We’ll be honest: we weren’t the fastest on the uptake of using CNC machines to craft oak frames for houses.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and it refers to the programming of computers to automate the operation of machine tools.
There was a lot of resistance to introducing an automated process into our business – understandably as, after all, we are craftsmen first and foremost. But, today, we wholeheartedly believe in the benefits CNC machines can offer us and our customers.
They greatly improve the speed of your frame production, the precision of your joints and the ease of assembly on site.
We are 100% sold: and we think all oak house manufacturers should be too: let’s explain why.
We love oak
Oak is a beautiful material to build with.
It is wonderful to touch, stunning to look at and the beams of an oak frame building are as strong and dependable as those fabricated with steel joists.
Oak is not only durable, practical and attractive, it also has a beauty which only increases with age. And, of course, oak frame buildings last for hundreds of years without the need for preservatives.
It is this love and respect that made our oak craftsmen shy away from anything that could remove them from that sensual contact with the wood in the manufacturing process.
Our craft has evolved as our tools have.
We’ve progressed from simple Stone Age oak-framed buildings to majestic medieval masterpieces. And, today in the 21st century, CNC machines are just a part of this ongoing evolution.
Have you ever seen a nature programme where animals – often squirrels - are set a series of tasks to get to a morsel of food? Usually, there will be the Mission Impossible theme playing away in the background.
Animals are smart and they learn fast – that’s how they evolve.
And we’re just the same. When faced with challenges we invent new tools and new ways of achieving our goals.
For us, CNC machines are just the latest example of how our craft has evolved – and, what’s more, they take just as much skill to operate as planes, chisels and saws.
Today we work with our hands, our brains and our heart.
We intelligently and skilfully marry cutting-edge design technology, precision processing machinery with traditional carpentry skills and vision.
Here are three reasons we think you should do the same.
CNC machines increase production capacity by up to 4 times compared to manual crafting.
It’s true, that a lot of the time spent on the workshop floor itself now moves up into the design studio. But, the overall result is a reduction in time – and the elimination of most mistakes.
The skill behind creating the frames is far from diminished – it has also evolved into the design studio. CNC machines are only ever as skilled as the person who programmes them.
We’d estimate that our timber frame machines do 80% of our cutting, leaving our craftsmen free to tackle the opening and closing stages with much more finesse. We carefully check the quality of our oak before it is machine-crafted: this is something that only a trained craftsman could ever do.
All of the pre-assembly, hand-finishing, scribe work, decoration and embellishment that adds distinction and character to the frame is also completed manually.
Our oak frame designs have remained traditional, following the same post and beam structure that they always have, but we now have a much greater deal of precision to execute these designs with.
The computer-guided cutters recreate the joints at the same precise angle and size over and over again, which leads to much quicker assembly times on site.
It also means that, because every beam is identically created by a computer-guided planer, there will be no variations in thicknesses between the beams. The end structure will inevitably be more reliable as a result.
The time we spend in the design studio, and the precision cutting that our machines deliver, mean that once the frame arrives on site, the assembly is so much quicker than it ever was before. The components simply slot together with a minimum amount of adjustment needed.
How we learned to stop worrying and love the CNC machines
Mechanisation saves time, but it also allows us to make better oak frames for our customers. And it does this by combining our traditional skills with cutting-edge technology. Our skilled craftsmen still take meticulous care of every beam and give it a hand finished look it deserves, which makes the final product almost indistinguishable from a fully handcrafted oak frame.
In truth, the comparison between manual and machine simply doesn’t hold water.
There are very few, if any, oak framing companies who use only traditional hand-tools. The jobs we claim are made by hand inevitably use technological machines that we call power tools.
The choice, then, is not between the honesty of a hand tool and an impersonal machine. It’s between a relatively crude machine and an elegantly sophisticated one. Or, to put it another way, between a power tool and a more powerful tool.
And while we profess the use of modern technology, our craft has not disappeared, we can still build an oak framed building from scratch by hand and sometimes still do.