|In my final post about Maker Faire 2013 I want to comment about the furniture is saw at the show. There was lots of it. Almost all of which was CNCed out of plywood. It's clever stuff. The more interesting designs interlocked without any additional fasteners, some of the simpler stuff used a few screws. I was deeply impressed.|
Until I thought about it.
We can't deny that a CNC router is a useful tool. A CNC router can be used to dumb down a traditional design such as a frame and panel where the panel is faked by routing a "Panel" in an MDF or melamine board. But at the same time more and more shops use CNC for making parts, sometimes at the very high end. Dovetail drawers are a snap, panels are easy, and complex mortise and tenon are pretty simple. CNC carving can also add details and complexity which have been previously not cost effective. With a direct connection from the drafting and design phases to manufacture there is additional savings in time.
But in the search for streamlined, push button manufacture the Maker Faire folks forgot something important. From a making standpoint being able to push a button and have a machine spit out snap together parts is very very cool. But from an end user standpoint what is important is design, quality, and cost. Using a CNC router as just one tool in the arsenal of many. In the hands of a skilled crafts-person CNC can really open up your design options. But trying to make a CNC router the be all and end all limits your options and wastes material. It's cool to be able to CNC a mortise and tenon, but it wastes material for the tenon and the joint is nowhere as strong as a domino. Also square edges and visible joints are nice in some contexts but modern furniture loves sinuous curves done by rasp, sander and eyeball.
It's a cool technical challenge to design anything while limiting yourself to only one material and one method of fabrication. And for that the Maker Faire folks deserve credit. But as the harbinger of the future I am not holding my breath. What I am waiting for is for traditional cabinetmakers to evolve the ideas I saw at Maker Faire into something I want in my house.
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