For many years I was one of those builders who’d say that a handmade instrument is way better than the one made with a CNC process. And it still remains true on many levels. However I had to review some of those stand points after I got a chance to equip my own shop with a CNC machine. There are certain kinds of things that I today gladly hand over to be done by the machine. First of all, things that require precision. Stuff where even fractures of millimeters matter like fret slots, neck pockets, fingerboard markers placement. A properly programmed CNC can do it faster, cleaner and way more accurate than anyone with a hand router and a template. Same comes to truss rod slots, pickup and control cavities, binding channels, etc. Some jobs like routing out a semi hollow or chambered body require nothing but time and nerve and that’s where a CNC is priceless.
Nonetheless, up to this day I prefer to do all jobs of a creative/artistic nature by hand. Jobs that require skills and experience and on many levels define individuality of these unique instruments. Meaning that I still hand carve the bodies and necks with chisels and planes, just like it has been done for many years before. For me it’s a creative process, much like sculpting, that turns rough square things into carefully shaped pieces of art with it’s own appearance, character and soul. There’s just something magical about being able to turn a bumpy burl into a smooth and elegant curve that will later turn heads, catch eyes and please sights..
With that said I find that CNC is a fundamental tool for today’s guitar maker that allows to improve quality and speed of the manufacturing process and it can also open a whole world of possibilities for producing unique parts and features that are impossible or, otherwise, very difficult to do by hands.