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Tools to dream about #1: CNC Router for the shop

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Blog entry by Bill posted 09-12-2007 06:51 PM 1966 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Well, we all have big dreams on what tools we would like to have in our shops. This is one I would like to get – CNC Router by Shopbot. Imagine being able to cut your project by simply laying the wood on the table, turning on the machine, and go get a cup of coffee or a soda while the machine does the work. When you return, the pieces are cut out, ready to sand and assemble. If done right, the accuracy should be better than you can get by hand.

Ok, so part of me loves that idea. The improved accuracy, the duplication of parts, the elimination of all the cutting on the table saw or miter saw, the time savings. At the same time, another part of me says that takes the fun/enjoyment/feel out of woodworking. It makes it more mechanical, less “human”. But, is it the journey of making the product, or the end product that we want most. And, since you still have to glue it up, sand it, and finish it, not to mention design it, doesn’t that make it your creation as well?

Well, until they are more affordable, it is back to the manual labor for me. What do each of you think?

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com



20 comments so far

View Chip's profile

Chip

1904 posts in 2813 days


#1 posted 09-12-2007 06:56 PM

If you’re not enjoying the journey Bill, it kinda just becomes a production plant doesn’t it? I suppose the designing and, as you say, prepping it, makes for some joy but I’m not so sure the satisfaction wouldn’t run dry after not to long. I saw a show on TV about one of these machines the other evening and actually, it made me sorta cringe.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2757 days


#2 posted 09-12-2007 06:58 PM

Have you seen the Carvewright? I look at these tools with a bit of wonderment. They really do perform their tasks with ease and efficiency. However, they deny the woodworker the process. Sure they use elements of design and setup to replace, design and dimensioning…but still. I imagine, if there was a way to improve productivity in a shop that was primarily setup to provide livings for it’s workers, something like this, if deemed cost effective, would have to be used. You can’t deny the “cool” factor though.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1140 posts in 2712 days


#3 posted 09-12-2007 06:59 PM

Shopbots are cool, check this project out too, not big enough to be real serious but great for carving, modeling. I don’t think there is much difference in having a machine cut your pieces, like you said the design and all the choices that go into making a piece are still your own, it’s just another fancy tool to make your ideas reality.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2882 days


#4 posted 09-12-2007 07:01 PM

Exactly Chip and Mot. Part of me says that is not what I got into woodworking for. Then again, especially after mis-cutting the board for the umpteenth time, I think, if I could just have the machine cut it how I designed it….But, I guess it is those errors that make us human.

I had not seen the Carvewright, just the Sears one advertised on TV around the first of the year. But this looks good too.

Thanks for the link Damian. I will have to read this article too.

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1140 posts in 2712 days


#5 posted 09-12-2007 07:04 PM

Another thing to note is that these machines are best suited to working with sheet goods and I don’t think there is much satisfaction to be gained from cutting pieces from a sheet of ply in the first place. The real fun comes with the dimensioning/shaping of the solid stock, the joinery and then the finishing. So in a way this cuts out the drudgery of working with sheet goods giving you more time to do the fun bits.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Chip's profile

Chip

1904 posts in 2813 days


#6 posted 09-12-2007 07:23 PM

Bill, I live just a stones throw from Winterthur Museum that has an amazing collection of extraordinary antiques (Norm visits there regularly to get some of his pieces to reproduce on his show). When I walk around there and study the pieces, which I try to do a couple of times a year, one of my greatest delights is studying a piece in detail and still seeing some of the scribe marks on the piece or perhaps a bit of a ridge left from a plane (usually these things are on the underside or inside of the piece).

These are extremely fine antiques from the 18th and 19th century but it’s my feeling that these little things create a pieces story. Maybe the maker got tired, maybe he got frustrated, maybe he got hungry and left, forgetting to rub them out. I don’t know but personally, I kinda like these things on pieces. Kinda stamps them with the honorable badge of “Hand Made”. Just a thought anyway.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Bill's profile

Bill

2579 posts in 2882 days


#7 posted 09-12-2007 07:29 PM

Haha..good point Chip. I have seen a few of my projects where I forgot to sand off a pencil mark. I usually manage to get everything else smooth, but sometimes those marks get missed. It does say hand made for sure.

Here is an interesting article on why someone chose to go the handtool route instead. I am not sure I want to go that far, but it is interesting.

Like I said, the perfectionist in me wants everything to fit right, tight, and smooth. The human in me sometimes says that is as good as it gets.

Glad to hear you have such a ready resource near by. Have you built anything like those pieces you have seen, or just use them for ideas on things to build?

-- Bill, Turlock California, http://www.brookswoodworks.com

View Chip's profile

Chip

1904 posts in 2813 days


#8 posted 09-12-2007 07:39 PM

Naaaa Bill, not yet. Am waiting for the ShopBot I ordered before trying anything that complicated. LOL, just teasing. Will leave that level of work to Norm for now.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2531 posts in 2678 days


#9 posted 09-12-2007 07:47 PM

Ok fellas, I want to weigh in on this one. I worked in a production cabinet/wood shop operating and designing for a CNC router. It was a large machine (5’x10’ vacuum table, single spindle, 8 position tool tray) and it definitely excelled in cutting sheet goods and cabinet parts. We used it allot for custom cabinet jobs requiring curved door and face frame parts. It was accurate to 3 decimal places…the cabinet parts it would kick out would fit together so perfectly, you could dry fit cabinets with no clamps…perfect dados and rabbits. It would even put peck marks in to locate the draw slides, and drill holes for adjustable shelves. Once designed, it could cut out all the pieces for a large kitchen in a few hours. So from a production standpoint, it was awesome. As far as taking the craftsmanship angle out of it, I suppose you could make an argument for that….half the fun is cutting out and milling your parts. On a personal level though allot of you guys are like me…you like your big boy toys, and let me tell you there isn’t a cooler toy on the face of the earth to play with than a giant computer controlled router. I would get allot of satisfaction from seeing something go from an idea, to a drawing, to a file that I would load in the machine…and then stand there and watch the parts be cut out with speed and accuracy. The machine would move so fast if you got to close to it, it would knock you across the room! It was kinda like watching a robotic ballet…changing tools, making cuts, drilling holes. As far as creativeness, the machine was capable of doing 3D carving with the right bits loaded in the tool carousel, and we would frequently use it to make custom cut solid wood parts such as table tops and trim pieces. Cutting solid woods was a little tricky, you had to analyze the grain direction in the blank and program the spindle to cut in the proper direction to avoid blowing out the piece. All in all I think they are awesome machines, but not everyone thinks technology is a good thing. There are woodworking purists that think you should plane wood by hand and not use any power tools at all. So I guess it’s subjective to how you work the wood, if you think the CNC is a useful item…but it’s definatley a tool I dream about!

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4438 posts in 2683 days


#10 posted 09-12-2007 07:51 PM

Morning everyone,
I think everyone of you is correct. Because being correct is a matter of perspective. When I have an order of kitchen cabinets to get out, I wish I had a CNC. But yet I if have to joint a board longer than 36” I reach for my old #7. For about 9 years Carleen and did all the farm work on our ranch with teams of Belgian Draft horses. No tractors. What I learned from this experience is that the soil and the worm don’t care how it is plowed and the hay doesn’t care how it is cut. Only the end result matters. (I learned a lot of other things as well.) Extend this to our craft. The wood doesn’t care how it is cut and all that matters is the end result and the mind set of the person who designed and crafted it. Many of you are in this game for relaxation and enjoyment. You have every right to do it how you see fit. Either way someone must still design a good product and produce it. One must please his own eye and mind. To look askance at a person who uses CAD-Cam is no more correct than saying some one is stuck in the dark ages because he chooses to use nothing but hand tools. I, myself, will reserve the right ot use anything I choose as long as it makes the product I want. That ranges from my teeth(which are now plastic) to a CNC.
Tom

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View gbvinc's profile

gbvinc

629 posts in 2667 days


#11 posted 09-12-2007 07:54 PM

I have a CNC on my shop wish list. I am still evaluating whether to build,or buy, but it definitely on the list. Having a programming background, a CNC is kind’ve a must have for me, I think.

Wood, robotics, programming…how could I pass it up!

I am quite sure there will still be plenty of handwork to keep the other part of me satisfied, so not conflicted there.

I have looked at the CarveWright at Sears, but think it needs a revision, or two, before I would seriously consider it. Mixed reviews out there in terms of it’s reliabilty.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4438 posts in 2683 days


#12 posted 09-12-2007 07:55 PM

Hey I just came up witha great idea for the next Challenge; how about the Normites vs. the Ludites vs. the Festoolians? LOL! LOL!!!

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2881 days


#13 posted 09-12-2007 08:42 PM

I guess it depends on what you find enjoyable…. it’s just another tool to make life easier—if it isn’t: don’t get it; if it does -then go for it.

oh Thos. do you remember the troubles we had with the “no glue” limitation??? !!! lol

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Tony's profile

Tony

978 posts in 2751 days


#14 posted 09-12-2007 09:37 PM

Production work, not even woodworking – I can see the benefit if you are producing thousands of clones a day – but are we not individuals taking pride in our hand crafted products, which each and every one is unique. This is what makes us lumberjocks and not machines!

For $10,000, I could but a lot of very nice hand tools, which I would get a great deal of pleasure using – I cannot say the same thing about sitting in front of a computer all day putting in 1 & 0’s

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (http://www.poydatjatuolit.fi)

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2757 days


#15 posted 09-12-2007 10:54 PM

Tom…that’s funny!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

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