Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Exploring Component Fabrication with CNC

Explore, in detail, the techniques and software to use a three-axis (digital) CNC router. Learn the techniques for consistent and precise cutting. 5 day class with Randy Johnson.  


Explore Component Fabrication with CNC



Taught by Randy Johnson ,CNC trainer and woodworking author, this five-day course offers woodworkers, builders and fabbers  an in-depth introduction to the programming and operations of a three-axis CNC (digital) router.

“Although not a replacement for all woodworking tools and techniques, CNC has become a complementary tool for many woodworkers.  Considering the popularity of handheld routers and the ever-present template, the CNC adds a new level of control and repeat-ability. This is largely due to its ability to cut contoured and complex parts without the need for a template, guide or fence. When using a CNC, there is little penalty for design complexity. However, as with all making, the craftsmanship/artistry (choice of tools and materials, and execution of techniques),and the aesthetics, and the utility of a piece are all determined by the head and the hands of the maker. Choices not tools determine the final quality. 

In practical terms the advantages of using a CNC may simply be that of getting the job done quicker and at a saleable price point - whether it’s roughing out a Windsor chair seat, or chip carving 100 jewelry box lids.  Beyond its practicality, the CNC also provides a exciting opportunity to explore new ways of making things.”   RJ

Class Description

CNC machines are capable of almost effortlessly cutting complex designs and shapes and greatly expand the fabrication options available to a furniture builder. Getting over the initial learning curve of CNC can be a challenge, but a CNC is really just another shop tool, a somewhat unique tool - yes, but still just a tool. Learning to exploit the capabilities of a CNC opens new ways of solving design problems and fabricating parts.

In this class students will design 3-5 furniture components using the 3D design software of their choice, or by hand sketching. The focus will be on designing parts the take advantage of a CNC unique capabilities and provide useful and practical solutions to component production.

Instruction and discussions topics will include CAD modeling methods, tooling, toolpathing, machine setup, material holding jigs and some CNC machining tips/tricks. Students will work independently and collaboratively in the exploration of the various methods and techniques involved in designing for the CNC. Designs will be critiqued by the class and a sampling of the projects will be used to demonstrate setup and cutting techniques on the CNC. As time allows student will also be able to cut other designs of their choosing.


Students are required to bring

  • PC laptop computer loaded with Windows 7 or 10

  • OR a Mac laptop running Parallels with Windows 7 or 10

  • OR a Mac laptop running Boot Camp with Windows 7 or 10

  • Computer mouse with the scroll wheel and mouse pad

  • The laptop should contain a copy of the design software that you want to use (e.g. Vectric Aspire, Rhino, Fusion 360, SketchUp or other)

  • NOTE: this is not a 3D CAD software training class, so you should be fluent with the 3D CAD design software you plan to use. However, CNC toolpathing software and instructions will be provided.

  • NOTE: You can also design on paper and work collaboratively with another student or the instructor to convert your ideas to 3D on their computer. If you plan to design on paper, still bring a computer since CNC toolpathing software will be provided for you to use during the class.

  • Make sure you have administrator privileges for the computer you bring to class, since you may need it to load the toolpathing software.

Tools provided by the school

  • Hearing and eye protection

  • Vectric Design Software (access to full version)

  • CNC routers

  • Router bits required for class projects


Not required - experience operating a CNC or using CAD design software is helpful, but not required. What is required is a desire to explore the options and techniques in designing furniture parts for the CNC.


If you have questions, please contact Randy via email list on the Instructor's profile page or contact the school and they will provide you with Randy's phone number. Randy is glad to answer any questions.

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.
This class takes place in Building #315 at Fort Worden.  Map
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $ 800
Materials Charge: $ 55
Register By: July 6, 2019

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.