Well, I’m back. Sorry for the brief sabbatical but I’ve been out of town and upon my return I have been completely covered up with work. I’m certain this affects the lives of so many as I’m sure I have an absorbent amount of people just hanging on every word I say. (this is a joke and thank you mom for reading my blog though I’m sure you have no interest in woodworking.)
With that said, I believe I left off with the last blog, about power tools vs. hand tools, by saying I would get into the hand made vs computer made discussion. I will once again preface this with, this is my opinion, there are many like it but this one is mine. It may not be what you think but I try to come at subjects from both sides because, as I’ve stated in past blogs, I’m neither fully hand tools nor fully power tools. So with that, here goes nothing.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the new technologies that are coming out and whether or not utilizing them is really hand made. These items are things like CNC machines, lasers, 3D printers, etc. All these items are almost 100% hands off so how is a product still considered hand made when a computer does all the work. While I’m not going to lie and act like I know everything there is to know about any of these products, I do know this. It’s not entirely a hand made project but it’s not completely hands off either. While the computer does guide the router or laser to create perfect lines, someone sat behind their computer for hours writing code to make that router do that. They also could have made the product that the laser or router is engraving or whatever it may be doing to enhance the project.
I love carving. I just like chisel out little pieces until the picture is finally clear. I also can’t deny that it would be easier and more cost productive to get a laser or CNC to do that for me. I truly believe that you should do what makes you happiest but if you’re going to compare the cost of your man hours to a router it’s not going in your favor I promise. I have people ask me all the time to carve names or initials into something. and I make nothing off of it. There is just no way I can charge for the amount of hours it takes to hand carve something. I enjoy doing it so I take it on from time to time but strictly for my own enjoyment. A computer driven machine could put me to shame in time spent and quickness of completion. Money is the biggest thing keeping me from getting one honestly. It’s a big cost but I think it’s worth it for the efficiency it would provide. It would be a way for me to take a project that I made and enhance it in the same way I would normally but way more efficient.
The other side of the fence is that there is a look of something that is hand carved that you can’t get with a router or laser. It’s called imperfection. I know it’s crazy but there is something about the little flaws of a hand carved item that give it it’s charm.
That’s something that a computer can’t give you. It doesn’t chisel down a little too far or run a curve that’s got a hump in it. It doesn’t sit there for hours thinking about the person who it’s going to and how they will enjoy it for years to come.
Computers have their place in every part of society including woodworking but I think it’s a lot like the power tools and hand tools argument. They have their place but if there’s no personality and experience behind the tool it won’t matter what you paid for the tool. It can’t run itself no matter what tool it is. Computer driven, power tools, or hand tools all require the same thing, a person who has studied his craft to use them to create amazing things. So while a computer may seem like it does the work sometimes there is still a person behind it that worked hard to design it. While it may seem like a hands off type of work there is still a good bit of work that goes into it. It may be a different type of work but it’s still creating.
A bit of a disclaimer, I don’t own any computer driven tools. I would love too but the cost is more than I can afford at the moment. I know it may sound like I’m leaning towards computers more than woodworking by hand but I think that if you can take a piece of technology and use it alongside the tools you already have along with your knowledge and experience, you are only going to be better for it. Innovation never would have happened if everyone would have just stuck to the old way. There’s a time and place for everything and computer driven machines have to find a way into that.