by far my favorite material to work with: natural, renewable, reasonably priced, machines well, finishes well, comes in a large variety of colors, textures and sizes … and it smells really nice when you cut it on a cnc. I always enjoy working with new species but usually have on stock a large variety of local and tropical woods best suitable for cnc machining. Amongst my favorite woods for cnc are grenadil(african blackwood), ebony, mahogany, birch, maple, bruyère. Other species like gabon ebony, amarant, teak or palm wood turned out to be a nightmare to machine but I find the results quite beautiful and worth the trouble most of the times … and they really do smell very nice while I work.
buffalo, ox, cow and rams horn are amazing materials for small objects. The cnc process is very long and tedious since it’s not per se a material that machines well. Tools to work small detail are also very expensive and fragile and the materials themselves can sometimes be quite difficult to find in a suitable quality and size. But despite all these disadvantages I love working with horn since the resulting objects have a spectacular finish and natural organic feel to them. This material is particularly useful for jewellery designs and small mechanical pieces that need flexibility and strength at the same time. For examples of what you can do with horn you can take a look at my other project site.
Paper, leather and other organic materials
paper or cardboard can be cut and engraved with a CNC, although again the process is a bit difficult and perilous. Some types of leather can also be engraved which offers a range of decorative applications.
Bone, Mamooth Ivory and Galalith are also suitable for machining but are rarely completely organic in nature. Bone and Ivory are usually ‘stabilized’ with synthetic resins to avoid breakage and Galalith (also called Milkstone), while made out of milk, is prepared with chemicals as well. A new contender is Paperstone which is very promising but to be honest I haven’t been able to find out yet how exactly this material is manufactured, so while it sounds ‘bio’ it possibly isn’t.
Plastics and other synthetic materials
to be honest, these are my least favorite materials. Some projects just can’t do without it but I always hope that some type of wood or other organic material might fit the bill better.
my cnc machine is not really made for cutting large volumes of metal but I do work with it from time to time in engraving or 2D applications. There are special types of metal required for cnc machining so you’ll have to use my selection of metals. In 3D printing however metal has become quite usable and especially for jewellery there are now Sterling Silver and Brass-like metal printing options that produce pretty good results. As with all current 3D printing techniques it is however still quite expensive to produce good results and there is a machine-texture from the printing process which you’ll have to live with or spend ages/loads cleaning up if you want a perfectly shiny metal object.