Is CNC taking the craft and fun out of woodworking?

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Forum topic by bkseitz posted 12-10-2015 10:42 PM 3572 views 0 times favorited 99 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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293 posts in 727 days

12-10-2015 10:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I don’t have a CNC machine for woodworking, but have used such in heavy industry applications—previous life I consulted to major corporations on CAD/CAM. The question I pose does CNC take the craft and fun out of woodworking or is it yet another tool in a woodworkers box?

I know that which each technology advance many people wonder if woodworking was to go the way of other industries major automation where people are almost superfluous or as supposed is CNC just another tool advance like the router, electric drill, planner-jointer, etc.

Would love to hear opinions both for/against

-- bkseitz, Washington "if everything is going well, you've obviously overlooked something"

99 replies so far

View Dabcan's profile


249 posts in 2088 days

#1 posted 12-10-2015 10:48 PM

For me it puts the fun back into woodworking. Some of the pieces I make need repetitive cut parts. It’s no great skill of mine to cut hundreds of these little pieces, and while I can cut them for less money than I can pay a CNC to do it, I’d much rather be working on more creative endeavours than making the same thing over and over again. I still do the assembling, and the designing is all mine as well, but personally I’m happy to have the parts done by someone (or something?) else.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View CharlesA's profile


2971 posts in 1214 days

#2 posted 12-10-2015 11:03 PM

i think you might want to distinguish between production woodworkers and hobby woodworkers (even though you’ll still end up with disagreement). If someone like Dabcan wants to use a CNC that way, fine. For someone like me, it seems like a big expense that would allow me to produce wood pieces without woodworking, so to speak. No incentive.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View bkseitz's profile


293 posts in 727 days

#3 posted 12-10-2015 11:13 PM

@CharlesA, I made no distinction between Production or Hobbyist as I know some people that do production work take pride is using only Hand Tools (i.e., they won’t even use a table saw). I make no judgements, just curious as to opinions out there. —this is not a formal study or something that will go beyond this LJ forum

-- bkseitz, Washington "if everything is going well, you've obviously overlooked something"

View AZWoody's profile


678 posts in 641 days

#4 posted 12-10-2015 11:17 PM

I have thought about getting one, for carving panels, etc. Making interesting designs to integrate into my woodworking.

I don’t think it would take away from the craft as it’s something I just don’t have the skill to do anyways. I also don’t have the time to do some of the panel carvings like I have seen done on here.

To me, it’s just another tool in the kit to help me make what I want.

View KevinL's profile


28 posts in 767 days

#5 posted 12-10-2015 11:21 PM

I do the CNC thing all day long at work. I’m an Instructor that teaches Tool & Die. I have full access to metal working CNC machinery and we also have a CNC router in the building trades program that I sometimes have done some CAD & programming on.

That being said at night I use my non CNC tools. That’s my unwind time. Do my wood projects look as good as my metal things…...nope but I’m not trying to hold things in machinist tenths or millionths either.

That being said, I have used some of the machinery to make tools that I have used on my traditional woodworking tools. It may be a fixture or a gage. Notice I didn’t say jig. Jigs are never bolted down, but are used to guide a drill, tap, reamer… on.

-- KevinL

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Mainiac Matt

5947 posts in 1745 days

#6 posted 12-10-2015 11:22 PM

Will I guess that would depend on whether you think playing with a CNC is fun or not.

For me it is….

But for a lot of people it isn’t… either because they’re not into CAD/CAM and computers, or because they do it all day long at work and don’t want to bring it into their hobby time.

I program for CNCs at work, but infreqently, so I still enjoy it.

Using a 4th axis machine to turn fancy Corinthian columns is on my bucket list.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 808 days

#7 posted 12-11-2015 12:28 AM

I think we can take a look at history for the answer to this one…

I know there are a good number of LJ who are “hand tool only”...but are there any of you here who are “seasoned” enough to have been around when power tools first made the scene in woodworking? I rather doubt it. That choice, between all hand tools vs. hybrid vs. “I only use a chisel for opening new cans of wipe-on poly”... has been made by pretty much all of us. In fact, I would bet a lot of you have changed your mind about it at least once and maybe several times along the way.

My only point here is that the introduction of power tools into this realm DID NOT spell the end of it as either a hobby or a master-craftsman profession.

I think CNC is a very similar “upheaval” in the space. I think over time many of us will try our hand at it, and either decide we don’t like it, decide it can be just another arrow in our quiver, or decide it provides the one true path we’ve been searching for to realize some aspect of our creativity.

I rather think 10 years from now a CNC will be about as common as a tablesaw in the average wood shop. For some it will be “over there in the corner next to the scroll saw and the biscuit jointer I never use”, and for others it will be a centerpiece they can’t do without (just like a tablesaw is today).

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View bonesbr549's profile


1137 posts in 2484 days

#8 posted 12-11-2015 01:28 AM

Funny timing for the topic. I’m getting ready to pull the trigger on one early next year. I see it as just another tool. It takes skill to put it to proper use, and that is a art unto itself. This sounds like the old argument about screws in furniture.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Gixxerjoe04's profile


829 posts in 993 days

#9 posted 12-11-2015 01:37 AM

I had the shapeoko 2 hobby cnc, like the idea and what I thought I could do with it but the software side of it was difficult and I didn’t want to spend money on expensive software that probably would have been easier to learn on maybe. So it sat and collected dust until I sold it recently. I do like the idea of it in some aspects though. If i had a nice one and actually knew how to use it, could batch out small stuff like Christmas ornaments like in the shapes of states and probably sell them pretty easily, a lot easier than doing them by hand to make them cheaper to sell. People always send me pics of stuff I should make, then I realize it’s stuff that is batched out on a cnc or something that’s been laser engraved onto a piece of wood. Usually tell them wish I could, but the items are always for sale by a company that can sell them cheap because of those tools and being able to mass produce. Now if cnc machine were able to produce tables and chairs or other really nice stuff people make on here, then that would be cheating haha.

View Ger21's profile


1045 posts in 2548 days

#10 posted 12-11-2015 03:01 AM

A CNC can be just another tool. And often not the best tool for the job.

Or it can be a hobby all by itself. Small hobby machines like a Shapeoko tend to lean this way, as they don’t have the capacity to really augment a woodworking shop, unless your shop is dedicated to making small items.

I rather think 10 years from now a CNC will be about as common as a tablesaw in the average wood shop.

I’ve already been using a CNC router for 20 years. They’re not new, they’re just becoming more affordable.

As for taking the “craft” out of woodworking? Actually, it can add a little more. It’s another skill set that the user needs to master to really take advantage of.

Too many people look at a CNC as a machine that spits out whatever you want with the push of a button. In a lot of cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

-- Gerry,

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Rick M.

7668 posts in 1797 days

#11 posted 12-11-2015 03:21 AM

How do you do production woodworking with hand tools only in this day and age? I mean it might technically be “production” but come on.


View rwe2156's profile


2110 posts in 898 days

#12 posted 12-11-2015 01:12 PM

Craft – yes. Fun – absolutely not.

Probably a necessity for a production shop. No one expects a label “hand crafted”. If a hobbyist is using one because he doesn’t want to spend the time doing the work by hand, then I think that’s sad because the skills will become rusty and decline.

He must have difficulty looking at a piece and having the sense of reward in personal craftsmanship of the piece. It doesn’t matter if it’s all hand tools or machine. At least a human is controlling the process.

I think the answer becomes much more obvious with carving. You simply cannot say “I made that” when all the human error is eliminated because a machine made the cuts. Anybody with a CNC machine can make that carving, but only a few can do it with human skills. When I see videos of guys proudly showing a carving “they” did with a CNC machine, I shake my head.

To each his own. Personally I would much rather learn to carve by hand than program a computer!

When the admirer says, “Wow, you really made that?” what can your honest answer be?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 593 days

#13 posted 12-11-2015 02:23 PM

One day I hope to grow my woodworking to be enough of a business that it will be self supporting. What I sell will buy the next tool(s) on my list plus pay for projects I make for myself or as gifts. To this end a CNC (or laser or carver) is just a power tool like any other. I can’t see myself splitting logs, hand planning surfaces flat, using a hand saw to resaw to thickness, etc. Now if someone wanted to pay enough then I might reconsider but my experience is that customers tend to be cheap.

The bigger question would be can a project that has been touched by a CNC (laser, carver) be called hand made?

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Todd's profile


379 posts in 1093 days

#14 posted 12-11-2015 04:49 PM

My take on this. It is a tool…know when it makes sense to use it and when it does not. For example, my Yahtzee project I posted was milled with my CNC. I don’t think I would have enjoyed doing it without my CNC.

I look at it this way. I know some very talented carvers. I am not one of them, however they are not engineers and I am. I used my engineering skills to build and program my CNC. That combined with my woodworking skills has been very fulfilling for me. I can’t relief carve a deer by hand but I can do it with the CNC machine I built. To me that is very cool…

-- Todd, Huntsville, AL

View greg48's profile


588 posts in 2174 days

#15 posted 12-11-2015 04:53 PM

Just another tool in my book. I probably will never invest in one as my monies will go to those tools that increase the time and enjoyment of working the wood. So, if I lay my hands upon something I created, how can it not be “hand made”?

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

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