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Use CNC machining in traditional woodworking

Japanese style woodworking, by Atelier Roy - ロア木工

DeskProto user RoyMokkou (Atelier Roy) in Japan (website in Japanese) offers original woodworking, both in Western style and in Japanese style. The website shows many beautiful projects, created both manually and using CNC.

example projects, taken from the RoyMokkou company presentation leaflet
Various projects, all created by Atelier Roy.

Woodworker William Roy (parents half French, half Japanese) started his company in 2013, after being educated in France as furniture craftsman and in Japan as “Miyadaiku” : Japanese traditional carpenter (temple, shrine, etc.). His brother Philippe Roy added his knowledge of computers and CAD/CAM, allowing the company to accept almost any woodworking project.

Lathe for woodworking
The home made lathe, just after finishing a beautiful "twisted" pillar.

Right from the start Roy combined pure manual labor with using automated machine tools. Video shows one of the semi automatic lathes that he made to machine large temple pillars in wood. Later the brothers converted one of these machines to CNC by adding (used) servo motors.

Philippe states: "After we succeeded in controlling the motors with Mach3, I was searching an economic way to build G-code to make 3D pillars. And this is where I finally found your website with the CarveTech page. And with Mach3 + Moi3D + DeskProto we succeeded to build a 6.5m long 3 axis wood turning CNC machine". Mach3 is the control software, and Moi3D the CAD software that is used.

A blog about the reconstruction of an old and decayed temple pillar , onお寺の柱の製作(再現), shows the use of this CNC machine: no longer a lathe, now a milling machine with rotation axis. The text is in Japanese, however many photos are present.

CNC router in the workshop.
The new CNC router, imported from China, just unpacked.

In 2016 a large CNC router was added to the companies set of tools. It is a Type 1325 router, imported from China. You can see that it offers a large area for XY machining and a large rotation axis (fourth axis), in the image above visible in front of the XYZ table.

The complete process of unloading and unboxing this machine has been documented on video: Duration ca 15 minutes, including an amazing process to get the machine from the lorry to the workshop. The last 3 minutes of the video show a range of nice applications. All toolpaths have been created using DeskProto.

Two 2D srawings and two CAD screenshots
Design images, both 2D (manual drawings) and 3D (Zbrush screenshots).

One of the projects that is shown is a large wooden sculpture of two birds (swallows) and their nest with young swallows. It will be a “Kaerumata”: a decorative strut (support) for a roof beam in a new temple (still being built). Total size of the sculpture is ca 1200 × 300 × 210 mm.

A simple 2D sketch was elaborated to a detailed drawing, based upon which a 3D model was made in Zbrush. Philippe Roy states: "Zbrush is a digital sculpting application, it can do 3D digital sculpture by processing something like clay on a personal computer. It has more freedom than ordinary CAD software and is suitable for organic/biological forms. On the other hand, designation of fine size is difficult."

DeskProto screenshot
DeskProto screenshot
Roughing and finishing in DeskProto: a simulation and a toolpath drawing.

The 3D geometry from Zbrush could easily be transferred to DeskProto using an STL file. In DeskProto a series of operations was generated, using various size cutters and various settings for the different parts of the sculpture. DeskProto allows to select any freeform area to be machined in an operation.

the milling machine in action
The block of wood after roughing and during semi-finishing.

The block of wood used is cypress. It was machined from two sides. Three different cutters were used: a large cutter (40 mm diameter ballnose) for roughing, a 3 mm diameter ballnose for an intermediate operation, and finally finishing with a cutter of 0.5 mm diameter, and a toolpath distance of 0.15 mm. As machining the complete part at this high precision would take very long, only the two swallows and the nest have been machined with these finest settings. For the rest of the part only the intermediate toolpaths have been used, followed by manual finishing.

The resulting wooden sculpture
The resulting wooden sculpture, than can be viewed from all sides.

In fact two separate parts have been machined (both from two sides), one being the mirror image of the other. Connecting these parts to one another created a sculpture that can be viewed form any side.
Many more images can be seen in the blog about this project on the RoyMokkou website:お寺の蟇股の製作 (with text in Japanese).

Also interesting is the blog about a wooden cross replica, on十字架の木製レプリカの製作, which also features a video about that project.