CNC Machines for Fun and Profit
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There is a special group of people out there who love woodworking and technology and are always looking at new ways of putting the two together ... and from that marriage came the CNC machines we have today. I remember the first time I ever heard about someone putting together a computer with a router. It was just after the first Macintosh Computer was invented. I heard a story from one of the Apple Reps, that one of the main engineers on the development of the Mac had actually used the printer port to connect to some small servo motors he had and attached his router to it and was using it for making signs and small pictures. This was the first time I had ever heard of a computer controlling a router, which is in essence, what a CNC machine is. Well , that was way back in 1985 or so and things have come a long way since then. Now we have a variety of software programs to drive the machinery and of course the CNC machines can now do much with many different axis / angles and techniques.
For woodworkers who have the time and inkling, there is a whole world out there of interesting things that can be done with CNC machines, both commercially and for one own interest and enjoyment. After all ... most of us don't make woodworking projects to re-sell, we make them for our own use, enjoyment and satisfaction.
The real beauty of a CNC machines is that they allow the woodworker a whole new world of creativity. If you are the kind of woodworker who has trouble making a straight cut with any kind of a hand or power tool, you can still do beautiful work with a CNC machine. Your talent may be in designing a new font or implementing a new font into your CNC computer in order to make some sort of sign, or ... maybe you want make some sort of a graphic ... and use different woods like an Intarsia piece. The CNC can help you make all the pieces like a big puzzle and you can put it together int the end and finish it. The quality of the parts and how well they fit together will be your challenge on the CNC machine, and maybe that's the kind of challenge you like? No everyone is interested in cutting boards, gluing them together to make bigger planks.
CNC routers come in all sorts of different types and sizes. One of my friends has 2 of them and they pretty much take up most of his shop. One is about 4 feet square, the other is 13 feet long by about 5 feet across. It is absolutely fascinating to watch either one of them at work. What you don't see is all the computer work he needs to do ahead of time in setting up the for the cuts. Over the years he has become very proficient and using the software (once he found some software that he liked and that could do the kinds of things he wanted to with his CNC machines). He does a lot of commercial work, but he started off doing smaller pieces for himself and others and the CNC machines and the techniques blossomed into ongoing business that he just couldn't ignore.
If you have any interest in computers and like woodworking, CNC routers might be just the item to get your creative juices flowing and producing some unique and outstanding projects ... who knows where it will lead? Could be a business ... might be nothing more than a lot of fun for years to come.
Copyright - Colin Knecht