The top CNC routers for woodworking provide the precision and ease required to produce remarkable art.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. Therefore, the tools and workpieces used in CNC machines are controlled by a numeral program.
The first CNC machines date back to the 1940s and 1950s, and since then, the technology has advanced steadily.
Today’s CNC machines depend on Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). Therefore, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with this technology if you are just getting into the world of CNC machines.
The good thing about these machines is that they come with detailed instruction manuals, as you’ll see below.
Let’s now look at the best CNC machines for hobbyists, small businesses, and beginners. We’ve selected the best machines based on accuracy, ease of use, safety, and other features we’ll look at later in the article.
Best CNC Routers for Diverse Woodworking Projects
1. SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer Desktop CNC Router Machine
Our first pick is this DIY CNC router for hobbyists and beginners.
We took less than an hour to assemble this CNC machine which was a win for us. Therefore, if you want a compact and easy-to-assemble machine you can use to make your wooden designs wherever you are, this is your pick.
We like that the spindle works great on several materials without being replaced. Some of the materials we successfully worked on include plywood, acrylic, carbon fiber, leather, brass, MDF, and nylon.
Check out our guide if you’re curious about the advantages and disadvantages of MDF.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t use the spindle to engrave copper or stainless steel. If you want to work on these metals, you’ll need to upgrade the spindle to a more powerful option.
This entry-level CNC machine comes with acrylic baffles that ensure that your room is not filled with dust after you’re done. This feature also makes it easy for us to clean up after we finish our project.
The Motor Noise Suppression that comes with the spindle allows us to use this machine indoors without greatly disturbing other household members. If you’re into laser technology, you can upgrade this CNC machine by adding the matching SainSmart laser module kit.
Although this kit is sold separately, we find it to be a great investment, especially when you want to work on more creative projects.
In conclusion, this CNC machine makes for a great gift. It is affordable, portable, and beginner-friendly.
- Very easy to assemble
- It makes for a great gift choice
- It comes with detailed instructions
- Quality components
- Good customer support
- Requires a learning curve to operate
2. MYSWEETY CNC Router Kit
The MYSWEETY 3018 pro engraver machine is great for beginners and hobbyists.
This 3018 pro version is an upgrade from the 3018 version.
The working area of 30 x 18 x 4.5 cm is smaller than other options on our list, but we like that for smaller projects. In addition, the lightweight nature of this CNC machine and the GRBL control systems make this CNC very handy to use.
Some of the materials we successfully used this CNC machine on include bamboo, ceramic, ivory, iron, and glass. The offline controller allows us to use the machine without connecting to a computer or downloading files. We find this to be very efficient.
Another thing we praise this CNC machine for is the detailed instructions it comes with, which makes assembly a breeze.
The attractive price point, ease of use, and compact nature of this CNC machine are some of the reasons it’s at the top of our list today.
- Easy to assemble
- It comes with detailed instructions
- Good for hobbyists
- It has a small working area
- Some of the parts may need replacing over time
3. ORTUR Laser Master 2 S2 LF
Our third pick is a laser CNC router machine that you’ll love whether you’re a hobbyist or small business owner.
The fact that this is one of the most technologically-advanced CNC machines in the market definitely drew us in. The 32-bit professional motherboard ensures that the CNC machine is easy to use, accurate, smarter, and faster.
ORTUR is a leader in the world of laser engraving machines. And this CNC machine is a testament to how well the brand has mastered its craft.
The engraving area of this CNC router machine is 390 x 410mm, and the engraving machine speed goes as high as 5000 mm/min.
We love how well this CNC machine works and its safety protection. The active power-off function protects us should there be an abnormal activity with the power supply.
The thing about working with CNC machines is that there’s always a learning curve. And although we found the learning curve to be steep with this pick, we love that it works perfectly for hobbyists and small business owners alike.
We find the use of FreeRTOS to be efficient and stable. In fact, the ability of this CNC machine to pre-process 32 instructions and support a high baud rate of 921600 is a big find for us.
Another safety feature we enjoy is the eye protection design that filters about 97% of the ultraviolet light produced. This glass cover reduces the need to get goggles and allows us to work without wearing uncomfortable eye protective wear.
The assembly process of this machine can be pretty straightforward if you conduct some research first. Unfortunately, the instructions that come with this model are not as comprehensive as we’d like. This is actually the only downside we found with this model.
- It comes with optimal safety protection
- Compact design
- Good for hobbyists
- High baud rate
- Easy to use
- Technologically-advanced CNC machine
- Instructions are not detailed
4. BobsCNC Quantum CNC Router Kit
Here’s another CNC machine that is great for hobbyists and small business owners.
The design, the attention to detail, and the materials used to make this best CNC router are all impressive. The large cutting area of 24 x 24 inches allows us to work on larger wood pieces, while the workpiece thickness of 3.3 inches gives us the freedom we need to get creative.
Although we took a couple of hours assembling this CNC machine, it was worth the effort when we started using it. In addition, the self-squaring gantry made the calibration process a lot easier.
Although the price point for this best CNC router is higher than many on this list, it’s worth it for the value you get.
In addition to getting a high-quality DIY CNC router, you also get access to valuable resources on the BobCNC website and YouTube. The brand has also created a good community around its products, where we got valuable information.
One of the things we find inconvenient about this CNC machine is that dust collection is an issue. We wouldn’t advise you to use this machine in a room you don’t want to get dusty. However, you could always get yourself a dust boot or dust shoe to reduce the amount of wood dust on you.
- Very durable
- Detailed instruction manual
- Access to resources on the brand’s website and YouTube
- It can be a hassle to assemble
- It doesn’t come with a way to collect dust
- More expensive than other top CNC routers on this list
5. FoxAlien CNC Router Machine
This FoxAlien 4040-XE CNC router uses NEMA23 stepper motors and a 300W spindle. This means that you can rely on its accuracy when working on your projects.
We use this CNC machine for client work because of its precision. The large cutting area also gives us the freedom we need to get as creative as possible and work on bigger projects.
We also get to use the 3.5’’ touchscreen LCD as an offline controller when we can’t connect the machine to our computer. You can use this machine on wood, nylon, resin, metal, MDF, resin, PCB, and foam.
You can use this machine with GRBL-control software.
We spent about 30 minutes assembling this machine, which was convenient for us. All in all, we love the value for money that we’re getting with this machine.
- Easy to assemble
- It has a large cutting area
- Smooth operation
- Easy to use
- Has great precision
- More expensive than other picks on this list
6. RATTMMOTOR CNC Wood Router Machine
Our final pick is this mini CNC router machine kit with a working area of 18 x 10 4.5 cm and one of the most affordable machines on our list.
It is perfect for hobbyists and beginners in the world of CNC machines. We assembled this machine within a few minutes without much hassle.
In fact, if we were to recommend just one machine for beginners, it would be this one. Even the most inexperienced members of our team, regarding CNC machines, were able to assemble and operate this machine relatively easily.
The small working area makes this CNC router unattractive to small businesses, but hobbyists can comfortably use this model. You can expect high precision and durability with this CNC router.
Some of the materials we used this engraver on include wood, acrylic, plastic, carbon fiber, and soft metals like aluminum and copper.
- Easy to assemble and operate
- Great for beginners
- Works on a variety of materials
- Very affordable
- Unsuitable for small businesses
- It has a small cutting area
Considerations When Getting the Best CNC Routers for Woodworking
Here are some key pointers we used to choose the best CNC routers above. Let’s read through them so you can use them as a guide to choosing the best CNC machine.
1. Type of Use
The type of use means what you’ll be using the CNC machine for and as. For example, if you are a hobbyist, you’ll need a different CNC router than if you are a business owner.
The features you’ll look for will differ, and even the budget you’re working with may differ. For example, if you plan to use your CNC machine for commercial purposes, you’ll want one with a bigger working area. Also, if you are a hobbyist and a beginner, you’ll need a user-friendly CNC router with a manageable learning curve and easy to assemble.
Our 2nd and 3rd picks are great choices if you are a beginner. Their instruction manuals are easy to read and detailed enough for you to use without seeking extra information.
On the other hand, our first pick would be a great choice if you are a small business owner. It is efficient, comes with cool features you can use, and has enough working space for diverse projects.
Check out our guide for more information about profitable woodworking projects for more ideas for your small business.
Safety is paramount when working with CNC machines. Therefore, ensure that the CNC machine you choose has the necessary safety measures. For example, if you’re getting a laser engraver, ensure that the baffles will protect you from ultraviolet light.
If you are a beginner, safety measures are especially important. Consider our first and second picks. These options come with optimum protective measures.
If you’re getting a CNC machine for commercial purposes, you’ll need it to be very accurate to get high-quality carvings.
Therefore, you’ll have to choose the CNC machine that gives you precise cutting, has other features you want, and falls within your budget.
Cutouts and contours CNC woodworking
4. Machine’s Weight
Desktop engravers are often more portable than other larger commercial CNC machines. You’ll need to consider the weight of the machine you’re getting, especially when you intend to move it around every now and then.
The downside with portable CNC routers is that they often have a small working area and can have less accuracy than other heavier machines.
Therefore, you’ll need to determine your preferences before you settle on a machine.
5. Electrical Requirements
Every CNC machine comes with the specific voltage needed to operate it properly. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure that the place you’re using the machine has these electrical capabilities.
6. Dust Collection
If you don’t have an efficient woodworking space in which you’re working in, you’ll need a CNC machine with a good dust collection system.
If your choice of CNC machines doesn’t have the dust collection feature you need, you can always buy a dust shoe or dust boot separately.
This will allow you to enjoy your wood CNC machine without making your whole place swim in the dust. We did this with our fourth pick – the BobsCNC Quantum CNC Router Kit.
7. Router or Spindle
Your CNC machine can use a router or a dedicated spindle to spin the bits. The advantage that routers have over spindles is that they are easily replaceable.
Let’s look at these two parts in a bit more detail.
Routers aren’t as accurate as spindles, but they are more affordable. If you are okay with making shallow cuts in your work, a router will work just well.
However, if you can afford to get a CNC machine with a spindle, the better. Spindles offer higher accuracy and have a longer lifespan.
Spindles have several advantages over routers, including the fact that they are quieter, more accurate, produce less runout, and can remain consistent through.
If you plan to use your CNC machine to cut through non-ferrous metals, it’s better to use a spindle. This is because they can drop below 12,000 rpm.
One thing to note about buying a CNC machine with a spindle is the type of cooling system that comes with it. Your machine can either have a water-cooled system or an air-cooled system. The water-cooled system can either be manual or automatic.
If you get an automatic system, the cooling system will automatically turn on when the spindle turns on. On the other hand, if you get a manual system, you’ll need to turn the pump on yourself.
The problem with this is that you risk damaging the spindle if you forget to turn on the water while using the spindle. Therefore, if you’re a forgetful person, consider investing in a machine with an automatic cooling system.
We also appreciate the fact that water-cooled systems are self-contained. This means that your work will be safe from the coolant.
8. Working Area
The size of the working area will affect how much wood you can engrave at a time. A small working area will do just fine if you are a hobbyist. However, if you are creating work for customers, you’ll need a larger working area.
We choose diverse machines to accommodate hobbyists, small business owners, and beginners. If you’re just starting out, go for an affordable, easy-to-use machine with a small working area. Our final pick should be a good place to start.
You can then upgrade as you get better and want to work on larger projects.
9. Drive System
The one thing to consider when working with wood is that you choose a drive mechanism that can withstand dust or one that is shielded from dust.
Compared to metal, the good thing about working with wood is that wood doesn’t need that much precision. Therefore, you can get belt drives to do the job. These drives work great in dusty environments and don’t need lubrication to work well.
Frequently Asked Questions About CNC Routers for Woodworking
1. How long do CNC routers for woodworking last?
Small models often have a lifespan of 10-15 years if you use them well and maintain them regularly.
Heavy-duty industrial CNC routers can last for several decades if properly maintained. Just ensure that you’re using your CNC machine for its intended purpose to avoid adding unnecessary strain to it.
2. What differentiates a CNC router from a CNC mill?
The main difference is that CNC routers work on soft materials and are great for creating basic cuts. On the other hand, CNC mills offer more complex cutting capabilities and more accurate cuts.
3. Do small CNC machines do a good job?
Yes. Even the smallest CNC machines on our list will serve you well.
However, it’s important to note that smaller CNC machines are better at cutting curves than they are at cutting square or rectangular parts.
4. What’s the difference between CNC and laser?
The typical CNC machine uses a rotating spindle to curve into your wood, while a laser engraver creates curvings by heating and vaporizing the surface of the wood. Laser machines use a high-energy laser to create the engravings.
Check out our guide on how much a laser engraver costs for more information on the same.
Both of these machines have their pros and cons. Therefore, you have to decide what you want. For example, although the cuttings created by laser machines are clean, they also have some discoloration. Laser engravers are also limited to thin materials.
On the other hand, CNC machines with rotating spindles work great on thick materials and don’t leave any discoloration behind.
Therefore, you can go with the laser option if you’re after clean vertical lines and don’t mind painting over the cuttings to hide the discolorations.