Is Technology a Threat?
As technology improves and machinery becomes more affordable, many people feel threatened – they fear that they are being replaced and will one day be unnecessary. In the world of woodworking, the machine of primary threat is the CNC router.
What is a CNC Machine, Really?
I do not feel threatened. First of all, I see CNC machinery as just another tool that excels at certain tasks, just like every other tool. And, just like every other tool, CNC machinery has weaknesses – the primary downside being, I believe, the required set-up time for an operation. For large scale production, the set-up time is a small price to pay for the efficiency the machine provides.
Can Machines Really Replace People?
The work that I do, and the ways that I work, does not lend itself well to mass production. Each step requires careful consideration, mindful decisions and skilled, practiced movements to execute and there are numerous chances to turn all that hard work into firewood. Also, sculptural elements are difficult, if not impossible, to produce on most machinery.
Even if there is a machine that can make those decisions and shape and assemble wood as I do, it is still missing one thing that I can offer – the fact that it was made with care and love by me.
One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. – Elbert Hubbard
(You can find this quote, along with many other interesting quotes about woodwork, art, and craft on my page, Quotables).
e-David is a robot that paints one stroke at a time, constantly analyzing its progress. Paintings are not completely controlled by the programmer – the robot apparently makes decisions as well as using a visual optimization process.
David Pye’s book, The Nature and Art of Workmanship (ISBN 978-0713689310), explores the concept of “workmanship of risk” and the value of skilled hand work. I recommend reading this book.