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Shark HD520 Review-Woodworking CNC [2023]



John Abraham
Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com


Next Wave CNC Shark HD520

The Shark HD520 is the largest CNC router offered by Next Wave CNC and is popular among woodworkers running small businesses.

Next Wave’s CNCs are built primarily for woodworkers, and that’s reflected in most features of this CNC router.

With a cutting area of 25’’x50’’ (2’x4′) the HD520 gives you the large work area and performance you need.

In this review, I go through every aspect of this CNC router to help you decide if this is the machine for you.

Shark HD520 Review

In this review, I evaluate Shark HD520 on various parameters like size, build quality, linear motion, controller and electronics, accessories, community, and customer support.

MellowPine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Size

Shark HD520 has a footprint of 63” x 36 ¼“ and a workbed size of 28” x 63”, which means it can easily accommodate 2′ x 4′ sheets.

While there are several other 2×4 CNC routers, very few are dedicated to woodworking.

It offers you a cutting area of 25’’ x 50’’ with a maximum Z-axis travel of 7 inches.

If you are planning to use HD520 with an enclosure, you will need a table slightly larger than the size of the enclosure, which is 70″ x 39″.

2. Chassis

The base frame of Shark HD520 is made of industrial-grade aluminum that is interlocked with stainless steel, which stays rigid without flexing during operation.

Chassis of Shark HD520
Chassis of Shark HD520

Its workbed is made of extruded aluminum with integrated InterLoc T-slots that let you clamp the workpiece firmly.

The gantry is made of heavy-duty aluminum with an aluminum backplate and steel-encased legs. The whole arrangement makes HD520 capable of heavy-duty CNC machining.

Overall, the chassis has a sturdy build quality which reduces deflections and gives good precision.

3. Material Capability

HD520 is primarily made for woodworking and can carve plaques or signs, corbels, ornamental boxes, and engrave intricate inlays.

It can shape, carve, drill, dado, and rabbet in a variety of workpieces made from soft metals, plastics, wood, or composites.

Carving onto a curved surface using Shark HD520
Carving onto a curved surface using Shark HD520

However, HD520 is not meant for working on metals. Next Wave CNC also explicitly mentions not to cut metals with this CNC router in its user manual.

This is because HD520 is made for dry cutting and cutting metals requires lubricants or coolants, hence you cannot work on metals using HD520.

4. Linear Motion

Lead screw in Shark HD520
Lead screw in Shark HD520

All axes of Shark HD520 are driven by a lead screw mechanism.

Generally, relative axial movement between nut and screw causes backlash in lead screw mechanisms.

To overcome this, HD520 uses anti-backlash nuts on the lead screws that compensate for the inherent backlash.

Motion in the X and Z axes of HD520 is guided by linear rails. Since X and Z rails are uncovered, you should clean and lubricate them after 8 hours of operation for their optimum performance.

Y rails are made of hollow metal shafts, which are located under the workbed. These shafts are covered by base side panels, which prevents dust and debris from getting onto them.

5. Router

HD520 CNC router kit comes with a pre-installed router mount on the gantry and Carbide V-bits for CNC machining to make 2D and 3D projects.

The kit does not include a router with the stock machine and needs to be purchased separately.

Next Wave recommends Bosch 1617 and 1618 (2.25 hp), Porter-Cable 890 Series (2.25 hp), and DeWalt 610 (1.5 hp), 616 (1.75 hp), 618 (2.25 hp) routers for HD520. All these routers and suitable for woodworking.

Bosch router in Shark HD520
Bosch router in Shark HD520

Note that DeWalt 610 has been discontinued by its manufacturers, and you can use DeWalt 618 router instead.

If you are a hobbyist or beginner and have light production demands, you can choose Bosch 1618 or Porter-Cable 890 Series CNC routers because they offer the best value for money.

You can also use any other router or spindle but make sure its diameter should be 65 mm; else, you will need to make a custom router mount for it.

6. Controller and Electronics


All axes of HD520 are driven by NEMA 23 hybrid bipolar stepper motors, which have a holding torque of 270 oz-in.


The main controller of Shark HD520 is encased in a metal box, which has an on/off switch, ports for stepper motors, homing switch, a router, and a power supply at the back panel.

Its front panel has an integrated emergency stop button and a 20-pin port to connect the laser hub.

Main controller box of Shark HD520
Main controller box of Shark HD520

You can plug the controller into any 120 V standard wall socket.

Additionally, you get a color LCD pendant controller, which is connected to the main control box of Shark HD520, for CNC motion control.

LCD pendant controller of Shark HD520
LCD pendant controller of Shark HD520

The pendant controller has a USB port, which lets you plug in a USB stick having G-code for the cutting process. Hence, you do not need to take your computer into a dusty environment.

Note that if you use a VFD spindle, make sure that the VFD power cable is plugged directly into a separate wall socket instead of the main controller box.

7. Software

VCarve Pro software window
VCarve Pro software window

The best thing about Shark HD520 is that you can control it either by pendant controller or via a computer.

HD520 comes with the latest edition of Vectrics VCarve Pro. It is an intuitive CAD/CAM software that is suitable for both hobbyists and production environments.

VCarve Pro lets you import existing 2D vector files, bitmap images, 3D clipart files, and multiple Vectric 3D models, as well as a single 3D model from 3rd party resources.

It also provides a full set of drawing and editing tools that you can use to design your projects.

VCarve Pro software has various toolpaths to cover all typical 2D and 2.5D routing options and simulate these toolpaths to visualize the end product. It includes 2D and 3D clipart to help you get started easily and quickly.

You can run VCarve Pro software on a computer with Windows Vista or higher versions with a minimum of 4GB RAM.

The only missing feature in VCarve PRO is 3D modeling, you will need separate CAD software for 3D designing like Fusion 360, SolidWorks, or Inkscape.

To control Shark HD520 Next Wave provides Ready2Control software, which lets you control the CNC router from a computer.

Ready2Control has the Virtual Zero Unlimited feature, which is patented by Next Wave CNC.

It lets you carve designs onto uneven or curved surfaces, such as rough-sawn board or chair back.

Virtual Zero Unlimited maps the entire surface with an unlimited number of dynamic reference points, which assist the software to adjusts the project design to fit cuts and angles of curves.

Hence, the software lets you keep a constant cutting depth on oddly or intricately shaped workpieces, and you don’t need to create a different 3D model for the same design.

To use Virtual Zero Unlimited, you need the touch plate accessory from Next Wave CNC, which needs to be purchased separately.

Ready2Control software is compatible with computers running Windows 10 only.

Both VCarve Desktop and Ready2Control are offline software; hence they do not require an active internet connection to work.

8. Laser Module

Shark HD520 CNC router is compatible with the Next Wave laser module, which is designed for engraving, and not for material cutting.

You can purchase the laser module from the official website of Next Wave CNC.

Next Wave Laser Module for Shark HD520
Next Wave Laser Module for Shark HD520

It is a solid-state laser module that uses high-quality optics, which lets you etch letters and images on surface of workpieces.

To use a laser module, you don’t need to replace the router, as the laser head can be directly mounted onto the router collet making the installation a quick and easy process.

Note that the laser collar is 0.1 inches above the material, so you should zero the Z-axis after installing the laser head.

Next Wave offers 2W and 7W laser modules, which can suit different production requirements.

I suggest the 2W laser module for etching on a plane or painted workpiece surface. For effective surface etching, you should start with a feed of 50 ipm and full power, and then you can adjust the feed using the override slide bar in the software.

The 7W laser module is ideal for etching tough materials, leather, acrylics, or cutting soft materials like balsa, basswood, foam, veneer, and fabric and is powerful enough to cut thin woods with a maximum thickness of ⅛ inches.

Both 2W and 7W laser modules require a 12 V power supply; hence you can plug it into any standard 110 V socket.

You can also use both laser modules with Vectric VCarve Pro and Aspire for laser engraving.

Always use the laser module in a well-ventilated area, this is to quickly clear the smoke generated during operation. Alternatively, you can also use a fan to blow away the smoke.

9. Accessories

Dust Boot

A dust boot is a must-have accessory if you are cutting materials, which produce dust, such as wood and plastic.

Next Wave offers a dust boot made of HDPE that can be directly bolted to the router mount. Its base has a nylon brush skirt and locks onto the top portion magnetically.

Dust Boot for Shark HD520
Dust Boot for Shark HD520

This arrangement lets you quickly remove it attach it during cutting tool change.

It has a 2.5’’ opening at the top, which lets you attach any standard shop vac or dedicated dust collector system to it.


Next Wave provides a CNC enclosure kit for Shark HD520. It helps to control dust, adds safety, and reduces machine noise in your work environment.

Enclosure for Shark HD520
Enclosure for Shark HD520

The enclosure kit is also compatible with almost all CNC Shark extended models.

The frame of the enclosure kit is made of thin aluminum extrusions, which are connected using steel connectors.

The whole arrangement provides a strong build quality to it.

It comes with a couple of hinges and magnetic catches, which let you make doors at both ends of the enclosure.

These doors give you easy access while changing bits, placing workpieces, and removing material.

The enclosure kit arrives in parts and needs to be assembled. You can assemble it in around 1 hour and the assembly process is quite straightforward.

Note that the enclosure kit does not arrive with plexiglasses and only contains the frame, you need to purchase the side panels separately.

Touch Plate

You can use a piece of paper to zero the Z-axis in few steps manually.

Put a piece of paper under the router bit and roll the bit down to where it just starts grabbing the paper. Once it grabs the paper, tap the Zero XYZ icon on the pendant controller screen.

Alternatively, you can use the standard touch plate to zero the Z-axis.

Touch plate for Shark HD520
Touch plate for Shark HD520

It is a flat disk of aluminum with a diameter of 2 inches.

You get a 4′ cord to connect it with the main controller box of Shark HD520. You also can choose a 6′ long cable, which needs to be purchased separately.

If you have tight space on workpieces, you can opt for a mini touch plate, which has a 1″ surface diameter and has the same features as the standard plate. It comes with a 1’ cord with a banana receiver attached to it.

It costs you around $30 and you can purchase it from the official website of Next Wave CNC.

Shark Tooth

Have you ever wished to use your CNC to draw with accuracy?

Next Wave offers a Shark tooth accessory, which is a pen holder that transforms your CNC machine into a writing/drawing machine.

It is great for layout, plotting artwork, labeling parts, or checking tool path accuracy.

You can use various marking tools, such as pens, pencils, markers, or chalk.

Shark tooth for HD 520
Shark tooth for HD 520

It has an aluminum construction and has a ¼“ shank with an adjustable pressure pin. The shank can be mounted directly to the router collet.

You can use Shark tooth with Vectric VCarve Desktop and Pro software.

4th Axis Rotary system

Manual woodturning requires a wood lathe and a hand-held tool like a chisel to cut a symmetrical shape around the axis of rotation.

It requires a skilled turner to produce parts that have good tolerances and are usable.

Next Wave offers a 4th-axis rotary system, which turns the workpiece to make fluted columns, spiral cuts, and all kinds of decorative cuts on cylindrical workpieces.

The 4th-axis kit lets you make beautiful pens or game pieces with intricate carvings and designs without any artistic skills or experience.

You can choose among two different types of 4th-axis rotary systems for HD520 CNC routers.

One is a mini 4th-axis kit, which is a small rotary system. It comes with a 2″ self-centering three-jaw chuck, tailstock, and MT2 taper that lets you make precision cuts.

Mini 4th Axis kit for Shark HD520
Mini 4th Axis kit for Shark HD520

It comes with plug and play design, which means you can directly plug it into the main controller box.

The second is the four-jaw chuck rotary system which can turn heavy workpieces and has better accuracy than the three-jaw chuck system.

It requires a 4th axis driver card to connect to the controller, which needs to be purchased separately.

4th Axis kit for Shark HD520
4th Axis kit for Shark HD520

Both rotary systems are made of machined aluminum and can be directly mounted to the workbed of the HD520 CNC router.

The length of the workpiece you can use will depend on how you mount the headstock and tailstock on the workbed.

Shark Spindle kit

Next Wave CNC provides a 2 hp liquid-cooled spindle for HD520 CNC router.

It is a brushless spindle; hence there is less motor noise during its operation. You can fix the spindle to the existing router mount.

It comes with an ER11 collet system and variable speed inverter, which offers you a speed range between 6,000 – 24,000 RPM.

Water Cooled Spindle for Shark HD520
Water Cooled Spindle for Shark HD520

The Next Wave CNC spindle has a runout of less than 0.005mm, which ensures a long life for the cutting tool.

The spindle kit comes with a submersible coolant pump, hoses, and necessary fitting components for its installation.

You can plug the inverter spindle into a 110V 15 A circuit.

Shark Digital Duplicator

Next Wave provides a digital duplicator, which lets you produce a duplicate copy of the 3D design.

The duplicator moves over the designs and records the position of the spindle and creates a digital map of the surface which can be exported as an STL file.

Its scan probe comes with a ¼“ shank that mounts directly to the router collet.

Its ruby-tipped shaft makes it suitable for imperfect surfaces and outputs the 3D design with an accuracy of 0.001 inches.

Digital Duplicator for Shark HD520
Digital Duplicator for Shark HD520

If you don’t need a 2×4 cutting area, the Shark SD120 CNC router is also a good choice, and it costs considerably less than HD520.

10. Assembly

Shark HD520 CNC router kit arrives with a pre-assembled base and gantry and you will need assistance to unbox the CNC router.

After unpacking, you need to attach the gantry to the base and connect the pendant controller, stepper motors, and power supply to the main controller box.

You will also have to mount a router onto the Z-axis mount of HD520 and install and set up Vcarve Pro CAD/CAM software on your computer.

Next Wave offers a good assembly guide and clear video instructions, which lets you complete the assembly of the HD520 CNC router within two hours.

11. Community

Next Wave CNC has CNC Shark Talk and NWCNC Owners only active online community forums, where users actively participate, discuss their CNC-related issues, and share project design-related ideas.

Additionally, you may find some project-related YouTube videos, which are made by the users of Next Wave CNC machines.

12. Customer Support

Next Wave CNC provides excellent US-based customer support, and you can reach them over the phone or by email.

Shark HD520 comes with a two-year warranty on parts against manufacturing defects.

If you are new to CNC routers, you can take advantage of training programs and webinars offered by Next Wave CNC.

Next Wave has a partnership with MiLL National Training Center to support shop programs and technical education to offer professional training on woodworking.

If you have an old Shark CNC router, you can return it to Next Wave and they will refurbish them and donate it to a school.

13. Final Thoughts

Shark HD520 is a popular CNC router among hobbyists and professional woodworkers, and costs less than many other 2×4 CNCs.

It is a feature-packed CNC router, which makes it suitable for almost all types of CNC woodworking and also for cutting soft materials like plastics.

Although you can’t work on metals like aluminum using Shark HD520, it wins in many other areas such as a 4th axis rotary system, extrusion workbed with T-slots, and Shark tooth for drawing.

The HD520 is ideal for those looking to run a home-based CNC business without needing to have deep technical knowledge of CNC machines.

Next Wave Shark HD520 CNC
  • Next Wave exclusive software allows you to map the surface of your material by taking an unlimited number of reference points. The program then uses these points to auto adjust the G-code to conform to the actual surface of your material. This eliminates problems caused by a warped or bowed work piece and allows you to maintain a constant cutting depth on projects that other machines would not be able to handle.
  • Virtual Zero Unlimited Colored touch screen pendant controller. Ready2Control, a computer control panel software. Includes the latest edition of Vectrics VCarve Pro design software - $699 Retail value. Vector Art 3D Sampler Pack. $99 retail value. X & Y homing capability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is there any possibility of connecting my VFD spindle to the main control box of Shark HD520?

Yes, around mid-2022, Next Wave offered a new VFD digital control cable, that enables you to connect the VFD directly to the Control Box and enable auto on/off and auto RPM control of the spindle.

John Abraham
Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com