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Hand vs. machine work

We weren't too deep into the "woodworking revival" of the mid 70s before the argument ensued about the "validity" of work done using machines as opposed to that of work done "by hand". This argument has persisted to this day and is still perfectly capable of providing an afternoon's entertainment.

My own answer to this has always been that the use of any tool requires knowledge and skill regardless of what provides the power. After all, one "sent into the woods" with only their hands and instructions to make something out of a tree could be a long time coming back out!

But it seems that in this century, the argument has taken on a whole new dimension with the growing use of computers and CNC machines. It could still be argued that it makes no difference to the end user if the parts used to make his dining table are cut with a CNC saw or pushed through a table saw by a person. But the truth is, CNC equipment can be configured to do so much of the work needed to build a piece of furniture that the need for actual human involvement can be limited to loading and unloading parts.

There seems to be a future here in designing pieces that can be made in an automated environment and, as the technology advances to more and more sophisticated levels, these designs are becoming more and more complex, moving slowly away from the "Euro" look of square-edged "modern" design and more toward "traditional" designs incorporating elements like carvings, turnings, inlays, etc.

But from where I stand, it seems like the brightest future is for those who know how to program a computer rather than those who can artfully wield a chisel.


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