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Thread: Is CNC cheating?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Willis Wharf, VA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2019


    I don't care what one is into there are always those "purists" that will say using technology is cheating. I came from an RC aircraft hobby where we had single channel radios and have advanced to multichannel computer radios and even today we have autonomous "drones" that fly themselves. Hey, whatever jerks your chain. If you enjoy cutting and shaping wood with hand be it and more power to ya.
    I personally like ready made clothing rather than a loincloth made from an animal I had to kill.....
    I would add that there should be distinctions made when judging ones work at shows or other events. IMHO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Piedmont, SD


    I agree with you, Bill. As I recently stepped away from the 'bot, having sent it on it's mission to turn a 4x8 sheet of plywood into parts for cabinets, I paused and thought; how did I/ would I survive without this robotic servant, making EXACTLY what I needed within a few thousandths of an inch accuracy? The thrill of making a perfectly square panel by hand or even the table saw is quickly replaced by a feeling of tedium and even panic, as deadlines must be met. Bills must be paid.

    We all know these machines are becoming an implied necessity for anyone in the wood fabrication trade now. ( As with anything, there are a few exceptions - very, very few.)
    Lately, I get the impression that my humble 'bot will soon be obsolete, and I'll need to invest in an even more advanced (bigger, faster, etc.) machine just to keep up with expectations of clientele.

    I still call the things I make handmade. Because the final shape, form, fit and finish still relies on a sole individual to complete with focus and attention on the end result. On average, only 10 - 15% of time spent completing a project are on the CNC. The rest is up to me and my hands. If the large scale industries are allowed to label a product "American Made", even though 30-40% came from overseas, then I certainly feel comfortable calling my products handmade.

    So - perhaps the definition of the word "handmade" needs to be revised to fit the world we live in now, just like the declaration "made in america".

    First person who says you're cheating using a CNC will be the last one to pony up for 100% pure handmade. Of that, you can be certain.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Garland Tx


    The conversation goes like this…

    Q Wow! How long did it take to carve the seal of the state of Texas on that box?

    A Well… An old rancher gave me the Pecan tree that was blown over in a storm. Two friends and I spent 3 days with chainsaws and tractors getting the bole (trunk) out of a field and on a trailer to take to a sawmill. After the sawmill cut the tree tree into slabs, the lumber was kiln dried in a state of the art, digitally controlled kiln to 6%-8% moisture content. This process took about two years before I had useable lumber in my hands. When I decided to make this box, I resawed 2” lumber on my bandsaw into ½” thick pieces, these thinner boards were left for several months to acclimate to their new size and shop conditions. Before cutting the boards into box parts, I surfaced them to their finish thickness with my surface planer. I love how box joints look; I could have cut them with a jig on my table saw but decided to cut them with my CNC router. After assembly, I finished sanding them with a belt sander and an orbital sander. I put the finish lacquer on with an airless spray rig. At this point the boxes are one piece… I cut the lid off after the box is complete, assuring 100% box and lid alignment, also the grain pattern runs uninterrupted from lid to base. At this point I finish the interior… it may be lacquered, flocked, or lined with velvet. Hinges, hasps and other decorative brasses are applied after all lacquering is done. I cut the lid decoration with a V-bit on my CNC router from vectors I’ve fine tuned for this application. After cutting the design, I seal the cut surfaces and spray them black, wipe the surface clean and refinish the top if necessary… So, all told, it took about 3 years to make this box…

    Q OH, I was wanting a handmade box…

    Attached Images Attached Images

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Austin, TX


    The "That's not real woodworking folks" always get me. If it were possible I would love to stand them between Thomas Chippendale and a cnc and watch the collision. They seem to ascribe ethical or moral values to skill sets — and odd how it works out but the skill set they have is always at the top of the heap. As I have gotten older I have tried to transition my self image from a woodworker to a furniture designer and care less by the day about technique. The skillset for cnc design and work is every bit as challenging as hand tool work.

    I have never even understood what handmade means.

    I also chuckle at the purists with their Lie Nelson and Veritas planes (of which I have a couple) working in the "old traditions." It seems alright to them to use hand tools made with the latest cnc metalworking tools and the latest advances in metallurgy but once they get them it's all hands.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kennebunkport, Maine


    Just to add to what Ron said...look at Ted's last comment;

    Hmm....wonder if my beaver dam is "Hand Made"......sure does better than the town's last road repair as far as holding up
    Desktop is my favorite tool in the shop...and all I have to do is look in garage at all the templates we built for the realize I was "Cheating".

    By the time most of my projects are done...machine time is around 25% if that.
    Scott P.
    2013 Desktop/spindle/VCP 10

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    New Mexico


    My standard reply to all those purist handmade guys: "Do you have electricity in your shop?"
    They usually back down.
    Our most important shop tool is the pencil sharpener!

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