Cooking with the CNC

//Cooking with the CNC

Cooking with the CNC

Proper sauerkraut is made by salting cabbage, weighing it down and letting it ferment. With the addition of salt and pressure, magic happens. It prevents the growth of bacteria that is toxic or that would turn the cabbage into a sloppy rotten mess while it promotes the growth of  beneficial bacteria that are healthy for the body & make the cabbage tasty. One of the keys to successful sauerkraut is to apply pressure evenly. I’ve been using straight-sided crock pots with weighted dinner plates on top. This works pretty decently, but plates are surprisingly curvy which leads to uneven pressure. I wanted something better. So I used the latest technology in service of one of the oldest processes and made covers for my sauerkraut on the CNC machine.

The process was actually quite simple:

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It kind of seemed like overkill to use the CNC for this since it really isn’t all that hard to cut a circle out of wood by hand. However, I’m a computer guy with next to nil for woodworking skills. Cutting a straight line with a hand saw is a major accomplishment for me. I’m realizing that being able to design on the computer and have the CNC do the cutting makes it possible for me to do things I never could have.

For anyone thinking about using the CNC machine for the first time, (or the laser cutter as well) I strongly recommend that you start with something as simple as cutting circles. If you’re used to outputting your work to printers or to the Web, it’s not as straightforward and there are things you’ll need to take into account to ensure success:

  • There will be differences between the Illustrator file and the format the CNC machine uses. You will need to do some cleanup of the file.
  • Plan for setup time. The material you’re cutting will need to be positioned & clamped, and the XY coordinates of the corner will need to be found.
  • Plan for extra sanding/sawing time. The CNC leaves bits of material it needs to keep things from shooting away as they’re being cut & these will need to be cleaned up.
  • Plan for cleanup time. Dust goes everywhere and it’s bad form to leave the lab a mess when you’re done.

The bottom line is, build a couple extra hours into your project. Start with simple projects to get a feel for what you’ll need to do to make it all work, and do it when you don’t have an urgent deadline.

Having done this project, I now I have the necessary accessories to be able to make about 40 gallons of sauerkraut at a time. I’ve also gained valuable insight into workflow of the CNC machine, and can’t wait for the next, more complex project.


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