This is a system that calculates and automates a few different woodworking processes on-the-fly with very high precision.
Type: Commercial, Artistic
I’m a hobbyist woodworker. I’ve been slowly building up my tool arsenal after losing everything in Hurricane Sandy. I like to design and/or make my own tools when I can (CNC router, 13” wood jointer, etc.)
I bought a used table saw and built a router table extension for it. I wanted a fence system for both that could do customizable joinery (like dovetails and box joints). There aren’t any commercial systems available that incorporate these features in a digital package. There are some systems that use premade templates, but these are somewhat limited (and I thought too expensive to justify in my case)
By this time, I had been teaching myself to use CAD/CAM, had begun playing with a 3D printer, and had made my own CNC router. I had some leftover aluminum and bearings.
I had zero programming knowledge and I thought this would be a good project to learn.
My project is a digitally controlled table saw fence and router table lift that is capable of making customized joints and common woodworking processes with high precision.
I wanted the ability to use my system in a traditional way, without needing to use any electronics, as well as to switch on the fly to using it in digital mode.
The hardware is the result after 5 iterations in CAD and is all custom-made by hand, CNC router, and a 3D printer. Both the fence and router lift make use of a stepper motor.
These motors are controlled by an Arduino that runs a motion controller. This is serially connected to an esp32. I use the esp32 to pass through Bluetooth data to/from an Android tablet as well as to monitor physical buttons that interact with the system. The fence references itself using a hall effect sensor and magnets, while the router lift uses a simple touch plate.
The tablet runs an app I made with many features like:
Offsets, tool libraries, joinery customization, etc
Aside from wanting to have and use this system, the primary reason I made it was to use the project as a vehicle to begin learning how to code. The android side started off as java in android studio. As it got more visually complicated, I wound up converting it to Kodular and made custom java extensions to get it to do what I wanted. I have since moved on to teaching myself python and have been having fun exploring AI. I’m looking forward to combining this with my medical background.
I also learned to practice patience. This project is/was a large undertaking for me and has taken quite a bit of time. My goal isn’t to finish it by a certain time, but to learn all I can and be happy with what I made before I move on to the next part. Rather than starting to build as soon as I had a design, I kept iterating in CAD until I thought my design was as good as I could make it given the tools and skill level I had.
So far, this system has greatly simplified and increased the precision of my woodwork. It also makes it more fun. The hardware side of the project is fairly complex, and I don’t know that it can be replicated that easily. Once I have fully developed the system, I’m going to focus on simplifying the hardware design so that either others can build it at home or it can be produced as a commercial product. I’m not sure how much demand there is for something like this and I don’t yet know enough about different distribution licensing.
On a personal note, working on the project has had a profound impact on my confidence in taking on challenges even if I don’t initially know how I will meet them. I didn’t really know how I would complete this project before I started, but I gave myself the time to figure it out.