Ed Lang chronicles the journey of an experienced woodworker bringing CNC into his shop and developing his business in Getting Started in CNC.
Who is Ed Lang?
My name is Ed Lang and I live just East of Charlottesville, VA in a little town called Troy. I work out of a building I built 20 years ago for a hobby wood working shop. This building has been a base now for three business ventures, starting with wood working, moving into small engine repair and now back to wood working. I am lucky that the commute to my shop from the house is only 300 feet or so. My interest in wood working in the past has always been making toys, with a little turning thrown in to make life interesting. There is just something about seeing children playing with a toy I have made or the smile on their face when they first see the toy that makes all of the work very worthwhile. With turning, I get to see the same kinds of reactions on the faces of adults when they see, touch, and feel wood that has been turned into bowls, boxes or other forms. My main reason in bringing CNC technology into my small shop was to allow me to make more toys and remove me from the repetitive cuts, allowing me to concentrate on the assembly and finishing of each item. Forty-seven years ago on Cherry Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia it all started, for me that is… When I was young, my Dad would bring his tools out into the back yard, set up saw horses and build whatever he wanted or someone needed. I enjoyed watching and later as I grew I was allowed to help and do some of the work on these projects. Little did I know that this was setting the stage for what would enable to me earn a living later in life. Since Dad didn’t have a real shop, he started on a project that I still cannot imagine doing myself. With a pick and shovel, Dad dug out the crawl space under our house, laid cinderblock walls and poured a cement floor. He created a laundry room for Mom and a workshop for himself and me. No windows in the shop side, but a place that you could “piddle” when the weather was not good for working outside. After Dad brought home a lathe, he really started to turn out the projects, (pun intended). Mom and Dad taught me to follow my dreams, do every job to the best of my ability and obey the law. I sure did enjoy the 60’s.
Santa’s Workshop, a.k.a., Mountain View Wood Works
Fast forward to the early 80’s and you will find me married to the girl of my dreams. Three years later we had our first son, had a little work shop in the back yard and I started making wooden toys. Just one or two here and there to begin with, no production or even thoughts of it. As our son grew and started to go to birthday parties of friends and kids he knew at school, we discovered that one of my wooden trucks would turn out to be the hit at the party. Other moms would ask my wife where she bought that toy. The response was always, Ed makes them. Then the next question was, would he make my son/daughter one? So, I became a part time Toymaker. Ten years later, my wife and I had our second son. You guessed it, more toys and new designs.
Production had never been something I was too concerned with in my toy making. I used what I had on hand, bought what I needed and every toy was unique in that all parts were truly hand made and no two were exactly the same. As the demand for making more toys grew, I developed ways to make small production runs of toy parts and not compromise the hand built quality I expected from my creations. While these methods did increase output, it did not increase production to the point I wanted it to become.
Some time ago I noticed the Shopbot ad on a magazine and thought that something like that would surely help out in doing the repetitive cutting of some toy parts. Thinking that CNC was way beyond my little shop, I turned the page and went on to the next article. As time marched on, the thought of CNC stayed, it would not go away. I decided to follow my dream and I have put CNC technology to work in my shop.
With this web column, I’m hoping to describe some of my experiences … the experiences of a woodworker just getting going with CNC.