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I didn’t CNC that coming

The “newest” spin on CNC is as old as pen and ink.

CNC woodworking machines seem so 21st-century but have been around for decades. They were already production-shop staples when I first started at Woodshop News back in the mid-’90s and have only become more widespread ever since. Even home-shop DIYers have them now. So, should it really come as a surprise that new ideas for using them keep popping up?

The first thing that comes to any woodworker’s mind when thinking of CNC machines is spinning router blades and flying woodchips. So much so, that these machines are primarily considered to be souped-up routers. Sure, they’re used that way, but when you think about it some more the true heart of a CNC machine is the X-Y-Z movement technology; the router is merely attached to the business end of that movement.

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So imagine my surprise when a recent press release from Laguna Tools featured a marker pen attachment that effectively turns a CNC machine into a plotter. Now, plotters have been around way longer than CNC routers. In fact, the whole CNC woodworking machine as we know it probably came about ages ago when some drafter looked at his plotter one day and thought, “Ya know, I bet I could slap a router onto this baby.”

Intrigued by the Laguna offering, I started Googling and found that a lot of people are already doing this and have been for some time. (Yes, it’s only me who’s behind the curve here.) Applications include creating measured drawings, paper templates, sign-making, or even just testing out a new CNC pattern without actually cutting up a sheet of plywood.

The real beauty of this isn’t that it’s a “new” application for CNC tech, but rather an ingenious throwback that takes CNC tech full circle right back to its roots. In the process, it makes CNC even more versatile for woodshops.

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