Best Digital Caliper for the Money

Precise projects call for precise tools. And when we’re talking about CNC machining, we’re talking fractions of inches, not yards. Unfortunately, tools capable of ultra-accurate readings can run away in price, while the measurements given by cheaper models can be so far off that the tool itself is useless.

Fortunately for you, we’ve gone on the hunt and found the best value digital calipers on the market.

Name

Awards

Where to Buy

Starrett 798A-6 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Digital Caliper < $200

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Digital Caliper < $150

iGaging Absolute Origin 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Digital Caliper < $50

VINCA DCLA-0605 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Digital Caliper < $25

Best digital caliper under $200

Starrett 798A-6 0-6" Digital Caliper

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Pros

IP67 rating
Quality all around

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Pros

Price tag

Admittedly, this caliper from Starrett is not going to be for everybody. Mostly because it comes with a hefty price, but if you have the extra cash lying around, the 798A-6 is absolutely worth the money.

Starrett has been making tools of all types for decades and the level of quality they have been able to hold over that time is remarkable. While they have been able to produce heirloom quality tools for a variety of uses, their measuring tools stand out as easily some of the best stuff on the market.

Starrett micrometers have long been the gold standard of precision and their digital calipers are very much up to the task as well.

The 798A-6 has an accuracy of 0.001″, or 0.254 mm and a resolution 0.0005″ or 0.010 mm. More importantly, this isn’t a spec pulled out of left field somewhere. These calipers easily meet the specified accuracy. In fact, we have found that many exceed the listed accuracy and are accurate to 0.0005”. They don’t spec it, so there is no guarantee but likely you will find them more accurate than they claim.

In addition, this set of calipers holds its zero extremely well so you won’t find yourself resetting them often like you might with a budget tool.

The 798A-6 is made of high-quality stainless steel. The parts that are not stainless steel such as the LCD display feel well made as well. No cheap thin plastic here.

Speaking of the display, it is large and easy to read. A nice feature of the display is that it comes with a limited number of buttons to fiddle with. A button to switch from inches to millimeters and another to turn the unit off and on are the only two buttons present. The on/off button can be held to zero the caliper at any location for taking measurements relative to a standard. Keep it simple.

One feature that is so-so is the battery life. It is listed as one year which is good but not as long as some other high-end calipers such as the Mitutoyo 500-196-30 which lists a three-year battery life.

The battery life of this Starrett caliper is likely hampered by the auto off feature which takes 30 minutes to kick in. Something closer to 5 minutes would likely have been more than sufficient and kept the juice flowing longer. Making sure to turn the tool off after each use can help increase the life of your batteries.

Still, this battery life is very good and stacks up well above what you find with cheaper digital calipers, but it is one of the few areas where the 798A-6 isn’t the cream of the crop.

While they are noticeably well built, the included case is a welcome addition that will work to keep your caliper safe when it’s not in use. Way too often has a set of calipers been bumped off a bench only to hit a hard concrete floor. Stashing your prized calipers away when not in use will add an additional layer of protection.

The main reason for the high price tag of these calipers is the tools protection from the elements. In the electronics industry, there is a rating called an Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which measures the amount of resistance a device has to dirt, water, and other contaminants that can mess with the device.

The Starrett 798A-6 digital caliper has an IP rating of 67. When reviewing other digital caliper models, you will find that most have no IP rating (no protection from water, coolant, dirt, etc.). The majority of digital calipers that are IP rated will have an IP rating of 54. We won’t get too far into the details here but be aware this is a large jump in protection even when compared to the IP54 rated calipers. If you want more info about IP ratings, jump to the IP Rating section of our Things to Consider list below.

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about accuracy. This is the main reason you need a digital caliper after all. This caliper from Starrett, like many others they make, is extremely accurate. Additionally, it holds its zero very well which means you won’t be constantly resetting it to maintain that accuracy.

To sum it up, you’re going to have to pay a pretty penny for this caliper, but due to its build quality, IP67 rating and most importantly, the excellent accuracy, it’ll likely be the last caliper you ever need.

Best digital caliper under $150

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6" Digital Caliper

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Pros

Highly accurate
Long battery life

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Pros

No IP rating

You may recall another article we wrote where we ranked this Mitutoyo as the best overall digital caliper on the market. Our opinion has not changed. While this caliper is on the pricier end, it’s cheaper than the Starrett yet still incredibly accurate and durable. We really think it’s worth the money, and that’s not the fumes from the wood finish talking. We mean it.

The 500-196-30 caliper is made of stainless steel and has an accuracy of 0.001”, or 0.254mm and a resolution of .0005” or .01mm. The accuracy is what is important here and this caliper is right in line with the best of the best when it comes to accuracy. Similar to the Starrett 798A-6, the accuracy that Mitutoyo is able to provide will exceed what they have specified the accuracy to.

Again, they aren’t guaranteeing this level of accuracy but it really goes to show the level of quality found in these calipers.

We also appreciate how well-marked this caliper is. The scale and large display are very easy to read and there’s no mistaking the on/off, zero/abs, or in/mm buttons.

Something that could be easily overlooked is just how fast the caliper is. The display updates very quickly when taking measurements. Switching from mm to inches is accurate and instant. Don’t blame the caliper if you accidentally take a metric reading, these bad boys are spot on.

While this caliper from Mitutoyo might not be IP rated, it is still well protected. It doesn’t have the same level of protection that the Starrett caliper has but it will hold up well to light dirt, dust, and coolant. I wouldn’t submerge them in anything or hit them directly with coolant, but besides that you should find they are pretty resilient. I suspect they don’t have an IP rating because the battery cover doesn’t seal well enough to meet spec. Speaking of batteries…

A truly standout feature of this digital caliper is the battery life. We’ve used a lot of digital calipers through the years and none have the battery life that this one has.  Cheaper models generally run out of juice in a span of months. Higher quality tools like the Starrett will last longer, usually about a year, possibly more depending on use. This Mitutoyo caliper claims a 3.5 year long battery life! I don’t have time to check that claim, but I do know I can’t remember ever changing a battery in any of the Mitutoyo calipers I own or have worked with. These things are always ready to take a reading.

All in all, the Mitutoyo 500-196-30 is a top shelf tool. Most of the digital calipers from other high-quality manufacturers will be in this same price range and as a result they should be benchmarked against this caliper right here.

If money is no option, it makes sense to go with the Starrett 798A-6 to get a couple extra bells and whistles, but if not then this Mitutoyo is the best option. This caliper sets the standard for what you should expect from a digital caliper.

Best digital caliper under $50

iGaging Absolute Origin 0-6" Digital Caliper

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Pros

Two-year warranty
IP54 rated

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Pros

Battery life

The iGaging caliper finds a nice middle ground between the expensive, incredibly accurate and highly durable models above and cheaper models that start to have questionable accuracy.

Made of stainless steel, this caliper has an accuracy of +/- .001” or .02mm, and a resolution of .0005” or .01mm. This is in line with what you would expect from a good quality caliper.

Perhaps the best feature of this caliper is its IP54 rating. It isn’t as good as the IP67 rating of the Starrett caliper we noted above but it still amounts to a solid amount of protection from the elements, especially because this is a budget friendly tool.

Another plus that is unusual for lesser priced tools is that iGaging gives you a two-year warranty on the caliper. Most manufacturers (even the really good ones) only give a one-year warranty, if any at all.

The IP54 rating plus the two-year warranty means iGaging stands behind this caliper and it should be up to task for quite some time.

One downfall worth mentioning is that the iGaging caliper does lose accuracy as the battery power winds down. The problem here is that there’s no way to track the battery level.

We recommend checking your zero regularly to make sure you aren’t in need a new battery. The process is quick and easy. Also, remember to keep some spare batteries on hand for this reason as well.

While the battery issue isn’t ideal, we still think this iGaging caliper provides great value in terms of accuracy and overall build quality. The IP54 rating and two-year warranty are just the cherries on top.

Best digital caliper under $25

VINCA DCLA-0605 0-6" Digital Caliper

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Pros

Price

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Pros

Cheaper calipers generally less accurate

If you’re brand new to CNC machining, or if your budget is looking a little bit tight this year and you need to save on a caliper, one option would be to go with the VINCA DCLA-0605.

Though it’s a fairly cheap tool, it still provides a good amount of accuracy. The VINCA caliper has an accuracy of +/- 0.001″/.0254 mm and a resolution of 0.0005″/0.01mm. Remember, when picking a digital caliper, accuracy should be your main focus.

Additionally, this caliper comes with a case. For the price you’re paying, this isn’t a bad freebie, especially if you’re taking this caliper with you from site to site. Heck, even if you’re not travelling with your tool, it’s a good idea to protect it to ensure they remain accurate and protect them from the elements.

Another feature we like on this VINCA is the RS232 port. The port lets you plug the caliper straight into a computer to digitally transfer readings. Even just this slight bit of automation is a nice safeguard since inputting wrong measurements will cause your machine to make the wrong cuts, thereby ruining your project altogether.  

It’s worth noting that one of the nice features of these calipers can also be a pain. They turn on automatically when you slide them. The display also turns off after not moving for a bit.

In theory this is great but even the slightest movement or vibration can cause the display to turn on which drains the battery quickly. Luckily this can easily be remedied by gently turning the lock screw when you put them away to keep them in place.

This set of calipers from VINCA isn’t perfect, but they are accurate and cheap. I wouldn’t plan on them lasting forever but at this price point, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Neiko 01407A 0-6" Digital Caliper

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Pros

Cheap
Measures in inches, mm and fractions

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Pros

Display is awkward to read

The Neiko 01407A is another solid option in the same price range as the VINCA.

When it comes to this end of the price range for digital calipers, you will find that many are the same Chinese manufactured tool with different branding slapped on top.

In this same vein, the VINCA and Neiko calipers have very similar displays which both read in inches, mm and fractions. This LCD is large which makes it easy to read but because they read in fractions (which aren’t that useful for most people) the last few numbers on the display are smaller which makes them a little awkward to read. It’s not a dealbreaker, but just something that takes a little getting used to.

So, let’s get down to brass tax with these super budget calipers from Neiko and VINCA.

To be honest, we don’t really see a whole lot of differences between these two models. They offer similar accuracy, and both come in at around the $25 mark with similar features.

Just remember that these aren’t the kind of tools you will pass down to your kids but they will get the job down for a fraction of the price of the higher end stuff.

For these two calipers, our recommendation would be to buy whichever model is cheapest at the time. Keep your eye out for sales on these two models, and just go for the lower price. 

Can you find a cheaper digital caliper?

Sure, you can find calipers out there for dirt cheap. But you’re going to get what you pay for, so if you’re only willing to drop $10 on a caliper, just know that it’s not going to be very accurate.

We think it’s always going to be worth it to spend an extra ten spot on a nicer caliper. The two missed trips to Starbucks will be worth it for a tool that is both more accurate and more reliable.

Things to consider when looking for a digital caliper

Battery life

button cell battery for micrometer
Typical digital caliper battery

You might have noticed some of these calipers have a tendency to drain batteries, while others will last years on a single cell. Though most batteries aren’t incredibly expensive, they do add to the cost of the tool and it can be pretty darn inconvenient to have a dead tool and no backup batteries.

If you don’t go with a digital caliper with a long battery life, make sure to pick up some backup batteries to make sure your tool is always ready to go.

Measuring accuracy

After reading this review, you might’ve noticed that every caliper on here claimed the same measuring accuracy: +/- 0.001”. For Starrett or Mitutoyo, you can take them at their word for just about any spec.

If you are thinking about a tool on the bottom of the price range, then keep in mind that it might not actually meet the accuracy listed by the manufacturer. For this reason, we have prioritized accuracy in our budget friendly options above all other features.

If you need highly precise measurements that can be trusted without question, you better think about purchasing a more expensive caliper especially if you plan to use it for your day job.

Measuring accuracy vs resolution

Accuracy is how close a reported measurement is to the true value being measured. Resolution is the smallest change that can be measured.

Think about your car’s speedometer: Accuracy is how closely your speedometer measures the car’s true speed. Resolution is all of the little hashes on your speedometer, which indicate the speedometer can only measure in whole miles per hour (i.e. the speedometer reads “20 mph,” not “21.38 mph.”).

Be careful you don’t confuse the two. A digital caliper may give a reading (have a resolution) out to half a thousandth (0.0005”) but only be accurate to a thousandth (0.001”).

Measuring range

Every caliper we listed here measures 0-6”. This is by far the most common measuring range of calipers. You’re generally not going to need to measure sizes over 6”, especially as a beginner or hobbyist. If you are working in a machine shop, then likely the shop will have larger range calipers that can be used when needed.

0-6” calipers strike a great balance between measuring range and ease of measurement. Using a large caliper to measure smaller features can be very awkward. Use a 0-24” caliper to measure a 1” hole diameter, and you’ll quickly see what we mean.

IP ratings

As we mentioned earlier, an IP rating is the amount of resistance a device has to dirt, dust, water, and the like.

A lot of digital calipers – especially cheaper ones – have no resistance at all. If a caliper is IP rated, the average rating is IP54, which provides limited protection from dust and splashes of water. Honestly, for most people, IP54 is really all you’ll need for a caliper.

But some may want a more rugged caliper, and in that case there are some digital calipers which are rated IP67. This means they are virtually impervious to everyday dust and water.

With that being said, IP ratings don’t account for clumsiness, so if you drop your caliper on a concrete floor, it won’t matter what your IP rating is.

Below is a useful chart we made to help you navigate IP ratings. The first digit in a rating is protection from solids, while the second digit denotes protection from liquids.

ingress protection (IP) ratings solids description
ingress protection (IP) ratings liquid protection

Cases

Speaking of protection, some calipers will come with a case. These are precise measuring tools, which means they can be a bit delicate at times. It’s definitely not a bad idea to either buy a caliper that comes with a case or purchase your own.

Cases protect your investment and make locating your tool easier.

Materials

A good rule for calipers is to find one made from stainless steel. Though you may find models made from carbon fiber composites or plastics.

Again, we recommend a stainless-steel model, but the other kinds do have their benefits. A carbon fiber caliper is much less likely to scratch up wood, for example. They’re also non-magnetic, if that would be an issue for you.

Keep in mind the materials that you plan to work with but for most people, we recommend stainless steel calipers.

Best Engraving Pens for Every Budget and Material

Engraving pens come in a wide range shapes, sizes and capabilities. You want to find the one that is just right for you project.

As you read our guide to the best engraving pens, make sure to keep your planned project in mind to determine what tool will work best for you.

Some applications such as jewelry engraving will benefit from a smaller tool for more precise strokes. Other materials such as metal or glass will engrave better with a more powerful tool such as one of the engravers by Dremel below.

No matter what you are working with, we have laid out the best tools on the market and an extensive list of items at the bottom of the article for you to consider when looking for your right fit tool.

Name

Awards

Where to Buy

Dremel 8220-1/28

Best Overall Cordless Engraving Pen

Tidalpool Easy Etcher

Best Budget Cordless Engraving Pen

Tacklife PCG01B

Best Value Cordless Engraving Pen

Dremel 290-01

Best Corded Engraving Pen

IMT Scriber

Best Manual Engraving Pen

Best Overall Cordless Engraving Pen

Dremel 8220-1/28

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Pros

Power
Warranty
Case

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Cons

Bulky compared to some engraving pens

The Dremel company is so associated with rotary tools that many would refer to a rotary tool as a Dremel like they would call any facial tissue a Kleenex. There is good reason for this. Dremel has been making well made rotary tools for decades.

This cordless version is on the larger side when compared to your typical engraving pen but with the added size comes added power. Power that will allow you to do more with your tool. The tool has an adjustable speed that can run at 5,000-35,000 RPMs.

With all that power it would be easy to think the battery would be a big concern. Luckily, the 8220-1/28 charges to full battery in only an hour.

The Dremel 8220-1/28 comes with a nice variety of accessories and bits that will allow you to carve, engrave, cut, grind, sharpen, clean, polish and sand your projects. Speaking of all those add-ons…

The included case does a nice job of containing the tool and various extras.  Which is great because many of the bits are small and it is a good idea to protect them, so they stay sharp for the next project.

The Dremel 8220-1/28 has a quick-change collet that makes changing out all those tools a snap. This is definitely one of the features that sets it apart form many other tools.

The other standout feature is the 2-year warranty. Most other manufacturers don’t even include a 1-year warranty. It’s obvious that Dremel stands behind their product.

So, if you are looking for a versatile tool capable of performing a variety of operations and working with many different kinds of materials, think about going with the Dremel 8220-1/28.

Best Budget Cordless Engraving Pen

Tidalpool Easy Etcher

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Pros

Lightweight
Easy to control
Included stencils

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Cons

May be underpowered for some materials

The Easy Etcher is an excellent engraving pen for beginners. The tool is so lightweight that engraving with it is as close to using an actual pen as you will get. The Easy Etcher is actually about the size of a standard marker.

The rubberized grip also helps keep the engraver under control while using it. While the 12,000 RPM speed may seem under powered when compared to other engraving pens, it actually helps keep the tool stable during use.

Runtimes will vary depending on the type of material you are working with, but the Easy Etcher runs on AAA batteries which means there is no waiting around for the tool to recharge. The batteries aren’t included but other extras are.

The Easy Etcher comes with 10 sets of stencils that make engraving text or designs on your material a piece of cake. It also comes with a nice starter selection of bits that allow you to create a variety of textures and finishes.

The Easy Etcher won’t be the be all, end all for engraving every material but it is a great tool to get you started without breaking the bank.

Best Value Cordless Engraving Pen

TACKLIFE PCG01B

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Pros

Adjustable depth setting
Warranty

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Cons

Hard to install bit
Loud

While the TACKLIFE PCG018 is not as nimble as the Easy Etcher it does a good job of making up for it in the power department. With similar price points, it would be wise to determine whether power or maneuverability is more important to you.

The PCG018 has 3 speed settings of 5, 10 and 15,000 RPMs. This means it will work well for a variety of materials.

This TACKLIFE engraving pen is cordless and rechargeable. It charges over USB which has some benefits and drawbacks.

The charge time is fairly long at 2 hours but with a runtime of 90 minutes it lasts long enough to complete most jobs.

Additionally, the tool comes with 31 different accessories for engraving, sanding and finishing along with a case to contain them all. Two collets to accommodate different bit sizes of 3/32” and 1/8” is also a nice addition.

The TACKLIFE PCG018 is a solid choice when it comes to cordless engraving pens.

Best Corded Engraving Pen

Dremel 290-01

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Pros

Adjustable depth setting
Warranty

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Cons

Hard to install bit
Loud

The Dremel 290-01 is different than most of the other engravers on this list. Instead of being a rotary engraver, it has a vibrating tip that moves in and out. Basically, it operates like a mini jackhammer.

Corded engraving pens like this Dremel have some advantages and disadvantages.

Being corded means that you are tethered to your power outlet and it can be slightly cumbersome to work with the power cord snagging on objects in your work area. The 290-01 is pretty lightweight though which makes maneuvering it around your workpiece a little easier.

A nice benefit of using a corded engraver is that you won’t ever run out of power. This is helpful for harder materials that may take multiple passes to get the amount of engraving you desire.

The power of the 290-01 is controlled with a dial that allows five depth settings. This works well to adjust for different material types such as wood or rock. All that power comes with the side effect that the tool is quite loud when running. You should expect it to be noisy. It is a power tool after all but take note that the other tools on this list are quieter.

There are a couple minor downfalls for the 290-01. The biggest one is that the bit can be difficult to install. The set screw that locks it is tiny and it can be challenging to work with.

Also, the provided stencil comes in handy but is somewhat lacking. Many other engravers come with a wider variety of stencils so keep in mind that you may want to purchase some extra stencils if you plan on engraving a lot.

On the plus side, just like this engraving pen’s cordless counterpart, the Dremel 290-01 comes with a two-year warranty which is well above what most competing engravers come with.

Overall, the Dremel 290-01 is a solid engraving pen. A couple minor inconveniences are balanced nicely by the higher, non-stop power that comes from being always plugged in.

Best Manual Engraving Pens

IMT Scriber

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Pros

No power required

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Cons

Doesn't engrave deep

If all you need is something basic and reliable for engraving then the manual scriber from IMT may be your best bet.

It requires no batteries or power cord. The tool is extremely lightweight and its tungsten carbide tip will engrave a large variety of materials including steel, ceramics and glass. If you are working with plastics though, a powered tool would be a better choice.

The IMT scriber will actually perform an operation that is more akin to scratching your material than actually engraving it. For many use cases, this is more than enough. Just keep this in mind when choosing your engraving pen.

It also comes with extra tips in case one snaps. They are somewhat brittle because they are so hard. They aren’t fragile but can break if you aren’t dropped or handled roughly. Luckily, the scriber comes with a protective cap that will help shield the point from damage.

The IMT scriber is definitely more low tech than some of the other engraving pen options available but if all you need is a simple engraver then it may be a great choice at a cheap price.

Things to consider when buying an engraving pen

Safety

Remember that these tools can be dangerous, especially to your eyes. Be careful handling them and use eye protection to protect you from things such as flying chips or broken bits.

Corded vs cordless engraving pens

Corded engraving pens generally have more power than their cordless counterparts. The downside is that the cord can get in the way and make the tool more difficult to maneuver. The easiest engraving pens to use are those that are lightweight and battery operated.

Cord length

If you choose to use a corded engraving pen to have more power, keep in mind that the length of the power cord is very important. If the cord is short, then make sure that you have an extension cord handy because some of the power cords can be very short.

Speed

RPMs do not equal power. Being able to adjust your RPMs over a wider range is more beneficial than simply having a higher RPM overall. Different materials will require different RPMs. In general, materials such as glass or metal which are harder will benefit from a higher RPM and softer materials will engrave better at lower RPMs.

Bits and accessories

It is a nice bonus for an engraving pen to come with a good selection of bits and accessories but not a necessity. There are many bit or accessory kits available that allow you to perform different types of engravings or finishing to your piece for a fairly cheap price.

Extra bits aren’t required to start but before too long you will definitely want to expand your bit collection if your engraving pen doesn’t come with many. Different bits will allow you to different styles of engraving.

Battery

If you go the cordless route, make sure you find a tool that charges quick and has a long runtime.

Cheaper tools tend to run off standard AA or AAA batteries which means they can run out of power quickly but also that more power can easily be on standby. Keep extra batteries nearby but consider the amount of power you will need for your project when choosing which engraving pen to go with. Harder materials require more power.

Warranty

Pay attention to the length of the warranty for your tool. Just like many other power tools, a good warranty is a solid indicator of the quality of the tool. This doesn’t mean that good tools don’t come with shorter warranties, just that it is something to be mindful of.

Stencils

Stencils can be very important for getting the correct design on your part. There are many different stencil kits available but it is definitely a bonus to have a couple to start with. Creating visually appealing designs freehand is going to take some practice so having a template to follow when getting started will be helpful.

Engraving vs cutting

Engraving pens are just that, engravers. They generally are not meant for cutting. If you are looking for a tool that is capable of doing more than simply scratching the surface of a part, then you will want to look into something with more power like the various Dremels or other higher power rotary tools.  

Related articles

For more information check out these related articles:

Best Deburring Tools [Based on Materials & Budget]

For your project to be truly complete, you have to smooth down any rough cuts and remove the burrs from any raw edges or holes. This is not only going to make your projects look better, but it’s going to make them safer as well; there won’t be any jagged edges that can cut your skin or tear your clothes.

This is where a deburring tool is comes in handy. While there are countless deburring tools on the market, we’ve made picking a tool easy for you.

That’s because we’ve scoured the internet, read all the reviews, and have some experience ourselves, and we’ve found the five best deburring tools on the available.

Name

Awards

Where to Buy

AFA Tooling Deburring Tool Kit

Best Overall Deburring Tool

YXGOOD Hand Deburring Tool Kit

Best Value Deburring Tool

Vastools Deburring Tool

Best Ultra Cheap Deburring Tool

Mavast Aluminum Deburring Tool

Best Deburring Tool for Metal

ORX Plus Tools External Deburring Tool

Best External Deburring Tool

Best Overall Deburring Tool

AFA Tooling Deburring Tool Kit

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Pros

Cuts a wide variety of materials
Aluminum handle
One-year warranty

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Cons

None

One thing we really love about this deburring tool is just how versatile it is.

This thing will help you deburr all kinds of materials from brass and steel to aluminum, copper, PVC pipe, wood and more. It also works well on plastics without melting them and does a good resin art too.

With so many different applications and coming in at such a reasonable price, it’s easy to make this our best overall deburring tool.

The kit, which is really just the tool and extra blades, comes with 15 blades. This includes 5 each of 3 different types. Each type works well with different materials.

One set of blades is for softer materials such as copper, wood, and plastic. The next set is for medium harness materials including aluminum, brass, and steel. The last set, which is designed for more difficult materials works well with stainless steel, tungsten, and other similar metals.

When you pick the right blade for your material, it will improve the finish of your break edge or chamfer that you are applying to the part.

Beyond its versatility, this deburring tool is also going to last you a long time.

The knurled aluminum handle provides superior grip and lends an overall solid build quality to the tool. This deburring tool can take a beating and still get the job done. Plus, with the extra replacement blades, you won’t need to worry about purchasing anything else, even if you do roll it off your workbench onto the concrete.

This tool from AFA Tooling comes with a swivel head which comes in handy for a number of different reasons. For any of you lefties out there, you can purchase this tool without having to worry about how you’ll hold it or risking using it with your right hand. The swivel head also means you can deburr your project, even if it has some weird angles or hard to reach places.

Lastly, when you buy this AFA deburring tool, you get a one-year warranty. Given the number of materials this tool can work with, the replacement parts, the swivel head, the warranty, and the price, we think this is the best overall tool on the list.

Best Value Deburring Tool

YXGOOD Hand Deburring Tool Kit

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Pros

10 HSS replacement blades
Swivel head

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Cons

Cannot cut through harder metals

If you’re looking for a mix of utility and price, you can’t go wrong getting this YXGOOD deburring tool kit set.

For one, it can be used on a fair amount of materials, including plastic, copper, aluminum, silver, and wood. While this list may leave out some of the harder metals, given what you’re going to pay for the tool, that’s more than fair. Additionally, you can pick up some replacement blades that are meant for harder materials if you find you need them down the road.

Speaking of replacement blades, the tool comes with 10 of them, all of which are HSS (high speed steel). This means that the blades will work on a good number of metals without dulling too quickly.

Also, like many of the nicer deburring tools, this one has an aluminum handle, so you know it’s going to be a nice and sturdy tool.

No one wants to bust a plastic handle while zipping along, deburring the edges of their parts.

Also similar to nicer models, this tool has a 360-degree swivel head, so you can use it whether you’re a righty or a lefty and it can be used in all kinds of strange angles and in the nooks and crannies that might be hard to reach with a tool that doesn’t have a swivel head.

All in all, this YXGOOD hand deburring tool is a really nice addition to your toolkit.

The only negative here is that the deburring tool can’t cut through quite as many materials as the tool above, but, again, given the price of this tool, that makes sense. Remember, you can always get some more robust replacement blades if you find you end up needing them.

If you want to get the most value out of your dollar, we recommend this deburring tool.

Best Ultra Cheap Deburring Tool

VASTOOLS Deburring Tool

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Pros

Low price
Swivel head

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Cons

No replacement blades

If can swing a few extra bucks, I definitely recommend going with one of our other recommendations. Let’s face it, these aren’t the most expensive tools under the sun.

While 50% more expensive may sound like a lot, when some of the tools can be had for under 10 bucks, it really isn’t that bad.

With that said, maybe you do need to pinch every penny. Maybe your significant other is a little cranky because you just laid out a decent chunk of cash for that new 3d printer. Every situation is different. I get it.

If this sounds like you then this deburring tool from VASTOOLS will likely get the job done well for you. In fact, working with 3d printed plastic and similar soft materials.

Where this tool will start to struggle is if you start trying to work with anything much harder than aluminum.

The fact that it can work with metals at all is excellent for a deburring tool on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

It also features a swivel head like our other recommendations as well as an aluminum body. When you start looking at tools in the ultra-budget category, you’re going to quickly see that most aren’t built as well and can be pretty limited in the materials that they can work.

Above all, we recommend making sure to get a deburring tool with a swivel head. It makes deburring in tight spots much easier and this tool is about as cheap as you can go and still get this feature.

Best Deburring Tool For Metal

MAVAST Aluminum Deburring Tool

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Pros

Comes with multiple blade types
Excellent customer service

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Cons

None

If you already know that you’re going to be doing a lot of projects with metals, you should really consider purchasing this deburring tool from MAVAST.

While it is more than capable of cutting wood, it can also easily deburr stainless steel, steel, copper, aluminum, plastic, PVC, and tin. And this is not just the manufacturer hyping up their own product, numerous other reviewers have testified that this tool can cut through hard metals without leaving behind any chatter and or gouging of their project.

Harder materials will dull up your blades quicker which is why this kit is great for metals. It comes with a whopping 21 different blades. This includes 11 standard HSS blades,5 BK3010 black HSS blades, and 5 BS1018 silver HSS blades, suitable for cutting stainless steel and other hard metals.

With this much versatility and toughness, you absolutely need to buy this deburring tool if you plan on mainly using metals. You’ll be glad you have ample replacement blades and the right blade for your material as well.

This tool also comes with many standard features you would expect, such as the swiveling head so that both right-handed and left-handed users can operate with the tool without a problem.

Another nice thing about purchasing a MAVAST tool is their customer service. The company has a great reputation for helping customers with any questions that come up. If things aren’t working like you planned with your project, it is always nice to get some quick support.

Best External Deburring Tool

ORX PLUS TOOLS Deburring External Tool

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Pros

Works with wide variety of materials

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Cons

Limited application

While these external chamfer/deburring tools have a little bit more of a limited use, that does not mean it’s not worth keeping one in your toolbox.

If you’re unfamiliar with these tools, they’re ideal for repairing damaged bolts and tightening nuts in their place. This means you don’t have to replace expensive or hard to find bolts, which can save you some cash – and some frustration – in the future.

To use this tool, you simply place it on the end of your drill. But be sure that you use an extremely low speed while you’re using it, or you could make the damage worse.

This particular ORX tool only works if you use it in a clockwise direction. Further, it works on a really wide range of materials, including stainless steel, hardened steel, mild steel, copper, brass, aluminum, fiberglass, wood, and plastic.

There is one downside to the tool, and that is the edges cannot be sharpened. With that said, because it isn’t an everyday use tool for most people, you’ll likely find that the tool never needs to be sharpened anyways. 

All things considered, we like this deburring tool because even though it has a limited range of uses, it does exactly what it is supposed to and does it well.

Things to consider when purchasing a deburring tool

Left hand vs. right hand

If you’re right-handed, you’re a bit luckier as far as this goes. Most machines and tools are made with right-handers in mind, so it’s the lefties that have to do the extra research.

Luckily, all of the tools in this article come with a swivel head, so you can adjust the deburring blade to fit whichever hand is dominant.

However, this may not be the case for all tools, so be sure to check the specs. If you’re a lefty and you don’t see a swivel head, you should probably reconsider buying the tool.

Spare parts

Even if you’re just a hobbyist, you’re eventually going to wear out the blade on your deburring tool. So while you may save money upfront by not buying a tool with replacement blades, eventually, you’ll be out of luck.

Many deburring tools online will come with extra blades, and it may be worth the extra investment.

Customer service

As always, don’t discount customer service. You may need to return an order, or you may have questions about how to use a tool, and when a manufacturer answers your questions promptly and respectfully, that’s always nice.

You can also usually tell the level of customer care by how well a package is wrapped when it arrives at your door. The shipping process can take a beating on your tools, and if they aren’t well wrapped, this can significantly lower the lifespan of your tool.

A well-packaged tool tells you that the manufacturer really cares about quality service.

Final thoughts

Deburring tools are fairly straightforward, but that doesn’t mean you should go with any old tool. As we noted above, all tools are certainly not created equal.

Our best overall choice from AFA Tooling does a wonderful job working with a good range of materials and packaging that capability up in a solid body that is built to last.

One last note, keep in mind the types of materials you plan on working with and how much use you plan to give it. The blades you get will make a big difference in the success of any of your projects or builds.

Pick a high quality deburring tool and you won’t be disappointed. Not only does it add a nice, professional finish to your project, but it can help with safety too. No one wants to get cut or tear a piece of clothing on a jagged edge. Deburr it!

Best Digital Calipers [2022]

A good set of digital calipers is an invaluable tool for any machinist or hobbyist. Calipers are versatile and capable of taking a wide variety of measurements. They do this all while maintaining a high level of accuracy.

However, the problem is that picking the right set of calipers is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best digital calipers depend on the needs of the user and what their application is.

Because they can be so versatile and accurate, it means they often see a high level of use no matter who is using them.

A good set of calipers makes a big difference in the quality of your work so read on to find out which ones can measure up.

Name

Awards

IP Rating

Where to Buy

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Overall Digital Caliper, Most Accurate, Easiest to Use

None

VINCA DCLA-0605 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Budget Digital Caliper

None

Starrett 798A-6 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Rugged Caliper

IP67

iGaging Absolute Origin 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Budget Rugged Caliper

IP54

Mitutoyo 500-754-20 0-12" Digital Caliper

Best Large Range Digital Caliper

IP67

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Pros

Accuracy
Dependability
Battery life

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Cons

Cost

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: 1 SR44 (included)

Amazing accuracy, excellent battery life and protection from dirt, water and oil. Mitutoyo makes a digital caliper that is everything you would want in a precision measuring tool.

These calipers from Mitutoyo are a reliable and consistently accurate measuring instrument. Perfect for reloading, engine work or every day use in a machine shop. 

Basically, Mitutoyo has set the standard for what a digital caliper should be and maintained that standard for a long time. In fact, if you can find a used set do be afraid to pick them up. 

These calipers are heirloom quality.

That isn’t something you would normally say about something electronic, but these digital calipers from Mitutoyo break the mold and are built to last.

Everything about these calipers is well-made.

  • Quality stainless steel frame
  • Solid plastic body
  • Buttons that just feel nice and are easy to use
  • Large, easy to read LCD display
  • Better battery life than any other caliper I have seen (Mitutoyo claims 3.5 years – it might be longer)

Combine these things with the dependable accuracy and you got a tool that is truly best in class.

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Pros

Price
Customer service

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Cons

No IP rating

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm, fractions

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: LR44 (included)

If you’re just getting into machining and you’re a bit nervous about dropping a lot of money on a high-end caliper like the one above, then this budget-friendly VINCA just might be the tool for you.

First and foremost, it’s a very accurate caliper for the price, with an accuracy of +/- 0.001″/.0254 mm. These are measuring devices after all. They need to be accurate.

While it is made of stainless steel, you’ll also be happy that this caliper comes with a heavy-duty case to keep it protected at all times when it’s not in use.

The LCD display face is fairly large, however you should note that the way the values are displayed is a little awkward, especially when measuring in inches. It appears VINCA did this to allow fractional measurements.

This isn’t something that is a deal breaker but worth noting because some of the numbers you will be reading are only half the size of the screen.

Battery life is good on these VINCA calipers. Take note that they automatically turn on when the caliper moves which can cause them to drain the battery faster even when not in use. Using the lock to gently keep them in place will go a long way towards extending your battery life and keeping them ready to use when you need them.

An excellent bonus feature of this caliper is the RS232 port which allows you to plug the caliper right into your computer. This is something that is rarely seen with budget priced calipers.

Digitally transferring readings can be super helpful, because it’s so easy to fat-finger a measurement if when entering them manually. 

Overall, these VINCA digital calipers are a great value for the price. They aren’t quite on the same level as some of the higher end measuring tools but they make an excellent starter set that doesn’t break the bank.

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Pros

Protection from the elements
Accuracy

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Cons

Expensive

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: CR 2032 3V (included)

It’s tough to do a review about calipers and not include anything made by Starrett. Starrett is an industry leader, and for decades has carried a solid reputation for making incredible products.

This heavy-duty digital caliper from them has an accuracy of 0.001″, or 0.254 mm and a resolution 0.0005″ or 0.010 mm. Exactly the type of precision you would expect in a quality measuring tool.

When it comes to build quality, the stainless steel bar of this caliper is designed to last just like many other Starrett tools and the case it comes with only helps to extend the life of your caliper by keeping it safe when you’re not using it.

This display is easy to read and quite large. The buttons work as designed and overall the 798A-6 functions exactly as intended and just feels very well built.

However, the real reason you’ll want to buy this caliper is because of how rugged this thing is.

The 798A-6 is rated IP67. IP stands for ingress protection. This is a measure of the amount of resistance a device has to dirt, water, and other contaminants. For a full breakdown of IP ratings, see our rundown in the Things to Consider section.

Just know that most digital calipers, especially lower priced models, often offer no IP rating at all. The better models that do offer some form of IP rating are usually rated IP54. The IP67 rating of this Starrett is a significant jump up in protection.

One thing to keep in mind is that the IP rating doesn’t protect against damage from drops or other physical damage. You’re going to still need to treat it carefully. But let’s face it, we aren’t always working in the most pristine environments.

While the added protection that the Starrett caliper offers is welcome, it does come at a cost. Mechanics and machinists have known for a long time the value of a tool that can withstand a little abuse. Whether that is necessary for you situation is something you will need to decide.

I can’t say that I know of anyone who has regretted spending the extra to step up and get a tool from Starrett.

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Pros

Two-year warranty
IP54 rated

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Cons

No auto power off feature

Accuracy: +/- .001”/0.02mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm (a separate model is available that does fractions as well)

Warranty length: Two years

Battery used: CR 2032 3V (included with spare)

While they are a budget tool manufacturer, iGaging has been around awhile and made quite a name for themselves providing decent tools for a much lower price.

Made of stainless steel, this iGaging caliper has an accuracy of +/- .001” or .02mm, and a resolution of .0005” or .01mm which is directly in line with the capabilities of higher priced tools.

When it comes to build quality, there isn’t anything in particular that sets it apart from the competition. The LCD display is nice when compared to other budget priced calipers such as the VINCA DCLA-0605 which displays values with some numbers that are smaller. 

Similar to the VINCA caliper, the iGaging tool includes an SPC output to transfer measurement data to your computer.

But the real standout feature of this caliper is just how tough it is given its price. The iGaging caliper  has an IP54 rating, which, as we mentioned earlier, is the average rating for calipers with an IP score.

However, given the price point, this is a very uncommon feature for calipers in this price range. Most will have no IP rating at all.

Being a budget caliper, but still offering protection from dust, oil, water, and other contaminants is what sets this caliper apart from others in its class.

Another nice thing about this caliper is the 2-year warranty. You’ll notice that a lot of the calipers on this list are given a 1-year warranty which is still higher than the average warranty. 2 years provides quite a bit of assurance that the caliper will function for a good long time.

One small drawback of this caliper is that the on/off power function is manual. What this means is that you need to remember to hit the power  button every time you are done using it or else you’ll drain the battery. Many digital calipers will feature an auto off feature to extend the battery life.

Overall, the IP rating this tool has offsets any issues with battery life. iGaging has done a great job of making a budget priced tool that stacks up well in most areas against some of the most well known measuring tool manufacturers.

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Pros

Large measuring range
IP67 rated

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Cons

Very expensive

Accuracy: +/- .0015”/0.0385mm.

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: 1 SR44 (included)

We’ve included another Mitutoyo caliper on this list because this caliper is a bit different than the other one. For one, it’s got a much larger measuring range, going from 0-12″.

While measuring above 6″ is less likely, especially for beginners, this caliper gives you the option for larger measurements when needed.

Keep in mind that you wouldn’t want this as a replacement for a 6″ caliper, instead larger calipers such as a 12 or 24″ model will get used in addition to a 6″ caliper.

There are situations where you might need to measure something larger and the 6″ caliper just won’t do. But anytime you are measuring a smaller size, a large format caliper such as this will be difficult and awkward to use. Not to mention it won’t fit into tight spaces well.

You should also take not that the accuracy is slightly reduced because it needs to maintain that accuracy over a larger measuring range. This caliper has an accuracy of +/- .0015″/0.0385mm which is pretty good. 

You will find that some of the budget tool makers will spec their 12″ digital calipers with an accuracy of +/- .001″, which on paper looks like they are better than this Mitutoyo. In reality, they are often far worse than that. This is especially true if you move up to a 24″ caliper.

The Mitutoyo 500-754-20 comes with a whopping IP67 rating, meaning it’s super water and dust resistant. Having that level of protection on a tool that costs this much is important because you wouldn’t a splash of coolant or oil to destroy your prized measuring tool.

While it’s an expensive tool, if you have bigger projects that you plan on working with, then it’s well worth the money. And, as we touched on earlier, Mitutoyo is a premium brand in the industry, so if you do pull the trigger and decide to buy this caliper you won’t be disappointed in the quality of the product.

If you must go the budget route with a large range digital caliper, then be extremely aware of the accuracy you need and what the tool can actually provide. They might not line up.

I know everyone doesn’t have unlimited budgets so if you need to keep costs down, think about looking for a used Mitutoyo or Starrett digital caliper (good luck) or maybe going with a good quality dial caliper instead. Remember, that your large calipers are going to see much less use than a standard 6″ version.

All in all there are a lot of choices available nowadays when it comes to digital calipers and they are not created equal. 

Mitutoyo and Starrett lead the pack but they do come at a cost. 

Tools that have IP protection will help them last but may not always be a necessity for each user.

For smaller 6″ calipers, you can get a serviceable option that will often get the job done at a fraction of the cost. 

When it comes to larger calipers, don’t believe the claimed accuracy on those budget tools. 

Things to consider when purchasing a digital caliper

Accuracy vs resolution

Accuracy is the single most important feature of your digital caliper. 

They are measuring tools and they need to measure correctly.

The accuracy is the ability of the caliper to give the true value of a given measurement. The accuracy of the best calipers is usually +/- .001.

Cheaper alternatives will have an accuracy between +/- .002″ to +/- .010″. For some this may be fine, but it will depend on what level of accuracy you need for your project.

I also recommend that you do not blindly trust the claimed accuracies touted by the budget manufacturers. If Starrett or Mitutoyo specify an accuracy level, you can trust it but this is not the case 

Keep in mind the type of tolerances you will be working with to help you decide how accurate your caliper needs to be.

Measuring range

iGaging 0-24" Digital Caliper

The measuring range of the caliper is one of the most important aspects it has. You need to make sure that it will cover all the measurements you will want to take. 0-6″, 0-8″, 0-12″ and 0-24″ are some of the typical measuring ranges. 

0-6″ is the most common size of caliper. Measuring sizes over 6″ is less frequent. 

A 0-6″ caliper maintains a nice balance of measuring range and ease of measurement. As the measuring range of a caliper gets larger, it becomes more difficult to use. Using a 0-24″ caliper to measure a 1″ hole diameter would be quite difficult. 

Even if you require the ability to measure larger sizes, you will want a 0-6″ caliper for many measurements because of its ease of use.

Display size

mitutoyo digital caliper display
Look For A Large Display

The display on your caliper plays an important role in how easy it is to use. Being able to quickly read your measurements will save you time in the long run. 

Let’s be real, some of us don’t have the best eyes. Larger displays make getting your reading simpler. This is one area that digital calipers have a nice advantage over dial calipers. The dial and indicator needle can be hard for some to read on your average dial caliper.

Measuring units

Most digital displays are capable of showing measurements in inches as well as millimeters. Some calipers will also read measurements in fractional units. 

Fractional units are generally not the best way to take measurements because the displays don’t round and instead will display a measurement of something similar to 53/128″. That isn’t a very helpful way to display the data. If the display rounds to something useful such as 1/16 or 1/32 it would be more useful but most don’t.

Battery life

Battery life should be a prime consideration when examining the quality of a digital caliper. An auto on and auto shut off feature can greatly extend the longevity of a calipers battery life. 

The best digital calipers will have battery life that is measured in months or years. Most of the budget options available have much shorter battery lives. If you go the budget route with your caliper, make sure to keep some extra batteries on hand and maybe think about taking the battery out when the tool is not in use.

The biggest benefit of good battery life is that it will be ready to use when you need it.

Dial vs digital calipers

Dial calipers make a good option for a measuring device as well. The main benefit they possess is that they don’t require batteries so they are always ready to use. 

Dial calipers can’t switch measuring units at the press of a button though. There are some dial calipers that measure in mm as well as inches at the same time but they haven’t been proven to be particularly reliable.

For a more comprehensive look at the two caliper types, be sure to check out our  guide to the differences between dial and digital calipers.

IP ratings

Ingress protection rating or IP rating for short is the amount of resistance a device has to things such as dirt and water. 

Many digital calipers have no protection rating at all.

For the ones that do, IP54 is the most common rating. This equates to limited protection from dust and protection from splashing water which will be more than most users require.

The less frequent IP67 rating is excellent and means they are almost impervious to everyday dirt and water.

Keep in mind though that IP ratings don’t protect the tool from physical damage such as being dropped.

The chart below outlines how protected a tool is. The first digit in any IP rating is for the solids protection and the second digit covers the protection from liquids.

ingress protection (IP) ratings solids description
ingress protection (IP) ratings liquid protection

Materials

For most applications you will want to get a caliper made of stainless steel. Other materials available include carbon fiber composites and plastic. 

While tools made of carbon fiber and plastic are generally not as nice in quality as those made of stainless steel, they do have some benefits. Carbon fiber and plastic calipers are less likely to scratch or damage softer materials such as wood or plastic. 

Stainless steel calipers tend to have sharp jaws that can scratch some materials but if you are careful in their use, there shouldn’t be any issues. Carbon fiber composites and plastic also have the benefit of being non-magnetic.

Calibration certificates

Some calipers are sold with a calibration certificate for a decent upcharge. Skip it. The tool should be accurate when purchased, regardless of whether it comes with a certificate or not.

The best practice is to verify the accuracy of the caliper when you receive it. Check the tool against a known standard such as a set of gauge blocks. At a bare minimum, verify the zero position before using your gauge.

Cases

EAGems Caliper with case
A Case Provides Much Needed Protection

A case is an important accessory for a digital caliper. These are precision measuring instruments after all and all too often they get knocked off a workbench or dropped by a careless coworker. 

Keeping them in a case will add a layer of protection to help keep them safe. Cases come standard with calipers from the the best toolmakers such as Starrett, Mitutoyo, Fowler and Brown and Sharpe. 

They do not come standard for cheaper tools so keep that in mind when looking at those budget friendly options.

Data transfer

An RS232 port can be a handy addition to your caliper, but is certainly not a necessity. A RS232 port allows the transfer of data/measurements from your caliper to your computer.

For most users this is an unneeded feature, but for some applications it can be handy to record the data directly to your computer.

Best CNC Routers For Every Budget and Application

Big to small, metal to wood, kits vs pre-built. There are CNC routers of all types available, but which one is right for your application?

We pick the best CNCs in a variety of categories to help you choose a quality tool that is built to last and provide the accuracy you expect. Get machining quickly with our guides.

Just starting out?

Then keep things simple with our guide to the best starter CNCs for anyone testing the waters of CNC routing.

Want to make your own signs? Or maybe you want to be able to create some unique wooden wall art. Either way we got you covered with the best CNC routers for working with woods of all kinds. 

Not everyone has a giant workshop. Some of us are just trying to get by machining widgets in our closet. If this is you then check our list of the best CNCs with small footprints.

Limited budget? No problem.

If you are working on a budget then we got the best value for money machines picked for you. 

Guides to G codes. We got’em

More about M codes. Got that too.

Check out our list of CNC codes for guidance on every code you will need.

 

Got one of the 3018 series CNCs? 

Well then check out our list of awesome upgrades to make your machines more capable and your setups so much simpler.

Expand your knowledge with these essential references for anyone working with a CNC. 

Includes books for everyone from beginner level to advanced.

Best Affordable CNC Routers For Every Budget [2022]

For many people looking to get into CNC machining, one of the most important aspects is the price. CNC mills and routers can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

These are not the type of machines we have outlined for you here.

It can be hard to find budget CNC routers with all the capabilities needed for detailed work. Luckily, we have laid out the best machines at the lower end of the price scale for you. Check out the best budget friendly starter CNCs below.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

Best Value for Money CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best All Around Budget CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

VEVOR CNC 3018

Best Cheap CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Affordable CNC/Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

Best Cheap CNC Capable of Large Work

15.7"x11.8"x4.3"

Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO

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Pros

Affordable and capable
Easy to assemble

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Cons

Customer service can be slow

Work Dimensions: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 15.33 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 year

If you’re new to CNC machining and woodworking and you want “bang for your buck,” then the Genmitsu 3018-PRO is a great place to start. This machine has all the capabilities you’ll want from a starter machine, but it’s not going to go busting up your bank account. In short, the 3018-PRO is the best beginner CNC in terms of value for money.

One great thing about the 3018-PRO is that assembly is not too difficult. Though the machine does not come pre-assembled, it only takes a couple of hours to put the machine together. Some more expensive entry-level models take a day or two to assemble, so a couple of hours isn’t bad.

The machine assembles a lot like IKEA furniture: the manual utilizes pictures over words. If you do get stuck, though, there are plenty of great videos on YouTube to guide you along.

Once you have the 3018-PRO setup, you’ll notice just how solid and sturdy the build is. The frame is made out of aluminum, which is incredible for a cheaper machine. For a machine of this price, it’s not uncommon to find cheap plastic frames that allow the machine to shake or vibrate when the machine is operating. Trust me, shaking and vibrating isn’t good for your accuracy or the surface finish of your project.

With a 1.8-inch engraving depth, you’ll find that the 3018-PRO is capable of cutting all types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVCs, PCBs, and a wide range of other materials. Just don’t think you’re going to be working with anything to hard such as steel.

If you’re brand new to CNC machining, the 3018-PRO’s versatility will allow you to experiment with a wide range of materials without fear of damaging a high-end, pricey machine.

While the working area of this machine isn’t huge, it is designed to all you to pass through your workpiece. Basically, you slide your part through the machine and work on it in sections. This is called tiling and will be handled by the software. The limiting factor will be the 300mm (11.8”) width of the machine’s work area. Still, if you are dead set on building large projects, this likely won’t be the right choice for you.

As for software, the 3018-PRO is compatible with most operating systems. This is because the machine has an offline control module. Even if your desktop can’t connect straight to the machine itself, you can copy the code from your computer to an SD card and then control the machine using the offline module. This alone may save you from having to purchase additional software.

Even if your computer is compatible, an offline controller is a welcome addition, so you don’t need to always have your laptop or desktop constantly connected to the machine.

All in all, the Genmitsu 3018-PRO is the best budget CNC.

Genmitsu CNC Router 3018-PROVer

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Pros

Quick assembly - comes mostly pre-assembled
Quiet

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Cons

Customer service can be slow

Work Dimensions: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 year

The 3018 PROVer is really just an upgraded version of the 3018-PRO. Naturally, the PROVer will take a little more out of your wallet than the PRO, but you’re paying for upgrades that are absolutely worth it. If you can afford the extra, go for it. For my money, I’d say the PROVer is the best all-around budget CNC machine.

I won’t go too much into the basics of the machine here since it’s simply an upgraded machine from the review above. Instead, I’ll stick to the upgrades.

Assembly is similar. It will take an hour or two (don’t believe the 30-minute time that SainSmart quotes) but nevertheless, that’s a quick assembly time for a CNC machine.

One big addition the PROVer has is the Toshiba TB6S109 driver, which makes the machine quieter and more precise when cutting and engraving. Upgraded drivers are a welcome addition to any CNC, especially lower priced machines such as these. They bring added accuracy and machine longevity.

When comparing this machine to the 3018-PRO, you’ll notice that this PROVer has acrylic baffles on the side. These baffles aren’t there just for looks – they work dually as a safety mechanism and a way to some of the mess from escaping when the machine is running. The baffles will prevent wood and other materials from flying off your projects at high speeds, and in doing so, they’ll contain the dust somewhat for a faster clean up.

Often people will start out with cheaper CNC machines such as the ones in this post and find out that they want quality of life upgrades for their tool. Essentially, the PROVer combines the most common upgrades and packages them together for you.

The emergency stop button is a feature that every CNC should have but unfortunately, many of the low-end machines skip this item. Imagine making an error in your program or setup and all of a sudden, your machine is trying to drill into itself or even a clamp holding your workpiece. Being able to hit an emergency stop is a welcome safety feature that may just save your machine, your tooling or at least your workpiece.

Limit switches to stop your machine from crashing into the ends of its travel provide some useful protection as well. It should be easy to see why safety features are often at the top of the list when it comes to upgrading your machine.

While the Z axis probe setter and larger offline controller aren’t quite as essential as the safety features we just noted, they do provide some nice quality of life improvements. The probe setter speeds up setup time and simplifies the process.

One thing to note is that if you plan to always have your CNC hooked up to your computer, then the bigger controller will not be of much help, but if not you’ll be happy to have a larger, more versatile display.

Overall, the 3018-PROVer is the same machine as the PRO version but with upgrades that are essential to the use of the machine. The upgrades aren’t required but many will find themselves picking them up in the long run. If budget is your main concern, go with the PRO version and pick the upgrades up one by one at a later date. However, if you can swing the extra dollars, you’ll be glad you did to make things simpler and maybe a little bit safer as well.

VEVOR CNC 3018

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Pros

Extremely cheap
Aluminum frame

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Cons

Assembly instructions are pictures only

Working Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 17.1 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: All types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVC, PCB

Warranty: 1 year

If you’re new to CNC machining and you just want to test the waters with CNC, then the VEVOR 3018 is for you.

It’s rare in CNC that you can spend under $200 on a machine that is actually going to work and be able to perform some useful work. Obviously, the lower the price means lower capabilities, but you don’t necessarily need a fancy machine with all the bells and whistles if you’re just starting out.

One perk of the VEVOR is that it has an aluminum frame instead of the plastic frames you see on other super budget models. The aluminum frame helps to reduce vibration, which makes the machines more accurate.

Another great feature of this machine is that it has a fail-safe mechanism built into it. If you’re running a program and the machine senses drag along the x or y axes, the machine will stop itself. This isn’t foolproof, but it just might save you from breaking bits. It will also help to teach you what the upper limits of the VEVOR are. If you’re brand new to CNC, learning to feel out the limits of your machine will be useful.

One piece of advice for the VEVOR would be to stay away from cutting any metals or thicker pieces of wood with this machine. It is not a workhorse. Engraving is okay, but you are likely to run into trouble when trying to work with harder materials or deeper cuts.

Though the manufacturer may boast about the power of the VEVOR, this machine is really better suited as an engraver, which is okay given the price.

Another tip for the VEVOR is to look up some DIY upgrades for the machine on YouTube. There are a lot of small things you can do yourself to the VEVOR to get an extra bit of power and precision out of the machine.

Overall, the VEVOR CNC is a machine for pure value.

Given its capabilities as an engraver and occasional cutting tool, it can be considered a really good entry-level CNC machine. If you’re looking for the best value and/or cheap CNC machine, this is it.

MYSWEETY 2 in 1 CNC 3018 Pro

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Pros

Comes with a laser
Easy assembly

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Cons

Plastic frame

Working Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.0” x 1.7”

Weight: 15.82 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: plastics, woods, acrylics(Only suitable for spindle milling cutter engraving), PVCs, and PCBs

Warranty: 1 year

One thing that makes this MYSWEETY 2 in 1 so great is, well, it’s 2 in 1. Unlike most beginner machines, this one comes with both an engraver and a laser, which gives you a much wider range of projects that you can work on.

The MYSWEETY gives you a lot of versatility compared to other CNCs at a similar price point, making it the best affordable CNC/laser engraver combo on the market.

 Another plus side to this machine is the assembly time. Most people have said they clock in at around an hour for assembly, though it could be a little longer if this is your first time putting something like this together. Like most of these entry-level CNCs, if you get stuck during assembly, you can hop on YouTube or Facebook and find some solid instructional videos.

As for the machine itself, it is a little unfortunate that the frame is not metal. Instead, it boasts a plastic frame which can lead to a bit more inaccuracy when you start pushing the machine to its limits. With that said, the plastic is a phenolic resin which is pretty rigid stuff.

Overall, a plastic frame isn’t ideal, but it’s also not necessarily a reason not to buy the MYSWEETY.

If you’re mostly looking to do woodworking, then this is a really solid machine for you to use. Between the engraver and laser, you’ll gain a good feel for how woodworking operates at the CNC level. While the MYSWEETY is mostly designed for wood, you can venture out to other materials such as plastics if you’re careful. However, you really should avoid working with any kind of metal with the MYSWEETY – that is just not what this machine is meant for.

MYSWEETY themselves advertise this machine as one for “the absolute beginner,” and that is correct. If you’re new to the CNC world, and you want to get some experience in both carving and laser projects, then the MYSWEETY 3018 is going to give you the best value on the market as far as combo machines go.

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router Kit

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Pros

Large workspace
High-quality customer service

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Cons

In-depth assembly

Working Area: 610 mm x 610 mm x 85 mm = 24” x 24” x 3.3”

Weight: 42 Pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others possible with experimentation

Warranty: 90 Days

If you’re looking to do larger projects but you’re still working on a budget, BobsCNC Evolution 4 is the machine for you. While it isn’t as cheap as the other options we detailed, this machine is more than worth it.

When reviewing CNC machines for home use, you’ll quickly realize that prices shoot up significantly as the machine size increases. Many have hopes of woodworking projects only to realize that the signs they want to make simply aren’t possible with cheaper machines. The Evolution 4 provides the needed capabilities while still managing to keep the cost down.

When it comes to the Evolution 4, the first thing most people note with this machine is the setup. Unlike most beginner CNCs, you’re going to have to assemble this thing piece by piece, screw by screw.

For most folks, you’re going to be looking at around a full day – possibly a little bit more – before the E4 is up-and-running and ready start your project. However, for many users the assembly is part of the fun. The assembly is certainly more detailed but has the added benefit of getting you intimately familiar with the workings of the CNC router.

As usual, if you get stuck during assembly, you can go onto YouTube and find some helpful tutorials, but the routers from BobsCNC have an added bonus: absolutely top-notch customer service. BobsCNC is famous for being the gold standard in customer service.

If you drop them a question – be it about assembly or a project you’re working on – they’ll get back to you with a speedy, meaningful response. You can tell this company truly cares about its customers and their customers CNC experience.

Once you have the Evolution 4 working, you may notice that it’s a little louder than other entry-level machines. What you’re hearing is the power. Running on a Makita RT0701C router, part of what you’re paying for with the Evolution 4 is this machine’s capability.

With the Evolution 4, you can work on a really wide range of materials from wood to leather to soft metals such as aluminum.

It costs quite a bit more than our other budget options, but the added cost substantially increases the capabilities.

If you want to work on larger work with your CNC router such as making big signs or something similar, then you’ll find that the Evolution 4 is a very capable machine that provides great value for the price.

Things to consider when purchasing a CNC

Safety

Safety first. Safety second, third and fourth. You really shouldn’t be operating any of these machines without a pair of safety glasses. When cutting and engraving, these machines move materials at a high velocity, and getting something in your eye could lead to serious damage. If you don’t have them already, you’ll definitely need to buy some safety glasses along with your machine.

You should be very much aware that these are powerful cutting tools. Treat them with respect.

Materials being machined

These machines are pretty useless if they don’t have anything to engrave, so remember that you’re going to need to buy materials to machine.

Materials will vary in cost but most of these machines are designed to work with wood. Different woods will cost different amounts, and if you’re attempting to cut metals, some will be pricier than others. Also, if you’re new, it’s a good idea to over-buy on the cheaper materials because CNC machining takes some learning, and you’re bound to mess things up. Practice makes perfect and you are bound to mess some of your first projects up.

Bits and accessories

Just as you’ll mess up with materials, you’ll mess up and break bits. It happens to us all. This is especially true if you’re using the bits that come with the machines because those bits are usually on the cheaper end. You should plan on purchasing some extra bits at some point if not immediately.

One thing to think about also, is your work holding accessories. Most of these machines come with clamps, but the clamps may not be enough if you start pushing the machines to their upper limits. Higher quality/easier to use clamps will be a welcome addition at some point.

You may also buy a machine without a laser, and somewhere along the way, you’ll want one. Or perhaps you’ll want a work-area extension or a more powerful spindle. It isn’t easy but try to think about what you ultimately want to be able to accomplish with your machine. Often it is better to upgrade your capabilities from the outset until patching on upgrades.

Clean up

As we talked about in the bit on safety, when these machines are working, there is a lot of excess material flying around. In other words, expect a good amount of dust.

At the very least make sure you have a shop vac handy to clean up. A dust boot or shoe will help also, especially with larger machines. Cleaning is going to cost you some money, keep it in mind when purchasing.

Ease of use

If you don’t know much about software, you’re not going to be able to easily operate any of these machines. Most entry-level CNC’s will use Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) software platforms. You can easily find this open-source code for free on the Internet.

Most machines are also going to use GRBL software to run the machine.  So, for example, you can use Fusion360 to create your project design, then have Fusion360 communicate the code to UGS, then from UGS to your machine.

If you’re new to coding this may all take a bit trial and error, so tinker around with the code and the machine until you’re comfortable. When in doubt, you can always search YouTube and Facebook for tutorials and guides to help you out with the software aspects of CNCing.

Best Woodworking CNC Routers [2022]

CNC machines have been in use for decades and most people associate them with the metalworking industry. But for many years they have been used by amateur woodworkers to machine a large variety of projects.

CNC technology, just like 3D printers has found its way into the homes and garages of people throughout the world.

Below we have outlined the best CNCs for woodworking. CNC machining can be a daunting task for many, so our picks lean more towards the beginner CNC woodworker and place an emphasis on ease of setup and use. These two aspects in particular make it easier to unlock the full potential of your CNC router so read on to find out which models top our list.

Name

Awards

Work Area

Where to Buy

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

Best Overall Woodworking CNC

24" x 24" x 3.3"

SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer

Best Desktop Woodworking CNC

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO

Best Woodworking CNC/Laser Engraver Combo

11.8"x7.0"x1.7"

Genmitsu PROVerXL 4030

Best Woodworking CNC under $1,000, 

Best Woodworking CNC for Aluminum

15.7"x11.8"x4.3"

BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router

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Pros

Heavy-duty machine with a lot of capabilities
Large work area
Excellent customer service

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Cons

Assembly is not quick

Work Area: 610 mm x 610 mm x 85 mm = 24” x 24” x 3.3”

Machine Size: 990mm x 810mm x 530mm = 39” x 32” x 21”

Weight: 42 Pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Wood, plastic, soft aluminum, acrylic, PCB, leather, others are possible with experimentation

Warranty: 60 Days

While still an entry level machine, BobsCNC machines are a cut above the rest. Their machines are typically more heavy duty, capable of cutting more materials, and are more expensive than other entry level machines. While this machine can cut a large variety of materials, including soft aluminum and leather, CNC wood routing is easily BobsCNC’s specialty.

When looking at the E4 machine, you should be aware that setting the machine up will take a good deal of time. Unlike most other beginner CNC machines, the E4 does not comes pre-assembled.

You should plan on assembly taking up most of an entire day. Keep in mind, though, that when assembly is this intense, you really get to know a machine well, which will be super helpful if you’re a beginner.

Additionally, the instruction manual is highly detailed and thorough. The assembly isn’t necessarily difficult, but instead is simply time consuming. Luckily, if you come upon any roadblocks, you can find an abundance of guidance on YouTube and Facebook to help you along.

But if you are facing any big obstacles during assembly – or even long-after you’ve got the machine running – BobsCNC has a great reputation for top notch customer support and service.

 

Call or email them, and you are guaranteed to get a quick response, and a simple solution to whatever problem you may be facing. As a matter of fact, Bob himself has been known to respond to users seeking help frequently. 

Keep in mind that this is a big and powerful machine. As such, it can create more noise than other, smaller entry level machines. It can also create a large amount of dust and chips when it’s working, so be sure to have a shop vac ready to clean up or better yet, a dust collection system in place.

The E4 is the type of machine that you would normally want to store in a garage or workshop instead of inside your main living area.

This is a heavy-duty machine and you can expect it to be louder and a bit messier, but because it is such a solid machine you can also expect it to perform quality work for a long time to come. The E4 is a real workhorse, and many customers have found the machine to last for ages.

The BobsCNC Evolution 4 is an excellent option for a woodworking CNC. The setup will take more time than our other recommended options but there is a substantial payoff in the end. The expanded work area and power of the machine will allow a much larger variety of work than smaller machines.

SainSmart Genmitsu 30018-PROVer

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Pros

Fast and easy assembly
Quieter than other CNCs
Aluminum construction

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Cons

Not made for heavy-duty work such as metals

Work Area: 300mm x 180mm x 45mm = 11.8” x 7.1” x 1.7”

Machine Size: 400mm x 330mm x 240mm = 15.7” x 13.0” x 9.4”

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Materials it Will Cut: Plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic, nylon, carbon fiber and soft metals

Warranty: 1 Year

If you’re looking to get your feet wet with CNC machining, but don’t want to jump all the way in quite yet, then the SainSmart Genmitsu 3018-PROVer is a good place to start.

For a sub-$400 machine, you get a lot of value from the PROVer.

For one, the 3018 PROVer will arrive at your door largely pre-assembled, so you won’t have to spend too much time putting the machine together.

It might take you longer to put together than the 15 minutes that SainSmart advertises, but you should be able to put this together fairly quickly, and there are plenty of YouTube videos out there to give you a hand if you get stuck.

While this machine is pretty powerful for a beginner machine, one common review from users is that it is fairly quiet. If you live in an apartment and you don’t have to worry about your neighbors making a noise complaint, the 3018-PROVer makes a great option. 

Another great feature of the PROVer is the aluminum frame. For a budget priced machine, having a sturdy metal frame is a big bonus.

A solid frame helps to reduce any vibration from the machine, which makes the machine more accurate, and works to reduces noise.

Along with the aluminum framing, the machine has acrylic safety baffles which help stop dust from spreading while you’re working, making clean up a bit easier and faster. A welcome addition for anyone who plans to run this CNC indoors.

Another great feature of the PROVer is the easy to see, easy to access shutdown button.

This big red button on the side of the machine makes triggering an emergency shutdown super simple. From experts to amateurs, mistakes are going to happen, so such an obvious emergency stop button will come in handy. This is a feature that all full blown industrial CNCs have and for good reason.

When you hear something start to go wrong with your run, and trust me, you usually hear it before any other warning signs. The stop button just might save your project or cutter tools.

Other safety features of the PROVer include hard stops, and limit switches to keep the machine from coming off the rails, literally. The limit switches will tell your machine to stop safely when your custom CNC program attempts to move the cutter three feet off your dining room table.

SainSmart has done a good job including many of the 3018 series CNC upgrades and accessories that people find they want after purchasing such as an offline controller, which will allow you to run the machine without needing to have a computer attached.

Overall, the 3018 PROVer is a top notch, entry-level machine that is especially useful if you’re looking to start smaller wood carving and wood cutting projects and is more than capable of tackling other materials of similar hardness.

MYSWEETY DIY CNC 3018-PRO