If you own (or plan to buy) a CNC router machine, consider using it on woodworking projects as a hobbyist creating great gifts for family and friends, or starting a small business selling and making money. Either way, you need project ideas and CNC project files to begin your venture.
You’ll want to focus on small-to-medium-sized jobs within your CNC machine’s capacity and look at wood projects that match your skill level, from beginner to CNC router project specialist.
There isn’t enough space for all the DIY projects you could take on. Let’s say the list is limited only by your imagination. For instance, you may want to concentrate on one specific item, such as wood signs, furniture, or home décor. You might also stray from the crowded coaster and cutting board field and stick with unique and challenging projects where you can add a personal touch.
For ideas to get started, you can look at what is selling on sites like Amazon, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace. However, we have compiled a list of woodworking projects, some for the hobbyist and others to get a CNC business up and running. You can even complete some of these projects from scrap wood!
The following 16 routing projects include links to DXF files and will work with the best CNC router machine brands like X-Carve and Shapeoko. And software like Vectric V-carve and Easel Pro make drawing an idea relatively simple, generating toolpaths, and creating a finished product.
1. Knife Block
This unique but practical knife block can hold six knives of different sizes and a steel sharpener held by a magnet. The small size and simple construction make it fast to machine, although some hand work—rounding corners, sanding, and gluing—will be required.
The block is a sandwich-like assembly, with 15-mm plywood stacked side by side. In addition to the machined plywood, you must supply a 1” diameter (25 mm x 5 mm thick) magnet, 6-mm dowels, felt pads, wood glue, and a food-safe finish.
2. Wooden Clamp
This wooden clamp was initially designed for laser cutting, but you can route it with the right cutting tool. It’s a valuable clamp you can use for holding glued-together CNC-machined parts. The milled parts that make up the clamp are held together with rubber bands.
Layering two different profiles in alternating order creates each arm of the clamp. The layering order of the other component is opposite to the first. These arms are interlocked and kept in place with rubber bands. The clamps designer produced a YouTube video that plainly explains the process.
Also, cutting files have been provided for three sizes of clamps using the recommended 3-mm plywood material.
3. Parametric Desk Cubby
This parametric desk cubby is relatively easy to produce on any medium-size hobbyist CNC router, but the finished product looks impressively complex. It’s milled from MDF and slides together without fasteners. Achieving this precision requires an aligned spindle and sharp cutters; otherwise, this project is not particularly difficult. And it will surely provide organization to your desk (or someone else’s).
4. Ribbon Box
Although this is not the only ribbon box out there, none is as elegant as this one. It’s made in two operations for the box and ribbon, and they are simple to assemble. The project’s creator offers thorough details, notes, and machining instructions.
The ribbon will be cut in two passes, using a Carbide 3D #112 1/16″ bit. The bit’s depth of cut must be relative to the thickness of the stock so the ribbons come out correctly.
5. Scroll Saw Puzzle
Every CNC router project need not be elaborate. For instance, this simple elephant scroll saw puzzle is ideal for small children. Although initially designed to be made by hand using a scroll saw and template, you can quickly adapt it for a small CNC router using a 6.3-mm (1/4-inch) bit for the outside and a 3.1-mm (1/8-inch) bit to separate the pieces. The pattern can be imported into most CAM software and made into a toolpath to produce multiple puzzles for business purposes.
The original is cut from a 25.4-mm (1-inch) thick pine board to help it stand upright. However, you can use thinner material and make it a flat puzzle. Add a bit of sanding, stain, and sealer, and you have a product that could generate sales for your CNC business.
6. Mayan Calendar
Most people are familiar with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and this Marvel Maya calendar is an attractive abstract interpretation of the Aztec calendar. The design impresses with its intricate detail and numerous hidden Easter eggs, which are impossible to absorb with one glance.
The calendar’s creator used Vectric Aspire to draw everything and convert it into G-code. Then he spent countless hours adding content and redrawing it to make it machinable. Reportedly there were at least ten iterations of designs before capturing the right look.
7. Roman Numeral Clock
The internet might be populated with wooden clocks made on CNC routers, but this roman numeral clock is different from most others because the Roman numerals are used as butterfly joints to hold the clock together. Even though this clock will take extra work to assemble, it’s well worth the effort and will look great on any buyer’s wall.
8. Pendant Lamp
This pendant lamp helps create an attractive living space in a living room, above a dining room table, or in an entryway. It’s milled from 4mm birch plywood, and the upper mounting hole accepts a standard EU 40mm lamp holder fitting with an IKEA SEKOND cord set. No glue is required, but you can varnish or paint it to match any décor.
9. Double-Sided Circular Maze
This double-sided circular maze might be relatively easy to produce, but users will be challenged to get the ball to the center. Unlike mazes that allow you to see the entire maze and work out how to get to the center, the double-sided circular maze compels you to flip it over at least twice, making it much more challenging to get the ball to the center.
You’ll need a spiral-toothed 3-mm flute cutter for the wood and a 2-mm end mill for the acrylic. Materials include two 6-mm beech plywood sheets, two 2-mm acrylic sheets, and a 3-mm steel ball. The designer took his ball from a bike wheel hub.
10. Kinetic Sculpture
This CNC kinetic sculpture looks complicated, but it’s surprisingly simple to mill and assemble. Most CNC routers designed for hobbyists will work well for this project since there is no need to cut metal parts. The sculpture is approximately 50 cm (20 inches) wide and runs for several hours on a single winding.
However, because wood doesn’t typically allow for accurate meshing of components, lower your mechanical expectations and view the clock aesthetically. The compressing, chipping, and snapping for which wood is known, will prevent it from being part of a precise mechanical assembly.
11. Lounge Chair
You will need a CNC router, a few tools, wood glue, and 3/4-inch plywood to create this lounge chair. All of the chair’s interlocking parts were designed to be nearly invisible by using pocket cuts. The result is a comfortable and attractive chair that challenges you if you are not an experienced CNC woodworker.
This stylish trivet is distinctive because it keeps pots and pans off the table using a wavy 3D construction. The trivet pieces are identical and relatively easy to make on almost any CNC machine, and you could even scale them down for a smaller version to use as coasters for mugs and cups.
The assembly process can be painstakingly slow since you must use wood glue and clamps on the joint. However, do not use a wood finish if you will be setting hot pots and pans on it.
13. Cryptic Calendar
Talk about unique! This cryptic calendar uses negative space and a sliding black bar to make the dates visible. You will need a 3D printer to make the sliding black bar, but other than that, the instructions are easy to follow. The brainy design tracks up to 31 days, and you flip the black bar to continue the ascending numbers. A word of caution, the tutorial warns you to adjust the G-code to work with your CNC height and your bits.
14. Bent Spiral Bowl
Here is an advanced CNC project. Although this bent spiral bowl comes from one piece of plywood and is easy to cut on the CNC, the process becomes more challenging. You must bend the plywood fingers so they stack one on top of the other and hold each other up to look like a decorative bowl.
Next, soak the wood in water and heat it in the microwave before forming it so it’s easier to bend. Since there is an art to heat-bending wood, this bowl is likely the most challenging project on the list.
15. Piggy Coffee Table
Who would have thought pigs would be the inspiration for a coffee table? Pigs have become popular in many artistic forms, and this piggy coffee table would be a conversation piece in almost any living room.
The table features a waffle-like construction of black melamine plywood crossing profiles, making it attractive and durable. The 2” spacing between the boards allows for setting plates and mugs on it.
The construction requires many interlocking connections, so check your material thickness before cutting to avoid extra work during the assembly.
16. Space Frame Stool
You will need a CNC router with a larger capacity to make this space frame stool. This designer has smaller stools available, but the larger ones require metal hardware.
The crisscrossing frames on spacecraft inspire the style, and these stools could be a robust addition to any house or workshop. At the very least, you can sit on this stool to watch your CNC create all those other moneymaking projects!
Other Options for Creating Some of These Projects
Although CNC routers are typically used to cut wood, plastics, and acrylics comprising these projects, laser cutters, and desktop CNC mills will work on many of them. CNC mill and laser engraving are also excellent choices for your hobby or business to create welcome signs or sign-making in general.
Contact the experts at CNC Masters to discover the options that could lead you to a profitable business in woodworking projects!