New Tool for an Old Technique

The other day a packaged arrived at my shop. Inside was a new tool that could prove to be a game-changer in woodworking. Now any reasonable woodworker would be thrilled to get a new tool to use in their shop. But in this case, I am almost dreading this one.

Before I explain what’s in the package, let me just tell you my feelings on woodworking. I believe this is a historic and sacred tradition. I want to carry on the old-time craft of using hand tools to produce furniture. But technology is working against me. Electricity and power tools really catapulted us into the future and this is now our current way of producing furniture.

Then add to that, the computer brought on things like the internet and smartphones. These items have also pushed the ability to learn woodworking faster and easier. Now we are used to being inundated with products that are fast, cheap, and replicated all exactly the same. With that being said, maybe you have already figured out what’s in the package. Yes, you guess it correctly……..it’s a CNC machine.

The CNC machine and I have had our day coming. It’s like Batman versus Bain. Superman versus Doomsday. (I’m showing my geekiness now) Essentially, it’s my archnemesis. I struggle with this tool. It’s different from others. Now I know the argument. People will say, “Chad, a table saw replaced a hand saw. Is that a threat to your career?” I do understand the analogy but I feel there is a difference. Sawing is a task. Yes, it does that some skill to saw effectively, but it’s not a highly trained skill. Carving however is on another level. It takes years of mastering the tools and understanding grain direction. It takes an artistic eye and drawing abilities to produce a work of art. And now a machine that can scan, copy and mass produce something on a whim just seems like an insult on the trained professional carver. I always considered myself an open-minded and rational person. Yet, the CNC machine causes me to have an underline hatred towards it. WHY?!?! It didn’t do anything to me personally. But I see it as a threat and inside I conquer up reasons to build a case to convince myself to continue to despise it and see it as evil. And then it hit me. I’m a hypocrite.  

Anyone who has followed me knows there is something I always preach in woodworking. It’s the one rule that allows us to get better at woodworking. It pushes us to new heights and abilities. It breaks down misconceptions and builds up confidence. That rule is, “Get out of your comfort zone.” And yet, here I am afraid and prejudice against the fear of a machine. It’s time I follow my own advice. So I have decided to welcome one into my shop. I’m going to have an open mind and consider this as new uncharted territory and as an adventure versus an enemy out to destroy me.

I have the new desktop SD100 CNC machine by Next Wave. This is an entry-level CNC machine geared towards a beginner with no experience. In other words, tailor-made for someone like me. It’s small and doesn’t take up much space. Plus, I’m told set up is easy even for a prehistoric neanderthal like me. But we’ll see.

 An interesting thing that Next Wave is offering, if I should decide that I enjoy this and want to purchase a bigger CNC with more capabilities they will allow me to “trade-in and trade-up.” They will donate my old machine to a school of my choice presented in my name. I don’t really care about the recognition of my name, but I love the idea of getting kids into woodworking.

However, this is a case of putting the cart before the horse. It’s a long road ahead of me before I will be one to shout the praises of a CNC machine over the skill of hand carving. But I am willing to try this with an open mind and hoping to be pleasantly surprised. If nothing else, you know what they say, “Keep your friends close and your enemy closer.” 🙂

Stay tuned my friends!

Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture