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ShopSabre 23 Review-Desktop CNC Router



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


ShopSabre 23 CNC router

ShopSabre 23 is the desktop CNC offering from ShopSabre a CNC brand that’s known for its industrial CNC routers.

With high-quality construction, ShopSabre 23 is made for those who need industrial performance at a desktop size (30″x40″)

In this review, I assess the ShopSabre 23 CNC router on various parameters like size, build quality, linear motion, controller and electronics, software, accessories, community, and customer support.

ShopSabre 23 CNC Router Review

1. Size

ShopSabre 23 has a 52” x 71” footprint with a cutting area of 30” x 40” with a maximum Z-axis travel of 5 inches.

You’ll need a sturdy desk of 5′ x 6′ to place Shop Sabre 23. Alternatively, you can get the steel stand that ShopSabre offers.

I suggest you either fabricate a strong steel stand or buy the one Shopsabre provides.

A strong base is necessary to extract the full performance of this CNC router.

The cutting area of ShopSabre 23 lets you work on plywood, MDF, or any other material sheets that are slightly larger than 2 1/2′ x 3 1/4′.

The Z-axis has stiffener plates, which make it rigid for heavy-duty CNC cutting.

ShopSabre 23 CNC router has a Z-axis clearance of 5 inches. Practically, a 5″ clearance is not achievable because you will require some depth for a bit, so you can’t cut workpieces having a thickness of 5 inches.

For instance, if you use a 1.25″ tool, you can accommodate a workpiece with a maximum thickness of 3.75 inches.

2. Chassis

Base frame and gantry made of steel in ShopSabre 23
Base frame and gantry made of steel in ShopSabre 23

The base frame of ShopSabre 23 is made of structural steel tubes that are welded together to provide rigidity and durability.

Additionally, the base frame has two legs, which have a braced tube structure and laterally support the base frame. This arrangement gives more floor contact to reduce the vibrations in heavy-duty CNC machining.

While purchasing ShopSabre 23 CNC router, you have the option to choose a steel stand at an extra cost. The legs of the steel stand have caster wheels underneath, which allow you to move it around easily.

Like the base frame, the gantry of ShopSabre 23 is made of a heavy wall steel tube that is rigid enough to handle high cutting force and vibrations.

The gantry uprights are made of industrial aluminum and welded to the gantry to handle routing forces during high-speed CNC machining.

Extended gantry in ShopSabre 23
The extended gantry in ShopSabre 23

The right side of the gantry is extended around one inch, which lets you do cutting off the table. It is also helpful while adding the 4th axis kit to carve vertical dovetails.

ShopSabre 23 comes with an MDF tabletop as a workbed. You can upgrade it to a vacuum tabletop, which is great when your production requires nested-based manufacturing.

3. Material Capability

Moulding on plywood using ShopSabre 23
Molding on plywood using ShopSabre 23

ShopSabre 23 is a powerful desktop CNC router and can soft materials like acrylic, foam, plastic, and wood.

Brass milling using ShopSabre 23
Brass milling using ShopSabre 23

Its sturdy build can handle the cut forces while milling aluminum, brass, and other non-ferrous metals.

You can do aggregate tooling, carving, drilling, nesting, rigid tapping, rough cutting, and many more operations on material stocks using ShopSabre 23 CNC router.

This CNC router is capable enough to give you the best cutting results in various applications, like prototype manufacturing, sign making, engineering and R&D designs, and musical instrument manufacturing.

4. Linear Motion

Ball screw drive on X-axis of ShopSabre 23
Ball screw drive on X-axis of ShopSabre 23

If you are cutting workpieces made of phenolic, plastic, wood, or MDF, even a slight amount of backlash can degrade the quality of edge finishing.

To combat backlash, all axes of ShopSabre 23 use an industrial ball screw drive, which lets you make cuts with good accuracy.

Although the long shaft of the ball screw tends to whip as it turns, the compact design of ShopSabre 23 makes the shaft rigid so that it reduces the whipping and offers increased cutting accuracy.

Y-axis ball screw drive underneath workbed
Y-axis ball screw drive underneath workbed

On Y-axis, the ball screw drive is hidden underneath the workbed, making it resilient to dust and debris and requiring less maintenance.

Ball screw drive in Z-axis of ShopSabre 23
Ball screw drive and linear rails on Z-axis of ShopSabre 23

However, ball screw drives of the X and Z axes are uncovered. Hence, they require proper lubrication and maintenance for optimum performance.

Linear rails with wiper blocks in ShopSabre 23
Linear rails with wiper blocks in ShopSabre 23

All axes of ShopSabre 23 have 25mm linear rails and four wiper-bearing blocks on each rail. The wiper-bearing blocks spread the cutting forces over the linear rails.

This arrangement reduces the amount of wear and noise produced during heavy-duty CNC machining.

The wiper-bearing blocks also keep the linear rail’s surface clean and maintain rigidity under loads. As a result, you get enhanced performance with less maintenance.

With high-performance linear motion components, you can achieve a repeatability of 0.001 inches.

5. Controller and Electronics

Stepper motors

Stepper motor in ShopSabre 23
Stepper motor in ShopSabre 23

In ShopSabre 23, industrial-grade stepper motors are used to drive linear motion components on each axis. Each drive motor produces high torque to move heavy gantry and spindle.

The industrial-grade stepper motors on each axis also provide high cutting speeds to make cuts with high accuracy.

With such high-power stepper motors, you can rapidly traverse up to 600 ipm and a maximum cutting speed of 350 ipm.

Limit switches

Limit switch in ShopSabre 23
Limit switch in ShopSabre 23

All axes of ShopSabre 23 are equipped with limit switches that assist in axis homing and define the travel limit of the cutting tool and gantry.


Control box in ShopSabre 23
Control box in ShopSabre 23

The control box of ShopSabre 23 is a dust and dirt-protected enclosure that houses ShopSabre electronics. It is attached to the base frame. As a result, it saves room on the floor.

The side panel of the control box has an integrated emergency stop button to quickly stop the CNC router in case of emergencies.

To communicate with the controller, ShopSabre 23 ships with a machine operator Windows PC. It includes a cabinet with pre-installed WINCNC software for CNC motion control, a keyboard, a mouse, and a monitor.

ShopSabre also provides a 37-pin HD cable for connecting the control box to the PC.

6. Router/Spindle

Porter cable router in ShopSabre 23
Porter cable router in ShopSabre 23

The Z-axis of ShopSabre 23 comes with a heavy-duty router mount bracket. Whether it is woodworking or metal machining, the bracket holds a router/spindle firmly during any kind of CNC machining.

ShopSabre provides a 3.25 hp porter cable router with variable speeds between 10,000 to 21,000 RPM.

The router can be interfaced with the controller to switch it on/off using G-code.

HSD spindle upgrade for ShopSabre 23
HSD spindle upgrade for ShopSabre 23

If your project demands non-ferrous metal machining, you can upgrade the ShopSabre 23 with a high-performance spindle, like 4 hp or 9.3 hp air-cooled HSD VFD spindles.

Air blower for ShopSabre 23
Air blower for ShopSabre 23

While upgrading your CNC router with a spindle, you can consider an air blower from ShopSabre.

It has an adjustable flex house to use with compressed air, which blows debris/chips away from the bit during the cutting process.

Clearing debris from the cut area is necessary to prevent jamming and to reduce wear on the cutting tool.

7. Dust Collection

If you cut lots of soft materials like acrylic, plastic, or wood, you might have faced problems caused by dust in your workspace.

Dust Shoe for ShopSabre 23
Dust Shoe for ShopSabre 23

ShopSabre 23 CNC router ships with a dust shoe that can be used with routers and spindles. It has a 4″ vacuum adaptor to let you connect a dust collection unit.

This dust shoe is designed in such a way that it focuses airflow directly on the bit. As a result, it collects nearly all of the dust and improves dust control in your workspace.

8. Software

VCarve Pro software
VCarve Pro software

ShopSabre provides VCarve Pro software with a perpetual license to use with ShopSabre 23.

VCarve Pro is an intuitive CAD plus CAM software and is exclusively designed for CNC work.

Its CAD feature lets you make 2D and 2.5D models, and the CAM feature has various toolpaths for drilling, engraving, inlays, machining, pocketing, and threading.

The CAM feature also has a two-sided machining option, which is helpful for machining two sides of a material stock in a single session.

VCarve Pro also provides refined toolpaths simulation to visualize the end product.

Additionally, you can import bitmap images, 2D vector files, 3D models from 3rd party resources, and 3D clipart files into VCarve Pro.

The only missing feature in VCarve Pro is 3D modeling. Hence, you will need a different CAD software like Fusion 360, Inkscape, or SolidWorks for 3D modeling.

You can install VCarve Pro on a computer with a minimum of 4GB of RAM and run Windows Vista or higher OS.

WINCNC Software
WINCNC Software

For CNC motion control, ShopSabre provides pre-installed WINCNC, robust software that has an intuitive user interface.

Using WINCNC, you can control the CNC router with simple point-and-click operations using a mouse and keyboard. You can also customize the control buttons on the user interface.

Additionally, you can add wired or wireless hand-held keypads to control the CNC router motion remotely.

WINCNC has a look-ahead feature that reads the G-code command lines ahead of executing and adjusts the acceleration of the cutting tool to produce smooth motion.

This leads to quick completion of the project and a good finish.

9. Accessories

4th axis kit

4th axis kit
4th axis kit

If you are doing lots of woodworking, you may need a skilled turner for machining complex cuts like intricate carvings and designs.

To make it easy, ShopSabre offers a 4th-axis kit, which you can install on the right side of the ShopSabre 23 CNC router. The kit uses a SureStep IP65 stepper motor with a holding torque of 1,288 oz-in, which lets it rotate heavy workpieces.

Its four-jaw chuck is helpful to clamp square, rectangular, or irregular shape workpieces. You can adjust the position of the tailstock according to the workpiece length.

Using this kit, you can do different kinds of decorative carvings, like spirals or fluted columns on your cylindrical projects.

Braille kit

Tool for Braille sign making
Tool for Braille sign making

If you want to make ADA-compliant signs, you can do this easily with the braille kit offered by ShopSabre. This kit is accurate enough to carve tiny letters for making ADA/Braille signage.

The kit gets attached to the router/spindle collet and has space to store small raster balls. Once you drill the holes in a plastic sheet, the kit automatically inserts the raster balls in the holes.

Its auto-insert feature lets you spend less time manually inserting the raster balls and helps in making top-quality Braille signs.

Computer mount

Computer mount
Computer mount

ShopSabre offers a computer stand, which needs to be mounted on the leg of the stand of the ShopSabre 23 CNC router. It has different mounting arms for the monitor and keyboard tray.

The mounting kit also ships with a bracket to mount the PC cabinet underneath the workbed. Hence, the overall arrangement gives you easy access and saves your floor space.

Digitizing touch probe

Digitizing touch probe
Digitizing touch probe

If your project needs to recreate a 3D surface, but instead of the 3D model of that surface, you have that object itself, you can reproduce it using a digitizing probe.

ShopSabre offers a digitizing touch probe that can add great capability to your production. This probe scans the entire surface and records all its points in a CAD format that can be used for scaling and modification.

Once you start the process, the CNC router operates automatically to complete the process with little operator intervention until its completion.

The touch probe is great for copying parts, prototyping, or reverse engineering.

Laser sight

Laser sight
Laser sight

ShopSabre offers laser sight that quickly zeroes the X and Y axes to a particular point on a workpiece. This accessory is useful where accuracy is a less sought feature, but the alignment of the cutting tool is necessary.

Marker pen kit

Marker pens for attachment
Marker pens for attachment

Have you ever wished to use your ShopSabre23 to draw with accuracy?

ShopSabre offers a marker attachment with five different options, like a marker, pen, and pencil. It is great to mark parts, layout templates, or create unique and cool designs.

Tool measure switch

Tool switch in ShopSabre 23
Tool switch in ShopSabre 23

ShopSabre 23 comes with a tool measure switch, which zeroes the Z-axis when you change the tool and maintain accuracy between tool changes.

It can also measure the thickness of workpieces.

Although you can manually zero the Z-axis with a piece of paper, it may be inconvenient when you repeatedly do this process for multiple tool changes.


Table top with hybrid T-slots
Tabletop with hybrid T-slots

ShopSabre offers a hybrid vacuum table with T-slots to cut irregularly shaped workpieces. The tabletop has uniformly spaced aluminum T-slots to provide maximum work-holding options.

As a result, this arrangement ensures maximum versatility without reducing the performance of vacuum hold-down.

T-slot tabletop for ShopSabre 23
T-slot tabletop for ShopSabre 23

In case when vacuum holding is not possible, you can consider a T-slot table without vacuum holds.

ShopSabre also offers T-slot clamps that need to be inserted in threaded holes to hold the workpieces.

While selecting tabletop, you have options to choose either MDF or phenolic for the table surface. I recommend phenolic because it is highly dense and moisture-resistant.

Hence, it’s ideal for cutting materials that require the use of coolants or lubricants.

Additionally, in vacuum tables, the phenolic surface increases vacuum pressure slightly more than MDF to hold the workpieces firmly.

Vacuum pump

F4 vacuum pump
F4 vacuum pump

If you have a vacuum tabletop, you will need a vacuum pump to hold the workpieces.

ShopSabre 23 is compatible with the F4 vacuum pump that runs on a 220 V single-phase power supply and produces a maximum vacuum of 550 CFM.

The F4 pump connects to the vacuum tabletop through vacuum inlets. Additionally, the inlets are connected to the individual pump units that are independent of each other.

This way, you can use all pumps at once or in combination to hold the workpiece of different sizes.

Warning light bar

Warning light bar
Warning light bar

If your workspace is so noisy that you can’t hear the operating noise of the CNC router, you can use the light bar offered by ShopSabre.

It has a light tower-like structure that lets you know whether the machine is idle or running.

The light tower illuminates green or red based on the actions of the CNC router and has a rotating beacon-style light that adds to the safety factor.

Wireless pendant

Wireless Pendant
Wireless Pendant

If you need to walk away from machine operator PC to CNC router to set up a job and need to move the axes or manually control the machine a wireless pendant is a handy tool.

ShopSabre offers a wireless pendant to control the ShopSabre 23 CNC router.

Its front has a jog wheel that lets you control the movement of all axes. You can also control spin and feed using the rotary knob on the wireless pendant controller.

Make sure your workspace has good wifi strength; otherwise, you may face lag while controlling the CNC router.

10. Laser Kit

Laser engraving kit
Laser engraving kit

If you want to engrave any art on the cabinet or your company logo, you can do it using the laser kit in a CNC router.

ShopSabre 23 is compatible with 3rd party laser modules.

Opt Lasers and JTech Photonics provide customized laser modules for ShopSabre 23 CNC routers. You can convert your CNC router to a laser marker or engraver for light-duty CNC machining using a laser kit.

JTech Photonics offers 2.8W, 4.2W, and 7W laser power options. If your project requires engraving on thick and dense materials, like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and plastic, I recommend the 4.2 W laser bundle.

Additionally, the laser bundle from JTech Photonics uses a magnetic shroud for enhanced safety from laser rays.

You can also consider the PLH3D-6W laser kit from Opt Lasers. It can engrave many materials, such as cardboard, fabrics, leather, wood, rubber, and painted/anodized metal.

Using VCarve Pro software, you can create the designs for engraving with ShopSabre 23 CNC router.

11. Assembly

The ShopSabre 23 ships as a fully-assembled unit on a pallet and do not require assembling. Hence, you can set up the CNC router quickly and effortlessly.

Since the stock machine weighs around 850 lbs, you may need more than four people to lift it off the pallet.

Removing holding nuts from ShopSaber 23
Removing holding nuts from ShopSaber 23

Once the ShopSabre 23 CNC router kit arrives, all you need to do is to place it on a table/stand, remove the holding nuts, and connect the wires.

ShopSabre provides excellent assembly resources, and with its help, you complete the setup process within one hour.

12. Community

ShopSabre does not have an active forum or community for its CNC machines despite having a large user base.

However, you can find a Facebook group, which is an excellent place to discuss CNC router-related issues. You can also get different project-related ideas and tips to troubleshoot your CNC machine.

ShopSabre also provides training classes, which are hosted at their facility. CNC router motion control, VCarve Pro, and CNC machine maintenance are topics covered in the training sessions.

13. Customer support

All CNC machines from ShopSabre are designed and built in the USA. They provide SabreNation lifetime tech support via email, remote diagnosis, and phone.

However, ShopSabre does not provide free support to second or subsequent owners, making used ShopSabre CNC machines less appealing than other brands.

So, if you are the second owner, you will need to purchase a support plan separately.

14. Final thoughts

Whether you are a novice or an experienced CNC user, ShopSabre 23 CNC router can offer something for you.

It is built from heavy-duty steel frames, and its industrial ball screws are equipped with an advanced control system that provides you with better motion control than any other CNC router in this price or size range.

Overall, ShopSabre 23 is for those needing industrial quality on a desktop CNC router.

ShopSabre 23 CNC Router Alternatives

At the size and budget of ShopSabre 23, you have a few other alternatives you can consider.

These are machines that have a sturdy build and are made by CNC brands that make industrial CNC routers:

You might be interested in this:

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Can I make MDF top myself for ShopSabre 23 CNC router?

Yes, you can make your MDF top at a nominal cost. You need to invest time to program the holes, counterbores and figure out the spacing for T-tracks you want.

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