Someone asked me the other day how we did things before we got our modern computer controlled tools. It got me to thinking as I worked on my 'marvellous machine' for the Sign Invitational entry. Today I was building the flywheel. In years gone by I would have cut the pieces from MDF with my jig saw. I would have glued them up and then chucked them into the lathe and done as much as I could there. Then I would have done a lot of hand carving and shaping and sanding to make it look like what I had originally envisioned. I would have gotten to where I wanted but it would have been a very labour intensive process.
Instead I did a quick sketch to get my ideas sorted out... then sat down at my computer to do the design. In about half an hour I worked up a three dimensional model of the flywheel. I built the computer model in two halves which would be machined and then glued together. Once the model was build I designed the paths with one click of the mouse and sent the file to the MultiCam CNC router just as easily. I then put a sheet of one and a half inch thick Precision Board high density urethane on the routing table and turned on the vacuum. The powerful vacuum sucked the piece firmly in place, meaning I didn't have to fuss with clamps. I set home position with a couple pushes of a button and then called up the job. Once the machine was in motion I went to do something else while the machine did the work. Half-way through the job it even did an automatic tool change without my having to watch it. When I came back into the shop the two halves of the flywheel were machined. They fit together perfectly too. Some five minute epoxy and a few screws (put in with a cordless driver) fastened things together permanently. As quick as that the flywheel was ready for a test fit. I still have a little hand finishing to do but it sure is a whole lot easier and faster than the old days.
I definitely like the modern way. I still get to do creative projects using my hands and mind but there is a whole lot less grunting and sweating to get to that point!