided by ShopBot to create tool paths. In your design software save a 2D file as .dxf and then import into V-Carve. Now in V-Carve specify your tool paths - tool selections, speeds, feeds, etc. Finally, create the cut file.
    • V-Carve has a free limited feature version that members can run at home to prepare their files. V-Carve is a Windows program but members routinely run it on a Mac using Parallels or Virtual Box.
    • We have one copy of the full featured version at Maker Nexus that members can use to generate their GCODE cut files.
    • Maker Nexus has made several videos on using v-carve.
  • Fusion 360 can create toolpaths and GCODE. However in the free version of Fusion 360 all the rapid moves (G00) are converted to G01 which is slower. So your cut file will take longer to run if you create it with the free version of Fusion 360. If cutting on the Shopbot, you can press (Shift + "." = >) to speed up the Feed Rates. This is an incentive to upgrade to a paid version of Fusion 360.


ShopBot specific tips can be found at ShopBot tips.

Speeds and Feeds

Wikipedia has a good page on speeds and feeds. In particular, you can get the cutting speeds for many materials using a high speed steel cutter. Missing from the Wikipedia table is Wood. The Cutting Speed for a soft wood, such as pine, is 1000 feet per minute.

There is a recommended speeds and feeds calculator at ... d-and-feed The calculator needs Feed per Tooth. We were told to use the following values:

  • Aluminum: 1/100th the bit diameter
  • Wood: 1/50th the bit diameter
  • Foam: 0.1

Plunge speed should be about 1/3 the feed rate.

Most router bit specs have feed recommendations. Amana router bits also specify the material type. They have bits for wood, plastic, stone, metal, etc.

Problems when cutting

If your wood part smokes, then either increase the feed rate or slow the spindle RPM. If you hear screeching, they you are feeding to fast - or too slow. Try slowing the feedrate first. If that doesn't work, then increase the feed rate a bit.



The shop keeps a few bits on hand for classes and for resurfacing the spoil board but you should purchase your own bits to avoid damaging the shop's tools and ensure consistent results for your projects.

The more flutes a bit has, the more heat it generates. Typical flutes for materials:

  • Plastic: 2
  • Wood: 1 or 2
  • Aluminum: 2
  • Steel: 4

CNC router bits are different from handheld router bits. They are driven through material by a rigid gantry whereas handheld router bits follow a path using a guide bearing. Be sure to buy the right kind of bit.

Dan-Mar Tools is a good source of bits 907 American Street, San Carlos, CA 94070 Phone:(650) 591-2651For cutting pink foam, Matthew had a four inch long bit that was about 0.5 inch in diameter. The flutes were almost like a rasp on it. He said it would just rip thought the foam at very high speed. Great for a roughing pass.

You can also purchase bits online from Amazon and other retailers. Carbide bits last longer than high speed steel but are much more expensive and brittle (don't drop them!). Some manufacturers offer complementary sets of bits at a modest discount to get your collection started, such as MakerMade, Whiteside, and Freud.


Pink Foam

I bought 4x8 sheets of two-inch thick pink foam insulation at Home Depot. Not every HD carried it. The sheets where scored half way through every 18 inches. This material cut extremely well. I sprayed the finished piece with shellack. For a more spooky effect I sprayed it with gray paint and the material started to dissolve away a bit.