The Ultimate Guide to CNC Wood Turning Service


Manufacture of high value products by automatic CNC wood turning is increasingly common, as natural material choices become preferred. But to create the exceptional quality that results in a high market value, consumers expect the level of precision products that only the capabilities of an outstanding craftsman can achieve by hand.
This has resulted in a layer of CNC wood turning services for the highest standard component manufacture in natural wood using lathes, by net shape extraction.

The expectation of these services is to do business in delivering a high level of precision in low cost wood parts when manufactured by automatic CNC machines. In particular, CNC turning of small and complex parts in high quality woods is a growth sector in terms of volumes and specialist suppliers.

What are CNC Wood Turning Services?

Turning wood is one of the oldest industrial processes. In its primitive equipment form, a fast working hand wood turner, known as a bodger, would set up a simple treadle powered lathe and produce chair and table legs, balusters, bowls, plates, toys and decorative parts. Produced in rough form, these were passed to a craftsman who would use these components in their furniture making. They would use their lathe turning skills to transform the rough turned parts into crafted objects.

CNC turning of wood using computer controlled machines is a method to produce craftsman quality in large volumes, without the need for the lifetime experienced hands to carry out the work and with limited finishing processes required, after turning. The programing of rotation of the part, positioning of tool edges and feed speeds make the turning automatic in a G-Code program to drive the lathe.

In general, the specialist suppliers of these types of CNC turning services have high grade capabilities in complex, computer controlled machinery. This allows them to make high quality, highly repeatable components, by high speed rotational machining of wood, according to pre-defined programming and tool setup.

This is similar to the primitive system of wood lathe turning work as a component supply process, except that the ‘extraction’ of the CNC turned component from the raw material is automated at high throughput, with absolute precision and repeatability.
This results in lathe turned parts that are of as high a standard as any skilled hands could make, but at lower cost and higher volume./span>

The Benefits of Using CNC Wood Turning Services

At the most basic level, CNC turned custom wood parts enable the manufacture of unlimited complexity in shape of resulting products. These lathe services unleash design from the constraints of the craft skills limitation. Otherwise, such great results are only available from only a few, highly capable craftspeople, priced according to scarcity.

This allows such services to offer the turning of wooden parts to be used in CNC mass produced furniture and other products, without the high cost burden and limited volumes available from skilled craftsperson hands.

The ability to produce thousands of CNC lathe custom parts that are all of high quality and all identical from the first to the last, at tightly controlled cost is now widespread. This has allowed turned wooden parts to become commonplace in relatively low cost applications.

Types Of Wood Turning

Turning wood and sometimes plastic products, by hand or using an automatic CNC lathe equipment, falls into two approaches. The system applied is generally defined by the aspect ratio and grain direction of the parts to be made and defines how the parts will be located for machining.

Spindle turning

Long thin custom parts such as chair and table legs require spindle turning. As a rule, the growth direction of the wood (the grain) is aligned with the axis of the machine. Both ends of the part to be cut are set between centers, to reduce bending of a larger size piece and allow larger cutting loads to be applied. This is typical when lathe producing fine legs or balusters.

Rotational drive is applied by the CNC spindle motor at the headstock of the lathe turning one of the centers. A variety of retention and location systems can be used to keep the spindle cut part centered on the machine and apply the motor force without risk or damage.

Faceplate turning

Shorter, wider custom pieces for lathe work are attached to a CNC lathe face-plate, rather than between centers. In general, these parts will have a grain, or growth direction that is perpendicular to the spindle axis.

It is also possible to have the grain offset in any direction when CNC faceplate turning. This is often done for aesthetic reasons. It can result from disorderly grain, compression waves or compounded material in the blank to be CNC turned, potentially including plastic or other components.

With piece support only from the machine faceplate, a variety of precise and rigid clamping systems are used to retain the part and resist the cutting forces, which can be considerable in CNC machining. This retention is critical, as parts breaking lose during turning is a hazard for personnel and equipment.

Tools Needed For Wood Turning

There is a long history in the development of particular types of production machine tools for turning. The ‘old’ knowledge has been renewed in developing CNC machining methods. While the tool holding and support systems are quite different in CNC machine applications, the tips and styles of cutting tool would be recognizable to old world craftspeople.
CNC standard woodworking machine cutters are simply short tool tips, often made of carbide and with small replaceable tip pieces which require no sharpening. These fit directly into the CNC machine toolholder.

Roughing gouge

The CNC roughing gouge is an open curved cross section tool, with a beveled underside to the tip. It is used for large quantity material removal, cutting a square blank to a rough cylindrical section, ready for precision work.
This is the least precise and most hazardous part of CNC turning, where intermittent contact with the corners of a non round blank can result in large cuts and violent material removal.

Spindle gouge

A CNC spindle gouge consists of a cylindrical tool blank that is cut away on its top face to leave a 1/4 moon cross section, which is slightly rounded across the axis at the tip and beveled.
The spindle gouge is used for precise and fine material removal, making fine curved features in a spindle cut.


The skew is a flat faced CNC machining tool with a slight angle across at the tip.
In CNC turning of wood, this tool is generally used for making square and sharp edged features in either a spindle or faceplate setup. It can be used for bulk material removal across the spindle axis – but it is only suitable for fine work and small material removal along the spindle axis of the work.

Parting tool

The CNC parting tool is used for deep, narrow cuts across the CNC spindle axis. It can also be used for machining fine features.
These tools usually consist of a narrow blade used with the long axis vertical. The tip is generally beveled on the longer sectional axis and the sharp ‘toe’ of the tool does the cutting.

Bowl gouge

A CNC bowl gouge wood lathe tool begins as a cylindrical shaft and a U, rounded V or eliptical groove is cut into the top. The tip is the rounded – rather more than on a skew gouge – and beveled to make a flared cutting surface around much of the tip circumference, with the groove making the cutting edges.
Bowl gouges are almost exclusively used for CNC faceplate turning curved surfaces (internal and external), but also find application in machining difficult spindle parts such as barley-sugar balusters.


CNC scrapers are broad, flat lathe tools with either rounded or squared off ends, beveled away below. The simplest of lathe tools, they are used for fine surface machining, smoothing a surface that has been rough cut with a gouge.
Used only for fine surface finish and very small material removal, this tool is the last stage before surface sanding for final finishing.

Materials Required For Wood Turning

The right woods for CNC machine turning are fine grained and knot free woods, which allow fine finish. Both soft and hardwoods can give good results on the lathe, but the finer grains generally present in quality hardwoods allow better quality of fine detail to be created.

Various material choices for high aesthetic quality CNC machining outcomes are; figured and spalted maple, walnut, cherry, box elder, rosewood, pacific madrone, sycamore and oak. These are high cost materials that require delicacy in the CNC lathe and they are mostly not well suited to mass production of larger components such as table legs.

However, many of the CNC production issues of these materials are reduced in the making of small scale parts, and where consistent and knot free materials can be sourced.

In furniture component wood machining on a CNC lathe, such as turning table legs, a very wide range of commercially produced hardwoods and fine grain softwoods are available. These can often be sourced through subcontract CNC machining services that are to make your custom parts.

Tips to remember when CNC wood turning

Operate the CNC safely. Ensure all spindle and faceplate attachments of workpieces are secure and rigid.
Always choose readily available materials that your CNC turning services provider can access reliably. Try to use sustainable material sources.
Take care in learning the capabilities of your preferred suppliers, as not all design choices are practical and reliably deliverable in CNC turning services. Your supplier is the best design guide, so be ready to hear their advice.
Understand the setup and startup procedures that your chosen CNC supply company prefers.


This article seeks to introduce you to the various principles and methods in a CNC wood turning lathe machine. It advises on ways to assess the capabilities of and approach working with an OEM services supplier who you have selected to make your CNC custom wood parts. It suggests some of the design and material choices you must make in proceeding with design and manufacture of your products.

There are extensive online resources you can access, to increase your CNC machining knowledge – but your best guide is a capable contract wood turning lathe work service provider. They will always be happy to assist in design review, material selection and in supporting their customer in understanding their CNC machining process and limitations.
Whether you are a customer for CNC machining a mass produced table, a toy or a pen, the right services and support are readily available.

Worthy Hardware is a CNC manufacturing and sheet metal fabrication company,including CNC machining services,CNC milling services, CNC turning services, laser cutting services and stamping services.Call us +86-76989919645 or email us [email protected] for more discounts for your projects.