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How To Choose The Right CNC Router Tool For Cutting MDF

Before deciding which is the right tool to use on your CNC machine you firstly need to think about the material you will be cutting.

What is MDF?

MDF, Medium Density Fibreboard, is a very common material when working with wood because it is often cheaper due to its manufacturer process. MDF is an engineered material made from creating wood fibres from the residual offcuts from hard and soft wood and mixing it with a resin to form panels through pressure and heat. MDF is often used as a building material similar to ply wood, although MDF is much denser. Because it is not always obvious what has gone into the MDF the cutting tool you choose is very important – some wood working tools would not be suitable and the blade would be damaged due to the make up of MDF.

What thickness of MDF do you want to cut?

If you plan to cut various thicknesses of MDF then ideally to create the best end product you need a different tool for each one. You should try to get the cutting edge length of the tool as close to the thickness of the material you want to cut. For example if you want to cut 18mm MDF the cutting edge length should ideally be 20-22mm.

What finish do you want on your cut MDF?

If you are looking for a good top and bottom edge on your finished MDF product a compression tool like CS-3100, 3100, 3100m and 3100xp will give you the perfect finish. Compression tools prevent the top and bottom of the MDF becoming fuzzy. If however you are producing lots of materials where the edges will be covered you could use a 2 flute upcut.

Does the shape of the CNC tool matter when cutting MDF?

Again it all depends on the finish you are looking to achieve:

  • A compression tool is good for top and bottom finish
  • A down cut tool is good for a top edge finish
  • An upcut tool is good for bottom edge and also good for chip removal
  • Straight cutters can be used in jobs where a rough edge finish is ok

Does the material of the CNC tool matter?

MDF is abrasive due to its mix of materials and the resin that bonds it together, so at Cutter Shop we would always advise using a solid carbide tool as other tools can quickly wear out. If you opt for solid carbide tools they can cut twice their diameter in one pass saving you time.

  • A 3/8” (9.5mm) will cut through a sheet of 18mm MDF in one pass
  • A ¼” (6mm) will cut through 12mm in one pass but as long as your cutting-edge length is long enough you can cut 18mm with two passes, first pass of 12mm, 2nd pass of 6mm or two passes of 9mm each

Solid carbide tools can easily remove chips and knots in the MDF and pose less threat to the longevity of the blade.

Looking after your tools by warming up the spindle

Always run the tool in your CNC machine if it has not been used for more than an hour to make sure everything is warmed up before starting to cut any material. We recommend 6’000 rpm for 5mins, 12,000 rpm for 5 mins and 18,000rpm for a further 5mins – total time of 15mins.

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