Digital woodworking is a bit different than traditional and hybrid woodworking even if the ultimate results are often the same. For one thing, the tools are different. CAD software takes some effort and a commitment to learn. And, then there’s the very different machinery.
Though digital woodworkers have some excellent machinery available at various price points including including the excellent Carbide 3D Shapeoko series and the easy-to-use hand-held Shaper Origin, traditional, fixed CNCs can get expensive, quickly. And, for many woodworkers, buying a machine represents both a financial commitment and a commitment to using digital tools. But, what if you’re not sure, just want to find out what digital woodworking is all about, or just not ready to commit to digital tools?
The Shopbot CNC Subscription Program
Shopbot Tools, a well known CNC maker, has a new rental program worth looking into. They recently began a CNC subscription service. Unlike a lease or rent-to-own programs which are ultimately a purchase transaction, their subscription program is a true rental. You commit to a minimum of three months and after that you can continue using the CNC, return the machine, or trade for a different model. This is a great way to explore the digital woodworking world without the impact of a major purchase or commitment to stay the course.
Subscriptions ranges from their Handibot Smart Tool, to their Desktop series, all the way up to their larger Buddy Series. Rental prices currently range from $312 to $1503/month. Plus, shipping in both directions is included. For digital woodworking beginners, I suggest considering the Shopbot Desktop (24” x 18”) or Desktop Max (36” x 24”). These sizes are a good place to start and explore making small woodworking items or parts.
All digital woodworking tools run on drawings created in CAD software. So, along with the machines come a copies of V-Carve Pro and a subscription to Fusion360 CAD software. To get you going quickly, consider a two-day Shopbot hands-on beginner’s class. I recommend it. The class cost $300 but if you buy or rent a machine, it’s free.
If you’re on the fence when it comes to committing to digital woodworking, the Shopbot CNC Subscription program might be a good way to explore this new world without the costs of a long term commitment. The best way to find out if digital woodworking is for you might be to simply try it, first.
— Tim Celeski