CNC Tooling Basics for Woodworkers: A Comprehensive Guide
Cutting wood and turning it into different end-products has always been a hard skill to master. What remained a great deal of manual effort some time ago has now been made significantly convenient with the introduction of CNC routers as it has brought process automation into play. However, you need a better understanding of the CNC tooling basics to reap the maximum benefit. To ease it out for you, we will be pondering over various imperative factors of the basics of CNC tooling.

CNC Router: What does it do?

CNC router has undoubtedly acted as a game changer in cutting and carving wood.  This has been done by the computer numerical control that minimizes the manual effort. However, for using it in the most effective manner, you need to have a thorough understanding of CNC router basics. This is because the perfect cut can only be achieved by the right amalgamation of the right bits and mills. Taking this discussion a step ahead, let us take a detailed look into what makes them important.

What makes Bits Imperative for the Perfect Cut?

Defined as a cutting tool you set up on a CNC router, bits are counted among the tooling basics for woodworkers. Available in a number of types, the selection of bits solely depends on the type of cut you need. The fact alone that bits have a significant impact on the mills is enough to highlight their importance. Additionally, the amount of waste generated in the cutting process is also dependent on the bits being used on your CNC router. To make it easier, let us segregate the types of bits on the basis of the job at hand.

Cutting Wood

Starting off with the most simple of the tasks, cutting wood materials requires bits from the flat bottom family. Here, it is important to understand that you need the right bottom and edge bit as per the job you have to perform. For instance, the bits to handle wood cutting perfectly would need a flat bottom as well as a straight edge. Therefore, a straight edge would cut in a flat line hence making it the perfect candidate for cutting through the wood.

Finishing with Smooth Edges

Whenever we talk about CNC tooling basics, finishing on the end product holds significant importance as well. If you want to cut through the wood while keeping the edges smooth, using spiral router bits is a great option. Bits come with a number of flutes on them and the number of flutes is directly proportional to the cutting edges on the bits. Therefore, you can cut through wood more smoothly by using a bit that has more flutes on it. Add spiral edges and a flat bottom to it and the smoothness you get increases manifold. This is why spiral edge bits are segregated in the finishing bits family. However, while using a bit with more flutes, you would have to compromise on the wastage front as veterans from this industry advise using a router bit with 2 flutes so that the residual waste is kept in check. Furthermore, the number of flutes also has an impact on the mill temperature as they both have a directly proportional relationship. Therefore, another factor behind recommending the use of a bit with 2 flutes is to avoid any burns on the finished product.


When we move towards the design part, often a requirement for engraving text or images comes. This is where the end mills come into play. Referred to as the most common type of CNC router bits, end mills come with a different number of flutes on them. Here, it is important to note that while selecting an end mill, the choice is made based on the task at hand. If the requirement is to engrave something on wood, you would want an end mill having just a couple of flutes on it. On the contrary, end mills having a greater number of flutes are better suited for finishing.

Size and Durability: An Important Factor in Choosing Spiral Bits

The size of the spiral router bits is also an important aspect of the CNC router basics as it is deeply connected to durability. Again, the size of the router bits is determined based on the job requirement. If you are looking to achieve deeper cuts at a rapid pace, you would want the bits to be greater in size. Secondly, router bits that are shorter are not durable. Therefore, to achieve perfect cuts, you would want the spiral bits to be greater in size as well as have the inclusion of carbide.

Types of Mills

Choosing the right type of mill is equally essential when we talk about tooling basics for woodworkers. Like the router bits, mills are also categorized into a number of types. This segregation is based on the way they operate and handle waste ejection. These types include:


Best suited for cutting hardwood, down-cut mills are used to achieve a tearless top cut. All the waste is ejected into a mortise located at the bottom. However, if you are using this type to achieve deep cuts, it may lead to the mill being overheated. Therefore, it is recommended to go for shallow cuts at an increased feed rate so that the temperature is kept in check. Talking about its industrial application, the furniture industry benefits a great deal from using down cut mills.


As opposed to the down-cut mills, the waste is pushed towards the top in this type of mill. This is what makes it a perfect candidate if you are looking for a flawless bottom cut. If you are looking to remove a large amount of wood at a rapid pace, this is the ideal selection. Apart from general purposes, this type is used in sculpturing and 3D contouring.


A compression mill can perform both tasks that the down-cut and up-cut mills collectively do. With the inclusion of a down-cut and an up-cut flute, this type of mill acts as per the situation. When you are looking for a smooth top surface, the down-cut flute ejects the waste downwards with the help of fibres at the top. Similarly, the fibres on the sides are pushed back into the mortise by the up-cut flute when there is a need to achieve a flawless bottom surface. This type of mill is best suited for handling plywood as well as hardwood, addressing various industrial tasks.

With that being said, let us move toward the advantages and disadvantages of using a CNC router.

Pros and Cons of Using a CNC Router


There are several pros to using a CNC router. This is because it:

  • Assists in cutting as well as engraving a wide range of materials
  • Helps automate a significant part of your business to get the job done at an increased pace
  • Is durable and can serve you for a number of years
  • Addresses a number of industries to help you upscale your business
  • Can optimize the usage of materials to keep the waste in check


On the other hand. A CNC router:

  • Is costly as the associated tools need to be replaced with time
  • Always leaves some sort of residual waste at the end
  • Has relatively more noise due to the inclusion of a spindle and vacuum system

Wrapping it up

The selection of the right bits and mills is of utmost importance in the CNC tooling basics for anyone on the lookout for options. An informed selection is always more beneficial as you have an upper hand before shopping for the machinery. In this article, we tried to walk you through the basics of CNC tooling so that you have a clear idea about the nitty-gritty of a CNC router. There are a number of alternatives available out there as well. Stay tuned to this space to find out more about the edge banding machines.

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