21 thoughts on “Shaper”

  1. Despite the improvement in prosumer equipment, I expect continued centralization of production. Look at that kitchen counter measuring gadget. It only requires one person to measure everything and produce an electronic template. Odds are it can feed a stone cutting and finishing system that lets one or two people crank out a precise, nicely finished counter. The problem is that people are not going to get their kitchen counters replaced any more often, but there are fewer person-hours required. The trend is going to be towards fewer, but more efficient high tech production houses. There will be fewer stone working shops overall even as customization becomes ever more practical thanks to digital innovation.

    I think the new tools will immensely improve what a local amateur can produce, but I’m not sure we’ll see more amateurs turn professional, even on a part time scale. It’s like sewing machines. They can do amazing stuff, but most people buy their clothing ready to wear. If anything, technology will let you keep a body profile online and order custom fit clothing from highly automated factories, perhaps a dozen of them on each major continent. On the plus side, this will let more people get into clothing design without the steep learning curve of job shop contracting.

    The problem I found with do-it-yourself design and fabrication is that the design tools are limiting. One either works from a bunch of templates or has a steep learning curve with existing design software. When I needed a bunch of stove knobs that were no longer stocked anywhere, I hard to learn solid modeling to produce a new set. That was a pain. It is still usually easier for me to find a mass produced item as opposed to designing and fabricating my own.

  2. I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I think Ikea is very smart about their business and delivers a lot of value. As an example I have an Ikea kitchen table made from solid wood that I expect will last a lifetime and most importantly was affordable.

    Hiring a local craftsman would have been prohibitively expensive for me and although I’m reasonably practical I doubt I could make something that would last a lifetime because I just don’t work with wood enough.

  3. What people don’t know about 3D printers (and CNC) is that the machines themselves are extremely simple from a computer science perspective. It’s literally just moving the printer head around (or laser cutter, etc) based on a series of xyz coordinates (gcode).

    The challenges to widespread use are a) how to create attractive & complex products b) quickly & at scale d) at a price point people are willing to pay. But those challenges are slowly being overcome. I’m excited about the hyper-local production story. At a minimum, a point in time may come when it’s profitable for IKEA to have a “factory’ in say, Roseburg, OR, close to the timber source, where they pump out customized sustainable wood furniture for the West Coast market.

  4. A few years ago I saw some very high end woodworking machinery in use that could shape just about anything. I think they cost several hundred thousand dollars at the time.

    You might enjoy this – a driverless excavator digging out a pool.

  5. That workshop looks great, with rails to hang different tools off of. Any more info / guides on that?

    1. This is the prototype and initial product launch so you pay extra to be an early adopter. I think the price was around $2,000. In a few years they’ll be on sale at Home Depot and Amazon for a lot less.

      Maslow is the open source DIY version which is available (I think) for under $500 – and that too will get cheaper over time.

  6. I’m a carpenter, cabinet maker, boat builder and am currently rereading J Kunstlers trilogy, World Made by Hand and can’t help but wonder if we are not progressing in exactly the opposite direction than we should, ie simple to high tech complex, instead we should be moving from complex to simple, reliable, learnable, repeatable, solid, well built etc.

    1. Kunstler’s world already exists for a few billion people on the planet – some of them right here in the U.S. My expectation is that all the visions of the future from techno utopias to doomer wet dreams will continue to play out simultaneously. Dubai and Aleppo. Melbourne and Kabul. Singapore and Detroit.

    2. Thing is, if you take out the simple, reliable, and learnable by utilizing a small-scale “expert” machine…you still get repeatable, solid, well-built stuff. But it’s faster, which means it’s possible that even the maker might value it less since s/he has less time invested in it.

      1. Yes and no.

        Cake mix manufacturers started out selling a mix that only needed water, but 1950s housewives didn’t feel it was “real” cooking if all you did was add water to a powder. So they removed the dehydrated egg and voila! Adding water and beating an egg made the cake mix “real” cooking.

        I’m coming from a different perspective. If we had supply chain disruptions and the big box stores couldn’t get imported products as reliably as today the maker movement would be a great fall back position.

        1. I like this perspective. That is a more likely scenario. Full system failure is unlikely, but pieces and parts may fail and having alternative replacement ‘parts’ is important.

        2. These electronic-based maker movements are excellent insurance against shorter-term and local catastrophes. They’re anti-insurance against global catastrophes because they will make woodworking and such dependent on modern chips and software, which probably require a worldwide network to create.

          1. I agree. But the “short term” I’m concerned with is the rest of my life – probably another twenty five years. After that… not my problem anymore. Having a mixture of tech tools and plain old regular tools in a functioning workshop is far better than just buying stuff from the big box stores.

            1. Or, as you often comment, having a wide network that includes makers and fixers who can do things I can’t that I could trade or barter for…

          2. I disagree that maker-type machines are anti-insurance. Anything that gets more people doing hands-on work is good. The tool-specific skills may not be transferable from a Shaper machine to an old Stanley 55, but the *thinking* and the mindset of turning several pieces of wood into a functional object is. Knowledge about material properties and joints and mechanical connections is transferable.

            3D printers, computerized milling machines, laser cutters, they’re not like an inkjet printer, just push a button and out comes your thing. They help, sometimes greatly, but you still have to design and assemble the parts. There is knowledge and skill involved in that that matters regardless of electronics.

            1. Yes. Thanks for articulating that better than I did. I can say the same thing about gardening and home food preservation. Is growing tomatoes and pumpkins the same as proper farming? No. Does making jam, home made bread, and pressure canning some soup eliminate the need for supermarkets? No. But the thinking and habits acquired along the way may become critically important.

        3. Also thrift/used/antique stores reselling the really old well-made stuff that just needs some new screws and glue, or to be refinished. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.