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Before operating the ShopBot CNC machine, make sure you have passed the CNC Router Certification Quiz and had an in-person CNC training. Contact to find out more.

Command Quick Reference

  • C3: moves CNC all the way to the home position

  • C2: zero the Z-axis with the help of the aluminum plate

  • Z2: Makes current position of spindle the 0,0 XY position

  • J2: Jog over to a specific X and Y position (example J2 10,10)

  • JX, JY, JZ: Jog to a specific location on a single axis (example, JZ 2)


  1. Double-check that the bit you are using is the exact type of bit mentioned in the CNC Templates page. If you don’t use the right bit, your part will absolutely not come out correctly. This is also where you will find the speed setting for the spindle.
  2. Turn on the Shopbot using the red switch on the wall

  3. Press the blue reset button above the computer

  4. Check that you can hear the fan above the spindle turn on

  5. Run the shopbot control software by clicking on the start menu icon and type 'sb3' in the search bar (if you don’t see the full version, click the question mark and “Switch to FULL”)

  6. Clear bed of any material

  7. Enter c3 command, the CNC will move to the home position

  8. Move the spindle over the work bed approximately where your stock will be using the command j2 12,12  

  9. Grab the aluminum plate and touch the plate against the CNC bit. The input 1 should turn green on the Shopbot software. Make sure you see this before proceeding

  10. Place the metal plate on the CNC bed, not on top of your stock

  11. Enter c2 and then press “ok” on the dialog box once you have double-checked that the aluminum plate is under the CNC bit.

  12. The CNC will move the spindle down to touch the metal plate and zero the Z-axis to the level of the bed.

  13. Put the metal plate back onto the CNC computer station.

  14. Use the JZ command to move the z-axis to a height that is above the thickness of your stock, this will prevent the bit from crashing into your stock as you jog it around. For example, if you are using 3" foam you can use the command JZ 4 to move the z-axis above where your stock will be

  15. Move the spindle out of the way by typing in JX 48 which will move the gantry of the CNC out of the way.

  16. Place your stock on the bed so that the origin of your stock is oriented along the x and y-axis at the 0,0 position

  17. Double-check that the bleeder valve is open

  18. Turn on the appropriate zone valves and close zone valves that do not overlap the workpiece. For most parts, you will likely only need one or two zone valves open

  19. Turn on the vacuum by turning the switch located on the gray box to the right of the spindle display

  20. Close the bleeder valve as long as at least one zone valve is open. (the bleeder valve is closed in the image below)

  21. If your workpiece is small it might not be held down to the table well enough. There should be sheets of hardboard and plywood located next to the CNC that you can use to fill in the empty space around your model zone. Reference the image below.

  22. Push your workpiece firmly to confirm that it won't move. If it does move, re-adjust the pieces of hardboard to cover more of the zone that your material is on.

  23. Type in J2 1,1 to move the spindle over the origin of the stock

  24. Type in Z2 and confirm that the shopbot software shows the X and Y position is 0

  25. We will load your shopbot file by going to File > Part File Load and navigating to your file. I recommend dragging your file beforehand from your USB to the desktop

  26. A yellow window will appear. Drag it out of the way.

  27. Click the big green START button on the screen

  28. A few pop-up boxes will appear. If a box pops up asking if the right tool is in the spindle, click yes/ok.
  29. If a box pops up asking you if you have zero'd the bit, hit ok/yes.
  30. A window will then appear asking you to start the spindle. Do not hit ok on that window yet.

  31. Look at the spindle control box to the right of the computer station and make sure the number indicates 150. If it is not, use the up and down arrows to set it to 150.

  32. Press the green start button right above the CNC computer. The spindle will turn on

  33. Let the spindle run at 150 for 2 minutes.

  34. Increase the spindle speed to 225 and run for another 2 minutes

  35. Increase the spindle speed to 266 and run for another 2 minutes

  36. Now you can hit OK on the window that popped up on the computer screen. If you see any additional dialog boxes that appear, hit OK on them as well

  37. The CNC will start moving and cut your part

After the CNC is finished

  1. Jog the spindle out of the way if it is blocking you from retrieving your work (j2 36,36 will move it 3 feet in both the x and y-direction).

  2. Open the bleeder valve and close the zone valves. Your workpiece will now be released from the CNC bed.

  3. If no one is in the queue to use the machine after you, turn off the vacuum system and the shopbot control box

  4. Log off of the CNC computer

  5. Use the nearby shop vacs and the power cord suspended from the ceiling near the table saw to vacuum the cnc bed and the surrounding areas. Don’t leave the CNC machine messy