So I recently wrote about setting up a dedicated computer in the shop, but I really glanced over why I set one up. Why is there a need for a weekend warrior hobbyist to have a dedicated computer in his shop? There isn’t any one answer.
I would imagine in many pro shops, especially larger ones, there is already a large presence of computers and technology in the shops. From running CNC machines, to looking up project specs, to logging into the company’s ERP system, there are countless needs for computers in the pro shops. However, in a hobbyist shop, most of the needs are simply not there. So why a computer in the shop?
My day job is working in IT. While on the surface, woodworking and IT may be an odd combination. However, the number of IT workers who pick up some element of woodworking as a hobby is surprisingly big. So, with having a computer in the shop, when there is already multiple computers running in the house doesn’t seem like a big deal, just another computer geek move. That said, I do believe their are non-geek (arguably) legitimate reasons to have a computer in the shop.
The first use for having a computer in the shop is for digital project plans. I personally use SketchUp, because it is both free and very easy to use. I know there are many who have access to other CAD software such as AutoCad or even Solidworks. Sometimes it could be just as simple as viewing a scanned in project plan in a PDF file. The benefits over having a paper plan are numerous. All formats allow you to zoom in to look at a detail closer. The 3D and CAD software also allow you to rotate the project from just about any angle you can think of. It also gives you the ability to hide parts, or even a highlight a single complex part. Also if a measurement is displayed, using the software getting that measurement is a snap. I will admit, there are times that a paper copy of something is beneficial, especially when standing at the table saw. This is why my shop computer is also tied to the house network printer.
In the next week or so, I will post the second part of this article, so keep your eye out for it!