It’s here!

The CNC arrived this week, and am I ever glad I had it shipped.  It was very heavy, very awkward to lift, and the drive alone would have taken 8 hours each way.  After unpacking there was a bit of damage as it hadn’t been crated so a few little issues, most likely due to us loading it off the truck.  Luckily two switches were easily reattached and a new drag train is on order for minimal cost.  Honestly I didn’t see the machine in person so maybe these were issues before, who knows.IMG_1634

After a day of set up, I was pretty surprised how fast it was up and running.  The drive computer has Cut 2D on it, so I’ve been using that for now, although I plan to get Vectric Pro when funds allow.  I now need to build a table for it to get it up off the floor.  I’ll make something with casters on it so I can move it around if need be since it’s currently blocking the loading door of my shop.  The door isn’t used that much but it may in the future so having the ability to move a 330+ lb. machine would be nice.IMG_1635

Lots of future plans now as I begin to learn all the potential of this machine.

CNC at last…

I’ve been in love with CNC routers ever since I first heard about them over 10 years ago now.  I’m generally fairly impulsive, but for some reason this time I waited, and waited, and waited.

Over the years I bought a “how to build your own CNC” book, I’ve read countless web pages, and almost bought an X-carve from inventables last year.  But as the years went by my interest turned from hobby to business, and so my needs changed.  I have very little free time, and I can’t justify spending work hours to build a machine when I need to be making things to make money.  I know you can argue that building this machine would help me make money later on, but I’m not convinced the savings would work out in the end.  Another issue is I’m pretty impatient, and I might not follow every step, or complete each operation, and chances are the machine might not be perfect, and that will lead to less than perfect cutting, which will drive me crazy.  The Inventables option seemed better, but not so sure if it would put up with commercial work.

So last week I figured I had enough money in the business account, and there was an ok deal on a CNC.  After several days of emails I had just about bought the machine but started to get a funny feeling from the private seller, and was getting frustrated with his communications, so called it off.  The next day I found another machine, slightly different size, slightly more money, but still a decent deal.  Then today looking at old Kijiji listings, I saw a CNC for sale but I was sure it was long gone.  I contacted the owner in the off chance it was still for sale, and it was!  The price was better than the other two machines, and while a bit further from me, I agreed to purchase it.

Due to the distance from me, it’d take me 2 days to go there and back to get it, plus cost me a rental van, gas, food, accommodation, etc.  So I hired a shipping company, that way it gets to my door and I can spend those days catching up on projects that have fallen behind a bit lately.  We’ve had so much snow this week that I’ve spent more time shovelling that woodworking it seems.

Hopefully I’ll have the machine by the end of next week, then I have to figure out how to use it!

The week of little accomplishment…

Not much more to write really.  Some weeks the projects fly off the list and get done at amazing speeds, other weeks I just spin my wheels.  It didn’t help that there were two PD days this week, but a faulty electrical socket and a broken coffee maker in the bakery certainly didn’t help move things along either.

In the end I managed to finish off some iPad stands and some charcuterie boards, but I had hoped to be much further ahead in prep for One of a Kind at the end of next month.  Came close to buying a used CNC machine but I took too long to reply and missed out on a decent deal.  I’m beginning to realize more and more how a CNC could help me out, only a matter of time before I buy one.

Next week will be better, not sure how, but they will.

To CNC or not to CNC…. That is the question…

I’ve been dreaming of a CNC for years… I once bought a book on how to make your own CNC and even had some money set aside for the parts, but things got busy in life, we moved a fair bit and lugging around a piece of equipment that size just didn’t seem practical.  Now that we’re settled a bit more, and my woodworking/design business is growing, my thoughts have been led back to the idea of a CNC.

doll crib cnc inventables

I make a lot products that require precise repetitive cuts.  To this point I’ve done this mostly by hand, drawing the parts out, cutting close with the bandsaw, and sanding to the line.  For some items I’ve rigged up a jig for my router, but all of these would be simpler with a CNC.  Some products have tested the limits of my current tools, while others just aren’t worth making due to the amount of time it takes vs. how much people are willing to pay.  While a CNC would have an upfront cost, it would allow me to start it running and then work on other projects while it cut out parts.  Three things have been stalling my purchase so far: 1-cost, 2-know how, 3-man vs. machine.

cnc carved dish walnut1- Cost: Fairly obvious one, these machines aren’t cheap.  I’m used to powerful woodworking tools that have had little change in the last 50 years, meaning my 40 year old Unisaw is the same product as one bought today, except mine costs 1/10 of the price and all parts are metal instead of practice.  There aren’t many used CNC’s around, and they are getting better all the time so newer IS better.

2- Know How: While I was once a computer geek, writing computer programs as a kid, I haven’t done as much of this recently, and it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start, how to use the software, and which one to use.  I see lots of people saying it’s pretty simple and you’ll learn fast, but I’m not convinced so far.

3- Man vs. Machine: I work with both hand tools and machines.  I’m not partial to either, although hand tools are quite and generally make less sawdust which is always nice.  I use the best tool for the job, and the reality is that often that is a machine because time is money, and this isn’t a hobby for me.  But the other day I heard someone saying that if it’s made by a CNC, it takes away from the artistry of it.  It’s an interesting comment, but if we look at painters, no one criticizes them for selling prints of their work instead of one off works of art.  I see a lot of product descriptions of makers stating things are “hand carved”, “hand dipped”, “hand made”, etc.  What is interesting is my wife runs a bakery, one of her best selling products are Macaron.  In order to make these, you whip egg whites, which she does with a commercial mixer.  Would people pay more if she whipped them by hand? Likely not, she’d probably just get huge biceps and a case of tendonitis.  The truth is, my products cut by a CNC would be more accurate than me cutting them, so resulting in a higher quality item for my customer, so it seems like everyone should be happy with this?

x-carve CNC inventible

Where am I going with all this?  Well last night I stumbled across the Inventables website, they just came out with a new product called the X-Carve which is a CNC that you assemble yourself.  They’ve really put some thought into this machine, enabling you to customize size, motors, and spindle all to your liking (and budget).  There are reviews starting to come out across the net and they are very positive.  It’s great to see so many actual woodworkers reviewing this product as it gives confidence to someone like me that I’m just as capable to make great use with this CNC.

It also addresses my issues….  The price is very affordable, especially since you can configure it to your needs, and the testimony from other woodworkers has really helped me to believe this is something I can handle and learn fairly quickly.  As for the Man vs. Machine debate, the more woodworkers I see using this CNC, the more I feel it’s just another tool in my shop, one that has infinite possibilities for my woodworking business.

So am I buying one?  Not sure on this.  While it’s affordable, it’s still a fair chunk of change, and once it arrives I still need to assemble it and start learning how to use it.  This might be a great summer project as my shop is not air conditioned and it gets really hot and humid here, so tinkering is much nicer than sweating buckets while making things.  Summer is generally slower for my shop, so a great time to learn new things.

cnc rocking chair kids

One other thought I’ve had is my 5 year old (seen above when much younger) loves to make things with me.  I think this could be a real fun item for Sunday mornings, she can dream up something, sketch it on the computer, and head out the shop to make it.  Just for that purpose it would be worth it in my books.  I’ll keep you posted what I end up doing…

52 Create – Milk Crate Prototype

52 Create, my weekly creative outlet for 2011.  I’ve been wanting to make some wooden boxes that look like milk crates for quite some time now.  Ideally I’d like to make them with a CNC, but until I build one, it looks like I’ll be making them by hand instead…

The box is made out of my favourite, baltic birch, with 1/2 inch sides and a 1/4 inch bottom so it is very sturdy.  The final version would have handles cut out and possibly some design in the sides and bottom to more closely resemble a milk crate.


I was a little frustrated with the joints on this project.  I used the table saw for accuracy, but found the joints didn’t line up perfectly, and some cuts were not as straight as they should have been.  I feel like I was very careful with my measurements and set up, so perhaps it is a case of  a low quality blade or improper set up of the fence, I’ll figure it out eventually.


Renos are pretty much finished at my house and the weather is starting to warm up so I hope to tackle some more ambitious projects in the upcoming weeks.


Other 52 Create projects.

Rhino for Mac OS X

While I have yet to start buiding my DIY CNC machine, I have started to learn some design software so that I can use the machine once it gets built.  While there are numerous programs out there, I’ve switched almost completely over to Apple right now, so I needed something that would work on my computers.


Rhino is a very well respected design software that is just getting ported over to OS X.  Because they are still in the process, they need feedback, and your feedback is worth free trial copies of the software.  There are bugs of course, but the price is right, and since I haven’t really picked a software yet, this lets me “try before I buy”.  So far I’m still in the tutorials, which although good, are written for the PC version so the menus don’t always seem to match up, but on the whole it is fairly intuitive.


The other cool thing is that they have an App for the iPad that allows you to show your projects on it, even letting you rotate and zoom.  I think that could be key in dealing with clients, being always able to show your product to them.