OT: Curiosity, no Japanese commerical woodworking equip. sold in the US? - Page 4
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  1. #61
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    The Hitachi 1001A 12" planer & 6" jointer combination units are not uncommon around here. I have two and they are a solid unit, though knives and belts are getting hard to find. Hitachi hand power tools I have no time for: a noisy angle grinder and a drill that failed when hardly used. The paddle switch on the grinder is a PITA compared to the Makita's trigger switch. Only have them because I got them very cheaply almost new.

    The saws and water stones are unbeatable, though the electric hardening of the teeth is nothing new; I have a vintage Swedish crosscut handsaw with the same feature. No doubt an idea picked up abroad.

    From what I have seen and heard, there is still a strong preference for their own highly complex, expensive and time-consuming joinery, even in residential construction, which is beautiful and a tour de force of the joiner's art, but functionally dubious and frequently unseen anyway. Still, it is a culture that values quality for its own sake and is willing to pay for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivett View Post
    From what I have seen and heard, there is still a strong preference for their own highly complex, expensive and time-consuming joinery, even in residential construction, which is beautiful and a tour de force of the joiner's art, but functionally dubious and frequently unseen anyway. Still, it is a culture that values quality for its own sake and is willing to pay for it.
    I humbly suggest you would be better placed to make observations on Japan's building methods and culture from direct experience and study, as the vast majority of what is 'seen and heard' in the West is typically erroneous or misleading in someway, colored by a western tendency to view of that part of the world in general as being exotic and mysterious.

    What do you mean by 'functionally dubious'? Based on what examples and in comparison to what?

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    Corning being a cultural & economic powerhouse influence in this area, numerous friends and my son travel, work, and have lived in Japan; but i have no personal connection. Due to the corporation, there are a lot of McMansions built around here, and a fair stock of impressive old high end piles here & there as well. A few years back it went the rounds that a recently arrived family had been appalled at the concept that anyone would buy a "used" house.

    As it turns out, Japanese houses are fully amortized over 22 years. (drop to essentially -0- value) The land is appraised separately and depends, as everywhere, on location. But the culture is to knock down your old house after a couple decades and get a new one with the latest materials and accessories. Kind of like most people in the US get a new car every 3 - 6 years and would not dream of sinking money into an old clunker. There really is an abhorrence of "used" houses among successful people.

    The Economist reported on the culture this past week, and notes the govenrment is trying to change perceptions. Both on the face of declining aging population to encourage use in declining areas, or at least not compound the problem by the artificial stigma of all the "used" houses; and because it can leave older couples with little to fund their declining years. (If the savings represented by their house has no value)

    Chris - I didn't realize how prevalent the new house culture was there. Are the construction details of a typical "second" home built on a lot where the starter home has been knocked down, any better than typical US framing practice? I gather the shoji and such is a steady rather than niche market? But the framing of a middle class house, is it to "temple" standards with jointery, or are a lot of 2x's and nails used as in the US?

    The different cultural approach to housing sure would seem to be a factor in preserving skills, techniques, and specialized machinery as a regular commodity; that are considered superfluous or only found in the highest cost housing in the US.

    smt

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephen thomas View Post
    Corning being a cultural & economic powerhouse influence in this area, numerous friends and my son travel, work, and have lived in Japan; but i have no personal connection. Due to the corporation, there are a lot of McMansions built around here, and a fair stock of impressive old high end piles here & there as well. A few years back it went the rounds that a recently arrived family had been appalled at the concept that anyone would buy a "used" house.

    As it turns out, Japanese houses are fully amortized over 22 years. (drop to essentially -0- value) The land is appraised separately and depends, as everywhere, on location. But the culture is to knock down your old house after a couple decades and get a new one with the latest materials and accessories. Kind of like most people in the US get a new car every 3 - 6 years and would not dream of sinking money into an old clunker. There really is an abhorrence of "used" houses among successful people.

    The Economist reported on the culture this past week, and notes the govenrment is trying to change perceptions. Both on the face of declining aging population to encourage use in declining areas, or at least not compound the problem by the artificial stigma of all the "used" houses; and because it can leave older couples with little to fund their declining years. (If the savings represented by their house has no value)

    Chris - I didn't realize how prevalent the new house culture was there. Are the construction details of a typical "second" home built on a lot where the starter home has been knocked down, any better than typical US framing practice? I gather the shoji and such is a steady rather than niche market? But the framing of a middle class house, is it to "temple" standards with jointery, or are a lot of 2x's and nails used as in the US?

    The different cultural approach to housing sure would seem to be a factor in preserving skills, techniques, and specialized machinery as a regular commodity; that are considered superfluous or only found in the highest cost housing in the US.

    smt
    Oh, I've been through this scenario in person. I was helping out, quasi-apprenticing, with a sword maker, and besides helping him set up a new forge, I helped him move house into a brand new place. The old house was about 40 years old and had loads of perfectly decent timbers in it - and was to be crushed by an excavator once they had moved out. Ties into Shintō ideas about the presence of kami (spirits) in a house and how moving into an old house with old spirits would bring misfortune to a family. I tried in vain to salvage the timbers from that house, but it was not, shall we say, desired by the parties concerned.

    Most new houses in Japan are built by one of two methods: 2x stick framing sometimes with a few select 4x timbers here and there, and prefab housing, constructed in giant factories. The classic type of Japanese timber frame house building, we might romanticize in the West, is strictly the purview of the very wealthy. First off, owning a detached piece of property requires a lot of money in most parts of Japan near any metropolitan center, and if you do the whole $9$ yards with traditional 'wafū' style timber home of hand-joined timbers and hand planed everything, the cost of the garden is often double the house anyhow. It's an expensive proposition, and a relatively unusual occurrence in most places in Japan these days. A lot of timber frame structures are made possible on a cost basis by being CNC cut, joinery-wise. Pre-cut timber frames are as prevalent there as they are in Europe, which is to say, they are around, but not the most common way of building.

    New house culture is only one facet of the Japanese love for things that are new and fresh. Car inspection costs ramp up every year, so it is unusual there to keep a car beyond the 5-year mark. When washers, fridges, and the like become old and tatty, they go to the curb and are taken away. There is a limited scene there of stuff we take for granted in N. America, like classified ads for used knick-knacks, flea markets, etc.. they exist, but are not common, nor are too many people interested in getting old stuff for the most part.

    Another example is fresh new white white paper for all office communications. I tried once to get my office to try a bit of paper recycling, getting them to use the back side of existing, unneeded documents for routing unimportant messages and the like. I tried for months, and after I went away on vacation for a couple of weeks, came back to the office to find all of my sorting boxes for paper recycling disappeared. No one said anything of course, that would be, uh, icky. Maybe things have changed there now - my views are somewhat out of date I'm sure as I last lived there in 1999.

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    Chris -

    According to the Economist, property in major centers is, as you also note. quite expensive though way down from the 1980's/90's
    (I was working more for international bankers in those days, and even they couldn't afford to be posted to Japan if they wanted to own.)
    But now, apparently due to the aging out population, the country is becoming buried under land no one wants to acknowlege ownership, buy, or even inherit, since they have to pay taxes on it but don't want to live there, can't rent, live, or much otherwise get income from the "old" "used house" if one exists. Sounds like a dream for Americans. Though like anyplace, your income would have to come from somewhere else, to live in the "sticks".

    The article mentions that even temples are torn down, thrown out, and built anew with new materials about every 20 years. (Maybe not the big famous ones, but the local ones everywhere)

    smt

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    Slightly sideways to the thread:

    The cabinet shop that did the cabinets for my massive remodel in 2014 told me they were doing basically all work on a CNC router (which I saw.) They "gave up" on things like the Altendorf saw that was in the back of the shop. They made the style of cabinet assembled with euro style hardware (30mm on center fasteners?) and hinges, on plywood that isn't quite marine but similar idea - which is covered in lovely veneers. I don't think they make tenons or dovetails or even raised panels. Point? If doing "modern" style mill work, CNC appears to be the way....

    I've not had cause to visit a shop doing raised panels, dovetails, etc., but I'd imagine if they're commercial they're motivated by CNC too....

    I actually have a felder jointer/planer in my shop - used mostly to prepare wood blanks for CNC milling. When I bought it there was zero sign of anything japanese. It was either PRC or maybe Taiwan imports, or Euro stuff. The combined jointer/planer config is a big savings in a machine that doesn't get used all that often.... I can't imagine a commercial WW shop would be set up that way....

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephen thomas View Post
    Chris -The article mentions that even temples are torn down, thrown out, and built anew with new materials about every 20 years. (Maybe not the big famous ones, but the local ones everywhere)

    smt
    That's not quite accurate. A few select shrines are rebuilt every two years, not temples. Temples associate to Buddhism, shrines to Shintōism, and it is Shintō which has the cult of purity, the priest dressed all in white, etc.. It used to be a more widespread custom, however the cost of doing it means it only takes place with a very few, nationally famous shrines, Ise Jingu being the most prominent example.


    Rural Japan suffers from a problem called 'kaso', which means depopulation. Most towns and villages in the boondocks are, nowadays, filled with elderly folks, and the young leave town in droves once they graduate high school. Thus, the cities are crowded, while a lot of the countryside is virtually empty and getting more empty by the year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post
    Slightly sideways to the thread:

    The cabinet shop that did the cabinets for my massive remodel in 2014 told me they were doing basically all work on a CNC router (which I saw.) They "gave up" on things like the Altendorf saw that was in the back of the shop. They made the style of cabinet assembled with euro style hardware (30mm on center fasteners?) and hinges, on plywood that isn't quite marine but similar idea - which is covered in lovely veneers. I don't think they make tenons or dovetails or even raised panels. Point? If doing "modern" style mill work, CNC appears to be the way....

    I've not had cause to visit a shop doing raised panels, dovetails, etc., but I'd imagine if they're commercial they're motivated by CNC too....

    I actually have a felder jointer/planer in my shop - used mostly to prepare wood blanks for CNC milling. When I bought it there was zero sign of anything japanese. It was either PRC or maybe Taiwan imports, or Euro stuff. The combined jointer/planer config is a big savings in a machine that doesn't get used all that often.... I can't imagine a commercial WW shop would be set up that way....
    Yeah, you won't see too much Japanese woodworking equipment over here - they've figured out that we won't generally pay for the quality, and the litigious nature of society here is also a drawback for machinery manufacturers in general.

    A lot of shops are finding CNC panel centers more cost efficient than sliding table saws. Requires less skilled labor too...

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    I was told by a machine dealer that wood working machines from Japan were shut out of being imported during the years that metal working machines were coming in. The reason being the woodworking industry had a strong enough lobby to keep them out.
    This shaper, or Shoda spindle moulder model SM1.
    Since of course such a machine can not be discussed on the old woodworking machine site, so I attempted to see if there is any others out there with this post on LJ. none found in the USA, but there was at least one other at Boeing.
    Shoda Shaper-Spindle Moulder - by unbob @ LumberJocks.com ~ woodworking community


    This machine as far as I could find is not a copy of any other. I suppose the the most noticeable thing is the overhead bearing support that has to be used full time as the non changeable 1 1/4" spindle protrudes 11" from the spindle housing. Once set, the overhead support travels with height adjustment.
    With the table extensions, the machines weighs 2100lbs, its is 5hp, found one in South Africa that had a 10hp motor, but with a metric spindle. one other Shoda SM1 I found for sale in Japan. I found other heavy machines from Japan in South Africa also.
    I dont know the exact purpose of this machines precision design.

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    Very interesting Shoda shaper, the first one I've seen.

    They are truly daft on that OWWM site in that they refuse any discussion of any industrial equipment from Asia, as if it is all automatically no good or somehow in league with the devil. Never understood that narrow-mindedness. It was the main reason I stopped participating on that site.

    "I was told by a machine dealer that wood working machines from Japan were shut out of being imported during the years that metal working machines were coming in. The reason being the woodworking industry had a strong enough lobby to keep them out."

    With all due respect, I'm not sure I buy that explanation, for a couple of reasons. Hitachi and Makita are established here and could bring in any machine they care to run through CSA testing. They did in fact import some of the heavier machines in the mid 1980's to early 1990's, and then stopped, largely because sales were insufficient. Maybe they came to fear the lawsuits that have crippled several other US machine manufacturers. The US woodworking machine industry 'lobby' as such, is surely at a relatively weak point these days, and with the apparent opposition a non-factor, you still see no move on the part of Makita, Ryobi, Hitachi, or other Japanese manufacturers to bring in their heavier woodworking machines. They don't see a market for it, plain and simple, any more than Toyota sees a market for their heavier duty industrial Landcruiser trucks here. I wish it weren't so, and tend to think they would sell some machines here, but that ain't what's happening.

    This is the kingdom of 'cheap' for the most part, and for another thing the usual buyers of heavy industrial woodworking machines are hardly buying the classic machines these days, preferring instead to invest in CNC type panel centers, routers, etc.. There are some exceptions - Shinx and Shoda have/had a certain presence in the CNC router market, for example.

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    I was curious about those Shoda shapers, which are definitely a odd design with the cantilevered table. It's the SM-123 model. There seem to be several for sale in Japan right now.

    Here's one I came across with the Shoda stock feeder. Just look at the thickness of the casting wall on the dust port - oozes heavy duty. It's listed for about $5000. I checked the company's website and see that Shoda only makes CNC routers nowadays, the first type of which they produced in 1968.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails syodatekkoumenntoribann20167_04.jpg   syodatekkoumenntoribann20167_06.jpg   syodatekkoumenntoribann20167.jpg  

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    I've been at this for over 40 years in a commercial sense, and I don't ever remember there being an effective industrial woodworking machinery lobby, certainly not a strong one. (I know there is/was a strong association that split in those years, and put on what was originally Louisville, and then became IWF/Atlanta after the split, but I don't remember them preventing imports much, unless there was some behind-the-scenes maneuvering that kept Asian machines out of the biennial shows?) Even then, individual dealers would have imported whatever they could sell. If you look at the old trade magazines like Hitchcocks, dealers started importing Euro equipment in the 50's, and generally would buy anything, from anywhere, that they could sell. Actually, i remember bags of handouts from Asian mfgr's, though mostly tooling, certainly by early 80's

    The small shop scenario thrived in those days (post war to 1980's) & were the primary consumers of traditional manual machines, but they didn't buy (new) the huge, heavy machines that industry had, like Tanny's, Ollies, Moak, Northfield, etc. After the war & partly as a response to developments during it, the use of wood in everyday products fell constantly. Even kitchen cabinets in the 40's through late 60's were primarily metal. Small shops started the fad for "custom" wood kitchens that continues today.

    Local millwork shops did not quite die out until the late 70's. They still made a lot of the architectural millwork in new houses on a regional basis but were gradually killed off by aggressive expansion of national players (Morgan, Pella, Andersen, etc.) in the post war era. Industrial woodworking, as Chris notes, focused on automated production.

    In that same period, a whole family of proceses to take rough lumber & turn it into flat wide panels for further manufacturing more or less disappeared as plywood became the bulk commodity.

    I think in those years, US machinery manufacturers could still sell new commercial grade equipment to the small shops that were buying it, cheaper than most imports. (Rockwell Delta, Powermatic, and a few niche players like WT& Clausing). New, big shops were not much being created, there was a back log of them that were slowly dying off all over the US. Euro machines filled a niche for fast, specialty purposes not served by other manufacturers, or a step up, but cheaper & more convenient than US heavy iron.

    The custom high end millwork trade in the 40's - 70's primarily served major commercial construction projects & in those years millwork was ever-more simplified both for architectural (style change) and practical reasons (windows and exterior doors became metal) The growth of "high end" woodworking in a more complex sense kind of began in the early 80's and thrived in the 90's along with the studio furniture movement, which did encourage the importation of a lot of high end Euro machines, especially sliders and an other panel saws, for shops that did not envisage automatic equipment because by then there was no American source. The Japanese did begin exporting cnc routers in that era. Since we are speculating, i see one faint glimmer of possible truth to the conspiracty theory - dealers were dying every year, too, and most probably already had a loyalty to some of the brands they were selling from Europe, probably Japan did not offer enough difference in niche or price for them to make the effort.

    I think Chris's analysis is spot on.

    Especially about OWWM
    OWWM is "truly daft" in a number of incongruous and hypocritical head-in-the=sand ways but it seems to suit the personality of the owner.

    Then that (thinking of culture) begs the question: what do we do to build traffic and participation here?

    smt

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephen thomas View Post
    Then that (thinking of culture) begs the question: what do we do to build traffic and participation here?

    smt
    Stephen -

    I know I can't give you any ideas on that. But I will postulate that there are a lot of amateurs like me who lurk here and maybe occasionally ask a question. One can learn a lot from these discussions. I believe your readership here is a lot larger than you think.

    Dale

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    Great thread!! Lot's of interesting views and perspectives. The days of massive woodworking machines has got to be numbered. Each year my casting prices
    increase to the point where the raw castings are thousands of dollars for what just a few years ago were basic machines. Five dollars a pound for iron
    castings is almost the norm for me now. That wonderful looking Japanese shaper, just the fence castings would probably cost three hundred dollars here in the U.S.
    A 1500 pound shaper at five bucks a pound is $7500.00 before you machine anything. Yet we can buy shapers used for very little. No wonder there's a real lack of American woodworking machine builders- NORTHFIELD an incredible exception. Maybe in the rust belt, with a few more iron foundries, the prices haven't gotten out of reach. Here in Oregon, not a single iron foundry left. With the litigious society America is, no wonder the Japanese have stayed home.

    OWWM has an incredibly daft owner. Great description. I was constantly harassed by him five or eight years ago, when I decided to make replacement parts for old machines that had no other source of parts. Selling a Powermatic woodworking lathe spindle for a couple of hundred dollars, that is made by one of the only manufacturers in America that actually MAKES Morse taper spindles, is NOT how a person makes a living. Frankly it's almost a gift to whoever buys it. BUT I was using his site for personal gain, and he was constantly on my case. Maybe a novice might think that a part can be turned with two different hand threads, a hole bored through a 14 inch length of steel, bearing journals GROUND to within three or four tenths tolerance, an ID taper also ground perfectly as well as the entire shaft ground end to end, should sell for less than a hundred dollars, because they only paid seventy five for the entire lathe at a school auction. Reading about finding "arn" and "restoring" these old machines. I don't know- Practical Machinists woodworking forum I'm sure is catering to an entirely different type of woodworker than OWWM. How many threads can there be on repairing a Rockwell unisaw, or finding a treasure trove of old Atlas or powercraft woodworking machines?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Hall View Post
    Here's a machine I would guess none of you have likely seen before, the Japanese knife-cutting equivalent of the disc sander, the en-ban-kanna.

    Video:

    And pics!
    Vaguely reminiscent of a Uniplane.

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    @[email protected] - at what point do you redesign your machines to be milled out of solid versabar/durbar, or built up as some kind of fabrication?

    everybody - at what point do all commercial shops become driven by CNC routers and the like?

    everybody + the art furniture movement - at what what point does "art furniture" become largely made with CNC or CNC assisted machines? (even for solid wood.) Example - why not a clever endwork machine to make slightly randomly spaced dovetails, and then the matching pins....

    and how are the japanese doing in the US market for those machines?

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    A couple of comments on SMT's post
    Certainly in this part of the world the old-line english machines and local crap held their own into the '60s, probably due to import regulation and empire preferences, but by the '70s the italian machines were popular. They were well priced, versatile, fast to use and setup and suited the small workshops that survived on speed and versatility.
    The local crap (and some was borderline good) disappeared when the taiwanese imports turned up- just as usable, just as poorly finished but half the price.

    OWWM- knob polishers and w*nkers. I recall a frommia spindle moulder- restoration of the year with cheesecake shot photos, shiny 2 pack paint and all; but missing the fence. 90% useless as a moulder, but what nice paint.

    Traffic and participation comes from a collegial atmosphere, where questions can be asked and answered without posturing, pissing competitions, FIGJAM and schoolroom barking- all of which we have seen here at various times. True leadership comes from within a group.


    Quote Originally Posted by stephen thomas View Post

    I think Chris's analysis is spot on.

    Especially about OWWM
    OWWM is "truly daft" in a number of incongruous and hypocritical head-in-the=sand ways but it seems to suit the personality of the owner.

    Then that (thinking of culture) begs the question: what do we do to build traffic and participation here?

    smt

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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_machine View Post

    at what point do all commercial shops become driven by CNC routers and the like?

    everybody + the art furniture movement - at what what point does "art furniture" become largely made with CNC or CNC assisted machines? (even for solid wood.) Example - why not a clever endwork machine to make slightly randomly spaced dovetails, and then the matching pins....

    and how are the japanese doing in the US market for those machines?
    I'm not terribly savvy in the CNC machine department, by any stretch, nor am I personally experienced with using them, but from what i have read there are clearly some factors which lead to their adoption.

    For starters, they attenuate very clearly the drive in our industrial and management culture for control over fabrication coming from the office and not the shop floor, a desire for utter consistency in results, the difficulty in sourcing skilled/motivated labor in a society which devalues working with your hands greatly, and, last but not least, the 'I've got a new toy!' drive perhaps.

    Choice of machines is really more driven by what is being made and in what volume, how long the product runs are, etc., so the choice to go CNC beam saw vs nested router is relevant to those conditions too. Apparently, according to some, up until the point where you are producing 120 cabinets per day, a nested panel router is the most efficient choice. with greater production volumes than that, CNC beam saws come into their own.

    Keep in mind that CNC routers are of at least two varieties, 'nested' and 'point to point'. This video shows what the nested system is about:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu7ut4_lx4I


    US cabinet manufacturers are now competing with offshore imports, so the drive, in order to survive, is of course to find every efficiency possible, reduce labor costs as much as possible, and increase volume, and, in many cases, improve flexibility in changing tasks. CNC answers a lot of the those demands, and for the smaller shop with labor challenges, it seems to be 'the answer' for many. A router, with the right software, is apparently capable of up to 93% sheet utilization, even though the kerf of cut is three times the size of a conventional saw.

    And there is the point too that while the CNC router is cutting stuff, the labor can be put to use on other tasks, so it has a multiplier effect. One commenter I came across noted the following in comparing CNC nesting routers to panel saws:

    "Out of the total time it takes to cut, only about 25% to 50% of the time is of value (actual cutting); most of the time is non-value - sliding sheets, moving cuttoffs, rearranging offal to cut again, etc. Nesting is close to 90% value - machine is constantly running and you are able to do a secondary operation. Nesting is more efficient."

    So, that's one opinion at least. Again, no personal experience with these machines or work practices.
    Last edited by Chris Hall; 04-14-2018 at 06:48 PM.

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  25. #79
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    A fascinating discussion here! Thank you for the insights into the Japanese housing with regard to the aging population- one of my clients recently returned from Japan, after staying in various rural homes he also remarked on how the countryside, and the houses, were going empty- he was wondering if there was a market to purchase and dismantle some of the homes and sell them in the US- or at least some of the components.
    Perhaps not, if Chris's experience is the norm.

    Regarding the studio furniture discussion, I know several single or two person shops building high end custom furniture who have a CNC- mostly home brewed, not too expensive. When it is hard to find someone who wants to work, and hard to afford the labor costs and the liability concerns, any help is great!

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    Lil' 'ole studio furniture shop in upstate NY....



    5 axis, believe more are possible, plans were to match with an opposing robot to do inside and out simultaneously. Owner died, haven't heard what will happen after current orders are filled.

    For studio furniture, the sales proposition is the idea, and a certain level of exclusivity; but not too exclusive - there has to be enough production to create a big enough market so there is a certain amount of competition among owners & collectors. You probably can have more ideas, and potentially realize more complex ideas faster, with cnc. For a lot of traditional woodworking, they still are not that much faster.

    Though it's woodworkers themselves, less so customers, who care about things like all-wood joinery, and traditional approaches to joinery. Rediculously (not to say stupidly) thin widely spaced hand cut dovetails, perfect through tenons with chisel faceted ends, etc). But if you care from either perspective, a good craftsman is still going to be faster by hand than the whole process by machine.

    I'd love to have at least 4 axis cnc and enough time to learn, though.

    smt

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