Why isn’t there a full eShapeoko kit?

Many people ask me why we don’t sell a “complete kit”, like the full kit offered by Inventables.

Firstly, because our eShapeoko kit is configurable, the complete kit would have to be configurable too — so there would be not one single kit, but several variants.

Our current stock tracking (built into CubeCart, the store software) does not understand that one part could be sold on its own, and also part of several kits.  In fact, I’m not aware of any online store software that does that out of the box.  Many, including CubeCart, can interface with external stock tracking software, but I haven’t been able to find something that did what we needed.  Without a software upgrade, we’d have to stock kits in each combination of options separately (which ties up capital and takes up storage space), or adjust the stock frequently by hand and/or risk selling more of some parts than we have in stock.

I can write the software myself, but I need time that I don’t have.  I would like to replace the store software too, but that is also time-consuming.  Inventables have at least a dozen people working for them; they have an office and a spacious room for their stock, and they contract out the kitting of the Shapeoko.  There are just two of us, doing this in our spare time, and we count and pack everything ourselves.

While a “complete kit” is still some time in the future, we have tried to stock all the items you would need for a complete machine.  We have stepper motors (NEMA17 1.8° 40 mm, 1.8° 48 mm, and 0.9° 48 mm; NEMA23 0.9° 51 mm), power supplies, the Arduino Uno, our own stepper driver shield, Pololu stepper driver modules (green, black, and purple, with white coming soon), stepper cable, limit switches, and a few other items.  If you’re after a cheap rotary tool, they can be had elsewhere online for very little money, and we can’t compete on price with them.

We plan to stock larger power supplies, DC spindles, a few types of end mill and engraving bit, switches, and connectors.  All those items, combined with a “what to buy” guide on the Wiki, should allow you to buy everything you need for a complete machine from us.  Ultimately, I feel that being able to choose what to include and what to leave out is better value than one fixed kit.


I should have done this first thing.  But, better late than never.

CatalinVoinescu1smsqMy name is Cătălin Voinescu.  I am a computer scientist by training, software developer by day, CNC enthusiast and small-time entrepreneur by night.  I live in the UK, in Camberley, Surrey.  I am married and we have two sons.  I was born in Romania (in Brașov), and I moved to London some fifteen years ago.  I also spent a couple of years in Chicago, and I still go there now and then.

I learned about Edward Ford’s Shapeoko and Bart Dring’s MakerSlide from a friend in July 2012.  I read the entire Shapeoko forum (back when that was still possible to do that in a couple of sittings), and loved both projects.  At the suggestion of my friend, and with fairly enthusiastic encouragement from my wife, I decided to try to make the kit more easily available in the UK and the rest of Europe.  Of course, I could not resist making changes.  Some were based on upgrades seen on the forum, some were my own ideas, and a few were driven by cost, or availability of materials and fabrication methods.

Edward suggested the name eShapeoko for the new machine.  I liked it.  The now woefully obsolete FAQ [note to self: update it!] jokes that the e in eShapeoko stands for European, extended, enhanced (so far so good), excellent, extraordinary (your call) and fabulous (oops).

The first ten kits were made with MakerSlide from Inventables.

On the Shapeoko forum, I met Harry Raley, who was planning to have MakerSlide made in the UK.  He ran a successful Ulule campaign (Kickstarter was still US-only at the time).  He searched for potential suppliers, got quotes, talked to them, selected the lowest quote, ran the Ulule campaign, and used the proceeds to pay for an extrusion die and a first batch of MakerSlide.  A few months later, he had the unenviable task of handling, packing and shipping some 500 metres of rail.  I helped by selling him V-wheels, bearings and eccentric spacers at cost; in return, he sold me cheap MakerSlide for the eShapeOko kits.

Once the campaign was over, Harry and I ran an online store together, known as both Amber Spyglass Ltd (my existing company) and MakerSlide Europe (the latter with Bart’s kind permission).  Harry would stock and ship MakerSlide, eccentric spacers, V-wheels and a few other items, and I would stock and ship eShapeOko kits and all the other items in the store.  Logistically, this was a bit of a nightmare, but Harry and I got along well and made it work.  (Fun fact: to this day, Harry and I have never met in person.)

Last summer, Harry got the opportunity to pursue a career that would not have left him enough time for MakerSlide Europe.  He sold the extrusion die and his remaining stock of rail to me, effectively retiring from the business.  Harry had ordered two or three batches of MakerSlide before this, and I ordered a larger one after Harry left.  Since then, MakerSlide Europe has been myself and my wife (with my younger son helping occasionally).  Given that it’s now a single company, I need to settle on one name at some point, but I’m still dithering between Amber Spyglass (which I like but it’s not related to the domain at all), MakerSlide Europe (which has a copycat ring to it, and feels like it would limit the domain, but is obvious and helps in search engines), or an entirely new name (no ideas, though).

The rest of the story, especially the MakerSlide saga, you probably already know.

GravatarAnd, in the unlikely case you ever wondered about my avatar here: many proud parents use their children’s photographs as their avatars, Facebook profile pictures, and so on.  In keeping with Internet trends, and to brandish my parenting credentials, my avatar is a baby picture too.  It’s cropped from a photo of my younger son when he was five days old.  What you see is a small bit of his blanket.