Considered handmade

Hi all . I am new here, Its my first post…

I was talking to day with a furniture maker in town and he considered “hand” made anything where a power tool has not touched the wood from unfinished to finished product.

Is this correct?

In other words, if I make say, a wooden toy and use a scroll-saw and electric belt sander, etc to make it, can I label it “handmade in the USA” ?

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I searched a definition for handmade and came up with: made by hand, not by machine, and typically therefore of superior quality.

Whether that definition has any legal standing in the marketplace may well be open for debate.

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I doubt the term has any power on the packaging. Similar to “natural” on foods. It is part of the marketing. The ham that comes precooked, sliced, and in a plastic bag is not natural.

If I bought a bookshelf and it said “hand made”, I would expect it to be made by a human with a table saw, not the woodwrights shop.

If I saw a 8"x11" painting that said “hand made”, I would expect that was done without a machine. Definitely not done on an espon printer.

A sign that was cut on a CNC machine is a big stretch though. I would not be happy with that being called hand made. I would also prefer a CNC made sign (that still has a feeling of high quality to me).

There are other terms that have similar emotions and are less polarizing. Rustic. Custom. Made with care or love. Limited. Crafted. Created by Maya. Stuff like that.


I’ve been in this argument too many times. The typical outcome is ‘most’ people accept that ‘handmade’ means a person made it. The use of tools is allowed, and as such, any woodworking tool in your shop is a tool.

The people that disagree are usually esoteric octogenarians that are still trying to make themselves feel good about their life choices.

I will say that the line gets fuzzy when you throw CNC machines into the mix. I’m of the opinion that using a CNC machine to cut parts is no different than using a jigsaw. Just better accuracy. You still have to design the part, use the machine, finish the part, and build/assemble the furniture. But I’ll readily accept that others don’t feel this way about CNC.

I also agree with Jeff. If the CNC cut the entire part (like a sign) and nothing was done by the person, that’d be a huge stretch to call it handmade.

I also like Jeff’s other list of potential words to use. Just throw ‘Custom’ on it. Then they can’t argue how it was made/cut/assembled.


:grin: Well said!


Wow that is a tricky one I had never seen before.

I like Heffe’s suggestion, Loving made in my shop, or We made these with care in the US. Crafted with care. Skip the “handmade” word.

Tricky becuase we know how much work a CNC’d sign takes, but as soon as you make more than 1…that becomes mostly automated.


I’ll throw another vote for this idea and I’ll include a story that is “In the making”. I am making two pinewood derby cars for my kids. One was simple enough that I was able to design the model in OnShape. It will look like a hotdog. So it will have one decorative part (the wiener) that is 3D printed and then the pine block bun will be cut on my CNC router using ESTLCAM 3D block milling. This has already taken me a few hours to do and will end up taking “us” (my kid and I) several more hours of sanding and painting etc… I will call this “Homemade” not “Handmade”.

The other derby car is too complex for me model. Its a 3D dog shape. It will be whittled by hand with a Dremel. That one will be “Handmade” and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise. It terrifies me to think that I am suddenly expected to know how to whittle. As a boy scout I was terrible at it. As a Dad I am expected to be amazing :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:. In any case that one is turning out to look ok so far. There will be pictures eventually for those that are interested.


Sounds like you are pretty amazing. My pops is/was in construction and we did not do anything that involved. I have fond memories of the good ol pinewood derby construction! Don’t really remember the race itself.

Such a crazy idea I had never considered. Handmade…this is going to bug me.


The car I came in first place with was cut with nothing but straight cuts on a bandsaw. It was under weight at check-in time, so we hot-glued an old large silver dollar to the back of it.

I think I still have it. I think it’s in a box of stuff my mom recently offloaded to me to store.


My grandparents brought home a nativity set of olive wood from Israel one year that said “handmade” on it and I was marveling at how the whittling was so precise and my grandfather said something along the lines of it wasn’t truly hand made because the artisan used a dremel.

If we follow that line of thinking to its conclusion and tools are not allowed, then a knife isn’t either and you are only allowed to use your fingers for truly “hand” made… nothing would ever be truly hand made.

I don’t think I would call anything cnc’d hand made because of the automated precision it provides that I cannot get by doing it manually. I’ve tried. I mess stuff up. It is custom and home made.


So… Going into the woods with an axe, felling the tree, and using an adze to make the lumber?

If you get the wood from a sawmill, a power tool has most definitely touched it.

CNC cut is (to me) definitely machine made though. Even if I did all of the work myself, I wouldn’t call it hand made. “Assembled by hand” certainly, but hey, Ikea furniture qualifies that way, too. Personally, nothing cut on my CNC or coming off of my 3D printer is going to be “hand made”.

On the other hand, I would definitely say that pieces made from milled lumber with my table saw, planer/jointer, drill press, plunge router and power screwdriver are hand made.


As far as I see you can. After all, a scroll saw is little but a powered jigsaw and you do use your hands to switch it on and guide it and the belt sander’s little more than a fast sanding block with paper, also relying on hands to turn it on/guide the workpiece.


I learned how to whittle. All I can make is bloody pickles.

I grew up watching Norm Abrams on The New Yankee Workshop :eyeglasses: with my dad. He had a ton of projects (I am specifically remembering his Adirondack chairs) where he would use the bandsaw to make a rough template in plywood. He would fine tune the template down to the line on his thousands of dollars worth of sanding machines (thanks powermatic and delta). He would then mill the stock and rough cut it on the bandsaw again. He then would use a pattern bit on a router (or his “shaper table”) to get exact copies of the template.

That whole process is replaced with the MPCNC. The building of the template (and the design, and printing paper templates) is all one-time work. The rest is the same with both workflows. Both chairs need to be sanded, and finished. The lumber comes into the project in the same way. Making multiple copies has the same cost-benefit.

My grandpa had a small shop with some hand tools, a strong work bench, and a scroll saw. He also had a small lathe. He did amazing work by spending thousands of hours on stuff and he used the crud out of that scroll saw and lathe. This kind of thing is very hard to replicate with a CNC machine. I don’t think that is the point of CNC.

There is clearly a lot of craftsmanship involved with hand tool woodworking. But no one can say that Norm Abrams wasn’t a woodworker. I have no doubt he would be using CNC machines if he was born 40 years later. His attention to detail and enormous knowledge of building with wood makes him an expert woodworker and a craftsman. The tools are just the tools.


Knife maker Aron Gough makes custom artisan knifes with CNCs. They might not be HANDMADE anymore, as he did in the beginning- but it surely is amazing craftsmanship:


Not to mention his knowledge of which way to cut the wood.

Take a piece of cedar and cut the slats for that chair so that the slats are all cross grain instead of with the grain and when the wood settles you’ll end up with a cork-screw chair :slight_smile:

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I think there is a common theme here where power is permitted except for the die-hards, but machine control is ‘cheating’ when it comes to calling something hand-made.

I feel like underneath the label is an implication that the methods used require skill and care, and more specifically it requires skill of a certain traditional type. But people don’t say it that way.

Perhaps you can be the first. Make it explicit and say, “This piece was made the hard way because I’m a badass.”


I aways say homemade :yum:with love. Very few things are only CNC there is prep and sizing design and my cnc does not. Sand and paint or finish i wish it spell checked but i dont have a polish dictionary glad i preview all projects better but thats the hand made. The finishing in my mind is what makes the difference between the the two. If there are multiple identical items it complicates the picture


Thank you guys for your input. Really appreciate that!