You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ CNC Machine

We’ve been featuring CNC-related content recently, and there’s more to come. But, we’ll also be featuring handheld and benchtop-style tools too.

3D printing and benchtop CNC machines have dropped in price in recent years, and while I personally planned to buy or build one for a very long time before actually doing so, mass media coverage of these machines really struck a nerve with me.

“Now you can build anything at home.”

Well, wasn’t the same true before? Without a CNC machine, you can build a lot of the same things, it just takes more tools, more time, more effort, different techniques, and varying degrees of skill or experience.

CNC machines are still tools, and ones you have to learn and become more skillful in using. But they won’t replace traditional tools. Many hobbyists and pros use CNCs alongside all of their other tools.

We’re planning on more CNC-related content, but not in place of other types of tool coverage and content.

I have come across so many shallow tutorials over the years. “Download this file, load it into your 3D printer, and voila there’s your part.” Sure, that’s one way of approaching projects, but the lack of detail always bugged me.

I have a backlog of so many projects, some of which my now-operational CNC machines will help me tackle with greater ease, but most still require traditional tools and elbow grease.

If you’re not interested in CNC-related topics, don’t worry, it’ll only be a side focus. Send us some feedback! If you have a request for reviews, coverage, how-to’s, or projects featuring other types of tools, let us know.

I have an idea for an upcoming series that I think might be fun, involving different designs and tool approaches to meet the same project need or want.

Tentatively, the goal might be to create a “pencil pot,” with the most basic design requiring the use of basic tools and 2x4s as the material to work with, and the most complex could require the use of a CNC router for cuts and operations much too difficult to attempt by hand. Thoughts?

I’m not looking to steer anyone away from CNC machines, but I know a lot of people sit on their hands while they wait a long time to budget the money, space, or time such equipment usually requires.

More than that, I think it’ll be interesting and fun.

For one project, the design might change to better take advantage of certain tools. For another, maybe different tools would be used to craft the same design but in different ways.

Flower 8 Lobe

How would you cut the above shape out of a 1″ x 4″ piece of wood?

I would start by tracing everything onto the wood first, or print my design to paper or film that is fixed to the workpiece.

I’m thinking that the outer shape could be cut using a jig saw, perhaps with a router and DIY template to smooth out the edges. Or, maybe a disc or drum sander can be used for the edges. Baring that, some elbow grease and a sanding block or sponge pad might work.

Or, you could use a scroll saw or jig saw if you have one.

The results wouldn’t be perfect, but probably good enough without spending an unreasonable amount of time chasing after ultra-high precision.

The hole at the center is easy, I’d use the closest Forstner-style drill bit and a stop collar. Ideally, I’d use a drill press for the cleanest hole.

Now, what about the inner pockets on the flower petals?

The other edge of the petals might be easily drilled out using a Forstner drill bit, same as the central hole. But what about the inner sections? The easiest method might be to drill a series of holes to remove the waste, and then a sharp wood chisel to shape the side walls.

A router or router plane might be used to smooth out any imperfections at the bottom of the hole. Doing all of the above on a thin piece of template material (1/4″ MDF?) might allow for even better final results.

With a CNC router or milling machine, you have less manual work to do, but you still have to know what to do and why.

Let’s say you go through all that work and then change your mind. You now want a flower shape with 10 petals, and the size changes from 4″ diameter to 6″. And, now you need four of them. That’s one of the beauties of CNC machines. But, it’s still best to learn how to walk before we run.

What do you think about my idea for a “simple vs. CNC” series, or something of similar inspiration?

The main goal wouldn’t be to demonstrate that one doesn’t need a CNC machine, but I do like this “you don’t need a stinkin’ CNC machine” mentality, as it counters the “you NEED to buy a CNC machine” attitude that has become quite popular in recent years. My feelings are somewhere in the middle, but now that my CNC router is up and running, I think it’ll be interesting to explore the line between “need” and “want.” If you can think of a better idea, I’m all ears.

I should also mention that I would also use such a series as an excuse to explore techniques and projects I haven’t had the time for recently. There’s room for more, in case some of you have requests or suggestions.

Tekton 6-in-1 Phillips Screwdriver

And today’s tool of the day: my new Tekton 6-in-1 Phillips screwdriver. I recently ordered their 6-in-1 Torx driver, and figured I’d get the Phillips driver as well for review purposes. In addition to nut driver sockets, it has Phillips bit tips in #0, #1, #2, and #3 sizes. It was an impulse-buy, but I think it’ll get a lot of use.

Buy Now via Amazon