Mass Construction

Things have been pretty full-on around here recently.

In addition to the standard fare, I have been really churning out things on the CNC.  Sheet after sheet of 3mm MDF getting turned to Swiss cheese as I make up small kits in time for a fundraising school fête this weekend.  There are now over 250 individual kits, all bagged up in zip-lock bags, with a set of instructions on assembly, and an assembled example model of each design ready to go on display.

I’m not selling them for much – $5 for many of the designs, with the larger ones being $7.50 or $10 as they really scale up.  The idea is to cover cost plus a bit for the fundraising, and still keep them affordable enough for primary school kids to afford.  With each kit taking on average 30 minutes to cut out, it means the CNC is cutting way below what you would normally calculate its hourly rate at, but that is not the intention for the weekend.

The designs I am using all come from MakeCNC.com.  It raises a question about copyright – this is not just taking someone else’s concept and producing your own equivalent to sell, in this case it is actually using their designs to produce something for sale.  It is actually covered as part of the contract you agree to when purchasing the MakeCNC design.  You are allowed under the condition of the purchase of the plans, to make up to 50 of each design and include a set of instructions with each.  Given that the Mega Collection I originally purchased has over 150 designs, that lets me make 7500 models for sale (if that is what I was looking to do) and still be complying with the copyright terms I agreed to.

While some (quite vocally) disregard CNC machining as being woodworking, that doesn’t bother me at all.  This is taking the workshop I have, and producing a product that is marketable (well I hope it is marketable – this weekend will be a good litmus test!) That is a fun concept in itself, and reinforces what I like to try to get my woodworking to be – cost neutral, at least as far as possible.

It is nothing more, or less, than a cottage industry, which is a throwback to the 17th and 18th centuries (which persisted until the mid 19th until it was really replaced by the industrial revolution).  I like that concept.  A small number of people (often one) working away in a niche market to produce quality goods.  In this day and age, when everything is made in vast quantities, in factories overseas, the fact there are some items still available produced individually and with particular attention to quality and detail has a lot of appeal.

One Response

  1. Hi Stu, you are absolutely right about the cottage industry aspect. Though I have to say that local councils will frown upon many of us turning our job by into a home industry, taking a dim view of the dust and noise we make.

    Don’t know if you saw it, but ABC broadcast a 3 part series called Bespoke recently, outlining the growth in people taking on small scale manufacturing. Hosted by Marcus Westbury, who has done a brilliant job at promoting these business startups in my neck of the woods. Worth a look, it might still be on iView.

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