I revisit the automation posts from time to time. Sometimes wishing for less industry and more handcrafting. I really enjoy my chain mortisers, large skill saws, chain saws,and routers though. Using technology is a matter of balance of many factors. There is room for all, but few people can make a living being a luddite.
When I first got into carpentry in the early eighties, I hand nailed one house together and immediately bought pneumatic nailers and staplers, etc. does that mean I don't use my hammer any more? Hardly, but to build houses with a handsaw and a hammer is not going to put much bread on the table. It's our modern age, and thank God for it.
The large CNC companies have made a huge investment in timber framing. It has awakened the public's interest in many cases to the craft. There is no better way to cut a timber frame on a 4000 sq ft house, working in tandem with guys that can hand cut changes/ additions.
What I and my crew offer is generally more than any specialized company can. We don't always get to "do it all" from survey to furniture, but as formally educated Journeyman Carpenters with well rounded experience, we can. The construction industry(as with all industries)generally pigeon holes carpenters into specific categories. (ie. the framer does not do any finishing or cabinetry). It usually takes decades (and a desire for life-long learning) to become proficient in all these areas, let alone expert.
Over the decades, municipalities have taken a way a lot of the structural carpenter's responsibility with trusses etc. Even regular stick frame walls are prefabbed sometimes in a factory.
Prefabbing walls off site is a step backwards in efficiency, but it is often promoted by salesmen.
The real challenge for the TFG and Carpenter certification in general is relevancy. I have had my Red Seal Journeyman Carpenter qualification since 1989. a four year classroom and on site education, yet it has no value outside of an industrial/union setting. Most of us could use the diploma/certificate in the porta potty when the tp is all gone. I overheard two technology teachers talking at a tool store recently. Very few carpentry students complete the course. they just go off and work and never come back. they get stuck at 2nd level apprentice forever.
Elevating the title of Carpenter from "flunkie with a hammer" to "professional tradesman" would benefit builders, home buyers/owners, and municipalities alike.
This post touches on many subjects here. Growing the TFG, making it's apprenticeship program as well as the general carpentry apprenticeship programs relevant in the (residential mostly)construction industry, depends on the support of Municipal,State/Provincial Governments,it won't happen otherwise.
There is no will on the part of any Government I know of to support such a vision. The suits have taken over and have tried for decades to turn Carpenters into simple labourers. I think this is at the heart of any negative feelings toward CNC companies whether it is in the timber industry or elsewhere. No
craftsman wants to work on what feels like an assembly line, that's why we don't work in the auto industry.
The good news is that as hard as suits try to erode the carpenter's role, an intelligent highly skilled Carpenter will always find a place, because they will never be fully replaceable. The bad news is that automation can truncate skill development if it is not managed well.
Damn suits and bankers