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Is CNC Really Woodworking or Cheating

Is CNC Really Woodworking or Cheating

There’s been a debate brewing for several years now among hobbyist woodworkers: Can CNC machines be used in “real” woodworking?

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine is a computer-controlled, motorized, multi-axis assembly with a cutting tool of some sort mounted to it. In the context of woodworking, the term generally refers to an X,Y,Z table outfitted with rails, a gantry that spans the rails and a router (or similar) motor.

A collet on the motor’s shaft holds a rotary cutting bit, which cuts or carves out whatever the computer programs tell it to. In a nutshell: it’s a woodworking robot.

The question remains: “CNC Machines – Real Woodworking or Cheating?”

Watch Video below for further discussion……


Feel free to join the discussion by entering your comments below.

Click Here if You Would Like to Include a CNC in your Woodworking Shop.



10 thoughts on “Is CNC Really Woodworking or Cheating

  1. Allyn Ohillips

    I recently invested in a CNC machine “kit” where they send all the components and you assemble the CNC, level it, make sure the base is square, learn the software and you start creating projects. I am older and computer literate. When the PC came onto the technology scene many resisted and would never get a computer, I suppose the same resistance happened when everyone was using hand tools and the first power tool was invented. I look at the CNC as just another evolution to another tool. Just like you can choose to do all your woodworking with hand tools or some power tools or all power tools, CNC is just another tool. Oh and I remember rotary phones converting to touchtone phones…now look at cellphones they are infinitely more powerful than that TRS-80, that first PC. CNC Just another tool embrace it.

    I love the machine, my skills, with manually using a router, are shaky, the CNC adds a level of precision that I would never achieve using a router. It opens up new opportunities, the possibilities are endless. I just made a beautiful small box to hold recipe cards for my nieces upcoming bridal shower. I made the box with traditional tools, a table saw to cut the pieces, a miter saw to cut the 45’s, a router to bevel the edges. A simple box but I used the CNC to route the Monogram on the lid, the CNC to route a message for the newly weds on the front of the box. It turned out beautiful and what I lack in routing skills to do lettering the CNC helped me make a keepsake box. Just another tool….I am a woodworker.


      You must be about as old as I am. I’m not quite old enough to remember using the ‘crank’ type phone. although I did use one in Korea.

    2. Allyn Phillips

      I am 68, retired and decided to build some patio furniture 4 years ago. I posted photos on Facebook and have not stopped making Adirondack chairs with the State of Michigan as the back rest for friends and family. Everything is word of mouth. Now with my CNC I’m making memory boxes for brides and bridesmaids. Groomsman gifts. I’m not getting rich but the chairs paid for my CNC.

  2. Crispin Thomas

    This comment came in via email from Doug.

    I have been a wood worker since I followed in my father’s footsteps … literally. I am now 68 years old. My wife’s father was a cabinet maker. Not the “knock together” type, he was an artist. His butcher block cutting tables were beyond compare. With my father and my father-in-law, I learned a great deal about the “ethics” of wood working. Wood working, I believe, is an admixture of craft and art. It is not a set of ethics or life changing philosophies intended to change a person’s life for the good or for the worse. All that being said, I believe that, in wood working, the end justifies the means. Okay, if I use a computer generated program to produce a wood carving, I still have to finish it. Do I have to use old fashioned spar varnish or seal the wood with shellac before I apply a varnish or lacquer? What about this new fangled stuff called polyurethane? In the broad picture of wood working it is relatively new on the scene. Ooh, can’t use that. And why can’t I seem to find hide glue. Now I’m stuck using Tightbond 1, 2, &3. And what’s up with this uncontrollable polyurethane glue? Do I really have to control moisture to use a practically indestructible chemical. Dummy me! I just cant get rid of that foam.

    Okay, I think you are beginning to see my point. Just because something is new and a person doesn’t fully understand it doesn’t mean it’s worthless, or that it somehow cheapens a person’s art. Example: Ya want a “piano like” finish on red oak, (my favorite medium). Sand it to 1000 grit and ya still have a grain problem. Get some Crystalac from McFeely’s and follow the directions. No more raised grain, no more end grain absorption. That glossy Poly u, really is glossy, even with a relatively new product having been used under it.

    Have I made my case? CNC machines are wonderful, yes they’re computerized. But so is that T.V. many people worship, instead of doing something really fulfilling and satisfying like being present in the wood shop. I love those machines, but I can’t afford one. Someday however, I will. Then watch out world, ole’ Dougie has a brand new tool!

  3. Tom Simpson

    Why is that different from the invention of the table saw to replace a hand saw, or a router to replace a set of chisels, etc.? It’s all still wood, isn’t it?

    1. Allyn Phillips

      I completely agree. Otherwise we would still be using crank phone to make phone calls, washing our clothes on a rock by the river and using an abacus instead of a computer.

  4. Glenn Fry

    Wish I could afford one! I was a CNC programmer for 20 years in a machine shop, (several shops, actually!), machining all kinda of metals, plastics and composites. Now at 66, and retired, I wish I had one of those beauties for woodworking that I’m now doing in my garage! The things I could do! Growing up in the 50’s, my grandfather was a contractor, had his own wood shop back out behind his home and I was always fascinated watching him work his magic with old school hand tools and power tools – from framing to custom cabinets, etc.
    It’s fun learning how to work with wood now, but it’s hard doing things by hand! If I had a CNC router… it would be, “Katie bar the door!”. Oh well – maybe someday I’ll come into a windfall and I’ll buy one?

    1. Al Phillips

      I’m 68 and retired 10 years ago. About 4 years ago my daughter asked me to make 4 Adirondack chairs for her patio. When I was done I posted photos on Facebook I was so proud of those chairs. Before I knew it my friends, her friends and relatives were asking me to build some chairs. Last year I had accumulated a small stash of cash and bought a CNC kit (about $1,800) add in the bits, a bench, etc. and I probably have about another $400-500 in it. Now I’m using it to cut out parts for furniture, jewelry boxes, signs, plaques. I still make Chairs but the CNC has really opened the opportunities. It’s still a hobby to me but it keeps me busy and I make a little cash to buy more tools. All through word of mouth.

  5. Jim Parker

    The CNC is just another tool that a woodworker can use to produce amazingly wonderful woodworking projects. The individual will need computer and software knowledge to even run the machine. Is it cheating? Not to me. I have build many different project that don’t even use the CNC. Within the last 2 years I have also added a Laser Engraver to my woodworking shop and I have made projects using the CNC and the inlaying of a laser product into it. Based on what everyone has input on the subject, get one and you will have the time of your life. I do! Try to find a woodworker in your area that has one and befriend that person so you can play with it.