Recent comments

Re: MIT Students and Professor Invent Handheld CNC Router System

Lots of technology, and intellectually interesting, however, with all the time and costs its still a handheld tool trying to do machinist quality work.

While some complain about the cost, like every woodworker does, a CNC machine can do everything this guys invention can and does not have to be expensive, relative to the capabilities.

I have designed and built two CNC machines. The first one cost about $1,500 and was built over two years. Has a 20"x20"x4" envelope. And did I ever learn a lot about CAD, CAM, and all things CNC: mechanics, electronics, stepper motors, rack and pinion mechanisms.

The part I did not learn from building the first one was just because you built a small one that building a much larger one not will be easy! Which is why I built the next CNC machine with an envelope of 5-feet by 7-feet by 12-inches. I have about $5,000 invested in a throughly competent machine that can cut, route 2D and 3D and does great dovetails, plus will soon have a lathe built on one side. Plus the arthritis in my hands does not cripple me for days at a time.

Which brings me to the point: If its accuracy, repeatability and speed one wants, why bother with handheld tools?

And yes, there will be other applications of the demonstrated technology.

PS. For those of you that are going to rant about using CNC not being "real woodworking": 1. I enjoy designing and making articles in wood with numerous curves. Making the patterns and jigs to do this with handheld tools was ridiculously time consuming and inefficient. 2. My favorite tool in the whole shop is my Lie-Neilson low angle block plane!!

Re: A Leg With Curves


You have contributed a lot to many woodworker's abilities to realize their dreams. Drawing clearly and cleanly is not always easy, as with the curves in this blog posting.

The Follow-Me Tool is powerful, though tricky, and your demonstration in this posting makes clear what other postings in the many other very good general web sites and blogs flash over. You ability to articulate verbally what a viewer sees on the screen is where you shine. Your cadence is excellent for those of us who do not listen at 1000 words per minute. [Many of us do not listen any faster than we talk!]

I have used SU since version 5, and, for what ever reasons, efficient and creative use of the Follow-Me Tool has been elusive. After watching this posting a few times and emulating your actions and directions, I finally got it.

Many Thanks.

Re: A Decorative Carved Fan in SketchUp

It is not evident how you were able to get the arced part of the design to rotate around the straight line; specifically, How does the straight portion nearest the origin stay fixed to the origin so the taper remains? When I rotate mine the rotated copy rotates around only the end of the straight line furthest away from the origin, thereby making a cylinder rather than the tapered shape.

Your tutorials are intriguing, however, you leave out explanations of too many steps that are neither obvious, or well known. If there were explanations for each step, that is disaggregated the process more, these would be stellar.

I did find a work around for the above difficulty, however it was based on geometric thinking and the fact. I have been suing SketchUp for several years, as well as Alibere.

Re: The Price is Right - Or is it?

For the detractors:

Mr. Bois insights and advice are generalized intellectual constructs. They need to be taken and applied to the facts and circumstances of a specific situation. They are aggregated abstractions of a wide variety of experiences. Hence these need to be analyzed and then applied relative to one's own needs, desire and capabilities.

Before denigrating a person's contribution, insure you comprehend the knowledge the contributor is providing.

It does appear that when a contribution is abstract and simultaneous, rather than concrete and linear, the invective is more apt to appear. If only these detractors would take the Mark Twain approach to commenting: Better to keep your mouth shut and appear like a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

Re: CNC is Knocking on Your Shop Door. Will You Answer?

Blue_Enamel wrote of CNC machines: Clunky designs, poor materials, no regard for grain matching, crappy finishes, etc. It is hard for a small custom shop to justify the cost for a custom piece when there is so much 2nd rate, mass produced, work out there.

Like many others in this discussion, he has lumped into one thought a number of issues:

1. "Clunky designs" Two responses: A: A CNC machine does not design, and B: There are many clunky designs done by hand.

2. "[P]oor materials" First, CNC machine do not pick the materials, a person does, and, second, there are numerous handmade items made of poor materials.

3. "[N]o regard for grain matching" Again, grain matching is not done by a CNC machine, the person making the piece makes that choice. And, as before, the are numerous handmade items made with poor grain matching.

4. "[C]rappy finishes" While there are CNC machines that do apply finishes, automobiles are an example, and there are some in the woodworking industry, again, as has been pointed out, there is a lot of handmade pieces out there with less than stellar finish.

5. "2nd rate, mass produced" And then again, there is a lot of 2d rate hand produced work out there.

Blue_Enamel is like many others who have commented negatively who fail to see that there a number of processes in the design, material choice, material machining, assembly, finishing and marketing of any consumer good, of which high-end furniture is just one very small part.

A CNC machine, of whatever variety, generally a 3-axis router, is nothing more that a method of controlling a power tool that has chisels on a wheel or a rod. And this being so, it does no more nor less than the design input tells it to, just like a worker in a shop. A person using a CNC router can produce the same design done with hand tools and/or power tools, though more efficiently and consistently.

One item I produce is a medium-sized keepsake box I designed years ago on the back of a napkin. to do so takes seven different jigs that are used on three different power tools; table saw, router table and drill press. Those operations take about 2 hours. On my small CNC router that I designed and built, it takes about 20-minutes to machine the flat portions, and the grain matches much better since it is cut out of one piece with a minimum of waste. I still have to cut the legs and then put them in a jig to cut the taper on two sides. I still have to use the biscuit joiner to cut the slots to join the legs and sides. I still have to cut the bottom of the box, and glue on the leather and trim the leather and fit the finished bottom into the sides. I still have to sand and fit, and glue and clamp, finish, and wax and buff.

It is these last operations that give the box its look and feel, and these operations are responsible for the fit and finish.

And it would be hard for anyone to tell the difference between the product of years ago from that made last week.

In addition, since someone brought up consumers: Consumers today, generally women for my variety of boxes, do not want funky or any kind of marks on what they buy. It has to be perfect. And they do not want to be bothered with education, they just want an item they can look at and be pleased with, and brag about it in their homes. This is known as "ego gratification".

Many in this discussion who have found fault with the presence of a CNC machine in the shop seem to aggregate a number of issues together under this topic, much like Blue Enamel. What they have written indicates they seem not to have the capability or desire to rationally and reasonably disaggregate the various issues, assemble information in order to make an informed decision on each issue, and then address them each in an intelligent manner.

Odd though, these individuals seem to have electricity.

Re: CNC is Knocking on Your Shop Door. Will You Answer?

For 1oldsarge.

4 Axis Tutorial - Machinining a gunstock


Re: CNC is Knocking on Your Shop Door. Will You Answer?

These two YouTube videos will give a good overview of CNC routing.



The software being used is VCarve Pro [ http://www.vectric.com/WebSite/Vectric/vcp/vcp_index.htm ]

It is a very versatile and provides CAD and CAM in one package.

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated in any fashion with the two companies who's videos and web pages appear above.

Re: CNC is Knocking on Your Shop Door. Will You Answer?

There are many aspects to a CNC router that are not evident: First is that there is both the machine and the electronics that run it [see: cnczone.com], and second is the software needed, three types to be exact.

First is computer aided design [CAD] software. The one most regularly seen on this site if Google SketchUp. Easy to learn, fun to use, at least initially, and lots of resources to help with learning and use, at a wide variety of levels. And its free. The additional skill needed to use SketchUp in a CNC setting is how to export in the DXF format. And, its simple; just read the instruction in the online help.

Second is the software that converts a DXF file from the CAD software to G-code, which is the language of a CNC router. G-code is nothing more that distance and direction instructions in three planes: X, Y and Z. There are several of these converters, but one that should appeal to woodworkers is D2nc [http://www.d2nc.com/], as the inventor created a Shape Description Language that is very visual and intuitive. D2nc will also converts DXF files into G-code.

Third is the controller software that takes the G-code and changes it into electrical impulses which are fed to the stepper motors that control the three axes on a typical CNC router: X, Y and Z. The most used controller software for the hobbyist, and for many, many business of all sizes, is MACH3 [http://www.machsupport.com/].

I love and adore my Lie-Nielson block plane and scrub plane, and all the Stanley planes I have rehabilitated, my chisels [Where did these all comes from??!!], various hammers [Yes, I do need 10 different hammers!], bow saws, hand saws [both push and pull varieties], the various squares and other measuring devices, my table saws, routers, bandsaw, planer, jointers, drills, drill presses, miter saw [both power and hand], mortiser, various dovetail and mortise-and-tenon devices, various air powered staplers [framing to brad] [OK, OK, I am just a tool junkie .. I admit it!!], and the small [20"x20"] 3-axis CNC router I built [Both the hardware and the electronics.]. And I have designed, and will be starting to build after Labor Day, a 4-foot by 6-foot 4-axis CNC router [the 4th-axis is a rotary axis; i.e.: a lathe]. The hardware [the frame is extruded aluminum; rack-and-pinion drive], and the electronics will cost about $2,800, and I expect it to take about 50-hours to build.

Was the small CNC router easy to build? NO!! Was it easy to learn the various types of software, and how they interact? NO!!! Has it been easy to effectively use all this technology? NO!!! Has it been intellectually gratifying? Mostly. Am I excited about what I can do with this small machine and the new larger 4-axis machine? I am absolutely ecstatic and in awe of the possibilities!! The future is so bright I gotta wear shades!!!

Here is why. Mind-to-Disk-to-Project. I can take the most complex design that my mind can come up with [What goes on inside my brain pan is scary!!], then take the time to plan it out, piece by piece, with CAD software, see it all fit together, change this, change that, then take those various pieces, run them them though the G-code generation program, then send them off to the controller, and then watch, with great joy, while what was in my mind be reified [Verb: Make something abstract concrete or real.] right before my eyes!!! And all without all kinds of jigs and fixtures, and the accompanying mistakes and frustrations, because these were all addressed in the design phase, and most specifically, with the use of CAD software. It may be virtual reality, but even in this environment, mistakes are still mistakes.

What many woodworkers do not seem to comprehend and/or accept is that woodworking is not just about tools and wood. First has to be the design phase, which incorporates massive amounts of creativity, along with design principles, and a significant amount of art and mathematics before even going into the shop. All kinds of energy and knowledge focused on creating. before one tool is touched.

And it is this design phase that separates the creations of the wood artist from the mass produced consumer goods created in a highly automated factory setting.

The CNC router, and all the software needed make it function, require from its user a significant intellectual commitment, long hours of learning, and being alone [though not lonely] in one's mind. However, the rewards are vast and limitless.


I have absolutely no training or education in engineering of any kind My undergraduate education is in accounting, finance, economics and mathematics, and a graduate education in tax accounting, and a graduate education in the philosophy of history. And about 40-years experience in two different consulting fields. I am 62, and married [only once!!]. I built and rehabilitated houses, these endeavors to help pay for college and graduate school. If I can comprehend all the mechanics, electronics, and software to actuate CNC in woodworking, anybody can.

Re: Play Against the Grain: The Wrong Way to Rip

Rob's a lucky guy!!

I wear a forester's head guard with an integrated ear protectors, though replaced the mesh face guard with a plastic face guard.

Keeps flying dust, as well as larger pieces out of my face and eyes. My glasses are shatter-proof.

I custom made a shop apron, it has a baseball catcher's protective vest under it. I am 6-3, so kick-back REALLY hurts! Only happened once; that was enough. I think the ribbing I took was more painful though.

As much as the whack in the head from the board hurt Rob, I bet the one from his wife hurt even worse!!

Re: Play Fine Woodworking's Game: Against the Grain

A 7th danger is the miter gauge. A sled is much safer and will make for much more accurate cuts.

Make a sled for 90-degree cuts, 45-degree cuts, and any special angles that are used regularly. A small sled to complete special cuts can be made of cut-offs in less than an hour, and it will save hours of frustration.

Overall though, again Fine Woodworking comes though with a great service to its readers, in fact all woodworkers [and tool manufacturers], once again.

Re: Homemade Horizontal Router Table

This machine looks a lot like Matthias Wandel's:


Re: Are CNC machines ready for Fine Woodworking?

Ultimately though, it is how best to realize one's vision.

Re: Are CNC machines ready for Fine Woodworking?

Designing comes before working wood, hence the predecessor of woodworking is an intellectual activity. So, does it really matter what the process is to realize the design?

The design process for a good piece of furniture is more difficult than many realize. The proportions do not just drop from the air. Like many today, my designing is software based [three different programs], though initially all my designs are a few scribbles on whatever piece of paper is handy.

Besides the 4-axis CNC machine I have, which I built, I have planes, chisels, squares, and saws galore. I love my Lie-Neilson block plane. Two tables saw, three router tables, jointer, planer, mortiser, jigs from Leigh and Trend.

A CNC oriented product requires one to disaggregate all the steps from design start to product finish. Think step-by-step about the simple task of picking up a piece of wood to cut it on a table saw.

With CNC, there is the design program, the design to G-code processor, and the servo controller controller program. And Lets not forget about feed rates, and fixturing.

Of course, Mach3 was a real treat to learn. I had hair when I started.

And, having used hand tools and power tools has meant that using CNC to realize projects has been easier. Tearout is tearout whether it is done with a no. 4 plane or a CNC router bit. There is still a right way and a wrong way to machine wood and there is nothing like a plane to teach.

Ultimately though, it is how beat to realize one's vision.

Re: Like jigs? Like box joints? You're gonna love this...

Its is a absolute joy to have followed Matthias' inventive mind for the past decade. This is a manual adaptation of a box joint jig he made with a circuit board, a stepper motor, and an IBM notebook computer.

Re: SketchUp 7 Released

Would you please publish downloadable items in SU 6?

Google will not allow those of us using anything less than Windows XP to download SU7, for no discernible reason.

We have Windows 2000 on our work station, and have several programs that are not compatible with anything else and are no longer available. As well, there are custom written drivers that are not compatible with anything but Windows 2000. We tried upgrading in the past and it was ugly. After several expensive and time-consuming disappointments, we no longer participate in the over-costly problem-ridden upgrade merry-go-round as the touted, both by the software and hardware companies and by the chattering class, "improvements" that are anything but.

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