Why would anyone confuse programming a computer with woodworking? One reason is that a CNC (computer numerically controlled) router can do some things that you just don’t want to do. In the same way that you could plane a huge board of rough stock smooth with a hand plane, but instead choose to use a jointer and planer, a CNC router can take the drudgery away, leaving you with the fun stuff.
1. Carving the easy way. From time to time, a carved panel just might look wonderful in a piece of casework: a pair of doors, perhaps with matching motifs; a backsplash that has a geometric pattern repeating across its length; a carved architectural component. If carving is outside your wheelhouse of woodworking skills, a CNC router can come to your rescue. Those carved accents can enhance your project, and you get the credit!
2. Drilling is boring. Let’s say you have a couple hundred holes to drill for a cribbage board. It’s a doable job with a drill/driver or a drill press, but an arduous one. Now imagine making five cribbage boards for holiday gifts: you’ll have 1,000 holes to drill! If done by hand, just imagine how tedious the task would be! Not for a CNC. It will drill holes all day long without complaint.
3. CNC simplifies complex interfaces between workpieces. For example, Woodworker’s Journal once presented a Longworth Chuck project for woodturning with many curved slots that need to perfectly relate to one another. Unless they align precisely, the chuck won’t open and close smoothly. A CNC’s precision enables it to machine slots like these accurately, upping your odds for success the first time while also reducing your stress.
4. “May I have five more?” Have you ever agreed to build a bunch of things for your child’s school or for a church function? After you have completed the 20th little widget and you are staring down another 100 to go, you think to yourself: “There has got to be a more efficient way…” It’s CNC. Set the machine to work in the background to free yourself for more enjoyable shop tasks.
5. Consider it a sign! Of course, one of the best uses of CNC technology in the home shop is for sign-making. It can machine awards, cabin signs, humorous gifts, address plaques and much more. Most home shop CNCs come with sign-making programming already preloaded, along with fancy fonts and scripts with the lettering properly spaced. Here’s a moneymaking opportunity!