Engraving clean words and letters in wood

Hello all!

I searched the form for the following and did not get any results;

“Best bit for engraving clean words and letters in wood”

I am presently using a whiteside 60 degree V-bit and I am not happy with the results. I am typically engraving in softer woods and about 1mm deep with 1/2 to 1 inch words and letters. What are you guys using and do you have any other suggestions?


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I use a technique that I saw on this forum and elsewhere. I’m V-carving letters in white pine (soft!). For fine letters - ~.25" high - I use v60. I increase RPM to 20K, and slow the IPM to ~75 or less. Experiment.


For fine small lettering, I use a:
1/8", 15° V bit (Watch your fingers with these bits, as they are so small, steep and sharp that they will cut you easily!!)
Depth of cut of .025
Feed rate of 35 ipm
router speed of 5
I cut them, then go over the carving with a small stiff nylon brush (in the direction of the cuts), lightly sand with 320, then carve it again. I find that this creates very clean lettering.


Two tips.

Use a hone and rub it gently over the tip perpendicular to the shaft, just minutely squaring the tip. When a V bit comes to a perfect point it has zero speed at that point and can cause some fuzzies in the bottom of the groove.

Second tip, run the first pass and then brush with an old toothbrush to get the fuzzies to stand up then run a second pass.


1/16" tapered ball nose bit in poplar


Cody at Cadencemfgdesign.com sells a 30 degree, 60 degree, and 90 degree bit with a downcut shear. This makes for very smooth edges. Worth giving them a try. I have used them for quite awhile and have had real good luck with his bits.


That’s an interesting technique. I may try. I know it already takes a long time to do just a couple of sentences of half-inch words. I don’t quite understand why the router goes up and down so much either almost like a sewing machine while it’s carving. Thank you for the information.

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That looks great! I may have to purchase a different collett and try that for sure! Thanks!

The depth changing when running a v bit is how you’re able to get such sharp, crisp text while using a round tool to do the cutting. A v bit will come to the surface at a 90 degree corner so you actually end up with a 90 degree corner. If it stayed below the surface of your work piece the corner would instead be the radius of the bit at that particular depth.


Hey Newsvan!
Thanks for the additional information. Here’s a quick question for you on a different topic. I have always cut/carved square material and now I’m wondering how to find or probe for circular pieces. I thought I would go ahead and ask you before typing in the form because it sounds like you’ve been doing this for quite some time.

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There’s a few different ways. The most reliable way is to buy (or since you have a CNC - make yourself) a center finding jig. If you give “circle center finder” a search on your favorite search engine of choice you’ll find a bunch of designs and YouTube videos that will instruct you on how to make and use one.

Not only is it an awesome little jig to have in the shop, it can be made using scrap wood and your CNC. If you’re confident enough you could model it and do the CAM work as practice for future projects. It’s a decently complicated enough 2.5D project to teach you some new tricks.

Edit - I should mention once you have the center mark, use a Vbit to dial in your x and y coordinateas. Change your bit to whatever bit you need for the project and use your probe block to probe for z.only. Then in your CAM software make sure you have your origin set to be the center of your work piece before you execute a cut.


Got it! Yes, I have been using this thing long enough I should be able to figure that out fairly easy now. I don’t use my cnc all of the time so therefore I get a little rusty. I actually got it for a little “later in life” hobby. I came across some circle stock and want to put it to good use. Thanks again!


Hey David,


[Jeopardy!] Open the pod bay doors please, Hal.


And THAT is why we named our dog, “Hal”

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I have used a 60 degree bit, and sometimes have needed to do the same as suggested above: brush with a stiff toothbrush and rerun the carve. About 50% of the time the first pass is fine after the toothbrush, but the other 50% have looked great after rerunning the job.

To answer another question regarding curved text and finding zero: I made these for the directors of a school play. I turned the wooden bowls on my lathe, made sure the rim was as flat as possible, then carved the text. The bowls are about 1.5" deep in this instance.

The zero is the center of the bowl which I marked on the lathe with a pencil as a small target. I set X and Y by jogging the bit by 1mm and then .1mm increments until it lined up to the zero. I then set the Z by using a piece of paper as a feeler gauge on the rim, then set the zero at .1mm lower. I could have used the corner block for the Z, but that ran the risk of being at a slight angle. In any case it came out nicely and I did not have to run the job a second time with this hard maple material. It looks like I carved the circular edges of the rim, but that was done manually. You can see my mistake on the one to the right as I forgot to resize my model and Gcode for the slightly different diameter of the second bowl… I’m not as precise by hand as the CNC is :).

I’ve been asked how I got the logos on the inside of the bowl. Actually the Arendelle “flag” design. This ended up being pretty easy when I found clear shipping labels (Avery) that can be run through a laser printer. This was a 2x4" label but some are full pages so decals are easy to make. Getting them reasonably centered required a more calibrated eyeball…:slight_smile:


Beautiful work and thank you for the tips.

Nicely done!
I had the same style of bowl to do a couple of years ago. Made a drawing with 3 circles to be able to curve & center the text, and used the center hole (which was later filled with a button) to set X&Y, then set Z the same way as you with a piece of paper (glad that’s how I learned a long time ago!). But I did an air cut first about an inch high to make sure I had everything right. It’s 14" across.

But the 2nd picture worried me more than the platter. That’s a lot of lettering that I had to worry about chipping out (it’s 14 x 8).