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Exploring the Depths of CNC Woodworking: The Differences Between 3D , 2D, and V Carving

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

When it comes to CNC carving, there are several different methods that can be used to achieve the desired outcome. Two of the most common techniques are 3D carving and 2D carving. Additionally, within 2D carving, there is a specific type of carving known as V carving. Although not all encompassing, in this article we will discuss the differences between these carving techniques and how they can be used in woodworking projects.

3D Carving:

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) 3D carving is a technique that involves the use of a computer program to control a machine that carves a three-dimensional object out of a material, such as wood. The machine is guided by the program and uses a round end cutting tool (called a "Ball Endmill" or "Ball Nose") to carve out the design. This technique allows for highly precise, organic, and complex designs to be created.

2D Carving:

2D carving is a technique that involves cutting a design out of a flat surface using a flat bottom cutting tool (called an "Endmill"). This technique is commonly used for signs, plaques, and some decorative pieces.

V Carving:

V carving is a specific type of 2D carving that involves carving a “V” shaped groove into a material (using a tool cutting called, unimaginably, a "V Bit"). This technique creates a raised, dimensional effect in the design and is commonly used for lettering and decorative elements.

To illustrate the differences between these techniques, let's take a look at a few example projects: A wooden sign with a personalized message, an award plaque, and a military insignia carving.

For a project like this, 3D carving would be the ideal technique to use if you wanted to create an organic looking, three-dimensional design. The machine would be programmed to carve out the design elements from a block of wood, creating a piece with sculptural quality.

Navy Pilot and IDWO Pin 3D Carved
3D Carving

3D Carving from wood, two tone stained

If you wanted to create a flat sign with a simple design, 2D carving would be the most appropriate technique to use. The design would be carved out of a flat piece of wood using a cutting tool, resulting in a two-dimensional sign with a flat surface below the relief cut areas.

Landing Collective Real Estate Business Sign
2D Business Sign

Person standing on a ladder installing a business sign

Finally, if you wanted to create a sign with a design that had some additional dimensionality to it, V carving would be the technique to use. The letters and design elements would be carved out of a flat piece of wood using a V-shaped cutting tool, resulting in a sign with raised letters and a more interesting texture. business sign, two tone wood
V Carve Business Sign

Wooden business sign carved with CNC machine

Understanding the differences between 3D carving, 2D carving, and V carving can help you choose the right technique for your woodworking projects. Whether you want to create a highly detailed three-dimensional design or a simple, flat sign, there is a carving technique that can help you achieve the desired result.

If you have any further questions or want to learn more about these techniques, please don't hesitate to contact us at T2WOODWORKS.COM, as we offer personalized, online training for all experience levels at With over 20 years of experience with traditional woodworking and 8 years working in CNC and digital design, we can help you reach the next level of your CNC usage goals or design a custom project for that special someone in your life.


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