Challenge Accepted: Integrating technology and artisan craftsmanship.

Deep in our core there is a desire to continually learn and expand our capabilities so our clients receive the highest level of craftsmanship…always with obsessive attention to detail. Our fine woodworking group, NEWwoodworks, has some of the most woodcraft obsessed folks you’ll ever meet and they love a new challenge. Enter CNC technology. As this technology has evolved, the NEWwoodworks team has pushed the capabilities of their 3-axis CNC router to better meet their high expectations.

Stepping up NEWwoodworks already notable capabilities is “Thelma”, a Thermwood CNC MTR-30 5×10 3-axis router. Much of their work is done with reclaimed timbers and board stock so a raised z-axis to accommodates the larger timber stock, additional table reinforcement and stiffer axes to aid in cutting denser material and an upgraded vacuum table to make complex jigging and complicated hold-downs easier and faster are all incorporated into the CNC.

What does this integration mean? Some of the rough cutting work and sculpting work can be hogged out by the CNC, then finessed and finished by the artisan’s hand. It helps afford a level of speed and precision that while possible by hand, is difficult and time-consuming work. It can be the best way to get that fine detail after the rough-in, which really eliminates multiple shapings and sandings.

“The CNC allows us to be more productive, even with highly custom designs like our live edge cabinetry. It excels with, and really helps us on, the simple bulk work like plywood cab parts and solid wood parts and pieces, significantly reducing handling and touches,” shared Rob D’Alessandro, general manager of NEWwoodworks. “Complex joinery, carvings, curves, and even typical furniture parts can be created more quickly leaving our craftsmen free to focus their unique capabilities on details, fit, and finish.”

The stringers for this floating stair were cut using the CNC. Photo by Don Cochran Photography.

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Running Timbers on the Hundegger

Andy operates the Hundegger controls and computer as a timber is processed.

Andy operates the Hundegger controls and computer as a timber is processed.

What is that big yellow, blue, and red tool? It is our Hundegger, a large CNC capable of cutting timbers with joinery. We have always liked the combination of technology with traditional craftsmanship. The marriage of both allows us to produce more efficiently, work with larger outputs, and helps our co-workers have a long career practicing their craft.

 

 

 

Andy has been our co-worker for 10 years and main operator of the Hundegger on the East Coast for over 5.

Andy has been our co-worker for 9 years and main operator of the Hundegger on the East Coast for over 5 years.

The CNCs in each of our shops rough cut timbers and joinery before the pieces head to layout and hand fitting/finishing. Andy is our main Hundegger operator on the east coast. He’s been a part of our team for a decade, starting as a timber framer, learning the trade from our master timber framers in the shop and then traveling around the nation to raise the frames he helped craft. Andy told us he liked the travel (before he had kids). He was up for a new challenge and went for the opportunity to learn the Hundegger technology. Most days he can be found standing at the main control station for the Hundgger between bouts loading the platform with raw timbers.

Reclaimed Red Pine Timbers celebrate the original surfaces with few to no old mortise pockets or peg holes. Phot

Reclaimed Red Pine Timbers celebrate the original surfaces with few to no visible old mortise pockets or peg holes. Photo (C) Sylwia Janik

 

 

Andy’s a quiet guy with a composed nature that makes him a great team member, as does his attention to detail. Part of Andy’s role is to determine which side of each timber will face the exterior wall and which will be visible to the room. This becomes especially important when working with reclaimed timbers.

“One project might call for old mortise pockets to be everywhere, while another may only want the reclaimed surface without any exposed peg holes or pockets. Sorting that out, working with each timber for a project, fresh or reclaimed, is a good daily challenge,” explains Andy.

 

 

 

Hundegger with Timber Stacks Watching the Hundegger rotate and cut full size timbers is mesmerizing. The sound of a timber being worked is so familiar to Andy that even with ear protection he can hear if a bit is getting dull or a clamp is overworking. The process is fluid. Once checked (and double checked), after a few keystrokes his hands are on the controls and the timber moves down the chain into the tool. Depending on the complexity of the cutting, it will be fed out the other end in a matter of minutes then move down another chain to be planed and put into layout.

Andy references printed wide format (‘old-school’ as he says) plans alongside a computer program with K2 coding for each project as he works individual timbers. Plans are often splayed across the work surface next to the Hundegger controls and computer screen.

Pointing to a large bottom cord on a set of plans Andy says, “The maximum size timber the tool can cut is 21″ wide and 12″ tall by just about any length. It has five axis cutting capability so we can rough out simple and complicated joinery.”

We use our Hundegger CNC tools to rough cut timbers and joinery.

We use our Hundegger CNC tools to rough cut timbers and joinery.

At the end of the day, the Hundegger is shut down falling silent before being swept out. The off-cuts are cleared out (and head to our high efficiency boiler to heat the plant). Files are saved and plans are rolled up. Andy organizes timbers for the following morning before heading home to his family. There he stays busy with his wife Ashley, their daughter Bristol, and son Luke. He’s also applying his skills to remodeling their family home. “Someday it’ll be done,” he told us with a light chuckle and a final critical study of the Hundegger as he headed out the door.