A visit to a contemporary woodshop will find all manner of digital assists to getting the job sold and done – from apps for design and ordering, to cut list exports, to color match swatches. And in many cases, a younger corps of workers using them.
I’m talking intuitively here, but from what I see – and I’ve got my own 21-year-old I’m supporting through technical training –the incoming crop of workers is very grounded in the use of digitally controlled devices, from laptops to smart phones, to iPads.
They arrive at work expecting there’s an app for that, and in some cases, if they don’t find one, may even be able to build their own – or find a friend to do it.
This newest generation of woodworkers does not envision themselves as be-whiskered wood butchers up to their coveralls in sawdust. Instead, they want to control the manual process digitally, expecting to attain full precision guidance of cutting tool paths and saw blade cuts, as exactingly as they can envision it in their minds.
CNCs make this possible, and new crops of diminutive models suggest this technology is going to resume its spread among woodworkers.
A visit to the Renegade Artfair, a kind of Makers’ Faire that has spread to London, New York, San Francisco and Austin, TX, found quite a few woodworkers (I posted some photos on Facebook.)
One in particular was selling a form of marquetry art he had developed using a Porter Cable router guided by a CNC platform he built himself from a kit. Other wood offerings at this fair, whose vendors were mostly 20-somethings, included well-crafted furniture far beyond the hobbyist level. But some of the creative is clearly grounded in a digital view of the world.
To me this suggests the continued visceral tug of building and shaping wood is alive and well, but that to bring young people into the woodmaking fold, we must offer a path that is heavily laced with digital tools.
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