Marcus Dominelli wrote:...
It would be nice to have a CNC for necks....but then again most of my clients want a particular neck shape, which must be done by hand to be efficient.
Of the four guitars I'm making now, all the necks are a different width and profile. So I guess I won't be using CNC anytime soon....
I have quite a different take on this than Marcus and maybe it'll help with people on the edge of deciding on the technology to do a little investigation on their own.
First, let me state that I don't really use a cnc router for guitar work. I have one that I purchased years ago used but it is a disaster of a machine. Circles don't come out round, squares are not square, etc.. but that's whole other story.
So, a little about my background. I've been a user of CAD/CAM packages since the early 1980's specializing in aircraft surface development, quite heavy on the CAM side of the house which also required you to be heavy on the CAD side of the house. As you can imagine the systems back then were quite large and expensive running on main frame computers. I can remember a single seat of software costing close to $100K. This was a very specialized field at the time. Times have changed! Enough about that, I suppose that's most me reminiscing about the "good-ole-days".
But the main point of all that was that times have changed. The above history lesson is what set the tone for where we think cnc is appropriate and where it's not. Most people associate cnc with large production houses making large volumes or very complicated parts. This view is no longer true as the cost of entry is minuscule compared to the past (still somewhat expensive for a guitar builder).
So, one of the biggest changes in the technology and most beneficial besides the price drop and ease of use has been 'parametric solid modeling'. This development which occurred back in the mid 90's was designed to address situations like Marcus's concerns about different necks for each client. This technology breaks the paradigm of "large volumes/complicated parts'.
With today's CAD/CAM systems, dimensions and spline shapes in similar parts can easily be changed and regenerated into a different configuration very quickly, assuming the model is set up well. As an very simple example I can change a fretboard model from 650 mm to 640 mm simply by editing a few key parameters and regenerating the model, assuming I put some thought into how I build my model I can be ready to go back out to the cnc machine and cut the new scale in a matter of minutes . This is much faster than making a fingerboard scale template (at least for me). The same can be done for neck contours, widths and thicknesses, of course this is more complicated, but very doable.
Here's my list in no particular order of where I think cnc makes sense for a guitar builder. I think this is the low hanging fruit.
- some types rosette work
- end block
- inlay (steel string)
- Jigs and fixtures
They won't help in my opinion with things like bracing.
I hope you didn't get too bored with my lengthy post. Things are much different today than they were in the past. I think this technology can really shine for many types of artisans , but getting the market to accept it is another story.