“CNC Routing Machine” or “Shapeoko 2 Joy”

So yesterday morning I wrote my 9/11 post and received a LOT of positive feedback through private messages, email and on Facebook, and was really pleased. A number of people commented (though NOT in the thread, shame on you ALL) about how gentle and respectful it was to the tragedy, while reflecting favorably upon what can be taken from such heartache. Just HOURS after I wrote that post, I was in the garage with a young friend of mine, a former student of my wife’s, organizing the scrap wood pile by size and I had to run to the store to get some cardboard boxes to tote it into the basement for the furnace. Anyway, while in the store, one of the lovely ladies saw me and perked up, “Are you here for your mail?” I kinda started, “No? Yes? Sure! Why?” She went on to explain to me that a “real heavy” parcel was there by my feet, and she didn’t want to heft it into the back of the store only to drag it back out to the post office desk for me to check out. I saw the label, “Inventables” I remembered where my new CNC Router was ordered from. “Yes. Yes I am here to get mail. What boxes?”

So I drag the sucker home, must way 10-20 kilos. Not unwieldy, but one of the heavier parcels I’ve received via post (and I make chain maille!) I brought in two or three boxes, and called Ashton from the back of my (did I mention it’s cavernous?) garage. “Could you grab that last box? It’s on the back seat.” Being a relatively nice guy, when he wants to be, he obliged and came in taking slow steps. He looked at the box, speculatively, and looked at me, “Is this…” he changed his gaze again, “This isn’t…” I laughed, “The new CNC. Bring it on over here. Shag the wood, today.” The kid practically flew over to the assembly table. You have to realize, there are kids from these three towns (Roddickton, Bide Arm and Englee) who’ve never left the island, never left the province, never been on an airplane… I once witnessed someone in a Subway restaurant who didn’t recognize a fountain drink machine, and was unaware as to how, exactly, to operate one. We’re a little isolated, here, and some of us cope better than others.

We were quick to unbox it, and as we poured over the two or three dozen baggies of loose screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and eratta, then the dozen rails, plates, brackets and parts, four motors, selection of allan keys, screw drivers, wrenches, boards, and a half-dozen books and manuals… we realized, no instructions. He looked at me with awe, “When will we finish this?” I looked pensively at all the carefully machined parts, and recalled the statistic from the brochure, “40-50 hours, they say, depending on skill level.” That’s when he taught me some new words. To make things even EASIER, there wasn’t actually any MANUAL to assemble the wretched thing. I suggested he return to the wood (his chore to earn him some playtime ON the CNC mill) and I run into the house to use the wifi and grab the manual. I did so, back in five minutes, and he closed the gap from the back woods storage to the parts counter before I could. Impressive. I then pulled the laptop out, plugged it in and began assessing the assembly instructions.

Now, I’ve often said that education does not intelligence make, I’m sure someone else said that before me, but I’ll bet they weren’t as good-looking, as charming, or as modest as me. Anyway… I’ve got eleven years university, spread among computer science, civil engineering (both technical level), psychology, environmental studies (both undergraduate level) and sustainable agriculture (grad level)… to speak nothing of my practical research in everything I could find. But… I couldn’t wrap my head around (by this I mean it didn’t raise any RED Flags) that the diagram I was looking at, above, didn’t match the parts I was looking at on the table. It took me about a half our of teaching Ashton (15) some new words that he can’t say in school before I realized, these were for the Shapeoko, not the Shapeoko2. Damnit.

So BACK into the house I go (while I sentence Ashton, the grinning idiot, back to the wood pile for his insolence), grab the PROPER plans from the proper website. Fan-frackin-tastic. Now we can start work. It took four hours to JUST get the upper assembly together, which is about half of the mechanical portion of the assembly, then it was to assemble all the servos, the wiring, the electronics, the software installation, the programming integration and the calibration. It was going on 6pm, at two hours since we started, and the little quitter needed to go eat. Well… more specifically, Sarah (my doting wife) explained to me that we couldn’t sequester the child in the shop until assembly was complete. So I drove him home.

It’s 6:00pm. I came back and realized, well, the kid is already eating, so as a fair member of the team, I’m half-eating. I can work another few minutes before food; another couple of parts before I head in. So eight o’clock runs around, daylight is starting to fade and my hands are shaking; then I realized, Ashton didn’t share the energy he earned from eating. Not a team player. I saunter into the house and decide to begin it again in the morning.

7am rolls around, I growl my way out of bed and nurse my first pot of coffee for the day and after Sarah goes onto school at 8am, I crawl out to the garage. This is when my day started to go bad… an hour after waking up. I was quick to re-assemble something that Ashton built incorrectly (at least, I blame Ashton)  and began to move on from where we left off. I was tapping the aluminum extrusion of makerslide with a M5 screw tap, when *SNAP* the damn-blasted thing disintegrated in my hand. The sharp, jagged, pointy, stabby damn-blasted thing disintegrated inTO my hand. My day was complete already, I got blood on something in my shop.

I started to panic, this kit took two weeks to arrive, and if I had to wait that long I’d be forced to murder someone, and I half-way worried it’d be the teenager, so I made tracks to the local “Everything” store, it’d take 2 weeks to order the metric die tap. Shit! I checked HomeHardware’s website, only imperial and the tolerances are too high for my needs. I checked CanadianTire’s website, it didn’t even know what the hell I was talking about. I called Nuts and Bolts, AKA Newfoundland Fasteners, and they only had ONE M5 tap, but it was the common thread-bevel, so I asked them to put one aside for pickup. Corner Brook is a 4-hour drive away. I was getting desperate. So desperate, I called my mother-in-law (Love you, Joan!). Today is Friday and the NorPen bus service comes from Corner Brook to Bide Arm Tuesday and Friday evenings… I only had about an hour before the bus left town to come up, and I had to get that part ASAP… Ashton’s life probably depended on it (Sarah could probably take me in a fair fight)! She couldn’t get it today, it’d have to wait until Tuesday. It wasn’t looking good for Ashton. I called the bus itself, and ordered the part pickup, $10.00 (plus tax) for the part, $17.00 for delivery. Shag it. A human life is worth $28.50.

So I got the part, the M5 Screw Tap, delivered here around 10pm. I’ll go back out into the garage in the morning and get back to work. It’s my hope that I can finish all the physical stuff and actually have a picture for you, so another post may be on more of my misadventures in the garage! I swear to god, if I break THIS screw tap, someone dies. Where’s Ashton when you need him?


2 thoughts on ““CNC Routing Machine” or “Shapeoko 2 Joy”

  1. This was an interesting blog entry Robin, if for no other reason than the experience in dealing with customer service reps who were unable to render assistance. It seems large businesses such as Canadian Tire do not invest adequate training for their employees who have to interact with the general public.


    • Now that you mention it, I forgot part of this story. I left an email message explaining my predicament with the people at “Inventables” and the charming woman I was speaking with sent a new Screw Tap immediately, offered me new aluminum rails and some lubricating fluid IMMEDIATELY, like, SAME day. Now THAT’s customer service!


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