CNC Perfection in a Portable Hand Tool

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Justin Nelson is the founder of Fernweh Woodworking in Oregon. His custom shop makes small-batch modern furniture, with an emphasis on high-quality and beautiful craftmanship.

Fernweh logo

A true furniture artist, Nelson placed his pre-order for Origin as soon as he first saw it on social media. He did so without even knowing how he was going to use it. What he did know was that his shop didn’t have the real estate to accommodate a full-size, static CNC machine. So, he was excited about the possibility of CNC-quality cutting in a portable and versatile hand tool.

Since adding the Origin to his shop, Nelson has been impressed with how seamlessly the tool can slot into time/labor intensive workflows.

“I’ve been amazed at how many jobs it’s come in handy on,” he says. “I started by using Origin as a logo brander on my finished pieces. Even if I had only used it for that, the tool would have paid for itself.”

But Origin is much more than just a time saver and a workflow simplifier. The tool’s precision and reliability give Fernweh Woodworking the freedom to make cuts with confidence, and to remove the stress involved in cutting and shaping finished work. For example, the shop uses its Origin to contour the graceful arms on its sling-back chairs. Because Nelson contours the arm once he has glued up the chair, there is very little room for error.

“If something goes wrong,” he says, “you’re kinda screwed.”

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Being able to rely on CNC precision in a portable tool gives him the confidence to make those complex cuts. Unlike traditional routers, Origin offers him incredibly precise depth control and the ability to automatically plunge. And because it was designed for woodworking professionals, Origin is easy to learn and easy to operate. There’s no technological sophistication or computer programming required, or no need to learn proprietary software.

Here’s how it works. One simply uploads a design file to the tool and then physically places the CNC router in the workspace. There’s a special tape, called ShaperTape, that is stuck on the wood (the placement doesn’t need to be overly precise, or time-consuming). The machine scans the tape to generate a map. From there, it can turn the vector data – essentially, a number of determined locations, or points – in the file into toolpaths. All the operator needs to do is follow those paths, which are shown on the tool’s built-in screen. He/she simply guides the machine with two hands along the path that appears in the display. The tool makes continuous corrections as the operator moves along the toolpath.

The spindle is not fixed like the motor in a traditional plunge router: it can move independently of the rest of the machine. This allows the tool to make continuous corrections as the operator moves along the tool path, keeping cuts precise and reliable. And if a user makes a mistake while cutting, or strays beyond the tool’s corrective range (that is, the amount the spindle can move within the body of the tool), the cutter actually retracts and preserves the workpiece!

The primary genius of Shaper Origin is that it combines computer-guided accuracy with hand-held familiarity. That means a woodworker can rout with unparalleled precision, flexibility and efficiency. Other aspects that make this an invaluable tool in any woodshop are its quick set-up, simple operation, the very short learning curve, a comparatively small financial investment, fewer errors and built-in correction on the go. There’s simply no better way to do inlays, signs and other precise milling such as hardware installation.

Shaper Origin. It delivers the perfect cut every time.

Just ask Justin Nelson.

SHAPER

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