I use the same set up to cut my dovetails. Not cheating at all.
I do consider the use of CNC machinery to be cheating.
I've been into furniture making since elementary school. I started out self taught, but now have a formal education in industrial woodworking and fine furniture making. I have experience in both production environments and custom shops. I have a fully equipped workshop on my property and am ready to go. Where my strengths are lacking, I have a assistance from friends and family - i.e. the business end. I plan to work along side them and learn along the way as I believe it is important to learn this side of the business as well. Other then a mortgage I have zero personal debt, and zero business debt.
I feel like I am in a good position, but I'm stuck right now. I have precious little time to dedicate to projects. The last piece I built was done sporadically over a 6 months period. Obviously I'm not going to get anywhere that this rate. I barely have time to build, let alone market or advertise. It seems part time furniture making is a full time job. I put every productive minute I have into it, but is nowhere near enough. The only realistic way I can see this working is to cut back hours at work, however I cannot afford to do that.
I'm curious to know how others managed to get off the ground without burning out. I am wide open to suggestions and advice.
I completely agree that CNC will open up a lot of doors for those that lacked the skill to do the work any other way; and will push furniture design to new levels. There are a lot of woodworkers out there with a lot of vision, but little ability. It also makes it possible to earn a lot more money.
Craftsmen are in danger. As CNC advances there will be less need for anyone to develop their skills. A furniture maker that utilizes CNC is not a Craftsman by any stretch; he is a designer/CNC operator. He designs it, programs it, the CNC cuts it and he assembles it.
If money is priority then CNC is the way to go. But for the small few that are in it for personal satisfaction and pride, that are in it for the journey, then CNC is not so good.
I don't get to keep the pieces I make, so my enjoyment and satisfaction come from the journey and CNC takes that away.
I think Craftsman are an endangered species. Soon fine furniture will be done completely by computer jockeys using CNC. There will be little to no skill required, no true craftsmanship.
I have already witnessed it first hand. A friend with next to no woodworking ability built a chest of drawers using CNC. Granted it was designed around the capability of the machines used, but that will change as technology advances. All he had was the knowledge of CNC programs/equipment and some theory behind furniture making.
My dog can chew better dovetails then he can cut by hand. Stick him in my shop and he's lost; he would not even qualify as a hobbyist and he's the first to admit it.
CNC will earn you money if that is all you are after. But personally, I need more then that. I could not take pride in a piece built with CNC, nor could I honestly sign my name on it. It would be like a craftsman signing his name on a piece built by someone else.
I am all about the heart, hand and eye approach. Having used CNC machinery for several years in industry, I can honestly say that there is little woodworking knowledge required when compared to a true craftsman, and next to no actual woodworking skill needed. Most of the knowledge needed is computer related – AutoCAD, Inventor, Mastercam, Solid Works, SketchUp.
I am not a purist. I use the best tool for the job, but to a point. In my opinion CNC not only takes the skill out of furniture making, but also the heart and soul. I take far more pride in the furniture I make using my band saw and lathe then using CNC.
I have been dreading it for a while now, when CNC will become affordable to the small custom makers. I think very few will be able to resist the temptation to change over to CNC. It does offer the opportunity to produce faster and make more money. As Technology advances CNC machinery will become more affordable, and also capable of doing a lot more. Is fine woodworking ready for it? Is there room for it? There had better be, because unfortunately, it is the future of Fine Woodworking.
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