Using a 3-axis CNC, the underside of a sofa table’s ovoid shaped top is being rough cut in 3D. The edge is a combination of a tapered angular bevel on the sides that graduates to a progressively curved taper over the length of the top. Sounds complicated, but once you work out the design in 3D CAD software and do the CAM programming, it’s an easy task for the CNC to do.
When it comes to digital woodworking, you can comfortably say that in 2016 we lived in interesting times. Woodworking never sat still. There were always new options and methods being created for new ways to do things. The same is true when it comes to the tools we use. When you add digital technology, the evolution moves more quickly. In the last 18 months or so, we’ve seen several companies begin to offer CNCs that are well designed and sized right for woodworking tasks in small shops.
Since digital tools are still new to many woodworkers, its a good time to look at the state of digital woodworking hardware. We’ll focus on CNCs.
Desktop Sized CNCs
There are a lot of small machines that are suited for small carvings, but for more powerful machines with the added size, precision and power to cut furniture parts out of hardwood, there are few options. In the desktop sized category, there’s the 18” x 24” ShopBot Desktop. It may be small but it’s a capable CNC with a lot packed into a small package, linear rail guides for precision and a small industrial spindle that’s quiet and powerful for its size.
Small Shop CNCs
This is definitely the sweet spot of digital woodworking CNCs.
All of these machines are big enough to make many furniture parts (sometimes you’ll have to use special techniques for larger parts) but small enough to fit in most home shops. The are sized 24” x 36” to 24” x 48”. They are well engineered, sturdy and accurate, use quality alignment and drive components capable of precision work, water cooled spindle options and a minimum Z clearance of 6”. The Laguna IQ even has 4″ of overhang on one end that you could use for edge, vertical and joinery work.
They all also use simple hand-held control systems and are priced between $5500 to $8500.
As we look ahead into 2017 you might want to consider owning your own or even building your own CNC machine. It’s not as difficult as you might think.