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CNC what it be?

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Forum topic by builtinbkyn posted 05-06-2017 03:39 AM 1066 views 0 times favorited 55 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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builtinbkyn

1828 posts in 719 days


05-06-2017 03:39 AM

OK so I have been thinking about approaching this subject for a while, but then felt some trepidation as it’s not meant to be critical of anyone and certainly not meant as flame bait. I hope it doesn’t devolve into something it shouldn’t be. However I think it’s a fair discussion and would like to hear both sides of the issue if anyone is inclined to share.

CNC is a wonderful tool, just like the many tools that are in most of our shops. However, unlike those other tools, the CNC requires little to no physical input from a “woodworker”. On the other hand, all of the remaining tools in our shops do require physical input from the user and much more than that, they require skill sets to use them with success.

So I guess my question or questions are, is CNC fabrication, woodworking? I can appreciate the aspect of design and what that encompasses – from taking an idea and working it through to a three dimensional object that not only meets the vision the designer had, but also pleases those who view and interact with it. That’s not an easy task on many levels. I can also appreciate the technical skills that may be required to digitize a design idea as well as the logistical planning needed to implement the idea which may be very complicated. However I ask again, is CNC woodworking?

I can respect the idea that a person who has the skillset to make the composition by hand, but for practical reasons, found it necessary to produce it with a CNC. I mean time is valuable and if getting a commission to a client is of the essence, then the CNC would certainly make sense. But I don’t see the value or even fulfillment of making something for the sake of making it and watching a machine do all of the work. I would get no joy from that – I mean not in the sense that it would give me the same joy I feel when I do make something with my hands and it’s successful. And heck, sometimes when I screw up, I learn something and even see a way to modify my screwup to something not only presentable, but maybe even better than the road I started down. So again I ask, is CNC woodworking? Or is it something else?

I’ve commented on a few projects that certainly looked beautiful and beautifully executed. However, I’ve then come to realize they were produced, at least in part if not fully, by CNC and I thought to myself, “Well yeah I could do that too. I just need a CNC machine.” But then what would be the point? If I were making widgets and needed to fill an order of 1000 widgets, well heck yeah I’d be buying me one heck of a CNC machine. If I were a production shop I could see the practical sense in utilizing CNC. But if I’m in my shop and I want to make a picture frame or a doorknob, well then I would make it with the tools that my hands manipulate. That, for me, is woodworking. Working wood with tools manipulated with hands – maybe some have power, but they’re not automated. And it takes me, the woodworker, to manage them and manipulate them with what ever skillset I have. Sometimes I screw up and sometimes I impress myself. If I plugged everything into a CNC, well then I may as well be doing something else. I started woodworking because I wanted to use my hands as well as my design skills.

For me, CNC is fabrication. Something very different than woodworking. I put this in this particular forum because I feel CNC isn’t a woodworking skill and it’s difficult to be impressed by something when I know a computer cut it up and spit it out. I hope that wasn’t too harsh.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn :)


55 replies so far

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TungOil

663 posts in 273 days


#1 posted 05-06-2017 04:01 AM

It’s an interesting question an I’m sure you will get many varied and passionate responses.

In my view it is woodworking, or more accurately it is the next evolution of woodworking. In much the same way that a powered jointer achieves a flat straight edge with less physical effort than a hand plane, CNC is taking us to the next level in the craft. The end results might be the same, but the means to get there has changed. At one time to achieve that straight edge required a lot of muscle and knowledge of proper hand planing technique, with a powered jointer those skills were replaced with others like having a deep understanding of how to set up the machine properly. Less pure muscle was needed, but the skill set shifted more to the knowledge of proper setup, maintenance, feed rates, etc. different skills, but still woodworking skills nonetheless. Not many would argue that a jointer is a not a true woodworking tool.

And so it goes with CNC. Muscle power is replaced by an even deeper need to understand the technology and how to best make it behave. Feed rates, tool paths, cutter selection, proper set up, etc. it’s just the next turn of the crank….

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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builtinbkyn

1828 posts in 719 days


#2 posted 05-06-2017 04:06 AM

I don’t view a power planer and a CNC in the same vein. The planer still needs not only your physical input, but your skill to use it. If that planer was hooked up to a computer and fed mechanically, they would be the same. Same goes for a jointer. You can’t just push a button and get results. You need to physically interact with it for better or worse.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn :)

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jbay

1722 posts in 677 days


#3 posted 05-06-2017 04:28 AM

CNC is definitely woodworking to me.
The way it affects me for example, is that you see something beautiful and you think it was all hand done and your mind reads it as that’s incredible, then you learn that is was done on a cnc and it takes away from the craftsmanship of the project in MY eyes.

A great example is of the hummingbird table that was recently posted.
Beautiful, when I first saw it I thought wow the skill it must have taken to do those inlays.
Then after reading how it was done with the CNC, I just kind of saw it as well Ok, cool.

It still took a lot of woodworking to get to the final product though and although the CNC was used, so were all of the other woodworking skills needed.

So to ME, yes, CNC is still woodworking but I don’t put as much umph on the final product as I would if I knew it was hand done instead.

-- If anyone would like to see my Portfolio, PM me and I would be glad to send you the link.

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Rich

1673 posts in 368 days


#4 posted 05-06-2017 04:33 AM

Gotta agree with Bill. If you’re not touching the wood, it’s not woodworking. However, it takes talent to create the design and program the machine. As an engineer, I recall the early days of CAD/CAM. It was a huge advancement and is the reason that you can buy precision machined parts for so little.

If I had a production shop, it would be a no-brainer. You could offer the client intricate pieces for a fraction of the price of handcrafting. But it’s still not woodworking.

Edit: I think of videos of Frank Klausz. He uses table saws, jointers and planers to prep his lumber. Then the magic begins. That’s woodworking.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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builtinbkyn

1828 posts in 719 days


#5 posted 05-06-2017 04:47 AM



Gotta agree with Bill. If you re not touching the wood, it s not woodworking. However, it takes talent to create the design and program the machine. As an engineer, I recall the early days of CAD/CAM. It was a huge advancement and is the reason that you can buy precision machined parts for so little.

If I had a production shop, it would be a no-brainer. You could offer the client intricate pieces for a fraction of the price of handcrafting. But it s still not woodworking.

Edit: I think of videos of Frank Klausz. He uses table saws, jointers and planers to prep his lumber. Then the magic begins. That s woodworking.

- RichTaylor

Rich I fully agree and do understand that not only does it take the ability to program the machine and even as Tungoil suggested, understand how the machine operates and interacts with the wood it’s cutting, it take imagination and design skills to arrive at some of these fine pieces. However, I’m still not getting woodworker from it. It would be like calling those studio art paintings they sell in Walmart, art. They’re mass produced. A CNC can mass produce the same thing over and over again without variation as you suggested. I love seeing what can be done with CNC, but I find it difficult to associate it with woodworking just because it happens to be cutting wood at the moment.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn :)

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Rich

1673 posts in 368 days


#6 posted 05-06-2017 04:54 AM

Exactly Bill. It’s the future. If all there was was Roy Underhill, and those like him producing furniture, we’d all be on a long waiting list for our needs.

Now, if we could only get mass produced paintings of Velvet Elvis.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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jbay

1722 posts in 677 days


#7 posted 05-06-2017 05:00 AM

I agree that making a plaque/ashtray with a face on it that doesn’t require any other skills besides running the cnc is not much woodworking.

I think that when your building a woodworking project, ok lets say a dresser, where you built everything by hand. Dovetail corners, dovetailed drawers mortised legs so on and so on. Then used the cnc to make an inlay on the front of the drawers. Would you say that making the dresser wasn’t woodworking? The cnc was just another tool that was used in the fabrication.
I’m not trying to change your mind. To me is still lessons the “craftsmanship value” of the piece but I think it’s still woodworking.

-- If anyone would like to see my Portfolio, PM me and I would be glad to send you the link.

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Rob

253 posts in 2765 days


#8 posted 05-06-2017 05:01 AM

No a CNC machine is not woodworking. It’s a tool sometimes used in woodworking. Just like any other tool whether it’s a hand tool or a power tool. You make something with it. In most cases, there’s still a lot of woodworking skills that are used before the CNC machine is turned on. You don’t just throw a board on the machine. Most of the time you have to plane it, joint it, glue pieces together to get a flat board the right size and thickness to cut out what you’re making. Other times, you make something on the CNC and it’s incorporated into the woodworking project you’re building. For instance, you make a sign for the outside of your house that has your family name and house number on it. All done by conventional woodworking tools and skills but you use a CNC machine and carve the family name and house number into the wood before sanding and finishing it because your skill level carving those letters and numbers by hand or by a normal router are poor or non existant. So in that instance, you are doing woodworking and using a CNC machine to accomplish part of the overall project. So is that a woodworking project that you made or is it nullified because you made part of it with a CNC machine? Now, if you go to the Big Box Store and buy a piece of MDF and clamp it down to the CNC machine and cut something out and that’s all that’s necessary then I agree that has nothing to do with woodworking. So my feelings are that a CNC machine is a tool that is sometimes used in woodworking projects just like any other hand or power tool.

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Rick_M

10245 posts in 2158 days


#9 posted 05-06-2017 05:05 AM

Woodworking is working with wood. Don’t overthink it. Is CNC metal, metalworking? Of course it is.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Rich

1673 posts in 368 days


#10 posted 05-06-2017 05:10 AM

This is a good thread. Thanks to Bill for starting it. I’m not dissing CNC. I actually embrace it as a tool for mass-producing furniture that people need. Labor costs are often prohibitive, and without technology like CNC only the wealthy will be able to afford fine furniture.

One of these days when I can buy a CNC setup for the cost of a Leigh jig, I’ll probably go there. Hell, I’m already using a Leigh, so is that woodworking? Not as much as the craftsmen who hand cut their joinery.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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Rich

1673 posts in 368 days


#11 posted 05-06-2017 05:17 AM


Woodworking is working with wood. Don t overthink it. Is CNC metal, metalworking? Of course it is.

- Rick M

Is being in the pool with water-wings swimming? But yeah, I get what you’re saying.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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Desert_Woodworker

1173 posts in 993 days


#12 posted 05-06-2017 05:23 AM



I agree that making a plaque/ashtray with a face on it that doesn t require any other skills besides running the cnc is not much woodworking.

I think that when your building a woodworking project, ok lets say a dresser, where you built everything by hand. Dovetail corners, dovetailed drawers mortised legs so on and so on. Then used the cnc to make an inlay on the front of the drawers. Would you say that making the dresser wasn t woodworking? The cnc was just another tool that was used in the fabrication.
I m not trying to change your mind. To me is still lessons the “craftsmanship value” of the piece but I think it s still woodworking.

- jbay

jbay I am so disappointed that my plaque/ashtray did not please you :(

I was trying to portray you as I think that you look like

-- Desert_Woodworker

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oldnovice

6297 posts in 3146 days


#13 posted 05-06-2017 06:14 AM

A CNC is a tool just like any other shop tool and what you do with it is still woodworking and/or metalworking.

This question, like so many others, are similar!
  • Is the photographer using digital camera still a photographer?
  • The artist that uses digital media for the artwork still an artist?
  • Is blacksmith still a blacksmith if he uses power hammers?
  • .... and so forth.

Technology changes things!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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MrUnix

5795 posts in 1977 days


#14 posted 05-06-2017 06:21 AM

Before you answer if CNC is woodworking, you have to define woodworking. Not everyone has the same definition.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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Rick_M

10245 posts in 2158 days


#15 posted 05-06-2017 06:51 AM



Is being in the pool with water-wings swimming? But yeah, I get what you re saying.

- RichTaylor

So you think CNC machines are the children’s version of woodworking?

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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