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I was gathering a lot of research recently on 3D wood carving CNC machines that would help helped tremendously when I first starting using getting into them. The machine itself is a whole different story, and the bits themselves deserve their own separate analysis. I recommend getting 4 different styles of bits/end mills that will accomplish all of your wood projects, nothing fancy, but certainly reliable.
Best CNC Router Bits for Wood
SpeTool CNC bit set encompasses the main bit types (minus one) that you will need. The 2 flute , 1/4″ shank, carbide tipped blades are great for almost any project.
A set of bits can help with the initial learning curve since you aren’t completely sure with what kind of bits you will need. Eventually, you’ll find that purchasing bits individually is the preferred method. Single pieces are made with higher quality, last longer, and you end up spending less money in the long term anyway.
Straight/spiral cutter – Either type is fine, however HOZLY has one of the best spiral cutters available
Surfacing bit – A 3 wing bit for resurfacing and spoilboard work, Sugelary has a quality option
V groove – Quality 1/4″ shank V tool with 4 different cutting diameters by Yakamoz
Ball nose – SpeTools 1/4″ shank that works great for side, end, and finish milling.
About Bits for Wood
What these bits can be used on
It’s important to qualify exactly what kind of projects I mean. I’m talking primarily about bits for wood. Softwoods, hardwoods, sheet goods, such as plywood, mdf, hdf, mdo boards, etc. We won’t get into engraving or cutting metals, plastic or acrylic, or foam. Just wood, and wood products.
To get started, as a general rule, the best CNC router bits for wood are two flute.
You will want to avoid three flute and four flute bits if at all possible. Those are used for metals and other materials. So 2 flute, and at times single flute, are the best cnc bits for MDF or things like plywood, etc.
All of the bits I suggest in this post are 2 flute bits.
In addition to knowing what is compatible with working on wood, you can find heaps of other information you will find helpful as you either progress or begin using a CNC machine.
Aside from general knowledge, informing yourself on the specifics of your own CNC machine is important before being able to participate.
For example, knowing what size collet your router has is necessary in order to pick a compatible bit.
Now, I’ve only been working with a CNC machine going on 6 years, however, I have been woodworking for close to 15 years. One of the first lessons that was taught to me was to begin with the basics, and then purchase tools as you go.
I recommend 4 categories of bits that most CNC-ers should have available that should get you through most projects a beginner would want to take on.
That way, once you get more familiar, you can start to build from there. You can purchase various angles of V-bits, or get small/larger ball noses, etc. The bits I recommend here will see you through just about anything you would want to attempt.
Before we are able to dive into the best cnc router bits for wood, we must first talk about the collets.
A collet is a subtype of chuck that makes a collar around the bit so that it is held in place. A router that mounts in the CNC machine comes with one or two collets that allow them to be compatible to bits with a specific shank diameter. Knowing the shank diameter is very important, if you get a set of bits with the wrong shank diameter, you will either have to purchase the right collet or get a completely new set of bits.
Knowing what size collet your router or spindle takes, 1/4 inch being the most popular size, is very important. If you only have one collet, then you are going to be limited to using bits that fit that collet.
Getting reducer bushing for your collets is an option, this allows you to run, for example, a 1/8″ shank diameter in your 1/4″ collet. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this method and prefer to purchase different size collets.
Regardless of what you decide to do, the important takeaway is to know what size collet you have for your spindle or router.
If you haven’t figured out already, dimensions are everything in woodworking. From the size of your workpiece to the size of your tools, both have a significant impact on the end result.
Shaft diameter: Make sure the shaft diameter of your bit will fit in the collet of your router, otherwise the bit is rendered useless.
Overall length: How long is the bit in total? It needs to be able to reach down into the material as far as the project requires.
Cutting length: Knowing the cutting length is necessary for the getting the results you expect.
For example: If the majority of the material you cut is four quarters stock, meaning the finish thickness is around 3/4 inch, a 1 inch cutting length on a bit provides plenty of room to perform.
Cutting diameter: Just because a bit has a 1/4 inch diameter shank, does not mean that the cutter will cut a 1/4 inch diameter. You can get bits with an 1/8 inch cutting diameter that have a 1/4 inch shank, so be sure to pay attention to this detail before making a decision.
Tip radius (for ball nose end mills): From the center of the bit, the bottom cutting edge will give you the tip radius. Without getting too much into the 3d carving discussion, having a bit that provides a lot of detail is certainly important. First, we should consider machine times.
Typical stepover for most ball nose bits is between 20-25%, meaning when the ball nose is finished carving it will stepover 20-25% of its cutting diameter, then make the next path. On a finishing tool path, normal stepover is 10% or less.
Another important detail to pay close attention to is the style of tip that a bit has. Straight mortising bits, for example, are designed to be plunged straight into the wood material
Other tips however, are not designed the same way. Instead, their cutting edge might not go all the way across the bit, and will have a slight gap in the center. Meaning if you plunged it straight into the material the same way you would with a straight mortising bit, then a portion of the bit will not cut the material. Even worse, handling a bit with the wrong cutting style could potentially break the cutting edge or even the bit itself.
Do not attempt to drill holes straight down with a straight bit that doesn’t have a cutter all the way across the bottom, or a downcut bit. Always use a upcut bit instead. Reason for this is, with a downcut bit, forcing chips, dust, material particles down into the hole when plunging straight down will cause the material to grind against each other causing friction. This will cause a fire.
Straight/Spiral cutter (end mill): A straight cutter bit is easier to identify than the up cut or down cut bits, the whole bit is straight from top to bottom.
In order to tell the difference between the up cut and the down cut is if you pay attention to the spiral on the bit. The cutting edge on the up cut bit can be located on the top edge of the spiral. If you also look at what direction the spiral is spinning you will notice that it goes clockwise.
The opposite goes for the down cut bit, the cutting edge is on the bottom edge of the spiral, and the spiral itself spins counter-clockwise.
Surfacing bit: Used to surface spoilboard or surface rough stock. Plunge moves need to be ramped in, it can not go straight into the material.
V bit: These can be a slippery slope, you can easily spend a lot of money that you simply do not need to on these types of bits. You may want to cover all contingencies when it comes to v carving, so the obvious move is to get different degree v bits.
But, once you get to working with a CNC machine, you will quickly discover that you do not need as many as you thought.
This all goes back to what I suggested about getting the basics, and buying as you expand.
For about 80% – 90% of cutting you’ll do with a v bit will be with a 90 degree v bit, the rest can be done with a 60 degree v bit.
Personally, I’ve never done anything small enough to need anything else, however your mileage may vary.
Ball nose end mill: Another great example of an area that can get you into some trouble and spend a lot of money that isn’t worth spending. These particular tools are used for 3d carving.
Its tip radius is pretty important, because this will allow greater detail to be incorporated into your project.
High speed steel (HSS) is often recognized as the sharper material compared to carbide, this results in requiring less spindle torque and less machine rigidity for the same kind of cut with carbide. Additionally, it is tougher than carbide, meaning it can handle much more side loading prior to chipping/breaking. The same spindle RPM, HSS is able to rough out material a lot faster.
While carbide is duller, weaker, brittle, and generally more expensive, if it weren’t for its extremely high tolerance to heat and its hardness, HSS would certainly be the preferred material type.
However, considering how delicate most hobby CNC machines are you would assume HSS is used almost exclusively. On the contrary, high speed of the trim routers make it practically impossible to prevent cooking a HSS bit, even on aluminum. This is why carbide is the most preferred material for engraving wood with a CNC machine.
As your experience with a CNC machine grows, you may start becoming accustom to the many brands within the woodworking industry. Many veteran CNC-ers are very brand loyal, and names pop up all the time.
That being said, it is not at all necessary to purchase the pricier option in order to find a bit that is of good quality.
Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are plenty of bits which are well worth the money you would pay for, but if you are looking for a starter kit, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a beginner CNC-er to ruin a $40 bit with the first couple of attempts to run a piece of code. Much of that time should be spent experimenting and learning the machine.
I’m talking about going over good quality bits, that are neither super cheap or really expensive, which will see you through most of the projects that a beginner would want try out.
Best CNC Router Bits for Wood
In order to find the best end mills, it’s important to inform yourself on what is best for the task at hand. Check out our “About..” section in this article for more information regarding what type of bits are needed, what they look like, etc.
- 4 piece bit set made of solid carbide material
- Detail & profile cutters, 90 degree & 60 degree v-bit
- 1/4″ shank
- 2 flute
Foos is designed as an all purpose, general working set that offers the best attributes of each style of bit that is need to perform certain cuts. The set comes with 4 bits that have a 1/4″ shank: two V groove bits (60° and 90°), a 15° detail carver, and a 20° flat tip profile bit. All are made with a premium carbide material to maximize heat resistance for clean cuts, and consistency.
A 60° and 90° V groove make up 2 of the four bits. With V groove bits, you’ll spend about 90% of your detailing workload with a 90° V bit, and the rest is easily done with the 60°. For V groove bits, having at least two is standard for any project, any smaller or bigger will be project specific, and should be bought when they are needed. This will give additional background depth options without having to spend unnecessarily. The 15° detail carver helps make lines more distinguishable, so it will cover most of the tailored cuts that require a very fine blade. For outline and etching out your project, the 20° flat tip profile bit works best.
Foos is perfect as a complete, simple bit set for any general work that need to be done in a given project. It’s compatible with a wide range of demands that any project requires. Getting these specific types of bits is inevitable, so you’re going to end up using these the most. However, purchasing them individually is better than getting them in a set, in most cases. This set doesn’t include a ball nose bit either, which you will most certainly end up needing.
- 4 piece set
- Made of carbide
- 1/4″ shank diameter
- Includes v-groove, tapered end mill, up & down cut bits
SpeTools offer a set that is essentially the only other assortment of bits that you would need for any kind of project, with some exceptions. Similarly to the Foos set, this one also comes with 4 different bits all with a 1/4″ shank diameter. Like all of the bits listed here, these are 2 flute bits, and are made of carbide material. The style of the best CNC router bits for wood in this set include a tapered ball nose, V groove end mill, up cut, and down cut spiral. Each serve their own individual purpose and equally important for finishing a workpiece.
This set is valuable because of how necessary the bits they come with are to have. There is a 100% possibility you will use any combination of these for any project. You can see a detailed explanation of bit types and their purpose further down the post, but I’ll briefly touch on the subject.
For the V groove it is mostly used for lettering or detail sign creation, its mostly used for outlining or various detailing that can’t be done with other types. The up and down spiral bits are your bread and butter for cutting wood with a CNC machine. They’re used in conjunction with the other because the down cut bit creates a clean, crisp cut, but, with all the wood cutting, expect wood chips. All that material needs to be removed somehow, which is what the up cut bit is for. Finally, the ball nose tapered end mill is utilized for contour work and fine detail passes, and most often used for 3D work.
- Two flute up & down cut bits
- Made of micro grain tungsten steel solid carbide
- Great for cutting, milling any type of wood
Depending on your workpiece size or even the frequency of your wood cutting, the HOZLY pack of 5 up and down cut bit could be exactly what you need. Regardless what kind of projects you do, these style of bits are what you will use the most, so it helps to have some spares. Here are some additional specifics about dimensions:
- 1/8″ shank diameter (3.174)
- 3/4″ (22mm) cutting length
- 1.5″ (40mm) over length
The two flutes material is made of a micro grain tungsten steel solid carbide, in short: it is made for cutting wood. You can cut/mill anything from MDF to solid wood (hardwood or softwood) without succumbing to friction heat. Its robustness makes it highly abrasive and capable of handling long durations of work.
- 4 piece set
- Shank diameter: 1/4″
- Cutting diameters vary (1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″)
- Made of micro-grain tungsten carbide blades
Yakamoz router bits, quite simply put, are a quality option to have in the toolbox. If you’re performing the overall majority work with a couple different types of bits, and V grooves are definitely one of them, you’re going to want to make sure they will last. All 4 in the set have a 1/4″ shank and are set to a 90° angle, so all the bits produce the same shape, but the cutting diameter is different. The depth and width of that cut is what sets them all apart.
The set comes in 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″ cutting diameters, so you won’t have to worry about being able to achieve a certain depth. These dimension are also pretty standard for V grooves. Anything smaller or bigger is probably an exception, and in that case you should buy the tools that your project needs.
Getting to that depth is at no expense either. The micro-grain tungsten carbide-tipped cutting edge provides a better cutting experience while eliminating the possibility of burring. Best qualities that the best CNC router bits for wood might have.
Being a 2 flute bit, its range of applications extends slightly past wood, such as acrylics and plastic, however, I’m not going to get into all that. This is exclusively within the capacity of wood, and how these tools affect it. Being one of the most reviewed V groove router bits on Amazon, it’s not surprise that they work as well as they do.
- Premium carbide material
- 1/4″ shank diameter
- 60° cutting angle
The only alternative to getting a set of bits, and often more preferred, is getting a single bit, but that’s great quality. With the same amount you would pay towards a set, in comparison, a single, good quality bit would achieve a longer duration of use. If you’re looking for a V groove that’s more resilient, the Whiteside router bit would be the one to have.
With a 60° cutting angle, a good portion of work can be completed with this bit alone. The only thing that would be missing is an equally good 90° bit, a commonly used angle for most projects.
- 3 wing; shank: 1/2″; cut diameter: 2″; cut length: 1/2″
- Carbide tipped
- Anti-kick back & heat resistant design
- Applicable to all types of wood
This category of bit is used for spoilboard surfacing work, NITOMAK has a 3 winged CNC router bit with a 1/2″ shank that is perfect for the job. Its value can best be attributed to the carbide tipped material, resistance to kickback, and specific design for working with wood.
The bit’s cutting length is 1/2″ with a cutting diameter of 2″, so it comes with a bit of power that is applicable to most jobs. On top of this, here are some additional applicable jobs and observations:
- Generates perpendicular, to the router, base surface
- Provides a clean, precise cut after adding planed project
- Only use for industrial cutting/engraving with woods (MDF, particle boards, plywood, etc.)
- Avoid cutting non-wood materials
- Used for flattening live edge boards that are too large for planer
The recommended maximum RPM is 16,000, but regardless, you should use a slow feed rate and shallow cut initially, then gradually modify speed and depth accordingly.
- 3 wing; shank: 1/4″; cut length: 1/4″; cut diameter: 1″
- Made of microcrystalline carbide blades
- Reduces chipping and burrs
- Use on wood, avoid non-wood materials
Sugelary is a great surfacing alternative for those that use a 1/4″ collet. The durable carbide tool has a 3 winged cut with a 1.4″ cutting height, 1/4″ cutting depth, and 1″ cutting diameter. The microcrystalline carbide blades and hardened steel means good wear resistance and razor sharp edges. It’s abrasive resilience has a lot to do with the precise grinding tech, and also reduces wood chipping.
There’s several different jobs you can do with the Sugelary router bit such as wood slab flattening, resurfacing, plane top surface of spoil board, trimming, and slotting/grooving. I highly recommend this bit for shallow depth reach and a wide diameter
- 4 piece 2 flute set of tapered spiral ball nose bend mills
- Shank diameter: 1/4″; radius: 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1mm; cutting length: 20mm; over length: 50mm
- Used for all types of wood
For the ball nose 2 flute categorical end of the bit section, Genmitsu has a tapered set that can do practically anything as far as fine, detail work goes. If you’re looking for a ball nose end mill that you can use for typical applications, then I would recommend the SpeTool instead. The Genmitsu comes in a 1/4″ or 1/8″ shank, but the tapered end is a component that should be used for precision work. Reason being is because if you’re wanting to do general ball nose cuts, with these you’ll be carving for much longer, in comparison.
The variation in radius size is rather minimal, the options available are: 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0mm. All have a 20mm cutting length and are 50mm in overall length. It’s incredible how catered to 3D wood processing this set is. Not just because of its dimensions, but also because the nano bluecoating bits have a 65 HRC rating, making it perfect for wood workpieces.
If you’re wanting a really good quality tapered ball nose for 3d projects like molds, models, or other precision processing, it’s really difficult to find better than Genmitsu. Unless, of coarse, you’re wanting a regular ball nose end mill for typical usage.
- Shank: 1/4; cutting radius: 1/8″; cutting length: 1-1/8″; total length: 3″
- 2 flute solid carbide
- Used for all types of wood
The SpeTool 1/4″ shank ball nose end mill does everything that you should do with a tapered one. Well, not that you shouldn’t, but it’s twice the effort. As a solid carbide 2 flute tool, it’s most compatible with cutting or engraving wood.
When getting a ball nose end mill, I’m sure you’re wanting it to provide a lot of detail, which is great, but it is important to think about machine times. There’s a more in depth review of end mills in the section below, but to summarize: don’t use small end mills for efficient cutting. They just aren’t for it. SpeTools 1/8″ cutting radius is good for its carving efficiency.
It’s particularly important to, especially online, know the cutting diameter, length, and tip radius of an end mill since those dimensions have the most influence on how they will affect the wood. All of which can be found in the product description. Having a full set of ball nose end mills isn’t really necessary, most you probably won’t end up using. Instead, you’ll find value in the bits you use the most. The SpeTool ball nose is a quality individual option that can surely outlast most sets.