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IWF Woodworking Today

Your Passion for Woodworking vs. Transformative Technology: Where To from Here?


April 18, 2023 | Dan Wellens

If you have ever thumbed through any woodworking magazine, you might perceive that the world of woodworking is reserved only for those with meticulous technique. When I first started woodworking, I―like many―romanticized the cultivation of technique and the pursuit of complex joinery: A journey that usually resulted in hours of slow methodical cuts…a side project to create templates for specific angles… a jig to speed up the process for the next time. My imagined path definitely was about the experience versus the end result.

One of my favorite joints has always been the half-blind dovetail. This method of joinery for me is the pinnacle of joints. It signifies quality and highlights an individual’s level of expertise. The use of my manual Leigh Dovetail Jig always brought me momentary joy. Slowly hand-routing each board, I followed the template back and forth, using just the right amount of force. Typically, I used two hand routers with dedicated fluting bits to speed up the process. It never got old watching the opposing joints fit together. Honestly, it made me feel like a “real” woodworker.

But as the CNC has become the backbone of my business, I have learned to trust all aspects of computer-numerically controlled milling, even with this time-tested dovetail joint. The joyous feeling of making a product by hand has been surpassed by the joy of designing and creating for repetition. 

Designing and creating a project in CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) allows woodworkers to revise the project design until absolute perfection is achieved. For me, this feeling surpasses the slow, repetitive router work I once spent hours laboring over to get the same results.

The difference now is that I create half-blind dovetail joinery utilizing the Vortex 7500 Milling Tool Kit. This dual-bit system cuts the pins and tail profiles for the dovetails in the same operation. This accuracy is unmatched by even the most experienced human hands, and there is simply no comparison to its speed and accuracy. Combining the power of product nesting to minimize material waste, I now create, revise, and replicate tens of hundreds of half-blind joints in a matter of minutes, which typically took me days when done with a jig and handheld router. The CNC truly has become the cabinet shop’s most important tool.

Another consideration is the health and cleanliness of the operation. I utilize the Oneida Smart Boost dust collection system to maximize the CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) to keep this entire process dust-free, which significantly contributes to improving efficiency and accuracy. However, even with a dust dock attachment, hand routers are still just as loud and messy, which diminishes the overall experience. 

I believe the fear of losing their “hands-on passion” is one of the biggest challenges facing traditional woodworkers. But as hobbyists become professionals and technology changes the landscape of woodworking, maybe you should just stop and ask yourself: “What is it that drives you?”


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