Here’s a chance to see more of the CNC panel joinery ideas that Sean Michael Ragan has been collecting from all over for the past few years. While selected, obviously, for CNC subtractive manufacturing, there are a ton of fascinating ideas to consider for those looking to solve problems with additive joinery as well!
I’ve been collecting clever ways of slotting flat stock together since I first read Nomadic Furniture back in 1999, well before the advent of the accessible hobby-class CNC tools that, today, make manufacturing parts like these pretty easy. Now, the world is full of people designing models, project enclosures, sculpture, furniture, and all kinds of other cool stuff to be assembled from parts made on laser cutters and CNC routers, and I keep expecting a definitive book or website to emerge that covers the “bag of tricks” in an organized way. So far, I haven’t found it. I may have missed it. Or maybe this article can serve as a jumping-off point. In any case, I think it’s time to open up my file.
In presenting this material, I want to first acknowledge my respect for the world’s established and ancient traditions of joinery. I do not for a moment imagine that any of this is fundamentally new. But I do see a need to organize this information to address the needs of the the small CNC tool operator who wants to make interlocking, self-aligning and/or demountable joints in flat stock, for instance plywood or sheet plastic. Or just to inspire her.
I may abuse some terms, without meaning to, and I am glad to be corrected by those who are in the know about traditional joinery. Generally, I have tried to use descriptive terms instead of “proper” names to avoid confusion, but here and there I may have slipped up and called a rose by some other name.
To simplify things, at first, I’m only considering joints between two panels. Also, again for the sake of simplicity, I’ve limited myself to techniques that use all-the-way-through cuts, orthogonal to the plane of the stock. For a taste of how complex this subject can become, without these limitations, and how quickly, check out Jochen Gros’s 50 Digital Wood Joints project.
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