There are so many choices for CNC tooling, from entry-level desktop carving to high-end production, that it can be a little daunting to scour the market for solutions on your own. Perhaps a better approach is to shop for a couple of reliable suppliers, rather than looking for individual bits, holders or collets. Finding the right business partner can save a lot of time and, the more you get to know each other, the more appropriate and fitting the answers will be.
A tooling supplier needs to have a strong catalog that can accommodate new profiles, materials and joinery techniques as the needs of a woodshop change. Even a company that makes its own bits needs to be well-connected to advances in technology, so that it can shepherd your processes toward greater efficiency. Your salesperson needs to know what’s new in this global market and how it can help you.
Connecticut Saw & Tool (ctsaw.com) is a good example. Based in Stratford, Conn., the company offers a comprehensive range of standard tooling for CNC routers, from names such as Onsrud, Vortex and Techniks. By building those connections, the catalog can include router bits, boring bits, tool holders, collets, set up stands, torque wrenches and so on. But, most importantly, those connections allow the sales team to provide the knowledge and support necessary to choose the right tool for the job.
The same is true of many other suppliers such as Hermance Machine Co. in Williamsport, Pa. (hermance.com), Brian’s Tool Sales in Enfield, Conn. (brianstoolsales.com), Burns Power Tools in Fall River, Mass. (burnstools.com), Carbide Processors in Tacoma, Wash. (carbideprocessors.com), ComSurge Tooling with locations in California (comsurge.com) and Infinity Tools (infinitytools.com).
From robotics to additive technologies, ecologically sensitive materials, outsourcing and new lean practices, woodworking is evolving at a breathtaking pace on several fronts. Because of that, tool manufacturers are constantly introducing different amalgams of carbide or new coatings, profiles or fluting just to stay ahead of the curve. And it’s not just bits.
Amana Tool (amanatool.com) is always adding to its line of CNC tools and among the more recent offerings are a couple of high precision spring collets. These are designed to reduce the effect of vibration on both tools and motors, which helps produce a better cut and prolong the life of the spindle. They are intended for use in Amana model RDO-20, SYOZ-20 and EOC12 tool holders. The CO-411 accommodates 3-4mm shafts and the CO-415 handles 9-10mm.
Freeborn Tool (freeborntool.com) offers brazed shaper cutters, insert cutters, spiral inserts, router bits, custom tooling and tool holders for CNC tooling. Hickory Saw & Tool (hickorysawandtool.com) has a wide array of custom and stock tooling and Eagle America (eagleamerica.com), which carries Axiom desktop CNC routers, is among the larger and more versatile suppliers of bits that are made in the U.S.A.
Detmold is a town of 73,000 located in the middle of Germany. It was the site of a battle between Charlemagne and the Saxons back in 783 and the region is still known for producing keen edges on steel. Today, Detmold is home to Arminius Tooling (arminius.de), a precision manufacturer that builds tooling for CNC machines. The company is probably best known for sanding heads that clean up raised panel doors and other hard-to-reach profiles and it recently introduced a couple of interesting heads that use segmented strips of abrasives to do similar work. The new 4+4 and 5+5 adjustable sanders each have a couple of star-shaped, interlocking disc halves, so that different profiles can be combined. The 5+5 has an adjustable sanding width of 10-70mm and it’s built around five profiled foam rubber platens that are fitted to each disc half. The abrasive segments are attached to these and they can abrade or shape parts, depending on the profile used.
Another manufacturer with a German engineering background, GDP/Guhdo (www.guhdo.com) of Grand Rapids, Mich., has been supplying North American woodshops since 1986. Among the company’s newest ideas are router bits for abrasive composite materials. Normally, special cutting geometry is used to deliver a crisp edge on materials such as HDF, fire-rated MDF, thermoplastics, phenolics, Fiberglas-reinforced plastics, cement fiber panels and similar materials. GDP/Guhdo’s polycrystalline diamond (PCD) tips, which are available on stock tooling, will machine all of those. The router bits feature solid-carbide bodies and two continuous PCD-tipped flutes that are positioned on opposing axial shear, with PCD bottom cutters to provide a clean finish. They are well-suited to nesting applications.
Austrian toolmaker Fisch (www.fisch-tools.com) makes an interesting solid-carbide CNC roughing bit, the 372/373 Z3, which was designed for pre-cutting both solid-wood and laminated material. A series of roughing teeth on the relief flutes abrade the stock. The bit can be used in hardwood and softwood, to mill contours and cutouts. With a high cut angle, it is intended for use in both CNC and overhead routers.
And the Israeli manufacturer Dimar (dimartooling.com), which has a strong presence in Europe, has introduced a similar bit. The company’s solid tungsten carbide cutter has a unique multi-spiral fluted shape and is suitable for roughing cuts in hard and abrasive stock such as composite material. It’s a down-cut design for better clamping when machining small work pieces, and it also delivers an improved edge on the top of the board. Available in two shaft diameters (6 and 12mm) for use on routers and machining centers with or without CNC control.
The Leitz Group (leitztooling.com) has a U.S. headquarters in Grand Rapids and offers a wide range of CNC tooling, including Diamaster PRO bits. Leuco Telcon (leucotelcon.com) makes PCD Diamond Tools and operates out of Villa Rica, Ga. NAP Gladu (napgladu.com) offers a complete line of both solid carbide and diamond cutters and Integra Precision Tooling in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (ipgandm.com) has a huge catalog of industrial CNC tooling.
Charles G.G. Schmidt & Co. recently introduced a couple of new corrugated back router heads — one clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Designed specifically for CNC routers capable of accepting 3/4” shafts, these tools (RH100 CW and RH101 CC) allow the use of conventional corrugated knives on this type of machine. Most mill shops are already using corrugated steel somewhere in their shop, whether on a shaper, tenoner or molder. This is an inexpensive way to produce samples or to do small runs using steel knives. A woodshop can also purchase carbide knives from the company’s online catalog (cggschmidt.com) for long production runs. Knives for both straight cuts and profiling are readily available.
CMT USA (cmtutensili.com) introduced a 4” diameter kinetic dust extractor that replaces the classic clamping nut on a tool-holder collet. It is available for any collet chucks that are designed for standard router bits (DIN6388/EOC25, ER32 or ER40) and what it does is pull debris away from the tool by means of a flow of air that’s created as it revolves. The extractor has an immediately beneficial effect on operator health, tool performance, cut quality and tool life. CMT recommends it for nesting and standard routing operations in chipboard, coated chipboard, MDF, solid surface materials, OSB and similar products.
Small platform solutions
A new series of tooling from Freud (freudtools.com) has been specifically designed for smaller CNC routers. The bits are formulated with the company’s exclusive TiCo carbide, and incorporate both unique cutting geometries and Perma-Shield non-stick coating. The only manufacturer that produces its own carbide, Freud has introduced seven new CNC router bits and two new sets for smaller machines. 87-108 is an eight-piece set for sign making, while 87-208 is a general purpose eight-piece set for carving and detail work. If a woodworker is a little confused by all the options in bits, there’s a six-minute video on the Freud website that is well worth viewing, especially for shops that have just purchased a small platform CNC router.
Also for desktop CNC and light duty applications, China’s Hengcheng Tools (hengcheng-tools.com) added two new versions of its adjustable roundover bit to its catalog. The 613492A is SAE with a 1/2” shaft, and the 613494A is metric with a 12mm shaft. Cutting radii are 1/4” and 3/16” or 6.35mm and 4.8mm, respectively.
Rockler (rockler.com) carries its own brand of CNC bits, plus Onsrud and Freud, while Woodcraft (woodcraft.com) has both Freud and Whiteside router bits for CNCs.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue.