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Case Study - Warships and Furniture with Andy Pitts: 1/2

 

ImageIn this edition of the newsletter we are focusing on the craftsmanship of Andrew Pitts. Nestling in the forests of Northumberland County, Virginia, Andy is a self-taught, multi -award winning furniture maker who has perfected his craft and created an individual style over his 38 years of experience. His design approach is to celebrate the wood’s inherent beauty, respecting its imperfections and variations. With a tendency to complete most pieces with a clear finish to highlight his materials grain and texture Andy has developed a subtle hallmark to make his pieces recognizable within the furniture industry. Furniture making has not always been Andy’s full time occupation, his previous work being a complete contrast to his life now; we will let Andy take the story from here…

I am a largely self-taught studio furniture maker with 38 years of experience and have been a full time furniture maker for the past 9 years, but I had a prior career in the United States Navy as a nuclear engineering qualified Surface Warfare Officer where I commanded three warships and operated cruiser and aircraft carrier nuclear reactors.

ImageI became a studio furniture maker in 1976 when I was an Ensign, although at the time I did not know studio furniture by that name; I just liked to design and make custom furniture. I knew that eventually I would be a professional maker. During my career I made furniture whenever I was not at sea (which was a great deal of the time, serving in seven ships), and collected many of the tools I would need in my business. In 2002 my wife and I moved to the secluded forests of Northumberland County, Virginia where I began construction on my workshop, and in 2005 I was officially in the furniture designer/maker business. Since then, my furniture has been featured in numerous exhibitions and has garnered more than a dozen awards, as well as appearing in four books, Studio Furniture: Today’s Leading Woodworkers, Fine Wood Artists, Bespoke: Furniture from 101 International Artists, Mind and Hand: Contemporary Studio Furniture.

After making the transition from part time to full time furniture maker, Andy was clearly skilled with traditional tools and able to produce top-level work with them, so we wondered what prompted him to look at using CNC technology in his workshop. Image

I had been following ShopBot at some of The Furniture Society annual conferences for several years.  I had also been working on my hand carving, and got to the point where I was quite proficient (Click here to view example), but hand carving was very time consuming and my customer base typically could not afford that level of work. That prompted me to consider CNC as an alternative to hand carving in my furniture. So, I researched the ShopBot line and decided that the DeskTop model would give me the level of precision I needed to integrate CNC carving into my furniture; and this is the same machine I use to date.

Having now purchased his ShopBot Desktop complete with Vectric’s PartWorks (VCarve Pro) and PartWorks3D (Cut3D) software, Andy now had the task of integrating this new tool into his business. Having never before used a CNC, we asked Andy how he found the process of learning how to use the machine and software?

There is a steep learning curve in CNC, particularly mastering the software to the point of making it do what you want. Before purchasing my CNC machine, I studied all the tutorials I could from the ShopBot website, including all the tutorials on Partworks (V-Carve Pro) and Partworks3D (Cut3D). I also took a weekend course at ShopBot when I picked up my machine. With all my preparation, it was fairly easy to set up and use the machine and make simple designs in the software.

ImageVectric software was included with the ShopBot, and later I upgraded to Aspire through ShopBot. I was not really familiar with Aspire when I first purchased my machine, but had heard a great deal about it at Camp ShopBot and in forums, which prompted me to upgrade. I am still studying the many tutorials to master that software and I also take advantage of the great 3D models at VectorArt3D. Integrating Aspire into my work for me was natural. I have been a long time CAD user (currently DesignCad 3D Max 24) since 1992 or so, so I use the DesignCad for my furniture design and Aspire for the CNC aspects of the work.

Given Andy’s familiarity with his Vectric software and its many capabilities we wanted to find out what in particular he likes about the software for the type of work he produces?

Aspire (and VCarve before it) is logical, intuitive, and really very easy to use. I particularly like the functionality of making a true rendering of the carved object, true enough to know exactly how the cutter will behave in the actual work. Animating the cutter is sometimes very useful. Also, the ability to capture the image of the rendering and send that image to my clients has proven priceless in customer satisfaction. Perhaps the biggest benefits I’ve received are the tutorials. They are GREAT! I learn so much from them, and I understand that is an “extra” you provide for your customers.

 

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