Shapeoko 3 XL Threaded Insert Installation

In my quest to bring to bear the full power of my workshop, I needed to lay down an array of threaded inserts in my Shapeoko XL’s table so I could clamp and fixture projects. I traditionally use 1/4″-20 hardware to secure my workpieces, so I would need holes carved to fit these threaded inserts (E-Z Lok Threaded Insert, Zinc, Hex-Flanged, 1/4″-20 Internal Threads, 13mm Length (Pack of 100)). I designed a 2×2″ counterbored hole pattern, with a total of 16 holes in the X-direction. This was so that no holes fell on top of the seam between MDF panels. Then I punched out some gcode and let my CNC do all the work.


Now a few things you should consider before following my lead…

    1) I like to have my flanges on the top side of the table, since I think it looks cleaner than having a bare MDF hole. I’m not concerned about an endmill hitting them, since I always have a sacrificial layer between my workpiece and the bed.
    2) The Shapeoko XL has cross straps running under the MDF table, so you can’t drill all the way through your MDF. I stopped at a depth of around 0.7″. You could customize your program to cut all the way through in areas that are open, but I didn’t. You can always punch through later with a drill manually.
    3) I did my cuts with a 1/4″ endmill, so make sure you’re using the same if you’re blindly follow my gcode. Do an “air-job” test before actually cutting too, I tweaked the code to cut slightly tighter holes but couldn’t test the program since my table had already been cut into…
    4) I didn’t bother to optimize my hole pattern to go all the way to the very edge of the reachable work area.
    5) DO NOT use the 9mm drill size recommended on the packaging. Use a 5/16″ (8mm) diameter. My gcode file is programmed for 0.32″.


If you’re not yet dissuaded, here are my project files that you can download at your own risk. Project origin is the bottom left hole.

Project Files:
XL Threaded Insert Table Gcode
Fusion 360 Setup

8 thoughts on “Shapeoko 3 XL Threaded Insert Installation

  1. Winston, Great job putting this together. I am using your GC as is – you will notice that on the second hole, the machine starts to lose the Z-Axis orientation.At 00:24s you will hear sound as if cutter is hitting something, but the cutter does not cut through the MDF and hit the plates below. This causes it lose the orientation. Any thoughts?

    I am using Shapeoko 3 XL.

  2. If this is your first project with the Shapeoko, double check that the GT2 belt pulley on the stepper motor is tight. The set screws were loose on mine and caused the belt/pulley to slip, which resulted in the machine drifting in height.

  3. Thank you for quick response. The GT2 of the Z-Axis, i assume? It seems to be tight, I am not sure how tight is tight. Is there a way to test?

  4. I don’t know of any guidelines, I just get the allen wrench “two-finger tight” on both set screws, since you can’t put that much torque on it anyway. And then just push down on the spindle mount with a couple pounds of force to make sure nothing is slipping (with the motors turned on, so there’s resistance).

    Beyond that, the common faults are usually something like loose wiring or a bad connection somewhere. There should be a couple people on the forums with similar bugs, you might be able to try some of their solutions.

  5. I’m setting up to do this with my XL as the first project, with the 1/4″ endmill that ships with the kit. I’m finding that the point where the endmill is just about to touch the MDF (-86mm) is the point where the bottom wheels slip off of the Z extrusions. It can still move further down, but without the bottom pair of wheels engaged, there is a lot of wobble.

    Is this the case with your XL? Did you use a longer endmill?

  6. Looking at the video again, I see you have a Dewalt, whereas I have the Makita. I’m guessing the Makita is quite a bit shorter.

  7. The Makita is unfortunately about half an inch shorter than the Dewalt in terms of absolute reach. A longer endmill (“extended reach”) may be used instead, and you can find a lot on ebay. In general though, the shorter the endmill, the better (torque = force x distance, less torque at the endmill = more accuracy). Hope this helps.

  8. Thank for the setup Winston. Great Job!
    I just finished my board. I had the same Z loss issue. I miss-read your comments and associated it with the belt tension set screw and didn’t even check the motor spindle and gear set screw. I actually only had one of the two set screws installed so I guess that’s something else I need to ask for a replacement for.
    The other thing that got me was upon loading the g-code into CNCJS (I’m sending to a Raspberry Pi) it only had one row of pockets. The rest were there but were stacked upon the first row. This happened with your gcode file and also when I imported into Fusion 360 and generated the gcode from there with the Carbide3D Post Processor. I tried various settings in the Post Processor and ‘highFeedMapping’ set to ‘Always use high feed’ separated the rows properly. However that caused the end mill not to retract beyond the bottom of the counter sink hole when moving from hole to hole. Thankfully I was using a test piece of board. I changed the Post Processor settings back to the defaults and kept changing settings. I ended up fixing the issue in the Cam Setup tab for the counter sink pocket. Under Linking I had to change the ‘High Feedrate Mode’ to ‘Always use high feed’. That allowed the gcode to run properly. Odd issue for sure. Would you know what would cause this and is the ‘Always use high feed something that should be left on typically?


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