Is it Art? Or bland tasteless CNC carving?

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Forum topic by Underdog posted 02-20-2013 10:59 PM 9008 views 0 times favorited 116 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1095 posts in 2034 days

02-20-2013 10:59 PM

After seeing some comments here about CNC carving, I just couldn’t help myself and had to ask this question:

Is this door art, or bland tasteless CNC carving? It took me a couple of weeks to design, tweak, apply toolpaths, run trials, then re-design, tweak some more, and finally output and wait 6 hours while this carved out. Then it had to be assembled, sanded and finished.
Now you can ask me for some of these doors for accent pieces, and I custom fit them to your project.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

116 replies so far

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1095 posts in 2034 days

#1 posted 02-20-2013 11:00 PM

The door is solid Cherry, with several coats of sealer, glaze and lacquer. It’s 16” x 21”.

The geometric design was inspired by a door I saw in Wayne Bartons’ book on chipcarving, but the rest of the design is entirely mine. All the other elements of this door were created by me, from scratch in ArtCAM pro, and then carved out on a KOMO CNC router.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3284 days

#2 posted 02-20-2013 11:19 PM


I don’t care what anyone else thinks about your door or how it was done, all I can say is it’s gorgeous and I can see there was a lot of talent involved creating it.

Thanks for sharing!

-- John @

View DS's profile


2917 posts in 2419 days

#3 posted 02-20-2013 11:25 PM

It is not the tool, but rather, the vision, with which art is made.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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228 posts in 2247 days

#4 posted 02-20-2013 11:31 PM

Very nice. I like the your design. I can’t wait to here the responses on this from those that have dovetail jigs, incra fences, router lifts, mortis and tenon machines, and the list goes on. I look at the cnc router as another woodworking tool but I am kind of biased (wink wink!).

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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2968 days

#5 posted 02-20-2013 11:34 PM

Narrow minded and foolish is how I would describe anyone who says CNC doesn’t have a place in woodworking. That door is really quite extraordinary. Those who expect that kind of work to be hand carved by a bespectacled, apron wearing artisan probably wouldn’t want to have to pay for it. We live in a mass production society. Everyone’s got more because mass production means they can afford more. It’s no different to the cars we drive being assembled by robots.
And anyone who chimes in with ‘but it took six hours and all the time to programme it’ should be thinking of the time savings on the hundredth panel or thousandth panel.

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10394 posts in 3646 days

#6 posted 02-20-2013 11:34 PM

You know, copy carving machines have been around for
probably 100 years and a lot of 20th century production
carving on furniture was done on these machines –
Ethan Allen lines and so forth. People seen to like it
and not mind or even be aware of how it was done
with a machine.

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Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3981 days

#7 posted 02-20-2013 11:35 PM

I indeed think it is art and cnc is just another paint brush.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

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1006 posts in 1951 days

#8 posted 02-20-2013 11:47 PM

Beautiful work!

I am curious about how you finish the piece after the CNC routing. That has to have a major impact on the final result and figures into the “art” aspect of the project. The subtle changes in shading in the background and on the features of the acorns and leaves can’t result from flooding the piece with finish. If you were to give the piece fresh from the CNC machine to ten WJs you would get ten different results. How do you treat you projects?

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2834 days

#9 posted 02-20-2013 11:49 PM

No, machine produced so it can’t be art, now if only I could afford one of these non-art producing machines I could make some really sweet looking non-art myself.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2071 days

#10 posted 02-20-2013 11:49 PM

+5 to Lorens response. So the original is done in a computer, takes the same vision, and the idea that carvings haven’t been mass reproduced for ages should soften anyone’s feelings about cnc…

-- Who is John Galt?

View Underdog's profile


1095 posts in 2034 days

#11 posted 02-20-2013 11:56 PM

Thanks for all the positive responses. I do believe it makes my point with no further explanation..

But never let it be said I didn’t beat a dead horse to death.

I was talking to my wife about this a while ago, and she and I agree that it’s the mind behind the work that makes it art or not. She said she’s seen pieces carved by hand that weren’t art, and I agree. I’ve seen work done by machine that was beautiful and work done by hand that was awful and vice versa.

I’m obviously of the opinion that a CNC router is just another tool in the hand of the craftsman or artist.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

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1095 posts in 2034 days

#12 posted 02-20-2013 11:58 PM


If you give me a sketch I can make your dream come to life… For a price. :-D

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

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142 posts in 2163 days

#13 posted 02-21-2013 12:07 AM

Sure its art, and it is original, but it is not unique because you can always duplicate it (even if you don’t). Like a print versus an original painting, it takes something off but that doesn’t mean it’s not art.

Now, is it good art… that is up to you and who cares what anyone else thinks.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2503 days

#14 posted 02-21-2013 12:08 AM

Not only is it craftsmanship but it’s double craftsmanship. The time you spent programming the cnc and the effort to assemble the door is indeed an art. Some of us know how to make very nice solid wood cabinet doors. Some know how to use a cnc machine. You, my friend have combined the two. All I can say is “Wow”.

Speaking of renners assembly line you could spend all day producing panels for others and selling them. If you can take a picture and produce what the client wants you have a business for high end carpenters.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

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Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2474 days

#15 posted 02-21-2013 12:30 AM

The question is misleading, as you are comparing two different sets of skills. CNC requires computer knowledge, doing it by hand requires carving knowledge. You spent the time at the computer, your counter part would spend it at the workbench.

So in that vein I will throw a few questions back at you, what are you, a computer wizard or a woodworker? Could you do this by hand? I believe that people who object to CNC are those who would be able to do this by hand. For a purist, doing something like this on the computer somehow misses the art of woodworking.

The problem I see is that in a way people who use CNC become defensive, as it appears (at least to me) that you are in this camp. You wrote:

It took me a couple of weeks to design, tweak, apply toolpaths, run trials, then re-design, tweak some more, and finally output and wait 6 hours while this carved out.

The two weeks for design are meaningless, as you would have spent the same amount of time regardless of how you made the piece, the same goes for re design and running trials. Tool paths and “tweaking” would be the equivalent of sharpening carving chisels, knives and rasps. 6 hours waiting for the machine to finish? Do you have any idea how long it would have taken to do this by hand? I am betting 6 hours would not have covered even 1/4 of the door.

There is a quote in the army officer’s manual “Do not let them put you in the defensive, do not explain yourself”. I think this applies very well to your door. Had you asked the question without stating it was made with a CNC, you would have gotten a million OOhhhs and Aahhhs….

Now to answer your question, is it art? I do not know, I love the carving, do not like the door as a whole. I would have used a more Asian motif, maybe the panel being held by sticks from the rails and stiles, with a soji screen at the back. But that is me, overall I think it is a tasteful piece.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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