The machine does all the work

I remember a thread a month or more ago where people were discussing what type of personalization was appropriate for stamping on finished projects.

There were a few cases where “Made By” was challenged since the piece was cut with a CNC, however I had an experience this past weekend that I wanted to share.

A good friend was over at my house. This friend, while a great guy, has a somewhat “biased” version of woodworking and finish carpentry, because he feels that unless a piece is made with hammer, chisel, hand saw and \ or hand plane, it’s not truly a legitimate piece because machines were used.

When I showed him the XCarve, his very first comment was “Yeah, but the machine does all the work”…

It had been a long week, and I was not in the best of moods, so I challenged him to make something, anything, using the machine.

I pointed to the power switch on the 611, the power switch on the XController, and even the laptop and said “There you go, have at it, make me a name plaque”…

Trying not to look beaten he poked here, prodded there, and then came back with “yeah, but you built it, so you know how to use it”

I opened the laptop, launched easel, made sure it connected and the carve button lit up, then stepped back.

“Ok, I said, I just reduced the learning curve, now make me a name plaque”

He fumbled with the piece of scrap I handed him. I showed him the corner fixture, and he put it in place. He fumbled with the hold downs and got them in place (We used the wood ones, I bet you all know why).

He looked at Easel for a bit, selected text, put the text on the screen.

“There” he said, “easy, now I just click Carve, right”?

“Yup” - I wasn’t going to miss out on the fun, I wish I’d had my phone to take a video.

He pressed carve, followed the prompts. I showed him where the power button was for the 611.

Now, there is currently still no BIT in the 611, so I had to ask what he intended to cut with. He mumbled and we added a bit.

I stopped the carve wizard and restarted it. When he reached the homing step I said nothing. The machine wasn’t in the lower left, and his carve wasn’t going to go too far. He was click happy, so I just watched.

He looked at me approvingly with his finger over the Start Carving button, the router was on. I nodded.

The router proceeded to cut nothing (Z wasn’t zeroed), at least until it decided to job home and cut a nice groove thru one of my wood clamps. He jumped back.

I showed him how to home the machine, we started again.

This time it barely missed the clamp, then started carving, he had chosen on-path and the font was too small, so it only cut part of the design, and REALLY shallow.

He looked frustrated.

I replaced the scrap, and showed him how to change depth (he hadn’t noticed the error about the bit being too big).

We started again, deeper, but incomplete.

I replaced the scrap.

This continued thru about 6 pieces of scrap. I just stood there quietly, laughing inside.

Finally, we had his name cut out. I showed him how to remove the tabs, and sand them.

He stood holding the letters for a long time, turning them over in his hands, admiring “his” work.

He finally looked at me. “Damn, that was hard, and that’s all I get?”

I smiled. Then I opened up the forum page and started scrolling thru all the projects that people have been doing. Lithopanes, plaques, signs, 3d cuts.

He was in awe.

I explained that even though the “Machine” did all the work, many of these projects took HOURS of tests, re-tests, frustrations etc… to get right. And that was when the machine was operating flawlessly.

We went back in the house and he excitedly showed off to his wife the name that “HE” had made out in my shop. :smile:

“Um, the machine actually did all the work” I reminded him.

He glared.

I sincerely wish that all the unbelievers like him had an opportunity to build and learn the XCarve, they would have a completely different appreciation and understanding for the work involved.

I PROUDLY tell people “I made this” when displaying work from the machine.

It made my weekend, and I thought others would appreciate…


That’s awesome! I wish more people know what it takes in order to dream up something, design it, carve and finish a project…it’s definitely not as easy as most people would tend to think.

The point your friend missed is that a hammer, chisel, hand saw, hand plane or whatever are all “machines”. They just have a different “motor” driving them.

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oh, @BillArnold, he and I have had many a heated debate about that very thing over the years. after 20 years I think he just does it to get me worked up.

he’s just not creative AT ALL, he’s a caveman

You should have heard his gripes about my 3D printer.

he thinks the Internet is a “passing fad”

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Great Story!!

My wife and I have had many discussions about what “hand made” means. When I make something with the CNC I call it hand made and she says nope, it was machine made. I look at the CNC as just another tool, like a table saw or router. No one doubts a furniture maker hand made a table just because he cut the board on a table saw instead of using a hand saw.


Love it!

I like to use the analogy of a sewing machine. You can do a lot with a sewing machine, but it still takes skill. You don’t buy a sewing machine and then make a prom dress on the first try.

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Nice edumacation of your friend!
There once was a time when craftspeople frowned upon the introduction of the tablesaw, bandsaw, (insert modern power tool here). now they are commonplace and no one gives them a second thought.

A cnc is no different in concept, it’s era is just beginning and soon, it too will be commonplace.

Yet there will always be those who insist on “their way” being the only true definition of whatever…

“We mock what we don’t understand.” :slight_smile:

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Yeah, and despite “objections” about the legitimacy of the output, that friend literally just texted me asking if I could make a custom wall clock for his daughter with her college logo…

I texted him a picture of a tree, a hammer and a screwdriver LOL


If one wants to employ classic methods to accomplish a goal, by all means feel free to do so.

But for someone with a passion for those methods to tell me that what I produce is inferior because of my methods seems closed minded in my opinion.

I like the challenge of programming the cnc to do my bidding, It’s still hand made, My mind controls my hands which control the machine.

My mind also controls the hand tools I use to complete may of my projects. A CNC is simply just another tool, A very technically advanced tool with a learning curve, but I had to learn to use my table saw and sharpen and use my card scrapers, those had a learning curve too.

BTW, I also like to hunt with a muzzle loading rifle and still use windows.:wink:

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It’s kinda funny isn’t it, this whole bias against using machines that some people have? I used to make guitars using routers and templates that I lovingly crafted by hand with pencil and spindle sander. These templates would allow me to make more than one guitar that had a similar shaped body. Now I’m planning to use the X-Carve to do the same thing. Is it cheating to use the router with a template too?

This article by a craftsman talks about this very topic and I think makes a compelling argument. Not that I needed to be convinced, but it’s a great read.

For at least a week after I built my X-Carve I was walking around with “I BUILT A FREAKING ROBOT!” shouting in my head. I was a bit surprised this as I didn’t have the same reaction when I built my 3D printer as a kit.


Same here. The 3D printer was cool, but not nearly as cool as the XC. Maybe because my printer came assembled, not sure…