woodworking and technology

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Blog entry by Hisingwooddesign posted 06-25-2010 10:11 PM 2003 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Check out the impact that technology has had on woodworking… good or bad? Dose technology have a positive affect on the future of woodworking or will it take over? with all the current advances in tools and computers coming together to improve our lives and make the process easy. how far will technology go in the craft of woodworking….

Check this out to see for yourself

13 comments so far

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3520 days

#1 posted 06-25-2010 10:29 PM

I do most of my woodworking with CNC. It is worlds away from just pushing a button and spitting out a part. I have learned that the amount of training and precision required is the same as other methods.. just different. And with wood being as temperamental and unique as it is, you still have to have the understanding and appreciation of it if you want anything good to come out of the machines.

And with all of the trouble I’ve gone through trying to make joints and mitres with it, I can tell you that it’s about the same as other methods… same amount of fussing around to figure it out and then it goes quickly from there.

I do not feel that I am not really doing woodworking, and I don’t feel I’m taking that much, if anything, away from woodworking.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View stefang's profile


16803 posts in 3869 days

#2 posted 06-26-2010 12:30 AM

Lis kind of opened my eyes a little with her slightly different perspective. I realized immediately that she was right that the same principals apply regardless of the tool, which is, that skill and a knowledge of wood is still necessary to get a good result.

I won’t be getting into CNC routing myself, but it is certainly as legitimate a tool as any other and I now have more respect for those who use them thanks to Lis. I have seen both good and bad work from them, which just validates what Lis is saying.

It’s easy to form prejudices based on the way you yourself like to work, but of course the right way is the way each person prefers to do it. If we have to judge someone’s work it should be the result and not how they got it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Edward83's profile


161 posts in 3431 days

#3 posted 06-26-2010 03:35 AM

I do agree that there is a limit to the roles we should let technology play, for me woodworking is more than the end result, it is the journey. I try to choose each piece for a specific purpose and try to learn from everything I do. As we used to joke around in high school woodshop by saying “make love to the wood and make something beautiful” Yes this is a corny joke from some teenage boys but I think the signifigance of this silly statement still holds true for me. I think the creative process should be an intimate one whether you are using a CNC machine or chiseling by hand. It is when technology makes that love for woodworking something menial or tedious or just a paycheck that it has gone too far, for some it will be differant than others. But truley when you can load a full tree into a machine, press a single button and out pops a dinning room set, then technology has gone too far.

-- Praise God in all things, especially the bad things because they make the best learning experiences.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3643 days

#4 posted 06-26-2010 04:32 AM

I echo Mike’s sentiments that Lis makes some strong points about the work she performs on the CNC machine. Awhile back, someone posted a person from a third world country who performed his lathing using his foot to help hold the chisel while his hands turned the lathe. Individuals using such equipment might say that the motor powered lathe is too technical and takes much of the skill out of the trade. I have read numerous reviews on the smaller CNC machines that are made for the hobbyist. If you listen to the reviews, you will note that those schooled on woodworking principles (wood jointing and planing, prepping the wood before machining, measuring and planning the project dimensions) are delighted while those that were expecting a one button approach are usually disappointed.

We are in the 21st century and hand tools are still marketed, sold, valued, and used. If nothing else, such machines might give small business owners who strive for quality a chance to compete with larger scale chipboard furniture makers. If small business woodworkers could not use machines, their products would never be able to compete with the low end furniture makers. But with the CNC and other time saving products coming down in price to a level that is more affordable, quality products from a small businesses, at a reasonable price might be possible.

Thanks for posting,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Ger21's profile


1087 posts in 3665 days

#5 posted 06-26-2010 05:55 AM

CNC is a tool, just like a table saw or a router table. Using a CNC router to cut wood takes every bit as much knowledge (probably more) as using other tools. CNC can greatly speed up some processes. But there are other cases where they are the wrong tool for the job, and can actually take longer than other methods, and not do as good a job.

There’s no such thing as push a button and your doing woodworking. There’s plenty of skill and knowledge involved before you get to the point of pressing that button. A lot of times that work is done by a skilled woodworker, and the person pushing the button is nothing more than a button pusher. Not entirely different than someone building jigs in a production shop, and handing them to a lower payed employee to actually do the work.

CNC woodworking has been a major part of my job for the last 12 or so years. To be really good at it, a very solid woodworking foundation is mandatory. A lot of shops getting into CNC tend to hire operators and programmers with good computer skills, but little woodworking experience. These people tend to be severely limited in what they can do with CNC. You need to know which direction you can route without blowing big chunks of wood out and destroying expensive pieces of wood. At the other end of the spectrum are woodworkers with little computer experience. They might know what they want to do, but lack the computer knowledge to make the machine do what they want.

CNC isn’t going away, and will only become more common, especially with the availability of inexpensive home shop machines. Treat it like any other tool. Learn how to use it, when to use it, and how to get the most out of it.

Good CNC woodworking skills in conjunction with good software skills can also open the door to many job opportunities. The biggest hurdle is finding a way to learn the big money cabinet software typically used to run the big machines.

Bottom line, though, is it’s a tool. I have a CNC in my garage. I use it quite often. It’s latest use is making parts for a standard router table. I need the router table to make parts that aren’t practical to make on the CNC. It’s just a tool. treat it like one.

-- Gerry,

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3576 days

#6 posted 06-26-2010 07:04 AM

You can ask the same question about all the trades and even in the Farming world. It’s been asked for many decades. There are those who prefer the $2000 custom table and those who prefer the $200 off the floor model. Lets say you are a small shop and there is very little competition in your little world for what you produce. You make this beautiful widget everyone wants. You have 5 yahoos working for you. You get orders for 5000 of those widgets, they need to ship in the next month. Well you can only produce 500 in a month. What are you going to do, to meet the demand. Hire more people, cancel the orders, or buy that nifty machine that will get you to that 5000 widgets you need for minimal cost. As Wood workers we are certainly not into mass production, luckily there is still a large need for custom work. As well this economy we are in seems to be getting more into DIY projects.. I do love my power tools they make up for my inabilities, but I am certainly trying to learn more of the hand tools. I can’t call my work hand crafted/made until I actually make it with all hand tools, well at least in my mind. So for now I make custom work. I will never be satisfied until I can make a table purely with hand tools. So my point is if everything is done by a machine than it is no longer woodworking and no longer a craft.

So I have no idea if i made any point here except in my own world, sorry if wasted your time.

View Richard's profile


11307 posts in 3567 days

#7 posted 06-27-2010 05:40 AM

wseand: “So my point is if everything is done by a machine than it is no longer woodworking and no longer a craft.” I Agree!

I’ve seen Intarsia Completely done by CNC and Lazer cutting with Minimal Hand Work. Finished in less than 2 Days to allow for Minimal Finish Sanding and Drying time.

The REAL Intarsia Artists, a few on here, take (a guess on my part) 5/6 Days to complete a Project of Medium Difficulty. If you put the 2 pieces side by side you could NOT tell which one was done by the “Artist” and which one was done by a “Machine”. That does “What?” for the Art of Intarsia?

A Large Clock surround, ALL Fretwork, done by a Lazer Cutter. 15/20 Minutes. You tell me, if that same project was done by HAND, on a Scroll Saw, by a Woodworker, how long would it take.

I don’t think your point exists ONLY in your world and I don’t think you wasted anyones time.

We ALL have our opinions as to the use of the Best Automation available to do Woodworking. If your doing Mass production of the same thing, that’s one facet of Woodworking. If your Living depends on Woodworking i.e. Cabinets, etc. that’s another facet. If your Living depends on the “Artistry” of your product is another.

Then you have people like me. I’m a Hobbyist and I do whatever type of Project I feel like doing, whenever I feel like doing it. I’m not concerned about how long it takes me to do it and I ENJOY doing a lot of my Projects using Hand Tools Only.

I really don’t think there is any ONE Opinion above, or Mine, that is Completely RIGHT or Completely WRONG. I think it almost gets down to “The Purpose or Reason” of How and Why we ALL do what we do in the Practice of “Woodworking”.

We can also, in a Civil way …”Agree To Disagree” Or! Using one of my Favourite Words …. “Co-Exist” and Enjoy LJ’s for the VARIETY of Opinions & Projects that are always present here.


-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View Ger21's profile


1087 posts in 3665 days

#8 posted 06-27-2010 06:41 AM

I can see doing a production run of intarsia being much faster by machine. However, for a one off, starting from scratch, I don’t think CNC would be much faster at all. I know someone who sold intarsia, and wanted to use CNC to make his products faster. He spent almost two years just to get the CNC to be as fast as handmade.

And I’m not sure how the “artistry” is any different if you do your design on a computer and send it to a laser, vs draw it by hand and use a scroll saw?

-- Gerry,

View Richard's profile


11307 posts in 3567 days

#9 posted 06-27-2010 08:05 AM

Ger21: A: I wasn’t reffering to a “One Off” for the Intarsia. Although if you had your CNC set up to do Intarsia, I don’t see Different Patterns being all that hard to Adjust for, and it WOULD be a LOT faster than doing it by hand. If it’s not, what is the purpose of even having one???

B: If this “someone you know” spent 2 YEARS TRYING to set up the CNC to be as fast as Handmade, PERHAPS (to be polite) he lost the Instruction Manual as to how to set it up. It shouldn’t take 2 YEARS to set up a CNC for ANYTHING!!

I’m aware that you built your own CNC that you started many years ago and finished last year. I think that you also said there have been many improvements made in the “Hobby” class CNC’s since then.

I also have a Friend that has one of the newer models. it does a few different things. It takes all of 2 or 3 HOURS MAX to re-set it. Intarsia is one of the items it will Churn out, along with Signs 3D or not, Etchings, Hand Carving Reproductions, etc. etc.

C: If you don’t understand the “Artistry” difference between …Computer/Laser and …Hand Drawing/Scroll Saw and I assume that would also include Computer/CNC/Intarsia …...Patterns/Hand Cutting/Intarsia ….well …..I can’t think of any way to explain that to you, other than what is obvious to me, your Personal inclination towards Automation and what this Post is all about.

If you feel there is NO Difference, excuse me “not sure…how it is any different”, all I can say is, as I did above. We are ALL entitled to our opinions for Various reasons.

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3576 days

#10 posted 06-27-2010 08:06 AM

I need to touch, smell, shape the wood to what I want it to look like. I couldn’t type some numbers in computer and throw it on a machine and call it woodworking, maybe designing. If I am building a table and I want a design on the apron, since I can’t carve with a crap right now I might turn to a CNC machine. To make up for my inadequacies with hand tools I must use machines to do my work. Is a table saw different than a hand saw most definitely yes. Am I going to pay more for a piece of furniture made by hand or one made by a machine, Yes. And Sorry if some one came up to me and said I carved this by hand or I let a machine carve this for me I would certainly be impressed by the hand carving and less than impressed by the machined. Take for instance, I need some Rosettes for some furniture I am making. I could go buy one, I could buy a bit that cuts one, or I could make one somehow, which one would be more impressive?

View terrilynne's profile


836 posts in 3428 days

#11 posted 06-27-2010 02:48 PM

Doing Intarsia by hand is what makes each piece special. Like the Mona Lisa there are plenty of prints, but only one that is truly special. The original hand painted piece. There are people that appreciate a good work of art or a fine piece of furniture and those who don’t. There is a place for both in this world.

-- Terri, Rocky Mountain High Colorado!

View Ger21's profile


1087 posts in 3665 days

#12 posted 06-27-2010 05:21 PM


A. Have you ever programmed a CNC? If not, then how do you know? There are a lot of things that a CNC is not faster at. And there are a lot of things that it is faster at. Again, it’s just a tool. Use the right one for the job.

B. Is he cutting the parts and doing the carving on them with the CNC, or just cutting them? I can set up a machine to cut the parts out in a few minutes. It’s the shaping of the parts using CNC that is not easy. If your friend is doing this, I’d be interested in knowing what software he’s using. I know of one software package that would quickly give you a rough rounded top shape, but it’s about $2K and wouldn’t give you the hand made look without spending several hours with it, unless your really good with the software.

I didn’t say it took two years to set it up. It was more of a search for software that made the process cost effective. Sorry, I should have been more clear.

And for what it’s worth, my day job is programming $100K CNC routers, for the last 12 years. And I’m pretty good at it. :-)

C. So basically you’re saying anyone who creates digital art on a computer is not an artist.

-- Gerry,

View Richard's profile


11307 posts in 3567 days

#13 posted 06-27-2010 11:54 PM


This Horse has been Flogged to Death. You’re a CNC Person. I’m not. Been a Blast!

I’m off this post.

Cheers: Rick

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

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