Is the use of CNC machines killing the value of hand carved pieces?

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Forum topic by Durnik150 posted 07-06-2009 10:25 AM 8739 views 0 times favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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647 posts in 4377 days

07-06-2009 10:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: cnc carving question carving tool chisel scroll saw shaping

I’m actually not a carver but have seen a big jump in the use of CNC machines lately. Do these machines push the hand-carver out of the market place? When you can program a computer to carve a piece for you faster and more dependably it seems like the carving artist is being stepped on and may go the way of the dinosaur.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on the matter but was curious what my fellow LJs thought about the topic.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

42 replies so far

View degoose's profile


7281 posts in 4410 days

#1 posted 07-06-2009 10:31 AM

I was at a machinery expo on Friday and saw a dinosaur made on a CNC.
I have an overhead router that can be made into a CNC but I think that I would rather have some hands on with the machine and not let a computer run the whole show.

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4497 days

#2 posted 07-06-2009 11:05 AM

CNC,s are simply designed for mass production and making money, lots and lots and lots of money. They spit things out 24/7 and every one is the same, perfect, bland and soulless. The hand carver hasn,t been “in the market place” in western countrys for years anyway since multi head copy carvers came in. It,s only in countries like the one I live in that the hand carving tradition lives on, and long may it remain so. And you must also remember you need to make a lot of carvings to get back your cash from the purchase of the machine before you start making a profit. In Australia I could turn out between 400 and 1000 souviner boomerangs a day, all of them perfectly the same and all of them needed finishing on an inflatable bag sander, it did my head in doing this mind numbing work 6 days a week for almost a year. My personel opinion of CNC,s , Haveing been a made a slave to a couple of these soul destroying monsters for a number of years, I wouldn,t cross the street to spit on one if it was on fire!!!!!!!!!! Storm the factories and burn them all!!!!!!! **

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View cpt_hammer's profile


133 posts in 4868 days

#3 posted 07-06-2009 01:30 PM

I guess it depends on the buyer. If they value hand-craftsmanship then the price might actually go higher. I do admit that I’m a geek and that I would love to have a CNC machine to make several things in my home. However, I do understand the value, time, and effort that it takes a hand carver. In my own opinion, I would pay much more for a hand carved piece than what a CNC machine could do. In fact, that was why my wife and I picked out our dining room set because it was hand carved. The imperfections and the slight (very slight) differences along the legs and edges made it have more value in our eyes.

View patron's profile


13717 posts in 4396 days

#4 posted 07-06-2009 02:57 PM

the only reason i buy tools ,
is to enhance and expand my w.w. abilitys .
most of my tools just sit and wait for me to use them ,
and like a microwave ,
its nice to reheat a cup of coffee ,
but it’s not as good as fresh !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 4490 days

#5 posted 07-06-2009 03:11 PM

I have a CNC router but I never use it to make carvings as I consider hand carving a wonderful skill that should not be cheapened by a machine, carving is art.
I use my CNC router to make signs – the machine can engrave wood, copper and any other kind of metal using nice fonts found on the computer’s list. I also use it to cut simple decorative motifs or initials to enhance patio furniture.
True craftsmanship comes from within craftsman, NOT from a machine! I agree with cpt_hammer that any slight “blemishes” in any hand carved item clearly defines it as unique and should be viewd that way. CNC router “engraving” is ok for certain things but where pure art and craftmanship is involved then pay homage to the craftsman and treasure his one of a kind item.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4646 days

#6 posted 07-06-2009 06:51 PM

The problem is that with the improvements in technology and the ability to mass produce things, the quality people have expected has considerably dropped. Not to mention the fact that people don’t keep things around like they used to. I mean, people are selling antiques at garage sales. That’s how much they care. So people aren’t interested in an item because how it was made, who made it, etc. They are interested in how the piece will look with their decor, and the price. Being an artist is becoming more of a hobby. If you sell things you hand carved chances are you aren’t making much money, that is unless you have written a few books, and are a well known carver. Only then do people buy your product because of who you are, even though Joe down the street can carve the same thing from his garage. Nobody knows he exists.

Carvers aren’t extinct at all. The demand for technology exceeds the demand of the goods by far, and so with so much technology the little lone carver is forgotten. Take the machines away and out of the woodwork will come thousands of carvers. Prices for hand carvings will go down, and so will unemployment. People will be buying Joes carvings because they can afford the hand carved headboard.

The industrial revolution was to meet the demand of the people. Jobs then were plenty. There was the need for that technology. The demand was met long ago. We no longer need the fast paced work of a machine to meet the demand. That’s why so many shops are closing. Johnny with his CNC machine is producing 10 kitchens a month. Joe is barely feeding his family because Johnny’s prices are a lot lower. But his work sucks because he just wants to produce and make money. Joe doesn’t want to produce crap quality, or anything he wouldn’t put in his own home. But that’s how he feels, not his prospective clients. They want to save a buck. After having Johnny and his machine do a crappy job in no time, they call Joe with some complaints wanting things fixed. Johnny’s customer service went down the crapper because he’s to busy to deal with clients anymore. Joe makes the decision to reject the clients plea. They shouldn’t have been cheap to begin with, and purchased the product from someone who cares.

Having the machine changes the mindset of the workers. They now believe in speed over quality. There is no longer the care involved with producing a fine quality piece. Sure you can make nice signs and what not. That’s nice, especially since most people don’t pay attention to that sort of work. They walk right by it. But a table? The bed you sleep in? The entertainment center you stare at while watching TV? I’m glad I get to make all my own stuff. I get to have very nice things. And I’m proud to offer my service to others. I believe it’s above most shops, because I’m not in a hurry to make a buck. Everything I make comes from the love I have for the work, the labor. I believe in Labor. I believe in skill. This world is getting to the point to where everyone needs a computer to live, to work for them. I solute the countries who still pick up a chisel and mallet and produce fine carvings and woodwork. If you put a board in or on a machine, you’re not a woodworker in my eyes. You’re a machinist, a programmer, and maybe an assembler. I’m sure those people are hired out though. To much work there.
Way to go CNC enthusiasts for pushing the country to a higher level of crap, laziness, and unemployment. Maybe now the universities can lower their prices so we can go to programming school to learn to be woodworkers.

I answered this question based off of it being geared towards professionals, people who sell the work. If you are hobbiest who buys a CNC machine then you want to be a woodworker without the work. It’s like buying a classic car to restore and taking it to Boyd Covington. You get to design and make sure it’s done to your standard but something else does the work. All the praise you’ll get is well worth it though right. Gives you a tingle inside. Yippee

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4723 days

#7 posted 07-06-2009 08:51 PM

Computers have all but killed anytype of real handwork skill. Not only woodworking, but photography, welding etc….Yes its increased production, but at a price. Everyone looks for the cheap and easy and at the same time they are losing respect for the real thing. We are now a country whos people have gone into debt to be surrounded with things that will expire before they are paid off. I can only hope people wake up and realize buying quality not quantity is the smarter way to spend money.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20637 posts in 4731 days

#8 posted 07-06-2009 09:24 PM

They aren’t going away, like it on not. I guess about the only thing I would add to the opinions already posted is machine carved projects being posted without giving the machine credit is very unethical.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View rons's profile


72 posts in 4406 days

#9 posted 07-06-2009 09:52 PM

My son had the priveledge of meeting Chris Pye last week. Take a look at some of his hand carvings. I’d rather see this than prduction cnc work.

-- Ron, Michigan

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20637 posts in 4731 days

#10 posted 07-06-2009 10:08 PM

I ws just thinking the same arguments could be made for hand tools vs. power tools. As an example, look at the H.O. Studley Tool Chest Garyk posted the other day:-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4641 days

#11 posted 07-06-2009 10:11 PM

Machine carving has been around for a long long time.Albeit not cnc. I don’t thing hand carving will ever be beaten .Hand work is always a little bit better “when done properly” .OK you might argue dovetails are nicer ,better made etc, on a machine but,A well made hand dovetail will always be the real thing so CNC has it’s place in keeping costs to a realistic place in the market but it’s not thereal thing. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4646 days

#12 posted 07-06-2009 10:28 PM

I want to clarify this real quick. A CNC machine is NOT compared to power tools. A CNC Machine functions on its own. You press a button and watch it do the work. Granted you have to load and unload the machine. Power tools have an opperator. You have to physically push the material through a table saw. You have to manually hold a router to do it’s work, or feed the material through a shaper. ETC. This takes skill as well as safety. There is room for humor error. I don’t understand how or why people insist that a CNC machine has the same regards as power tools. I know there is room for error by pressing the wrong button, but the machine isn’t going to shoot the piece through your forehead as a result.
I’ll stick with the LABOR, and the skill required to do such work, as well as the jobs created. Bottom line is people should do the work, not machines. Welcome to planet Wal-E where we can all sit on a chair and let the world work around us. Maybe we can all die of obesity too.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

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5849 posts in 4641 days

#13 posted 07-06-2009 10:41 PM

Actually working a CNC machine is quite a difficult task not as simple as you say sorry your wrong. Programming it can be quite a challenge. All those Cartesian co-ordinates X Y Z It’s not for the faint hearted.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 4646 days

#14 posted 07-06-2009 10:52 PM

It may be a difficult task but that’s a desk job. We are discussing physical labor, such as carving and woodworking. Being an engineer is a challenge too and takes brains. But it doesn’t have anything to do with physical skill either.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View RedShirt013's profile


219 posts in 4717 days

#15 posted 07-07-2009 12:09 AM

I think some people are overestimating the abilities of a CNC machine for carving work, it’s not a miracle machine that makes carving when you press a button

Those CNC dinasaurs you see at shows, that probably took them hours to make that on their machine. If it’s done relatively quick, feel it, it’s got chatter marks all over it.

With all that CNC for carving is just better for production volume only, and that’s not its strength either. Probably good for paint grade stuff, but hand carved wood still looks better at the end of the day. Plus I’ve seen a lot of off-shore mid-range furniture that are hand carved, looks decent so how are we going to compete with hand carving sweatshops in Asia? Therefore CNC is not going to kill value of hand carved pieces, actually I think hand carved work made in America needs to be a niche product that demand a premium price. There should be a movement to teach people how to appreciate carving of its artistic value.

I would not denounce CNC technology however, imagine how much lower the level of technology and quality without it. Imagine how much work it’d be to punch hole in a sheet of metal without it, and how accurate that would be. Actually just think, how much would a car be nowadays without CNC technology.

-- Ed

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