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CNC Routers: How do they Differ from Handheld Routers?

If you plan on starting a woodworking business, one of your first purchases will be a router. Useful to woodworking projects large and small, simplistic and complex, routers are used to hollow out areas in pieces of wood, creating holes and indentations that range from utilitarian to decorative. But not all routers offer the same features and functions, with the biggest difference occurring between handheld routers and CNC routers. Below, we look at the main differences between these routers and explore which type would be best for your woodworking business.

Four Differences Between CNC routers and Handheld Routers

1. Difference in Control

The biggest difference between CNCs and handhelds is that the former are controlled by a computer that operates on programmed design commands, some of which are preprogrammed and others of which are added by the owner. That CNCs are computer controlled makes them an excellent choice for woodworking operations that require multiple copies of a wood piece in a short period of time. But the downside is that they require special training to operate. In fact, large woodworking companies typically hire specially trained personnel to operate their CNCs.

2. Difference in Functions

In terms of pure woodwork, the great thing about CNCs is their ability to produce extremely detailed work in a short period of time. Whereas handhelds often have a single cutting head, CNCs can have as many as five. If you plan on producing detailed woodwork in large volume, a top grade CNC could be well worth its high price, a price that can be significantly reduced if you’re willing to buy a used CNC that’s still in great condition.

3. Significant Price Difference

Most handhelds can be purchased for well under $1,000. But a top grade CNC could cost you in the neighborhood of $250,000, and that’s not a typo. Due to their incredible capabilities and complex technology, top grade CNCs are some of the most expensive woodworking machines you can buy. But their price can be significantly reduced when you shop for them at professional sellers of used woodworking machinery.

4. Difference of Applicability

We’ve already alluded to the fact that a top grade CNC is ideal for industrial level woodwork. But it’s important to note that, due to their high price, some woodworkers try to use handhelds or lower grade CNCs to do the work of a top grade CNC. In the first case, the work simply can’t be as diverse, and it takes significantly longer to finish, forcing you to take less production orders. In the second case, the router simply wears out before its time, potentially costing you more in repairs than the price of purchasing a top grade CNC used. The rule of thumb here is: purchase what you need, and nothing less.

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