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Re: Are CNC machines ready for Fine Woodworking?

Roy Underhill talks about the "craftmanship of risk" and the "craftmahship of certainty". Once mastered, using a CNC definitely weighs in on the side of certainty. That being said, there are many misconceptions about using CNC.

Several posters here seem to think that one just throws the work on the machine and PRESTO! instant results. If it were only that easy. Actually, it is if you are making curb furniture out of sheet goods. Anything beyond that requires considerable planning and preparation. The wood still needs to be flat. Panels still need to be glued up. Attention has to be paid to grain matching. Then there is one other thing to be overcome: Trying to make it look like it did not come off a machine. This is the same challenge faced by anyone who makes things with power tools.

There are some tremendous benefits to CNC machining. It can replace having to build jig after jig to obtain precision cuts needed to build things such as chairs. With the right software and some time spent learning it can just as easily carve a beautiful cluster of grapes in 3D on a panel, or even wrapped around a column. How many one man shops have the time to master all these skills in a lifetime to produce beautiful results?

But here is where the Fine Woodworking comes in: When the machine is done carving, one can always pick up a carving tool and do some Fine tuning to that carving. Some things are still faster to do by hand, so one should know how to use hand tools.

Over the years I have noticed that woodworkers keep looking for the "one tool wonder" of woodworking. It doesn't exist. One might as well go in search of the Holy Grail.

An example of using CNC in Fine Woodworking in my shop was a recent project for our new home. A simple bath cabinet taken from plans in a popular woodworking magazine. I built the entire cabinet conventionally, no CNC until I got to the panel in the door. Then I wanted to carve a dished area with a hummingbird feeding on flowers in 3D relief. I let the CNC machine do that. It took me about 2 hours to do the design and about 3 hours of time on my home built CNC machine. The results are fantastic, my wife just loves it. Yes, I could have cut the contoured side panels on the CNC, drilled the shelf pin holes, cut the dadoes etc. But frankly, it was just as easy to do it conventionally. Besides, I enjoy doing it that way. If I were making 20 of those cabinets I would have done it entirely on the CNC, because it would not have been much fun after the second one.

So you bet that Fine Woodworking is ready for CNC Machines, in fact, in my opinion, it is a moot point.

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