September 11, 2013 3:00 am • Justin Herrling | Special to The Citizen
With the technical advancements in woodworking, there has been an overwhelming push to incorporate more intricate and creative designs. One way to accomplish this is by the use of computer numeric-controlled tools. CNC tools are becoming a large part of both industrial and home wood shops, because of their ability to produce products that, if done by hand, would be very difficult and extremely time-consuming.
Having read several articles on CNC machines, I was very interested in trying to bring this new technology into my classroom. Because of my limited budget to purchase new equipment, I wrote a grant to the Auburn Education Foundation to fund a project that would purchase a CNC router to be used as part of my woodworking curriculum. I was very fortunate to have had the grant approved, and in January of this year, I was able to purchase a Rockler CNC Shark Pro Plus HD. I chose this model because of its great reviews, reputation and ease of use. It also included a copy of the software that was needed. Along with the machine itself, I needed a router and a laptop, which were both readily available to me.
After initial setup of the machine, it was time to start learning how to use the software that would control and manipulate the CNC router. The software V-Carve Pro is a vector-based utility program that allows you to both create vector files and import vector files to be used in the creation of a tool path file that communicates with the CNC Shark control panel. Once files are created, they can be previewed to see exactly what the carving will look like once completed.
Once the file is created, you can then choose the type of material to carve. The machine not only cuts wood, but other solid surface materials such as Corian. Once the material is set into the machine, you can begin your carving. Once carving, the machine uses the most efficient path to create the carving to reduce both carving time and machine wear. To watch the machine in action is very impressive; the precision and accuracy of the movements is almost unattainable by a human.
This project has proven to be both very exciting and educational for the students and myself. Although we have just broken the surface of what this machine is capable of, we have produced some outstanding projects that we could otherwise be unable to create.
In the next school year I plan on learning more of the software capabilities, to be able to demonstrate the machine to more students and faculty in the district. I couldn’t be more excited as an educator to be able to show new technology to my students to excite them and promote interest in the field of woodworking technology. This project was only possible because of the generous funds of the Auburn Education Foundation. I want to express my sincere gratitude and thanks.