Is CNC Woodworking?

  • Advertise with us

« back to CNC Woodworking forum

Forum topic by DS posted 07-17-2017 05:04 PM 3138 views 0 times favorited 109 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DS's profile


3858 posts in 3584 days

07-17-2017 05:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cnc woodworking

Is CNC woodworking?

I hear this a lot—the great CNC debate. Is it really woodworking?

Mostly, I hear it from people who have very little understanding of what a CNC machine does, or, what you can expect it to do for you.

For many, it is the proverbial black box with its most mysterious ways.

To my experienced CNC Woodworking ear, it sounds kind of like when someone who uses only hand tools might say, “Is a Tablesaw woodworking?”

Also, when we say CNC, what machine are we actually referring to? I’ve worked in shops with as many as seven different types of machines that were all CNC. Beam Saw, Point to Point router, Nested Router, Horizontal boring and dowel insertion, Cutoff saw with an optical pusher, Lathe with a mill option and a Door Shaper – all CNC.

For me, the answer to this question is a definitive Yes, woodworking happens with a CNC.

Hopefully this can be a forum for discussion of and education about CNC Woodworking – The Pros, the Cons, perhaps, the philosophical implications for the craft that we all enjoy.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

109 replies so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5046 days

#1 posted 07-17-2017 05:06 PM

Sure, why not?


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1939 days

#2 posted 07-17-2017 05:30 PM

Its not woodworking unless you rip the tree out of the ground with your bare hands.

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

347 posts in 3626 days

#3 posted 07-17-2017 05:36 PM

I am doing come custom cabinets for my wife’s office… I have to be honest, next time I am doing the design in a program and having the pieces CNC’d.

Is it woodworking, that depends on your philosophical tilt. If you are in business to make money, CNC probably becomes a no brainer/ must do. If you are a hobbiest and you get a existential high from cutting the most intricate dovetails, probably not.

at this point I’m a CNC and HVLP guy all day, im sure there are others that disagree

View DS's profile


3858 posts in 3584 days

#4 posted 07-17-2017 05:38 PM

CNC machines have been around for decades.
The hardware of the machines hasn’t changed much since the beginning.

The real innovation has come with software. CNC woodworking used to be very inflexible. An engineer would take a month to manually write g-code and then that code was used to produce thousands of identical parts.

Today, our g-code is disposable. Use it once and forget it. The 3D design tools are incredible. The post-processing links from 3D models to g-code has enabled us to very rapidly produce custom items that were once thought to be prohibitive.

That said, there are two skills that are essential for CNC woodworking. 1) CAD/CAM design (computer skill) and 2) Woodworking skill.

In early 2000 I put together a ten person team to create designs and programs for a large custom shop. Unfortunately, the pool of people with BOTH of the necessary skills just didn’t readily exist at the time.

I hired people from both schools. I hired CAD artists and taught them woodworking and I hired woodworkers and taught them CAD/CAM. In all cases, those who knew woodworking first were more successful than those who knew nothing of woodworking but were computer geniuses.

The CAD artists were very proficient at making wonderful pictures and designs, but struggled to produce anything that could be built successfully in the shop. The woodworkers struggled with basic computer skills and abstract designs, but, their work nearly always produced something we could build and sell.

Much of woodworking cannot be taught in a classroom setting. It is learned in the shop, often with hard lessons learned from mistakes. This re-enforces to me that CNC IS woodworking.

Your thoughts?

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Desert_Woodworker's profile (online now)


7513 posts in 2378 days

#5 posted 07-17-2017 06:05 PM

DS- I have been pro CNC since 2013. I got the bug after watching Andy Pitts master woodworker on YTube
He adds a CNC to his shop. If you watch his videos; his projects seem to use all aspects of woodworking. Regardless of what others may think, it is like the Shakers early table saw, corded drill to cordless the evolution of woodworking…
Attached is a project, of mine, that is made of “maple” 5×7”, 20 hours of continuous machine time… I may add more comments as this forum develops.

In parting as I say to posts like this – thank you for promoting CNC in woodworking.

-- Desert_Woodworker

View Robert's profile


4642 posts in 2644 days

#6 posted 07-17-2017 06:10 PM

Got the popcorn popping, but I’ll chime in.

Woodworking, like any other craft, involves art & craftsmanship (skill). You can be born with an artistic ability, but craftsmanship can only be mastered through study and practice. Even the most naturally gifted musician or painter must still practice his craft.

IMHO with CNC someone with zero ww’ing skills can create perfect projects and carvings. Yes, they deserve credit for a design (if its original) but its difficult to see how they can take credit for craftsmanship.

As a carver, I am proud of the carvings I do by hand. So long as the machine gets credit OK but a carving done by hand should always demand higher praise.

That being said, I believe there is a place in the ww’ing shop for CNC. Huge time saver for tasks such as making templates.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View EricLew's profile


273 posts in 2530 days

#7 posted 07-17-2017 06:18 PM

I agree with rwe2156

I don’t have a CNC, and therefore have never used one. Yes they do incredible work, but if I ever made something on one, I would never be able to be proud of it as my own work. I didn’t make it, a computer did. People want to use them, no problem, but to me, it’s like creating a document in Word with an fancy font, then printing it out and saying, “Look how nice my handwriting is”

-- I love the smell of coffee in the morning, and sawdust in the afternoon

View DS's profile


3858 posts in 3584 days

#8 posted 07-17-2017 06:59 PM

IMHO with CNC someone with zero ww ing skills can create perfect projects and carvings.

- rwe2156

My experience differs on this point. Of course, there are pre-made designs one could buy and run on a machine and your statement could be quite true. However, if this carving is an apron panel on a very ornate side table, someone without woodworking experience would have a board that was machine carved, but not a table with appropriate joinery and proper accounting of wood movement et al that makes it a functional piece – a.k.a. woodworking.

That said, I find it easier to make ornate carvings by hand rather than by CNC. However, I have spent most of a week once programming the tool paths and running multiple test pieces trying to get things just right for a nice carving. PIA for that work IMHO.

I don t have a CNC, and therefore have never used one. Yes they do incredible work, but if I ever made something on one, I would never be able to be proud of it as my own work. I didn t make it, a computer did.

- EricLew

EricLew, I have never seen a computer make or design anything by itself. I have never met a computer programmer that could design and build any woodworking project remotely functional without any prior woodworking experience.

There IS some element of woodworking required to make it happen.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View MrRon's profile


6092 posts in 4407 days

#9 posted 07-17-2017 07:17 PM

This thread has been asked before on this forum and the consensus then, appeared to be yes! CNC is woodworking. FYI, I just came across a portable CNC machine called “Handibot”. It is a bit pricey @ $2895, but it will work with non ferrous metals like aluminum and of course wood. This may be the beginning of new CNC tools for woodworkers and other crafts people. I have been looking for a tool such as this to work with aluminum, but alas, it is somewhat out of my budget range. Hopefully, prices will drop as more similar machines hit the market. I suspect China will soon have them on the market.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10963 posts in 5216 days

#10 posted 07-17-2017 07:32 PM


If it is doing anything with wood, it is woodworking.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4395 days

#11 posted 07-17-2017 08:06 PM

The CNC is opening up a whole new world for me. I have done my share of woodworking projects, and the fever struck me hard. Now I have more ideas than I can shake a stick at! And my wife is adding to my idea list daily! :-)

So, yeah it is woodworking. Somebody has to prepare the material if wood is being used. And finish it after the job is done. And being a little bit computer savvy, learning the CAM software (V-Carve Pro) hasn’t been too difficult. That was what had me skeered from the git-go.

Needless to say, I have a long way to go.

Note: I figured out a couple of designs that will cut the dadoes and shelf pin holes in the cabinet sides for 13 kitchen cabinets I am building! I will pre-cut the material to the finished sizes and the CNC will do the rest while I work on something else…or just stand there and watch it work!!! :-)

So here are a couple of examples I could have never done without the CNC.

Plaque for a heart disease surgery survivor as requested by her husband when he saw my new toy.

Donation to a benefit for my wife’s cousin. Sadly, he passed before the benefit, but there was a huge turnout and this donation helped. There was a lot of interest.

Jack Daniels sign.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View HorizontalMike's profile


7928 posts in 4078 days

#12 posted 07-17-2017 08:27 PM


Hmm… ;-)

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Texcaster's profile


1293 posts in 2838 days

#13 posted 07-17-2017 08:58 PM

All the major contemporary guitar factories are now CNC based. Entry level instruments have never been better, at a time when amateur and boutique building have never been more popular, with many skilled makers. An acoustic instrument’s top is the most important tone/response component. An optimum balance between timber species, individual top thicknesses, and bracing dimensions is, at the moment, a human activity in the custom shop. The line instruments are all carved to a mean. Play 10 identical line instruments and one will stand out from the rest as optimum. Will the day come when a machine can successfully evaluate the tap tone/voice of each top? Probably. This won’t stop passionate amateurs from building, top boutique builders will most likely still hand voice and continue to have a small share of the top end.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Madmark2's profile


2971 posts in 1752 days

#14 posted 07-17-2017 10:48 PM

If all you do is download & carve, that is not ww’ing.

If you draw it originally and pass it to the CNC that is ww’ing.

CNC can do a lot but not everything. CNC can be a central part of a project and still need hand work (with or without power) to be complete.

I use laser CNC all the time but the projects are ‘hand’ maid.


-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


9958 posts in 3573 days

#15 posted 07-18-2017 01:45 AM


Hmm… ;-)

- HorizontalMike

ROFLMAO, good one

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

showing 1 through 15 of 109 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics