The Best Types of Wood for CNC Machining

Discover the best types of wood to use for various CNC machining purposes. From beginner level to 3D carving, this CNC guide covers all the best wood types.

When it comes to CNC routing and 3D carving, you can use multiple types of wood. But which material best suits your needs and why? To give you a better idea, we’ve compiled a summary of what different wood types accommodate various levels of CNC experience and purposes.

What’s the Best Wood for CNC Machining Beginners?
Firstly, as a beginner in CNC machining, you will want to purchase your wood cheaply. Cheaper wood grants you the freedom to practice your CNC craft before designing and establishing finished projects you can sell, display or use. The price of wood depends on your location. For example, wood that is available locally will prove much cheaper to buy. We also recommend using wood that’s easy to carve, such as:

– MDF boards
– Plywood
– Particleboards

Maple is one of the cheaper hardwoods, while cedar and spruce offer affordable softwood options.

Best wood for CNC - Midlands CNC

What’s the Best Wood for CNC Routing?

When it comes to CNC routing, there are numerous woods to choose from that can be distinguished between hardwood and softwood:


Birchwood is light in colour with wavy grains and is as hard as oak or walnut. Its characteristic properties of being resistant to chips and dents make it the ideal wood choice for CNC routing. It also holds screws very well, offering an excellent brace option or structural component when constructing furniture.

Maple is one of the hardest woods. It’s particularly beneficial for its density, durability and resistance to electrical shocks. Therefore, maple is a perfect choice for something that will take a few knocks, such as workstations or heavy-duty chopping boards.

Ash is notoriously a heavy wood but comes light in colour with signature rings within the grain. Due to its characteristic properties of hardness and stiffness, it’s perfect for CNC routing projects, such as:

  • Chairs and tables for dining sets
  • Sports equipment like hockey sticks and cricket bats

Cherry boasts a stunning finish with beautiful reddish-brown tones. It’s especially resistant to warping. Cherrywood is a very versatile material too. It’s suitable for all types of CNC projects, from furniture to musical instruments. Its natural radiant tone and smooth finish make it particularly pleasing to the eye.

Beechwood is renowned for its strength and hardness, making it another suitable option for tables and chairs. As an odourless wood, it’s spot on for kitchen equipment, such as cutlery, plates and cutting boards.

Oak is hard, strong, and heavy with unique pronounced rings in the grain. It’s a great option for outdoor projects due to its moisture resistance, such as garden furniture or shipbuilding.

Durable with darker brown tones and signature straight grains away from the roots, walnut takes shocks particularly well and is a favourite material amongst carpenters and sculptures.


A straight grain makes Yew easier to work with. It’s particularly hard despite being considered a softwood variant. A signature resistance to decay combines with low stiffness and medium strength.

Popular for its reddish-brown colouring and pleasant aroma, cedarwood is weather-resistant like oak and ideal for outside furniture.

Excellent decay resistance and remarkably soft to work with, cypress is a popular softwood choice for CNC furniture projects, such as cabinets and wardrobes.

Fir is easy to work with and has consistent patterns in the wood. It’s a good option for handling hardwood purposes such as flooring and furniture due to its characteristic durability.

Pine is a very lightweight wood of a paler colour and is more resistant to shrinking due to its surprising hardness.

What are the Best Types of Wood for CNC 3D Carving?

CNC 3D carving is the next level of craftsmanship which requires wood that doesn’t tear very easily and provides a nice smooth finish. It’s also important to use some wood with consistent grain due to the varying cuts involved during the process.

  • Cherry – While it’s challenging to carve, cherry provides a beautiful, smooth and radiant finish
  • Maple – Unlike other woods, maple does not need fillers after machining
  • Redwood – Its soft properties make redwood easy to carve. It even boasts weather-resistant properties and a nice red finish

What’s the Best Wood for CNC Sign Making?

We believe the best wood for CNC sign making is cypress due to its incredibly soft density. If you haven’t yet tried to make a sign with your CNC machine, start experimenting. It’s a fun and stress-free project that serves a purpose for the home or work.

What’s the Best Wood for CNC Engraving?

Basswood is one of the best wood materials for engraving due to its strong yet soft and lightweight nature. No matter the level of detail involved in your desired engraving, a CNC machine can produce incredible results in the most intricate designs.

Need a Hand Choosing the Right Wood for Your Next CNC Project?

At Midlands CNC, we’ve specialised in CNC machining and routing. If you’re looking to cut costs or want to know what wood type to choose, get in touch. We can offer our expertise for your choice of wood, alongside any guidance or support throughout the process, from design to finish.



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