For me, the run-down to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. Unlike other busy periods, the Xmas period is predictable, unavoidable chaos. And the shed is one of the first areas to suffer any competing demands on time.
However, it is not all bad – one of the things I use the shed for is downtime, and what is probably called “mindfulness” in the modern terminology. So long as I am not stressed by a lack of shed time, it can be kept for more relaxing periods.
Having the CNC machine out there is also a real boon. While I can be running around like a headless chook, it can still be turning out products. I still don’t care one iota that some people do not regard the CNC as “real woodworking”. I agree on one level – the whole hands-on experience of woodworking was watered down dramatically with the shift in the workshop technology to powered machines, and it is as much a quantum leap again with the move to computer controlled machinery. But that is a choice you make for yourself, it is not one thrust upon you.
Is a dovetailed box made by CNC any less a box than one made using a dovetail jig, and is that any less than one cut using power tools (such as a bandsaw), and is that any less a box than one with hand-cut dovetails?
From a skill perspective, sure – each level of technology requires less skill than the previous. But isn’t that true for every other aspect of our lives? One impact of technology is that more can be done with less. More productivity, higher quality with the same level of skill. That isn’t to say the end product is equal – a handcut dovetail can be so much more than one made with a jig, but when it comes down to producing something when skill, and/or time is more limited than would otherwise be needed, it allows a result when otherwise there would be none forthcoming.
So to what purpose all this production, when I am not getting the tangible benefit of the downtime pottering around in the workshop?
Xmas decorations, and toys! Not only for the workplace (and an informal competition between a few areas for the most Xmas-decorated area), but also for individual colleagues who wanted models for themselves, or as stocking stuffers. And the extra items made, the surplus production time for the CNC? Some local markets and school fêtes on the leadup to Christmas. A bit of fun, and not a bad way to value-add an MDF sheet.
If you were really keen and dedicated, there are so many markets on around the place. It wouldn’t take too long for the full price of the CNC machine to be recovered. Of course, factoring in your time, setup costs and tax would mean that you wouldn’t be expecting to start turning a true profit for some time, but we are potentially talking months, not years. Even if it did take a year, and you had to do a market each weekend, would you really be too upset if it meant that you had a fully paid-off CNC machine by the end of the year? It could be a rather tempting argument for the purchase of a decent-sized laser!
So that is what has been happening recently. Hopefully after the madness of Christmas is over, some normality can return to workshop activities!
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