Painting with Tool Paths

Recent MMS stories and archived content alike demonstrate that there’s plenty of room for art and craft in metalcutting applications.


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“Painting with tool paths” is how I described the work being done at Weiss Watch Co. in Los Angeles, California, in our November-issue cover story. Machinist Grant Hughson, who has teamed with master watchmaker Cameron Weiss to produce luxury mechanical timepieces in the United States, says he can’t just cut to tolerance, and he can’t just program the machine to pocket a certain area using standard CAM software routines. Rather, tool marks must arc and swirl “just so” in order to meet subjective standards of quality that cannot be measured. Instead, they are evaluated visually through a microscope by Mr. Weiss.

In addition to making artwork directly, CNC technology has a role to play in supporting its creation. For instance, Mr. Hughson’s machining also supports Mr. Weiss in producing various tools used to painstakingly hand-finish work. Another example is highlighted in this recent case study, which details the machining of equipment used to apply tattoos.

These are not the only examples of CNC artwork that can be found in the archives of Modern Machine Shop. Just last year, one of our own used a laser cutter to produce a decorative piece that is now on display at Xavier University here in Cincinnati. The creator of this piece, Jeff Norgord, is art director of MMS publisher Gardner Business Media, and he had to teach himself to make gears in order to make the project work.

Here is another notable example of CNC art from the past. (Here’s part two.)

Are your workpieces literally art, do they resemble art, or does your work support art in some way? If you are willing to show it off, I would love to hear about it