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I'm not a woodworker, but my dad is pretty handy and he has lots of woodworking tools and machinery so I'm familiar with the craft. I recently stumbled across this incredible piece online and I'm puzzled at how it was made. The only machine I know that that can cut with both such precision and intricacy would be a CNC mill/router. Are there any more conventional machines that could also be used to make a piece like this?

Lastly, you would need a really big block of wood to make such a large piece- nothing like I've ever seen at the Home Depot. Is there a formal name for the "big block of wood" that you would need? And where could you find one?

  • For future reference try not to combine questions, each Question should be about one major subject as much as possible. – Graphus Jul 6 '17 at 7:37
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The only machine I know that that can cut with both such precision and intricacy would be a CNC mill/router. Are there any more conventional machines that could also be used to make a piece like this?

This is almost certainly done via CNC.

It is possible to make something like this purely by manual processes, all you have to do is look up historical wood carving to see what's possible from the hands of a true master carver (e.g. Grinling Gibbons). But in this case 99.99% chance it's CNCed.

Lastly, you would need a really big block of wood to make such a large piece- nothing like I've ever seen at the Home Depot.

It may not be made from a single piece of wood. In fact it would tend to be stronger and more stable if made from a 'lamination' or glue-up from a number of pieces*. I think I can make out a join line in one of the photos so the starting block might have been glued together from 2-3 pieces. If they're producing these in number I'd expect that they're generally, possibly always, using glue-ups as their starting point.

In the past it was much more common to use single large pieces for a number of reasons. The first is simply that there was much more wood available, much of it of high quality, and from this they could select the best pieces possible. The wood then was exclusively air-dried (drying in a kiln tends to make wood more brittle) and it could have been dried for many years (seasoned) which together make for much better wood. Even today in workshops with high standards pieces of wood can be put aside to season in a storeroom for years after they come in, despite being dry enough to work upon arrival.

Is there a formal name for the "big block of wood" that you would need? And where could you find one?

Depending on the part of the world you're in there are traditional names for pieces of wood of specific sizes and lengths, but often today you'd just buy by dimensions. So you might simply say "I need a piece X by X by X."

In the UK you'd generally need to go to a sawmill or timber merchants (sawmill or lumber yard in the US) for larger pieces.


*Not the same sort of thing but the wooden countertop material offered by Ikea for example, its construction is based on the same principle — even if single boards of beech could be found that were the same dimensions they would be far less stable, virtually guaranteed to warp.

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    If you were doing this without CNC, most of the shaping could be done by turning - then it's just a matter of cutting the knurling on the "focus rings" – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 7 '17 at 14:00
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I don't see the need for CNC. The body is only 12 inches in diameter. Presumably the body started as a glued-up "cylinder" made up of about 6 to 8 pieces. The body was then turned on a lathe to get the radial features right. The grooves in the body were done by reeding techniques, maybe by hand, maybe with an indexed carriage and a router. The manual/auto switch is a separate piece glued in place. Obviously this requires careful wood selection for uniform color to minimize the visibility of glue lines.

The hood may well be a sheet that was steam-bent into a skirt after the edges were shaped. White cedar is known for its bending ability, and is the traditional choice for wooden canoe ribs for exactly that reason. On the other hand, it might be a chunk of wood which has been turned on a lathe using standard bowl-turning techniques. It is, after all, only about 14 - 15 inches in diameter. Wooden art bowls of 18 or more inch diameter are fairly common.

As for nomenclature, I'd guess billet is the term for a biggish chunk of wood. And yes, you'd need to go directly to a wood supplier to get something that big, or perhaps to a sawmill.

It's exactly the sort of project that the magazine Fine Woodworking used to carry.

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