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Engraving Tools For CNC Routers and Plasma Machines

Maximize your CNC machine’s potential with engraving tools. Achieving precision in small-scale and detailed projects can be daunting by hand, making CNC routers and plasma machines the go-to solution.

In this article, we’ll explore the best engraving tools for CNC routers and plasma machines to elevate your projects.

Diving Into CNC Engraving

cnc engraving

CNC engraving involves making a shallow cut into your material to achieve intricate detailing. Frequently utilized for personalization or incorporating essential information such as branding or serial numbers, engraving serves various purposes. It is also handy for adding markers, measurements, or alignment points to mechanical items.

In the majority of scenarios, engraving leans towards the decorative, prioritizing the visual appeal of the final part over precise dimensions. This flexibility allows you the freedom to choose a machine and cutter that aligns with your productivity goals.

What Machines are Best for CNC Engraving?

Any CNC machine, ranging from CNC routers to desktop CNC machines, can serve as an engraving powerhouse, yet certain features can enhance a machine’s suitability for this precision task.

Ideally, a CNC machine for engraving purposes should boast a high-speed spindle. While the definition of “high-speed” can vary, a benchmark exceeding 12,000 RPM is considered adequate. The significance of a high-speed spindle lies in its ability to accommodate the minuscule cutters frequently employed in engraving. These tiny cutters demand a significant RPM to navigate through the material efficiently. 

While engraving at lower RPMs is possible, it often proves less efficient.

Equally crucial is a CNC machine that exemplifies accuracy and flatness. Given the inherently shallow nature of engraving, precision in the machine setup is paramount. The cutter must move as parallel to the object being engraved as possible to ensure uniform depth. 

Any deviation from this parallel movement can result in uneven engraving depths, yielding suboptimal outcomes.

What Materials are Best for a CNC Engraver?

Which materials are compatible with CNC engraving? Engraving tools for CNC plasma machines and CNC routers effortlessly handle: 

  • Woods
  • Plastics
  • Metals

Wood Engraving

wood cnc machine

Wood, being a softer material compared to metals and plastics, poses certain considerations for engraving. Due to its softer nature, wood requires deeper engraving and the use of larger bits to achieve intricate detailing. While you can engrave on any type of wood, it’s advisable to adjust the size of the engraving, making it larger on softer woods to capture ample detail.


Metal Engraving

metal cnc

Common metals find themselves within the purview of CNC engraving, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, silver, and gold. Even if your CNC machine can’t cut through a metal block, it can still perform engraving due to the lower cutting forces involved in the process.

Plastic Engraving

The realm of plastic engraving is expansive, encompassing nearly all types of plastics. However, harder plastics like acrylic, polycarbonate, Delrin, ABS, and PEEK yield better results. 

Softer plastics, such as polyethylene and LDPE, can be engraved but demand more meticulous handling. Sharp tools and precise speed adjustments are critical for plastic engraving to prevent friction-induced melting, which can lead to undesirable plastic residues on the engraving bit.

What Tools Do I Need For CNC Engraving?

Which accessories should you invest in for CNC engraving? 

V-cutters, engraving cutters, and ball mills are some of the top engraving tools for a CNC router. Each presents distinct advantages in terms of performance, material adaptability, and cost-effectiveness.


The V-bit takes the lead as the most common cutter for engraving on wood, particularly in CNC routers. Typically featuring a steel core with carbide edges brazed onto it, the V-bit comes in various tip angles, allowing you to tailor your project’s appearance. 

Smaller angles excel at fine details, while larger angles produce wider yet shallower features. 

Engraving Cutters

Similar to V-bits, engraving cutters differentiate themselves with solid carbide construction and a smaller profile. While cost-effective, basic engraving cutters are ground to a sharp tip with a large flat ground onto them to create a cutting flute. This design, though economical, can compromise performance due to the delicacy of the sharp tip and the limited productivity of a single-cutting flute. 

For enhanced durability and productivity, dedicated engraving cutters feature a small radius on the tip and two flutes. Regardless of the engraving cutter style chosen, they prove effective for shallow engraving in materials like plastic and metal.

Ball End Mills

For plastic and metal engraving, a popular alternative is the small ball end mill, typically around 1/32″. Known for their durability owing to the lack of a sharp tip, these mills often boast 2-4 spiral flutes. While the engraving may not be as sharp as with dedicated engraving cutters, the tradeoff in productivity makes ball-end mills a viable option for certain applications.

What Kind of Software Do I Need For CNC Engraving?

Engraving software simplifies the process, primarily involving a 2D toolpath that follows a specified line. 

Regardless of the software you choose, the engraving process remains consistent across most programs:

  • Import or create your design.
  • Assign a straightforward 2D contour toolpath to each vector in your design.
  • Execute the process on your CNC engraving machine.

Engraving toolpaths precisely trace the design vectors, simplifying toolpath creation by eliminating concerns about the side of the line to cut or intricate cutting sequences. The 2D contour toolpaths, resembling pen strokes, can be applied to both open and closed vectors, offering flexibility in engraving.

A notable exception to this process arises when using a V-bit on wood. As mentioned earlier, wood engraving tends to be deeper than traditional engraving, necessitating the use of a V-carve toolpath. 

V-carving is a distinctive technique employing a V-cutter to machine an entire region, imparting a dimensional look with sharp edges efficiently. V-carving toolpaths operate on regions, requiring closed vectors for optimal performance.

Tackle Your Engraving Projects With ShopSabre

Discover the distinctive advantages that set ShopSabre apart — crafted with excellence in the USA, recognized for superior quality, and fortified by unparalleled support, making us the ultimate choice for all your CNC engraving needs. 

Have questions or inquiries about our range of CNC machines? Reach out to us today online or via phone at 952-461-4570

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