By Mike Kern
I’m a hands-on kind of person, working in a job where my time and effort don’t yield a product I can see and hold. Woodworking as a hobby has fed the part of me that likes making things and having something to show for it.
I can remember my early years dreaming of what I could do with those unbelievably expensive CNC machines I saw in the ads of woodworking magazines. When CNC equipment finally got closer to what I could afford with the 3018-PRO (Explore more Genmitsu CNC machines), I took the plunge to see what I could actually do with the technology myself. It didn’t take long for me to add a laser, and only a little longer to keep adding more parts, capacity, software, and upgrades to my upgrades.
I admit that I’m not raking in money through this hobby. In spite all the stuff I’ve created, I still haven’t even made enough money to pay for the machine and upgrades. The truth is that I don’t really enjoy making the same thing enough times to make it profitable--I enjoy making novel and unique things. It had taken me a while to let go of the idea that my hobby has to be profitable, and to let myself be happy to simply find it rewarding. So this is what I do...
I’ve made personalized wood coins to hand out as an object lesson in my job. I’ve made a ton of personalized gifts for friends and family. Every year I encourage high school youth in my church to design a Christmas ornament, then I burn it and cut it out for them to sell as a fundraiser. I’ve donated a whole host of custom plaques and trinkets to charity auctions. I’ve also given plaques to scout leaders to thank them for their service, and I handmade an award for my son to recognize his achievements. All of these things were relatively inexpensive to make, but so rewarding to give. Sometimes my projects are made entirely from scratch, works of love given to someone I care about. But for an equal number of projects, I have purchased an inexpensive tree trunk slice or rough plank from a craft store to make a quick donation to a cause I care about.
What I have mentioned, and the pictures shown, all of these were produced with my CNC or laser. They were all made using the 3018-PRO. The ones named "labyrinth" were cut with the stock spindle router that comes with the 3018-PRO. The rest of them were things either I made or purchased, and then I engraved or cut them out with the 5.5w laser on my 3018-PRO.
There’s definitely a learning curve to starting out with CNC, but the good thing about that is it also means there’s always something new to learn. I like surfing the internet to see what others have made, watching how-to videos online, and seeking the collective wisdom of the Sainsmart maker community. I keep very few of the things I make, but I love how having a CNC and laser allows me to play and try new things.
Whether you’re a seasoned traditional woodworker enhancing your work with lasers and CNC, a hard-core money-making crafter, or someone just starting out with a new machine not yet sure what this will bring, I encourage you to set aside all the expectations, and just enjoy it. It can be really rewarding.