Size isn’t everything

The technology behind modern CNC machines is extraordinary says Mighton’s Mike Derham, but sometimes ‘small and specific’ works too.

Unless your joinery business is dedicated to producing every piece by hand, you will be reliant to one degree or another on machinery during the production process. These days, with the cost of complex CNC equipment coming within the budgets of small producers, the efficiency that such equipment can bring to a business cannot be ignored. And, as skilled staff become increasingly difficult to recruit, a balance between the craft skills that we promise our customers, combined with the efficiency of a workshop equipped with high technology, is essential to run a viable modern joinery business.

To get the best out of any production process those involved should have a deep understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it, in addition to the skills required to carry out their tasks. As timber frames are making a resurgence it is crucial that no compromise is made in the quality of timber frames and related products.

CNC machines allow the handling of more machining operations in one setup than is commonly possible on conventional, specific-use machines; CNC machines will perform many of the most commonly repeated operations that are part of an operation in which larger numbers of relatively standard products are produced.

However, many smaller operations will be required to produce one-offs, either totally bespoke windows or doors for example, or perhaps derivations of standard products. And it is typically these circumstances in which the use of CNC machines can become a hindrance. It is not the best use of such technology, and why the market for small, relatively inexpensive single-function machines is growing.

Just as technology has driven the cost of CNC machinery down and their complexity up, then to have clever electronics and digital controls and programming allowed the development of small, inexpensive semi-automated machines that can be used for small unit runs that allow the CNC to do what it does best, without interruption.

I must emphasise that I am not suggesting that small, dedicated machines can do anything better than a CNC, just that CNCs are better used for larger runs of relatively standard products. Dedicated machines simply allow a number of basic functions to be carried out without interrupting the flow of the CNCs, which should be too busy making money for the workshop.

Of course, many smaller workshops will not have CNC machines, either due to the decision to remain dedicated to craft methods or simply because the company has not taken the financial leap even into the lower end of CNCs. In such circumstances dedicated, semi-automatic machinery should be considered for carrying out repeat tasks that craft skills are wasted on, and which may justifiably allow greater efficiency and lower cost per unit without sacrificing a commitment to craft, hand-made quality.

Identifying the need for high-quality, low cost machinery for performing a range of dedicated tasks in joinery production, Mighton Products offers a growing range of high quality woodworking machines. Our most popular products are the X-Cut Glazing Bead Jointing Machine and the Scribe-It End Scribing Machine, a semi-automatic end-scribing machine for scribing the end of timber profiles quickly and efficiently. Demonstrations are available onsite nationwide through the company’s purpose-built mobile vans and specialist advisors.