Whenever I go to one of the big woodworking shows (such as the International Woodworking Fair), I always like to see the big CNC machines where the operators put a sheet of plywood in at one end and a desk comes out the other.
You might think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. In the late 1990s, one of these CNC companies was giving away full-size plywood chairs to attendees that you could assemble without glue, like a big puzzle. Though I like working with solid wood, I have always been floored by the coolness and efficiency of these CNC machines.
This week, industrial designer and furniture maker Aaron Hines sent me some fascinating renderings of a workbench he is programming for his company’s CNC machines that is based on the English Workbench design I built for my book and the cover of the June 2007 issue of Popular Woodworking (for a basic sketch of the bench, visit our blog at Popular Woodworking).
Aaron designed the bench to be made using three sheets of 7/8″-thick plywood. The CNC machine will cut all the joints and make the bench ready to assemble. All Aaron will have to do is to drill some dog holes and do some work on the leg vise. The plywood isn’t stiff enough as-is, so he’s considering a solid-wood jaw or making the jaw a plywood torsion box.
I spent about an hour studying the design last night, and I think it’s going to work quite well. Aaron is making the workbench for his home workshop, not for his company to sell. But I think it would be a very cool product to have on the market. Aaron says a flat-packed kit would be possible, though the shipping would be more expensive than the material. But he suggests that a retail outlet might be a better solution.
So don’t try ordering one just yet. First Aaron has to get his bench built and see if the thing really flies. He promised to send photos of the finished product and some notes on how well it works. I can’t wait to find out.
– Christopher Schwarz