Starting a Shapeoko 2 Build

Build it or Buy it?

We like building things even if it is just following some instructions and assembling them. We don’t usually try to make our own tools. DIWire, a desktop wire bender, is an awesome project. We could have built it following these directions but we bought it.

For us it comes down to whether you want another project or the output of the tool. …Unless our friends from Inventables ask us to build a Shapeoko 2 for their friend in San Antonio.

Mission accepted.

What is a Shapeoko?

A Shapeoko 2 is a simple, compact, low-cost, open source 3D CNC mill that can be purchased as a kit for about $300. The 3-axis stepper motors are controlled by an Arduino and can be driven by Easel, a web-based application that handles the old CAD/CAM-type functions.

Getting Started


After unpacking the two small packages we received, we scanned the bill of materials and checked the parts. Everything is clearly labelled making locating parts easy. Let’s build!

Like all great open source projects, we refer to the Shapeoko Wiki to read the Build Instructions. (On a geeky note - the docs are written completely in Markdown and parsed to HTML on the fly by javascript. Nice!)

In an interesting twist, we are asked to install the software first. A java app sends G-code to the Arduino that a custom shield translates to the four stepper motors.

To test the thin vertical slice, we install the Arduino’s gShield and wire up some motors.

gShield Installed

As recommended, we tape the axles to highlight the motors movements. The Y-axis motors should spin in opposite directions.

2Testing Electronics


Now we can move on to the next step - Wheels and Sliders!