Plywood for carving?

Does anyone have any ideas for what the best type of plywood I could use for vcarving on .I need some thing that will hold detail and not break apart…

Sanded or a veneered top. I use plain plywood for testing details, most turn out ok. Sharp but, decent feed rate and spindle speed are key.

I just used some Baltic Birch plywood last night that cost me a small fortune at a Rockler Woodworking store. It wasn’t to Vcarve on though. It was to cut out some profile pieces. The results were terrible. I was using a 2 flute up cut End Mill. I won’t make that mistake again! I had so much tear out and ripping of the fibers that it became nothing more than something to add to my next camp fire. Speaking about having a decent feed rate and spindle speed…From what I can tell, it’s nothing more than a guessing game. Notice that what those speeds and feeds should be are not mentioned. Practice at different feeds and speeds, waste copious amounts of wood until you get a good result and then do your final carve. Or try to figure out some of the speed and feed formula’s. They call them “Calculators” but really they are just Excel spread sheets with a bunch of inputs that you won’t understand. Your next option is to buy the CNC Cookbook for a lot of money and use that program. I’ve heard many write about how good it is but I can’t say whether it is or isn’t.

I learned that the hard way Bob. I have ordered one to try it out. What’s your thoughts on compression bits with plywood? I’m thinking they would be ok but cause some tear out and therefore more sanding. Would that be correct?

Ok. I will avoid the compression bits. Since I use wood 99% of the time, usually some form of hard wood (Cherry, Oak, Maple, Walnut etc.) I should be using down spiral bits if performing profile or pocket carves. Correct?

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Thanks for that tip Phil. I have ordered one down spiral 1/4" bit. Maybe I should order a few more of various kinds and sizes.

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so for v-carving plywood I would stick with a high quality plywood like baltic birch or a USA domestic product call apply ply

make sure that you are using high quality tools as well carbide insert tooling is the best

MDO or medium density overall plywood works great as well

what have you tried so far that is breaking apart on you?


oh yeah man if you are dado cut you want to use a downcut tool and if your are through cutting you want to use a compression sprial or a combination of downcut and upcut this will give you the best results and keep tear out to a minimum

To avoid the tear out when cutting with a compression bit on the top side of the material when you are entering the material you will want to use a “lead in” in your tool path and make sure that you are below the upcut length of the tool also look for mortise compression tools as they have a shorter upcut length

so as far as feeds and speeds there is a science to them but the x-carve is a flexible low power machine so following the chiploads provided is not always possible. so thats why its called the ART of CAM you have to test your tools and materials and your right you need to burn through a little material and always search for that perfect setting

Thanks for that info WorkinWoods. Do you or Phil or both of you have sources for buying the down spiral and compression end mills? The one I bought on Amazon is a 1/4" Onsrud Solid Carbide Downcut Spiral, Uncoated (Bright) Finish, 30 Degree Helix, 2 Flutes, 2.5" Overall Length. It’s arriving today. I would like to buy a 1/8" diameter down spiral end mill and compression end mills of 1/4" and 1/8" too but I can’t find a source for those. In the past, I’ve bought from Torbide Tooling, Centurion Tools and Drill Doctor on Ebay but I think he just sells the very small engraving bits as far as I know.

You can also support inventables. They have a good selection. Almost all of my cnc bits are from inventables

Yes Phillip I have when I first bought my machine and I would have again but their selection is limited and their Down Spiral selection is even more limited. They have 1/16" and 1/8" but both only allow .3 depth of cut. For what I would use the end mills for, I need at least a .75 depth of cut allowance so I have to buy these elsewhere.

For instance, I routinely have to cut out Oak that’s 3/4" thick for an ongoing job order making plaques. I also have plans to cut out a beer tote out of 1/2" plywood. I also have some ideas for another project using 3/4" plywood. The bits Inventables sells to do those jobs at all are Up cut bits.

I use this 1/8” downcut:

It’s sold on Amazon but only a 0.5” cutting length.

You might be hard pressed to find a longer cutting length in downcut. But if you do half using a downcut, then you can switch to an upcut for the last half.

Compression bits, as previously mentioned, are only good if you can go full depth of cut where both the up and down are engaged at the same time. Most likely not possible with an Xcarve but other more industrial CNCs could do it.


Hey man so for endmill tooling I use

Toolstoday (amana tools)
Whiteside Machine

I would recommend this one from tools today


I cut over 100 of these with 1 single tool

for ONSRUD I would recommend 57-240 tool for the 1/8" downcut,asc


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Also rob if you pm me I can set you up with my ONSRUD rep and he can get you in touch with a rep in your area and if you would like they will come over and meet you and discuss your tooling needs in person

Onsrud has a good bunch of reps and I met mine when I just had my x-carve and he was more than happy to help me

I just recently bought several downcut bits from inventables. It’s not a large selection but it may work for you. I like supporting the company whenever possible

I buy my 1/16" and 1/8" downcut from drillman1 on eBay. Just bought a 1/4" downcut whiteside off amazon. For cutting through 3/4" material, including plywood I use a 1/8" straight cut bit. It requires a quick couple passes with a 220 grit sanding sponge for some fuzzies as the bit gets dull, but there has never been any tear out or problems on plywood.

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The one carbide down cut bit I bought on Amazon arrived yesterday afternoon. I did a few profile and pocket carves last night to test it out. Holy Crap that’s so awesome. Thank you everyone for leading me in the right direction with cutting wood!

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