10 Essential tools when starting out as a CNC Machinist

10 Essential tools when starting out as a CNC Machinist

Every CNC machining engineer knows that you need the right tools to do a good job. Having a good range of tools makes your life so much easier, and you more efficient.
It’s best to start out with a small collection that grows as you become more experienced. As you learn from the skilled colleagues around you, they might even let you borrow some of their tools, as long as you look after them.

If you were advising a young machinist who is just starting out, which tools would you recommend they buy?

We have put together a list of the 10 basic tools we think every young machinist should have. If you have any recommendations to add to the list, let us know!


Steel Rule

Great to have both metric and imperial as some raw materials are still manufactured in inch sizes. Always comes in handy when planning your work and materials. Great when setting tools, vices with parallels & manufacturing work holding.




You will use this every day for working out conversions, calculating feeds and speeds, trigonometry and when programming. Especially useful when planning jobs and estimating production times and costs.




Not something you will use every day, but very useful for setting vices square, concentricity checks, and very accurate measurement of edges and depths. Can be used for inspection of some machined features on the machine.




Go for a good quality caliper, as it will make a difference in the accuracy of your measurements, and it will last longer too. An essential tool for accurate measurements when setting the machine and checking dimensions.




Again, go for a good quality micrometer, it doesn’t have to have a digital readout, but it does make it easier. This is an essential tool for accurate measurements of thicknesses and diameters when setting the machine and checking dimensions, and for accurate measurement of cutting tools.




Machining centres can do a great job of deburring components giving a nice consistent neat finish with nice clean chamfered edges. But there will normally be features that need to be deburred by hand, so it is especially useful to have a good set of various deburring tools.




A good quality set of needle files is essential for deburring fine detail and edges. Have a good range including flat/pillar, half round and round in a 2nd cut grade. If used correctly you can get a good clean consistent chamfer or radius on most edges.




It’s good to have a couple of different size precision engineers’ squares. These can be especially useful when checking machined faces for squareness, checking raw material faces or cut faces. Also, useful when marking out work pieces before cutting or machining.




A machinists handbook contains a wealth of useful information, from conversion table, formulae and equivalent charts to material data and feeds and speeds. A ‘must have’ for all engineers, apprentices / trainees and machine shops.




A toolbox is essential, allowing you to organise and protect your tools, and it is really handy to be able to find what you need straight away. You don’t need to spend a lot of money initially, but it’s useful to have a few drawers so that you can lay your tools out, and have space for additional kit. It’s surprising how your collection of tools will expand over the years.