Snobbery exists everywhere.

I got a rather snotty comment today on a woodworker's forum regarding the pistol grips I was making.

"I love CNC's it helps people believe they are skilled woodworkers"

The condescension practically stained my monitor. My only reply was "Never made that claim" as the last thing I wanted to do was get in (yet another) pissing match with some keyboard jockey on the interweb tubes. However, it did rub me the wrong way as it's just another form of snobbery. It's like saying "I love compilers. It helps people believe the are skilled programmers" (quote stolen from a Twitter friend).

$5 says the guy who made this comment uses power tools rather than gnawing the wood down with his teeth and sanding it using nothing but the stubble from his 5 o’clock shadow like a true woodworker would!! It’s practically a sawdust covered version of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

I get it. The CNC automates tasks. There’s a difference between a painting and a mass produced print of the painting. The original tends to have more value, however I didn’t just download a file, turn on the CNC, hit ‘Print’ and walk away. No, I spent many hours and many failed chunks of wood trying to get the system set up correctly. I may not have made the original model out of wood, but I sure as heck put the same amount of effort “carving” the item digitally - a skill in and of itself. I had to track down specifications to turn this

image

 

into this

image

 

And eventually into this

18034034_10154558713416347_5157648969460965413_n 18058028_10154558713321347_9000349253825741181_n 18056980_10154558713326347_1655241753579870292_n 17991255_10154559387061347_2979087059101424881_n

Which ended up costing a lot more than I was hoping for as I ate through a lot of lacewood with screwing things up from time to time. But learning those kinds of things isn’t a “real” woodworker and doesn’t require skill I guess. Or maybe it is, and I just take a different approach.

Oh, those will be for sale too. And guess what? Because I can easily reproduce them, they’re not going to be $800 “bespoke, hand crafted 1911 grips from virgin mother-of-toilet-seat” grips. The lacewood will be $65. Walnut or maple would be probably $30. Might try some Wenge, and those would be $65 as well. Eventually, I should be able to do inlays which can be custom done for a little more. Once I learn how to get the checkering applied, that’d probably be a $5 upcharge. This is less than a fully handcrafted set of grips made by blind monks living in the backwaters of Jeffcooperstan.

I'm not making things on the CNC and calling them "hand made". In fact, I jokingly am calling it "hand-ish made". There is a level of art involved in fine detail work, and as someone who spent what some people pay for a used car on a custom guitar, I get that. But this is a hobby, one I enjoy thoroughly and if I can have fun making stuff that makes other people happy too, well that’s a bonus.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the CNC calling me.

posted by Robb Allen @ 4/24/2017 7:48:02 PM | Feedback (21)
If you can dream it

You can build it!

This past weekend, I spent a few hours running a test to see if I could model something like this

image

Into this

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And I did!

That’s a rough prototype. I only used a 1/16” flat down-cut bit which leaves a pretty rough surface. I had to hit it on the sander just to get rid of a lot of the wood shavings, but other than that this is what pops out of the machine in a single pass. Took about 40 minutes to rout, but the information gleaned was invaluable.

First thing I learned is how to navigate around Autodesk Fusion 360 (which is free for hobbyists!) and create the grip from specs. This is actually much easier in a 3D program like fusion 360 than anything I could do in Illustrator, not to mention that this is dimensional, not just a 2d outline. There’s also the fact that the program handles distances & whatnot for you much better (e.g. I need the center of this hole to be .36” from this edge. It will always be .36”, even if you move the edge). Much fun. Very cool.

Second, I can visualize how to make some really, really, really nice grips, even some with inlays. I have some highly figured walnut that I’m dying to turn into a set of grips with ebony & maple outlines and make a matching pen & pencil set out of. Part of the trick is learning how to swap out pieces without getting misaligned (the XCarve is a hobby machine, not a NASA engineered precision system, so things can get slightly off track if you’re not careful). Once I can successfully remove parts and / or change bits without losing precision, it will give me so many new options for cool things.

There’s also order of operations. For a scale, I need to drill very small holes for alignment on the top & bottom so I can flip them without them getting offset. The bottom holes have a slightly larger radius to allow for a flange and the tops have something similar for the screw head. Manually doing this with a drill is… let’s just say I’ve yet to have success with that. I can use my drill press now, but all three holes are not common sizes & require special bits. At least with the CNC, I can rout out those pockets with pretty good accuracy although holes tend to be a bit wonky (gotta figure out why).

Once I have the holes drilled, I can put it back on the jig and carve out the pockets for any inlays, carve out the inlays themselves, glue them together, then back on the jig for basic shaping. I need to add on about .01” to the overall thickness to allow for sanding and final whatnots.

Stay tuned! Exciting things are coming!

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/28/2017 8:39:29 AM | Feedback (23)
We are experiencing technical difficulties

And by that, I mean one of the hard drives in the server is really, really dying. This is an older copy of the website, hope I haven’t lost too many pieces of data, but bear with me as I slowly try to care enough to bring it back.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/27/2017 9:23:25 PM | Feedback (2)
Remember I talked about getting a CNC or music gear for church?

I did both…

The deal was too good to pass up on the CNC router. The original owner was younger & simply couldn’t keep it running because the wiring never worked. I went to look at it and realized it simply needed the wiring redone and a few small, inexpensive parts. Still waiting on the parts, but all wiring is done.

I can’t wait to get started. I have SO many ideas, like this one.

2017-03-06_21-10-44

As for the music equipment, the Mrs. agreed that it was for the church (I can’t use the stuff at home) so that we’d pay for it as a family. We moved money around a bit, realized we had it for both purchases, and went for it.

Stay tuned. I promise there will be some amazing stuff coming up soon! More than just awesome pens.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/7/2017 10:05:26 PM | Feedback (9)
A dilemma of several currencies

As a Dave Ramsey acolyte, I have a rule – If I cannot pay cash for something, I do not buy it. Period.

Like all rules there are times when they have to get bent or broken and I’m not so hard core that I’d tell my daughter “Sorry, you can’t have a life saving operation because we don’t have the cash for it”, but I am pretty adamant that I will not go into debt for basic wants.

This system has actually increased my cash flow as my wife & I no longer impulse buy, thus we only buy things we absolutely want or need. I highly suggest checking out Financial Peace University . However that’s not the thrust of this post, merely a preface.

I love woodworking. I am having a blast making really nice pens for people and I’ve slacked at putting them up here. I also have requests to do other things like bandsaw boxes, a combination barstool / cajón, a challenge coin holder, etc.

The great thing is this actually makes money to cover the hobby. As long as I have cash in hand, I can buy stuff to do more woodworking.

Enter the CNC.

I can think of a billion things to do with a CNC and I’ve not even scratched the surface. From jigs to templates to extremely detailed cuts that there would be no way I could do with a coping saw and my giant, steam shovel sized hands, I could find enough to do with a CNC to let me learn how they work and then expand.

Between Shapeoko and X-Carve, the two major hobby-level CNCs, we’re talking about $1500 to get into it, fully loaded. For about a grand, I could get the entry-level system but would probably spend a lot more time trying to get them to work. Or, I could spend around $500, buy all the parts and build the rest. But that butts  up against the one currency I do not possess – Time.

I’m out of time. Completely and utterly. Both my girls have music lessons, Girl Scouts, youth group, friends’ parties, etc. etc. The house needs the gutters cleaned out, the fence needs pressure washing, how the hell are weeds growing out of the side of the house, yadda yadda yadda. The woodworking takes a lot of time, and it’s not something I can genearlly just walk out to the shop, spend 15 minutes, and come back later. Plus, in between all those times, I need to socialize with my kids & my wife.

The last thing I can do is spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to build a CNC machine. I prefer one that all the parts are basically ready to put together and viola! My time is spent learning how to use, not how to build.

Oh, also – I’m in the church praise band & play on Sunday. I have to practice for that, but I’m also trying to expand beyond just guitar. I want to be able to do some keyboard work as well as being able to provide backing tracks. We’re also moving into using in ear monitors vs. the stage monitors so we can control our sound better. We’re a really small church, so all those things are items we are buying ourselves.

Yesterday, I found someone on Craigslist selling a 1000mm x 10000mm X-Carve for about half price. Doesn’t have all the bells & whistles, but it would carve stuff for me, and bells & whistles can easily be added on as we go.

The problem is, he’s young, bought this not realizing how complex it is, then realized he didn’t really have the money for it (see first few paragraphs) and is wanting to offload it to cut his losses. It doesn’t work, per se, and needs a few repairs to get it running and my gut instinct is he didn’t connect Part A to Slot B correctly. If that’s the case, it’s a good deal. If not, and he shoehorned in Part C into Slot P using a Dremel, then getting it back into working order may be that same amount of effort that I literally cannot afford.

Financially, it would completely suck up every last cent of my funding (in fact, I’d have to borrow against some other funds I’ve got set aside). And that means the audio equipment I need for church wouldn’t get purchased for a few months. None of these funds are family-funds, I consider those untouchable for crap that only benefits me. I do have some orders that I need to finish up & the payments from those would help, but not completely cover. AND, I have materials I have to buy anyway which limit that pool even more.

Options - I can stretch my rules, risk buying something that might take more time than I have AND possibly require more $$$ to get completed, especially if it’s messed up vs. not put together correctly. The payoff though could be a CNC which could honestly free up a lot of time once I get it working PLUS open up a lot of opportunities for new products. That, and it’s computers AND woodworking, which combines my hobby with my profession. Cons – No gear for church for several months.

Or, buy the gear I need for Church.  There’s no deadline, it’s not like I have to do it to continue playing, it’s just that we’re trying to be better and that requires some equipment upgrades. Our lead guy just got his gear yesterday & we’ll be trying it out tomorrow after Ash Wednesday service. The drawback here is that by the time I recoup the funds, the 1/2 price unit may be gone and I’d need to save up a considerable amount more than I think I can within a year. Big drawback – this gear is only for church. I don’t need in-ear-monitors or DI boxes at home. I’m more than happy to buy it myself and there’s no complaint about it, but it’ll only be used at church. I might be able to budget for this using family funds because it isn’t a toy for me and it can just be part of our normal giving (in addition to, not replacing), but that’s a harder sell to the Mrs.

So I have a dilemma. Time, money, and responsibilities.

Thoughts?

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/28/2017 12:00:22 PM | Feedback (11)
A note on my dad.

He's home now, resting, and getting back into the swing of 'being retired'.

The surgery was a success, they removed 5% of one of his kidneys, and completely removed the tumor. There will be no chemo and nothing else besides standard followups to make sure he's healing.

Praise God that his back was hurting him enough to get him to go in for xrays. They never figured out what the back pain was, but by the grace of God they found the tumor, tiny and easily cut out before it caused any real damage.

Glad to have my old man still around. I may be a father of 2 myself, but there's always something he can teach me.

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/4/2017 8:16:55 PM | Feedback (7)
Geek joke

Who's there?

Asynchronous Programming Who?

Knock Knock

Asynchronous Programming

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/3/2017 1:31:07 PM | Feedback (6)
I’m thinking “Rational Ignorance” is looking more & more rational

Today on Twitter, someone I followed retweeted something about how conservative Christians actually get pleasure from people suffering. I called her out on this and her response was that if it pissed me off, maybe it was because it was true.

I don’t like Trump, thus I’m despised by people I used to fight side by side against the creeping state because hey, they now have the pen & phone and dammit, they’re going to use it and my principles means I hate America & am a commie bitch.

I have no problems with people opening up their homes and accepting refugees who are fleeing oppression. I’m not as much of a fan of me being forced to open *my* wallet to do so, but this means that I don’t care about kids dying. I mention there are people near by that I’d prefer to take care of instead, and I’m called a white-nationalist. Racist. Xenophobe. Whatever the insult du jour is.

Mention that I’m ok with people of any color, religion, background, foreground, downtown, uptown,  whatever – owning firearms to defend themselves and I’m a cross between Satan and Hitler since I want to see people of some  color, religion, or background killed or something.

Not kidding, this morning I opened my favorite “bathroom time” game, Two Dots, to entertain myself while I dropped off a Wookiee at the Cantina, and the splash screen was a political message about the falsely-named #muslimban.

I deleted it immediately.

It’s not logical. It’s not rational.

And dammit… it’s not healthy. I don’t enjoy it any more. I can’t even log into the Bookface thing to post pictures of my woodworking or  my kids without being pummeled by political shit-tossing.

I’m this close to just shutting it all down. Quit Twitter. Mute everyone on FB. Stop reading blogs.

I’ll be ignorant of what’s going on. But I’ll be less angry.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/30/2017 4:33:30 PM | Feedback (10)
Prayers & Well Wishes Greatly Appreciated

My father is heading into surgery this morning to remove the cancer from his kidney. They skipped the laparoscopic option due to the location of the tumor & are cutting him open instead.

I cannot be there because I’m still sick with a cold and it’s simply not a good idea for me to be there where I could infect him or his wife with this crud. So I have to worry from afar.

The tumor is small and they should be able to cut it entirely out in one shot, so hopefully all goes to plan and he’s back to himself in no time, preferably the cancer-free self.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/30/2017 8:03:01 AM | Feedback (7)