The best CNC machines for wood will help you bring the ancient art of woodworking into the 21st century, with cutting-edge technology available to boost your speed and precision.
But with a wealth of machines available though, navigating the market can be a little tricky – especially for beginners.
In my opinion, the BobsCNC Evo 4 represents the best value for money. It offers high accuracy and a generous cutting area in an affordable CNC machine perfect for woodworking – with great upgrade potential and excellent customer service to boot.
If you have a bit more to spend you might consider the Carbide 3D Shapeoko 4 for its seamless integration between machine and software, while professionals requiring more customization and a large work area would suit the Inventables X-Carve.
In this guide I’ll share my hands-on experience with all the popular choices available, comparing them across important factors like material compatibility, ease of use, and size so you can find the right pick for you and your project.
BobsCNC Evo 4
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The Best CNC Routers for Woodworking
1. BobsCNC Evo 4: Best CNC Wood Router for the Money
- Price: $1,230 — Available on Amazon here
- Materials: Wood, Plastics, Soft Metals
- Work Area: 610mm x 610mm x 85mm
- Accuracy: 0.002″ to 0.004″
- Assembly Time: Around a day
Generous cutting area.
Good customer service along with great customer feedback.
No option to customize your kit.
First on our list is the BobsCNC Evo 4, their latest Evolution CNC router.
Released in April 2020, this CNC wood router offers a unique design and is made out of birchwood. It offers a generous cutting area of 610 x 610 x 85 mm in a fun-sized 838 x 994 x 530 mm machine footprint.
BobsCNC prides themselves on their philosophy of producing “great products” and “great relationships”. While producing top-of-the-range machinery is their goal, they truly value the importance of their relationship with their customers.
So much so that BobsCNC is routinely applauded for their amazing customer service, and even developed the Evo 4 based on customer feedback to make the ultimate consumer CNC wood carving machine.
In terms of advancements made in the new Evo 4, they were able to boost performance time by adopting the Acme rod, as opposed to using a threaded rod on the Z-axis. This also means there’s no need to lubricate the Z-drive because of the Delrin Acme nut.
BobsCNC also upgraded to adjustable eccentric spacers, a torsion box gantry, and an integrated belt-tightener. All of which help streamline workflow and optimize performance. They also created router mounts for scaling back noise and speed-variability, and it comes standard with the Makita RT0701C router.
There isn’t an option to customize your kit, but you can opt-in or out of the one-piece spoilboard with inserts that helps make assembly easier. You can also design your own if you want to save an extra $80.
Overall, this is a fantastic option for professionals and hobbyists alike, and those who prioritize customer service and want to stick to the more budget-friendly side of the market.
The Evolution series of machines, which stand out for their laser-cut wooden frames and somewhat unusual designs, with the Evo 4 being the best in the line, are possibly the most well-known products from BobsCNC.
2. Carbide 3D Shapeoko 4: Best Wood CNC Carving Machine for DIYers
- Price: Starting at $1,525 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Materials: Wood, Plastics, Soft Metals
- Work Area: 17.5″ x 17.5″ x 4″
- Accuracy: 0.005″
- Assembly Time: Around 4 hours
Can have it set up and working in a matter of hours.
Carbide 3D has invested in every aspect of wood CNC projects, making the integration between the machine and software seamless.
Great for any skill level.
No dust collection plate.
Carbide 3D’s Shapeoko 4 CNC Router’s sleekness immediately catches the eye, and you can have it set up and working in a matter of a few hours.
The Shapeoko 4 is ultimately the lovechild of Shapeoko 3 and the Shapeoko Pro, giving you Pro performance at a massive discount.
What’s unique about Carbide 3D is that they have invested in every aspect of wood CNC projects. From electronics, hardware, and software, to even machining their own parts, Carbide 3D has developed every working part of this DIY CNC router kit. Not only does that mean integration between the machine and software is seamless, but it makes for better-streamlined support when dealing with any issues.
The full pipeline support has been in the making for years when in 2014 Shapeoko joined Carbide 3D to bring us the complete CAD and CNC integration we see today.
The Shapeoko 4 comes in three sizes: standard, XL, and XXL, each increasing by about ~$300 in cost. The standard size, however, comes with a cutting area of 17.5″ x 17.5″ x 4″, and footprint of 33″ x 24″ x 19″.
What you can expect from the Shapeoko 4 is stronger V-wheels, increasing strength and rigidity from the previous model, new robust V3 electronics that are more resistant to electromagnetic interference and static discharge, a thicker router mount, and fully supported Y extrusions.
The real pride of this router though is the optional Hybrid table that gives you unlimited potential for work holding options. This with the included Sweepy 65mm V2 dust boot, and you could want for nothing else.
This option is an excellent choice for all skill levels, but the DIY community that has backed this machine since its days on Kickstarter gives it a special place in the hearts of experienced hobbyists.
3. Inventables X-Carve: Customizable Wood CNC Router for Home Shop
- Price: Starting at ~$2,300 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Materials: Wood, Plastics, Soft Metals
- Work Area: 750mm x 750mm x 65mm
- Accuracy: 005″
- Assembly Time: Approx. 16 hours
Easily useable by those with little or no CNC or CAD experience.
Offers great customizability.
Large cutting area.
The setup process may be difficult for some beginners.
Inventables X-Carve has carved its way into the homes of many as a CNC wood carving machine.
Founded in 2002, and arguably Carbide3D Shapeoko’s main competitor, Inventables focused on creating an environment that fuelled creativity and prioritized support, and that’s seen in the projects on the website, the large assortment of accessories, and open-source capabilities. This makes it a great CNC machine for guitars.
Inventables claims that the X-Carve is easily useable by those with little or no CNC or CAD experience and has implemented its own CAD program called Easel that you can master and begin cutting 3D designs in no time.
There are two versions of the X-Carve, the standard, and the Pro. The Pro being bigger and stronger.
The main selling point of this CNC wood carving router is its customizability. As a scalable open-source CNC kit, you have the option of modifying it however you see fit, and you can choose between building your own kit or buying the standard package. You’ll get open-source access to full designs, BOM, and instructional documentation, so you can build it how you like. You can even extend the machine further with makerslide extrusions.
It comes with a DeWalt 611 spindle, integrated motion control that houses the power supply, mainboard, and an emergency stop. It’s also added the NEMW 23 stepper motors for all X, Y, and Z axes.
The basic X-Carve size sits at 1250 x 1000mm with a cutting area of 750mm x 750mm x 65mm, so this is slightly larger than some other options on this list.
The easy learning curve makes this machine suitable for new casual users, but its custom capabilities make it an amazing option for professionals.
4. Axiom Iconic Series: User-Friendly Wood Carving Machine
- Price: Starting at $4,000
- Materials: Wood, Plastics, Soft Metals
- Work Area: 28.4″ x 37″, 28.4″ x 49″, or 28.4″ x 61″
Design is specifically targeted at first-time CNC users.
Over 20 available accessories available like a laser kit, dust collector, and LED lamp kit.
The ratio of the cutting area and machine footprint is minimal, so you’re not having to deal with a lot of dead space.
Expensive for an entry-level CNC router.
Axiom’s Iconic Series promises to be the next leading entry-level CNC router, with its new design specifically targeted at first-time CNC users. Partnered with a video library and comprehensive manual, this model promises to drastically shorten the learning curve.
The Iconic Series represents the cheapest installment out of Axiom’s three available models. The Iconic series itself has three sizes available ranging from 24” x 24” to 24” x 48”, and each comes with prismatic guides, ball screws, and an intuitive DSP pendant controller, which is typically reserved for larger machines.
At the checkout, you’ll notice over 20 available accessories you can add to your cart to help make this machine unique to your needs, like a laser kit, dust collectors, and LED lamp kit.
What’s great about this wood CNC cutting machine is the ratio of the cutting area and machine footprint is minimal, so you’re not having to deal with a lot of dead space. There’s also the choice to operate this machine PC-free and cut down on space even more with its USB port transfers.
Other features include a high-quality steel stand that is rust and corrosion-resistant, a generous toolbox, and proximity switches with magnetic capability.
Alongside their video library and manual, you also get access to lifetime technical support and the CNC woodworking training program Axiom offers.
All in all, we think the company said it best, and that this is an ideal beginner’s CNC wood router. Its rigidity promises to handle the pitfalls of learning seamlessly, and the amount of learning resources is unbeatable.
5. BobsCNC KL744: Best Large CNC Machine for Woodworking
- Price: Starting at $2,875
- Materials: Plastics and Wood
- Work Area: 48” x 48” x 5”
- Accuracy: 0.002” to 0.004”
- Assembly Time: Around 40 hours
Loads of space to test your intricate designs.
Great for users of any skill level and profession.
Comes with many great safety features.
The setup is tedious.
While the previous BobsCNC was all about precision and workflow, the KL744 is truly a wood CNC machine, and not only because it’s entirely constructed from 12-mm 9-ply Baltic birch plywood.
With a cutting area of 48” x 48” x 5”, you have loads of space to test your intricate designs, as it specializes in engraving and carving rather than milling precise parts. Think of it as a more creative model, that rivals that of high-end machines.
The setup is tedious, but that’s the only complex part, and once it’s up and running you’ll be pleased by the smooth workflow. Plus, you’ll have BobsCNC’s renowned customer support by your side.
This model has the SG25U supported rail system, meaning better performance and better output.
The addition of the NEMA 23 Servo motor Closed Loop Quadrature Encoder and Hall Effect Home Switches make it easier to manage and adds serious brownie points for better health and safety.
There’s also the drag chain wire management to help prevent wires from getting tangled, which is another health and safety bonus. And it uses the dual 48 VDC power supply, which is great for lessening energy consumption.
The kit comes with the Makita RT071C router and supports a self-squaring gantry system.
This is easily an option for CNC users of all skill levels and professions, but its complex assembly and engraving ability make it a better choice for professionals and hobbyists specializing in wooden engravings and carvings.
6. ZMorph Fab: Most Versatile Wood CNC Machine
- Price: Full set available for $3,980 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Materials: Plastics, Wood, Soft Metals
- Work Area: 235mm x 250mm x 165m
- Accuracy: 0.2mm
Supports 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser cutting and engraving.
Supports over 50 materials and 5 told heads.
Carefully designed with new users in mind.
Stick with a standard CNC machine if you’re not interested in 3D printing and laser cutting/engraving.
The ZMorph Fab is the black sheep of this list, but the sheer ingenuity of this machine’s design made it an irresistible addition.
What sets the ZMorph Fab apart from the others on this list is that it’s actually a multifunctioning 3D printer. Along with supporting 3D printing, this machine supports CNC milling and laser cutting and engraving.
You’d think that supporting so many settings would limit the potential of what each setting could do, but in reality, this machine supports over 50 materials and 5 tool heads. It also comes with a smart tool head detection system, so it knows what setting to switch to the moment it’s attached.
You can pick and choose what settings you want, like if you want all three or just 3D printing and CNC milling, however, the standard package comes with only 3D printing.
The machine has a build area of 235 x 250 x 85 mm and comes with new and improved aluminum worktables and rigidity to protect electronics from dust leftover.
Similar to others on this list, this machine was carefully designed with new users in mind, so if you’re new and interested in trying out laser cutting and engraving, CNC, and 3D printing, then this is an opportunity you can’t miss!
What You Should Know Before Buying a CNC Machine for Woodwork
What Exactly Are CNC Wood Routers
In the most technical sense, computer numerical control (CNC) machines are electro-mechanical devices you use to manipulate machine shop tools, like drills and lathes, via programming inputs. The tool will sit above the working area, moving along the X, Y, and Z axes, carving the wood into the desired shape.
Essentially, it’s an automated milling machine that uses tools to create what you want through digital instructions, making it a programmable CNC wood carver.
The Advantages and Drawbacks of CNC Wood Routers
- CNC wood cutting machines help cut down on production time and errors, offer rapid prototyping, and can create near-identical products every single time.
- Helps save you money and time.
- Adds versatility to your portfolio by engraving and carving plastics, metals, stones, acrylics, and much more.
- Suitable for everyone and all skill levels, professionals and hobbyists alike.
- Large upfront cost and potentially costly repairs if you don’t keep up with maintenance.
- Leftover dust isn’t only messy but can affect the machine if it’s not protected correctly.
- Doesn’t require as many people to handle the machine, so if you’re a business owner it could mean letting go of employees, which can also be a benefit.
How Are CNC Wood Machines Used for Woodworking?
CNC is one of the two main methods of developing prototypes through digital software, with the other being 3D printing. Except instead of producing the material, CNC carves and processes materials like some of the best woods for CNC routing, plastics, and metals.
It does this by using Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) or Computer-Aided Design (CAD), where you’ll map out what you want, and then send the design to the machine to create.
Where you’d typically start carving or engraving by hand, a drill or lathe suspended above the material takes your place and is controlled by the machine to follow the input design.
Designs can range anywhere from engraving intricate patterns to carving out precise parts.
What makes these machines, more specifically CNC wood routers, different from CNC mills is that CNC wood routers will work around the material and work on three axes. CNC milling machines move the workpiece itself and on a linear axis.
Older versions of these machines were large and clunky, but new models are sleek and compact, even coming in desktop versions that sit on your desk and deliver the same astounding results.
The software user experience has also been improved across all the best woodworking CNC machines, so whether you’re a new user or a professional, you’ll feel comfortable working with this computer-aided technology.
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