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[quote name='MzI' post='267476' date='May 6 2006, 09:05 PM']
I have gotten into the CNC world recently as we have one at my University, granted im graduating on the 20th of this month, I still have the option of driving back down here everyonce in a while and using the machine. The thing I personally like is the safety factor in relation to using a hand held router. As weird is it sounds I am still uncomfortable using the router and I have been building guitars for the last 4 years. As far as one off guitars, I do one off computer modeling all the time as an architect, though not nearly as detailed as the guitar modeling needs to be fairly accurate as I am finding unless you expect to do alot of handwork afterwards. I have recently cut a pair of flying V's and in all honestly there is no way that I can by hand work as fast as the machine does. When I had it programed correctly, with all the pick up, neck cavity, electronic cavity, and the full body route in all of 10 minutes. Aside from that I still enjoy carving a neck by hand.

I here what you are saying.I too like to do the occasional neck by hand,it,s rewarding.I,ve done L.P. necks with cnc and I,ve done them without and I can come real close to the original by hand but getting it perfect I,de have to say cnc makes them more symetrical if thats the word.There will always be the human factor in guitar building no matter what.Havent seen a machine with a set of eyes yet that can rationalize it,s own thinking .Cheers.

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I understand a traditionalist feeling like CNC is no substitute for hand working pieces. But please don't assume that an interest in CNC equals "newbies who come in, never built a guitar in their lives, or maybe got as far as assembling one, and go 'yeah, I'll just learn to program a CNC and build the bestest guitar ever!'"

Some of us actually work creatively in a CAD environment. Some of us are architects, engineers, graphic designers or other dreary professionals that see the computer as a tool we can use to express ourselves creatively. It may not be as glamorous as the wood craftsman with 18th Century tools working away in some Old World workshop, but it is the best we can do.

Personally, I like the precision and repeatability of CAD and thus have an interest in CNC. I like having a part and modifying it while having some comfort that the other perameters have stayed the same. And, I don't believe it makes me a "nubie" to think that I am more skilled a designer that I am at one particular hand skill of the MANY required by guitarmaking. Do I really want to learn to hand carve ebony to make a beautiful tailpiece? If I make 2 or 3 guitars a year, and only one of them an archtop, am I ever going to develop this skill to the level of the rest of the guitar, or wouldn't it be better to have a precision machine mill it from my design? What if I want a compound radius fretboard for a parlor guitar with a 24" scale length? Am I a hack for not having "hand" jigs for that?

If you still can't understand the interest in CNC, then it is clearly not for you. However, I have to admit I resent the implication that only hacks or nubies with no understanding of the craft of guitar making would have any interest in it.

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Re-read what I wrote. I'm in no way trying to say that it's only for Hacks or newbs, because it's certainly not; tons of pros have CNCs, or outsource parts and have them CNC'd, and for very good (often economic, rather than accuracy) reasons. It's a great tool, but it isn't is a shortcut to building a better guitar.

The vast majority of inquiries I see regarding CNC are from people who don't have a clue about building an instrument, or CAD, or CNC in the first place, so they've got to learn a bunch of distinct, difficult skillsets. Ergo the ranting. It's not about 'traditionalist' approaches; I don't have a CNC, I don't see it as a cost-effective tool for a hobby builder who's not in this as a profession. It's also not necessarily a shortcut to producing better instruments faster.

If you can design a guitar in CAD, by all means, go for it. I need to work on paper, full-size, and I visualize the final shape without drawing it out, because I've never gotten to grips with CAD software (no need to, professionally), and it's much, much faster to do it all by hand. For me.

Also, I don't think it takes tons of training to learn the skills necessary to build a guitar; I got into this with zero woodworking experience. Learned as I went. And that worked fine. CNC isn't a way of achieving the goal of building pro-quality guitars faster. Yeah, nice, accurate woodwork, but a good set of templates, patience, and decent hand-eye coordination will do that for you. Carving tops isn't that hard; if you can visualize it, make a 3-D map of a carved top, you should be able to make one with an angle grinder, in about an hour, start to finish. CNC will get you some lovely, accurate parts if you're comfortable with the modeling and CAM angle of things, I'm sure, but you still need to understand your material, what you're building, how to assemble, fret, level, set up, finish the guitar. Those are the harder skills. Hand-carving ebony? Not that difficult if you've got the right tools. Compound radii? If I had a CNC, that's one of the things I'd definitely use it for, because why bother with a bulky jig if you can do it all on a CNC?

But if you don't have one, and you don't want to play around with the CNC because the technology itself interests you, and/or because you have an affinity for it? You need to decide up front what you want to use the CNC for, why it's the right tool for you. Becaue it is just a tool, and one that's far more complicated to learn how to use than templates, routers, hand tools, saws. Almost every comment I've seen from guys with CNCs also indicates that it's not necessarily a small step from CAD drawings to CNC'ing a part.

The 'myth' of the can-do-everything CNC remains, in both directions; Ed Roman's anti-CNC ranting pisses me off (it takes skill to use a tool this complex), but I equally get frustrated at the implication that CNC is the best, fastest, most accurate way to build a guitar (outside of production environments), as that's simply not the case. You can get precision and repeatability with templates and good measuring tools.

Hopefully that clears things up, and I'm sorry if I offended.

Edited by Mattia
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Mattia, you are right on the money. Cnc is not a "quick draw it on the computer and push the magic botton kinda thing". I would probably be time and money ahead if I had just learned to do it by hand. And so much of what makes a great guitar, things like fretwork and setup, can't be done by a machine.
These are the aspects of my first guitar that intimidate me.

I think what gets most of the cnc guys riled up is the attitude that your cnc built guitar is not as good because the machine did all the work. I've run into alot of this kind of thinking in different places on the net. It's easy to assume anyone who raises a questioning opinion on using cnc comes from this school of thought. Mattia though, you clearly know what is involved, and your opinions are right on the money.

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