Can CNC Bits be Used in a Router?

CNC drill bits closeup

If you have CNC bits and a router, you may be wondering whether the two will work well together. Although CNC bits are designed for use with CNC machines, it’s easy to assume that they can, theoretically, be used in a router. But is that the case?

Can CNC Bits be Used in a Router?

It is possible to use CNC bits in non-CNC routers. However, speeds and feeds will be the biggest concerns. Other factors will also need to be considered to determine whether a CNC bit is a practical option for your project.

Because CNC bits are not designed to be used in manual routers, proceed with caution. They’re not meant to be used this way, so you’re taking a risk and could wind up ruining your bit or workpiece in the process.

Speeds and Feeds

Speeds and feeds are two important settings that you need to consider. 

  • Speed refers to the router’s RPM.
  • Feeds refers to the machine’s lateral speed as it cuts through the material.

When you purchase CNC bits, manufacturers typically tell you the ideal speeds and feeds for their products.

One issue with using a CNC bit in a handheld router is that there’s a greater risk of breaking the tips when making shallow cuts. Shallow cuts require a slow feed rate. This is something that’s easy to control with a CNC router, but much more difficult to achieve with a manual router.

Shank Size

Another major concern is the shank size. If the CNC bit’s shank is too big or small for the router, you won’t be able to use it.

Finishing

Maybe you want to use CNC bits to create a smoother finish. Different CNC bits have different cutting edges (or flutes), which gives you plenty of options for finishes.

Bits with two or three flutes provide a more refined finish, while four-flute bits are better suited for detail work.

CNC vs Router Bits

Router bits are primarily designed for woodworking. CNC bits can be used with a variety of materials, including metal, which is much harder than wood.

A router bit will typically have a nearly vertical spiral cutting edge. What this means is that the helix edges are much shallower than, say, a CNC mill bit designed for cutting metal. 

Router bits also have fewer cutting edges (in most cases) compared to a CNC bit. There’s a good reason for this. Fewer cutting edges makes it easier for the router to remove large amounts of wood quickly and while making clean cuts. These bits require a slower feed rate.

Bits that have more flutes require a much faster feed rate to prevent burning.

Ultimately, CNC bits are meant to be used with CNC machines, which offer more control over speed, efficiency and precision compared to a handheld router. There’s a risk of the tip breaking because it’s not being used appropriately. While it may be possible to use a CNC bit in a router, it’s better not to take the chance.

We’ve heard stories of customers asking manufacturers if they can use their CNC bits in a router, and the manufacturer couldn’t give an answer one way or another. Why? For liability reasons. This should give you a clue that it’s best to avoid doing this or proceed with extreme caution.

If you have a handheld router, use regular router bits. If you have a CNC router, use the appropriate CNC bits for your machine. 

Summary

CNC router bits will likely work just fine in a router. Other CNC bits may not be a great fit. Ultimately, it’s really best to use the right bit for the job and tool you’re using. This will ensure that you get the results you want with minimal risk for errors.

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