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Thread: The great debate...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri

    The great debate...

    Saw this on a wood whisperer post, whats your take on the subject of cnc in regards woodworking?

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    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Parker County, Texas
    Interesting. Maybe I'm a curmudgeon, or a traditionalist, or whatever. The vast majority of what I do is turning. I will do something else once in a great while for a family member or good friend. So, to me turning is getting hands on, getting a bit dirty and dusty and enjoying it. I personally have no particular objection to all the computerized stuff I suppose. Computers are trying to take over the world anyway, so why not wood skills? Can't leave it alone, can they? I use a computer for my online sales and such and that's about it. It's just a tool. I'm better and smarter than it because I can unplug it and all it can do is aggravate me. Anyway, if someone want to use a cnc, that is fine with me. You just won't ever find one in my shop is all. Ever!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
    If you are doing commercial productiion work, I have no problem with CNC. The problem with CNC from the standpoint of art is that it doesn't allow for mistakes, other than bad programming. Working with manual tools, you have to find creative ways of fixing them. It doesn't allow for changes that you make on the fly because you have seen something that changes your original ideas, or a whole host of creative opportunities. I worked at a furniture factory, as an accountant. We had CNC machines that made some of our stuff that was going to a major motel chain. Stuff that was going into people's houses was often hand worked. The people who operated the CNC machines were factory workers. The guys who took tools to the wood were craftsmen.

    If you have designed and built your own CNC, that is a laudable accomplishment, but whether you build it or buy it off the shelf, if you are doing CNC you are a computer programmer or user, not a woodworker. I see a lot of machine produced stuff at kiosks in the mall, or at craft shows. It is pretty, precise, and soulless. IMHO.
    Last edited by Roger Tulk; 01-08-2016 at 03:13 AM.

    The other member of Mensa, but not the NRA

    Everyone is a self-made person.

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    Oh, boy! Akin to the pins and tails first debates. Craftsmen of every generation used the best tools for the job they could afford and were available to them. Had they had CNC's a hundred years, would they have shunned them? I think not. Woodworking was their livelihood. Get it our the door and quickly and acceptably , get paid and move to the next job. Hobbyists today can be curmudgeonly (word used in Dave's posts) at their leisure. Food on the table does not depend on it. So bottom line - whatever floats your boat.

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

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    Carol Reed

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    falcon heights, minnesota
    after reading all of the comments in the article, and the posts here, i am firmly convinced that the cnc machine is no more, and no less than any other tool in the shop. sure it involves a different set of skills to use, but what new tool does not? dave, you brought up the subject of lathes. most lathes nowadays have electric motors on them to do the hard work of actually spinning the blank. yet how many of us have retained the skill sets needed to operate a roman bow lathe, a pole lathe, or even a treadle lathe? those took some real walk and chew gum at the same time skills. to say anything done on cnc machines is pretty, precise, and soulless, could be said about the use of any machine assisted items made in the shop. how many prefer to round over a corner with their router rather than with a scraper, and sandpaper (sandpaper, there's one for the scraper purists)? how many prefer to use a dremmel tool, rather than gouges for carving? how many of us would like to go back to the days of sawing by hand, all of the parts we need (with varying accuracy), giving up our table saws? the list goes on. to call an item soulless because of the way the item is made, is a non-starter, as both items start in the creative mind of the woodworker, not the computer which carries out the instructions, nor the hand tools used. without the imagination of the woodworker, all of our tools, whether hand, or powered (cnc included), would be just so many interesting paperweights. now i may work with computers, and was trained as a programmer, and that makes working with a cnc machine that much less mysterious to me, than to others who are not. does that make me any less of a woodworker in all the other areas? it does not. as to the title of handmade, does the batch of turned spindles, made on a lathe with a duplicator, any less handmade than the original that it copies from? the processes are essentially the same, the idea for something comes from the brain, then put to either paper, or code by the woodworker as a design, then taken to the shop to be made, with the aid of the necessary tools. which brings me to the summation, that a cnc machine is no more, no less a tool than our table saws, lathes, drill presses, etc.
    benedictione omnes bene

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Noren View Post
    after reading all of the comments in the article, and the posts here, i am firmly convinced that the cnc machine is no more, and no less than any other tool in the shop.


    which brings me to the summation, that a cnc machine is no more, no less a tool than our table saws, lathes, drill presses, etc.
    Yup that about sums up my feeling on it! Its the same basic argument that the hand tool vs the power tool folks have. They're all tools. You can do artistic work with any of them. There are places where some work better than others (all the way up and down the stack - doing some types of winged bowls is arguably easier on a pole lathe than a powered lathe for instance) but the quality and life of the result is in the hands an mind of the operator not the tool.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Central valley, calif.
    My take is to ask a slightly different question. The question should be; is cnc woodworking the same as hand woodworking? True it produces many of the same products, but with a different process. Unlike machines in a conventional shop once programmed a cnc will produce the same item forever without a woodworkers attention. Feeding a of sheet plywood into a machine and getting a knock down chair out I suppose is woodworking, but not hand woodworking. Tables, chairs, bookshelves, whatever, do not always start in the mind of the woodworker, they start in the mind of the designer, sometimes they are also the woodworker.

    Another post somewhere on the www suggested that hand woodwork could be defined as having parts produced by hand guiding wood thru a cutting edge or a cutting edge thru the wood. That's not and exact quote but that's the idea. A diffination of hand woodwork or hand crafted would be a big help.

    In today's world hand made woodwork is a scarce item. The art is kept alive in our garages and small custom shops. Perhaps cnc production will enhance the desirability of hand made woodworking.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    As useless as a "what is handmade?" debate. Is it a sport if you don't sweat? Tastes Great, Less Filling, Ford, Chevy, etc. Like music that is made without "instruments", this is a non-starter as a debate; the viewpoints are quite different. I understand the reluctance to say that something that is so close to printing with a 3D printer constitutes "woodworking". We could also ask if all that great Greene and Greene stuff was the Greene's who designed it or the Hall's who built a lot of it. There are no actual quantifiable boundaries or qualifying parameters so, it will just have to make for good barley-pop conversation ;-)
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 01-08-2016 at 01:27 PM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by william watts View Post
    whatever, do not always start in the mind of the woodworker, they start in the mind of the designer, sometimes they are also the woodworker.
    I some way this debate can derivate to asking the question "who is the artist, the person that imagines and designs the piece, or the maker or artisan that makes it?" Artist and artisan are words that are commonly mixed up and misinterpreted, and with CNC happens something similar. Before CNC existed there were ( and still are) replicating machines where an original piece made by hand by a carver, was put on them to make as many copies as needed, needing only some final touches in those corners where the bit could not reach, and to make those pieces look hand carved.

    If we focus on the fact that any piece of art has to be imagined by someone, the creator or thinker is the artist, the maker or in this case the CNC machine that makes it are the tools to achieve it. A sign or other similar pieces made on CNC machine are not art IMHO but I'm realising that I am drifting away from the topic.

    I fully agree with Glenn. Good for a barley-pop conversation.
    Last edited by Toni Ciuraneta; 01-08-2016 at 12:33 PM.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    To me it is a pretty much useless tool unless you are planning to make lots of money with it. The only projects that I have seen here at have any interest to me are the ones that Leo have made.

    I agree that they are tools but what can you make besides decorations, any furniture ??

    Toni is a super talented artist but the only skill you would need to copy his work with a cnc machine is computer programming. No artistry there.

    Now, a laser is something I think I could find uses for occasionally.

    Bet I ticked off a few folks today
    Faith, Hope & Charity

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