Traditional Woodworking Goes High-Tech with Software & CNC Routers

Woodworker Norman Pease, who began his career in 1985 and founded his Pennsylvania custom millwork company in 2002, is taking his business into the 21st century. While the finely detailed works he produces will still be born of his own imagination and creativity, a new process of actually carving them will take a lot of strain off his hands (literally).

Pease has always carved the impressive works he creates for Three Gryphons Carving Studio the traditional way, with hand tools like chisels. Serving designers, architects and cabinetmakers, the woodworker recently switched to a three-axis ShopSabre CNC router with a 4 x 8 foot cutting table to keep up with all the requests he was getting for custom relief work, turning and engraving.

“At this stage, I actually had too much demand for the amount of time available, so I was turning away work”, he told Woodworking Network. “I was new to CNC machining and I started from nothing. I didn’t know how to draw on a computer, I didn’t know how to use CAD, I never ran a CNC router before and the machine had to hit the ground running in terms of making money straight away.”

“As I had never used any other CAD/CAM software, I spoke to a lot of people about different software programs to drive the router and EnRoute was the name that kept popping up,” he said. “Those recommendations from other EnRoute users, and a price point a couple of thousand dollars less than some solutions from other competitors made it seem like a sensible option.”

The software even lets him ensure that the final works won’t be “too perfect,” lacking the little details that add personality and a human touch. A feature called “distort toolpaths” gives the carving a rugged look. What used to take a week to finish can now be done in as little as five hours, and while the machine is running, Pease can work on other projects.

Looking at the woodworker’s portfolio of past creations on Facebook, it’s clear that he’s always been skilled enough to produce finely wrought detail, so the use of these tools hasn’t markedly changed the character of his work. Some people may mourn what the adoption of CNC routers and CAD could mean for skilled woodworking in the future, and that’s a legitimate concern. But it’s nice to know that they’ll allow woodworkers like Pease to boost production and hopefully make more money, too.