A woodworking CNC router machine is a computer numerical controlled machine. Granted, a paper printer, or a 3D printer, even a modern washing machine is controlled by a computer. But CNC usually means machines that have a bit that mills material out of a stock.


Woodworking CNC routers will have an X-Y Cartesian system with a 0.0 home. Basically, you will move the head over to 0.0 and all your designs will go off from that point inside of a bounding box of some kind. On the arm, there will be a motor or spindle on the Z axis, which means it will go up and down, with a cutting tool. That’s when you will actually cut into the material creating your shape. It’s a ‘subtractive’ method of creation, which means it’s removing material, or subtracting it from stock in order to create what you want.

The Many Uses of a CNC Router

CNC router machines are good for larger objects, things that are going to be stronger, like wood, plastics, and metal, or whatever you want, as long as you are conservative with your bit speeds. The build times are faster. Just making one cut to remove a big piece, is a lot faster than trying a 3D print on all the layers of a big piece. And you can also do PCB milling with it. You can take a blank copper piece, put it in a CNC router machine, use a v-bit, and trace out the circuits you want to make.

CNC Router Programming Tips

Programming and workflow for woodworking CNC routers are essentials for woodworkers to get the idea of their project from a drawing board, into a desired format, and to apply those ideas to form a desired object using a CNC router. The workflow basically boils down to three things – one, is the CAD, which is the drawing part which most woodworkers are familiar with, and the backend is the cutting. In between there is something called computer aided manufacturing, in short CAM, which is the tool path of the program.

It all starts with doing a job setup in CAD, which is where you select the size of the board, the thickness of the board, among a few other settings suiting your preferences. Further you could select an image of your choice for tracing. Tracing is literally just to find the outside of each of those image lines, also called as vector lines, which eventually become a tool path. All this, on the CAD side of your software page.

You then go on to the CAM side, or the tool pathing side. Now, this is where you’re going to be joining the computer to the CNC router. Here, you select more complex commands such as how deep to cut, selecting the bit, or bits if it’s a two-bit operation. When you preview, the software would actually simulate how the entire work is going to be carried out in 3D, without ruining the board. If everything looks fine, you could go ahead and save the task as a file on your system to take it to the next level.

Finally,you then go on to the software that controls the machine, get your X, Y, and Z coordinates to zero, load the saved file onto the software, start the spindle, and your cutting is ready.