A Look at Stone Cutting Through the Years

Stone is one of the earliest materials used by man. Natural deposits of granite, marble, slate and other stones have served a wide range of applications, from practical to artistic.
The stone cutting process consists of two broad steps: extracting stone from the earth and then treating and shaping it for its desired purpose. Over time, a number of different tools and methods have been used cut stone.

Early Stone Age

The most primitive method of stone cutting involved simply hitting a soft stone with a harder one. This process dates back to, appropriately enough, the Early Stone Age.
At the time, stone was used primarily as a weapon. Early “tool kits” included hammerstones, which were used to do the work, and core stones, from which smaller flakes were struck to provide cutting edges.

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egyptian civilizations constructed pyramids, obelisks and some of the more stunning examples of stonework found in history. The Egyptians’ quarrying technique consisted of digging a trench around a block of stone, then cutting beneath the stone and pushing it out.
Once the stone was extracted, workers cut a series of holes with a hammer and chisel. Water-soaked wooden wedges were inserted into the holes, where they expanded and split the rock. Bronze tools were used with limestone and other softer rocks.

Stone Saws

Saws have long been a traditional tool for woodcutting, so it was inevitable that man tried to use them on stone as well. Unsurprisingly, saws made from the hardest materials available were still of little use on anything but the softest types of stone.

Marble Cutting and the Helical Wire

Marble cutting techniques took a huge step forward in the 19th century with the development of the helical wire. A continuous loop of steel wire was attached to a pulley moving five to six meters per second.
The abrasiveness of the wire cut through marble, allowing a greater degree of precision than had previously been possible. Helical wire cutting was refined in the mid-20th century, when diamond dust was embedded into the wire.

Modern-Day Quarrying

The quarrying process today begins with surface stripping, in which crawler tractors remove material covering the stone to be extracted. Sometimes blasting is done by drilling holes into the earth and packing them with explosives.
With CNC stone cutting machines, there are almost no limits to the objects that can be produced, from flat countertops to intricately-cut architectural pieces.

Wood Cutting Throughout the Ages

Man has been using wood as a manufacturing material for at least seven to ten thousand years. Egyptians, Chinese and other ancient civilizations used wood to craft furniture, weapons and decorative items.

Throughout the ages, wood-cutting tools have become more sophisticated with the ability to perform increasingly complex maneuvers. Here’s a look at the development of wood-cutting tools from primitive to modern times.


The chisel is the most rudimentary cutting tool, dating back at least 5,000 years. It was a single wedge-shaped cutting edge originally made from flint or other hard substances found in nature. Once metalworking began, many chisels were forged from iron.


Prehistoric man used a crude form of the saw by carving notches in a piece of flint, but the true evolution took place during the Copper and Early Bronze Ages. Men realized that if a single cutting edge was good, several would be even better, and the saw was formally born.

The early Egyptians are credited with creating the first official saws. The tool remained the primary wood-cutting device through the 1400s, when saw mills came into being. Further refinement came in 1777 as Englishman Samuel Miller received the first patent for a circular saw.

Planing Machines

The seeds of an idea for planing machines were sown around the same time the circular saw made its debut, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s when Sir Samuel Bentham obtained a patent on “planing machines with cutters to cut on several sides of the wood at once.”

Drill Bits

While drill bits ushered in the age of power tools, they are descendants of augers. These forerunners of bits were attached to handles and used to manually bore holes into wood. Augers date back to early Roman times, while the modern twist bit originated in approximately 1800.

Wood Moulders

In the mid-1800s, Andrew S. Gear of Jamesville, Ohio, invented the moulder, which uses a cutter block fixed on a vertically-revolving spindle. Gear later created a popular version that features two spindles, which closely resembled the moulders that are used today.


Routers were originally hand-held tools that featured a broad-base plane with a narrow blade protruding beyond the base, giving rise to the nickname “old woman’s tooth.” Power routers with motor-driven spindles are most commonly used today.

CNC routers incorporate modern technology for a level of accuracy and efficiency that was previously unattainable. These routers save time and money by combining several separate tasks in a single machine.

Understanding the Basics of Metrology

The basics of metrology begin as a method by which any given unit of measurement can be used universally. Defining the units, realizing how they are used in practice and tracing the measurements made in practice to reference standards are the three core activities that metrology is concerned with. Metrology is the founding principal behind the International Standard of Units, also known as the SI system.

Metrology is Everywhere

One of the basics of metrology is that in order to intelligently communicate about everything from construction and manufactured goods to illness diagnosis and scientific experiments; there must be a single way to measure quantities. Imagine if you were to discuss the length of an object you had machined and described it as “two feet, three and one-eighth inches.” Since metrology encompasses continuous measurements that are valid around the world, most people would understand what you are saying. But if there were no uniformity, one person’s “feet” and “inches” could be far different from those of someone else. In fact, machining itself would be entirely impossible without the implied understanding of metrology. Attempting to explain any type of size range or the speed of your spindle would be impossible without having a unilateral base of what these measurements mean, as well as being able to communicate these basics to others.

Scientific Metrology

Scientific or fundamental metrology develops measuring methods and establishing what units consist of. Being able to trace these units so that people can use them is among the barest basics of metrology, and is crucial to being able to calibrate any measuring device. One of the basics of metrology that you cannot escape using as a machinist is a length, which is quantified in both metric and US terms. As well, there is indentation hardness that you need to know for both your cutters and your material to be machined. Whether you use the Brinell, Rockwell, Shore or Vickers scales of hardness, this is among the basics of metrology you cannot avoid using to machine a piece of material accurately.

Applied Metrology

Without the ability to quantify and verify measurements, nothing could be produced in quantity, and modern production facilities could not exist. Technical metrology, also known as industrial metrology or just applied metrology, is concerned with the measurement of processes and how society uses the results of this production. Another part of the basics of metrology, this applied branch also deals with how suitable a measuring instrument is for the calibration of instruments and their quality control standards. Imagine that you are commissioned to machine a series of pieces that will go into a device. To do this properly, you must have and apply a set of measures and they must be consistent across your, your colleagues’ and your customers’ measurements.

The History of Honeycomb Construction Design

The use of honeycomb construction design has been in place for thousands of years, and continues to find new uses into the modern world. Through honeycomb construction design, you can produce a low-density and high-strength material for a variety of applications. The honeycomb derives its name from the hexagonal shape with which the walls of beehives are constructed, and has been used in different types of construction with increasing frequency over the past century.

Ancient World

The hexagonal shape of natural honeycomb construction design employed by hive-building insects was first observed in antiquity. In the year 36 BCE, Marcus Varro was credited with geometrically working out that hexagons are a highly efficient use of building materials and space. However, the practical use of hexagons was not until the re-construction of the Pantheon in Rome, where the dome was supported by a structure reminiscent of a layered hexagon shape. This increased the strength of the structure with only a minimal increase in weight, which lent greater stability to the design.

Industrial Revolution

The modern version of the honeycomb construction design practice began to take shape during the industrial revolution. In 1638, Galileo discussed how hollow solid materials could be sturdy with a lower amount of weight than would be a solid piece of material. The honeycomb structure was further supported in 1665, when Robert Hook discovered that the cellular structure of cork has similar properties to the hexagons found in the honeycombs built by bees. This process became further vindicated in 1859, when Darwin stated that the honeycomb was a highly efficient economization of effort and wax. In 1877, F.H. Kustermann invented a molding process to make honeycombs out of a mixture of glue and paper. This was followed in 1890, when Julius Steigel invented a molding process for the repeating hexagonal shape for sheet metals.

Early 20th Century Applications

In 1901, Hans Heilbrun invented an expansion production-based paper honeycomb production process. The structural usage and honeycomb construction design process really took off in 1914, when R. Hofler and S. Renyi received a patent for the use of honeycombs as a structural element. Where the idea really took off was in 1915, with Hugo Junkers receiving a patent to use honeycomb cores on airplanes. In 1938, Norman de Bruyne patented the adhesive necessary to bond honeycombs together in airplane radomes. Boeing later used fire-resistant honeycombs extensively in the 747.

Modern Usage

Since the 1980s, honeycomb construction design has become extensively used. With thermoplastic extruded honeycombs, tremendous strength at extremely low density is practical in large scale. The applications for honeycombs are all but limitless. Modern buildings sometimes employ aluminum wall cladding in a honeycomb pattern for aesthetics and strength. Honeycomb-based insulation is also used in some cases for a compact and sturdy method of building. Structures like the Honeycomb apartment complex in the Bahamas, Honey Bee Hive House in Israel and the Hivehaus modular home design from Britain use the honeycomb shape to its fullest. With advanced materials, the honeycomb construction design method has become even better than it used to be.

Tree of Life | CNC Technology | CMS NA

Tree of Life Sculpture at Milan Expo 2015

CMS CNC Macines for Timber Frame Processing

If you happen to travel to Milan, Italy, some time before October of this year, you might see a fantastic example of modern engineering. In the Italian Pavilion at EXPO 2015, you’ll see the “Tree of Life,” a 121-foot sculpture made from steel and wood laminate beams that weave around the ‘trunk’ and flare out into a twelve-pointed star at the top. The sculpture is in the center of Lake Arena, where water fountains provide an additional sparkle while colored lights provide a captivating glow.

CMS and the Tree of Life

Fixed Rails CNC Machining

Our CNC machines are capable of cutting wood laminate beams, like the ones that wrap around the trunk and form the branches of the Tree of Life. Take a closer look at the Tree of Life and you’ll see how precisely each beam is cut; CNC technologies are essential for achieving the kind of accu

racy necessary for replicating a design as intricate as this one. CMS is proud to acknowledge that one of our machines was used to craft this beautiful sculpture.

Other Notable Projects Made with CMS Machines

Another well-known example of prime engineering is the Alfa Romeo. Many of the Alfa Romeo’s parts are made on CMS machines. Alfa Romeo relies on our CNC machines for the same reason that the makers of the Tree of Life chose our machines: repeatability and precision. CMS has developed a wide array of CNC machines, which is why we are able to serve so many different industries, and machine so many different materials, including wooden beams, thermoplastics and much more.

Are We There Yet? The Lengths We Go to Find “How Far?”

Ship Steering Wheel

Here we go again! I promised angles and we’ll get angles, but I found some really fun stuff about length I just can’t resist sharing.  If you have read any of my other articles you might now realize I like to measure items.  Last month we went into some history on units and this month is no different. I promise we will get into some better stuff this time though.  I’d like to talk a little about Imperial units and Metric units and where they came from, kind of like the birds and bees of measurement. Don’t blush!

“How far?”: Many Names for the Same Thing

Imperial units, mostly used by Americans and the Brits, are the units you’re likely most familiar with. Miles, yards, feet, and inches make up the majority of our length measurement units.  We also have rods, perches, furlongs, links, and a few other ones we don’t really use any more.  We do have fathoms, leagues, and knots that have been adopted and are still the standards around the world.

Mile, yard, foot, and inch, much like degrees in a circle, have their origins in a less than impressive foundation. It all started when people started bartering and trading for goods instead of bashing each other in the head with a big stick and running off with their stuff. There had to be a way of quantifying what you were trading.

“How far?”: Names from Necessity

Imagine you’re down at the market. You bring your freshly ripened squash and you’re looking for some silk fabric for a special someone. You say to the man with silk, “Hey, I have a squash as long as my foot I’d like to trade for 20 paces of silk.”  The other fella says, “I’d be happy to trade, my mother really likes squash.  If you bring me another squash I’d be happy to do this trade again.”  So Mr. Squash-man runs back home and finds another ripe squash and brings it to Mr. Silk-Man.  He says, “Here’s another squash now gimme some more silk so my wife will, uh … be happy.” Mr. Silk-Man says, “I would love to but this squash is only as long as ½ of my foot. I will trade you 10 paces of silk.”  Although disappointed Mr. Squash-Man cannot dispute this fact and says, “Ok.” Standards and measures are born. The next day Mr. Squash-Man brings in a squash that it only ½ a foot long but is twice as fat. He is offered 10 paces of silk.  What do you think happens now? Either the old clubs come out or the scale is born!

The foot truly was a person’s foot. Generally not a bare foot but a shoed foot from all accounts. The yard has a quite foggy background though. It was considered a person’s stride (a long stride if you’re buying and shorter stride if you’re selling, of course), a person’s girth or the length of an outstretched arm. King Henry I even attempted to say it was the distance from his nose to the tip of his thumb on an outstretched arm. The reality is that it was probably used for both the arm and the stride depending on the length that was being measured.

 “How far?”: Names from the Logic of the Situation

Attempts were made throughout history in trying to standardize weights and measures. The Greeks, Romans, Henry I, and Charlemagne attempted to standardize measurement. It goes on even today.

The Yard / Meter: Today the yard is considered 0.9144 meters. The meter was originally considered 1/10 millionth the distance from the equator to the North Pole as defined in 1795.  This is quite a story in itself as they actually physically surveyed this. It took six years and one of the primary surveyors died and in the end they found out it was wrong. Now the standard is the path travelled by light in a vacuum in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second and it was defined in 1983.

The Mile: On to the mile! The mile was considered the distance a Roman army could march in 1,000 strides. One stride was considered the same foot striking the ground twice. As the mile had a stride as its basis, and it’s a much longer distance, it has had many dimensions depending on how tall the people of the area were.  Here is just a sample:

  • The modern mile defined as 8 furlongs (1609 meters), and a longer mile similar to the French mille (1949 meters), plus the Scottish mile (1814 meters) and the Irish mile (2048 meters).

As far as I can tell, the definitive definition of the mile is as follows:

  • The statute mile was so-named because it was defined by an English Act of Parliament in 1593, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The statute states: “A Mile shall contain eight Furlongs, every Furlong forty Poles, and every Pole fifteen Foot and a half.” It was thus 1760 yards (5280 feet, about 1609 meters). For surveying, the statute mile is divided into eight furlongs; each furlong into ten chains; each chain into four rods (also known as poles or perches); and each rod into 25 links. This makes the rod equal to 5½ yards or 16½ feet in both Imperial and US usage.

“How far?”: The Mile’s Linguistic Impact

Another tribute to Wikipedia is how the mile is used in some modern sayings

  • A country mile is used colloquially to denote a very long distance.
  • “A miss is as good as a mile” (failure by a narrow margin is no better than any other failure)
  • “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” – (the person in question will become greedy if shown generosity)
  • “Missed by a mile” (missed by a wide margin)
  • “Talk a mile a minute” (speak at a rapid rate)
  • “To go the extra mile” (to put in extra effort)
  • “Miles away” (lost in thought, or daydreaming)
  • “Milestone” (an event indicating significant progress)

The Inch, Furlongs, and More

Now for the lowly inch. It was defined as the distance between the two middle knuckles on the first finger. Other measurements still used are furlongs, they are still used exclusively in horse racing and equal 220 yards and rods that are occasionally used in land surveying. And how about that meter! Everything now is based on the meter. Even if you measure an inch it’s traceable to the meter.  It was introduced in 1795 in France to simplify measurement.  It was considered the measurement “for all people for all time” by philosopher Condorcet.  It has continued to evolve ever since. Degrees were to be changed by Jean-Charles de Bordato into Grades which would equal 1/100 of a circle which would in turn have 100 minutes/grade and 100 sec /minute.  These units can sometimes be found on some scientific calculators today. Decimal time was proposed in 1793 with 10 hours days, 100 minute hours, and 100 second minutes. This equaled 0.84 seconds. A 10 day work week and a 12 month year.  France did do this but Napoleon gave it the boot in 1806 because everyone was, well, not pleased with a 10 day week.

The Meter (SI)

In regards to the International System of Units measured meter:

  • In 1960, the CGPM launched the International System of Units (in French the Système international d’unités or SI) which had six base units, the meter, kilogram, second, ampere, degree kelvin (subsequently renamed the “kelvin”) and candela, and 22 derived units.

Some of the readers in the age of perfection (50’s) will remember the US had a mandate that we would switch to all metric within 10 years, a committee was formed.  The year was 1975 and it was considered voluntary but it never caught on unless you got involved in the sciences. By 1982 under President Regan it was disbanded.

Even now there are many independent standards organizations. The US has NIST, England has NPL, and France has SI.  In our machine measurement world there are even more organizations such as ASME, VDI, JIS, and ISO. Luckily they are starting to work together to establish coordinated standards.  Actually in our world this is HUGE!

The Knot

I can’t stop, bear with me a little longer, I have to talk about knots! As I mentioned earlier there were some imperial units, like the Sumerians’ degree, that just could not be extinguished. One would be the knot and the other would be the fathom.  These are nautical terms and since the rest of the scientific world was on land contemplating terrestrial things, the mariners were bobbing about the oceans talking in another language, as they do today.  How many of you know a sheet is a rope used to control a sail?

Our sailors were quite enthusiastic to embrace new technology, as it might keep them off the rocks, but they were not quite so enthusiastic to use new terminology. The knot is a reference to speed. As has become quite clear its roots are contrived from the obviously practical. To check the speed of a vessel at sea they had no instruments. What they would do is take a long piece of rope with knots tied every 47 feet and 3 inches and throw it over board. Why 47-3? I have no idea. When it hit the water another guy (no women sailors in the old days) would turn a sand 30 second hour glass and everyone would count the knots as they passed by. When it was all over a crusty, un-bathed, deck hand would call out, “Aye Captain, we be makin ‘bout 7 knots!” Then he would spit out another tooth from the scurvy he acquired from the lack of vitamin C.

Just another tidbit of info on dead reckoning, as it was called and still is. Sailors of old knew their position very well in latitude (north-south) by the stars and sun with simple charts; but longitude (east-west) was whole different situation. No GPS in the old days. I gotta stop! There is such a good story about how they solved the longitude problems I could write another article on it. It’s amazing. It was the largest monetary prize ever given for an invention: The Longitude Act of 1714:

  • £10,000 for a method that could determine longitude within 60 nautical miles (111 km)
  • £15,000 for a method that could determine longitude within 40 nautical miles (74 km)
  • £20,000 for a method that could determine longitude within 30 nautical miles (56 km).

Back to the knot. A knot is a knot is a knot, and not a knot per hour, and this is not funny. On land we measure in statue miles; at sea we measure nautical miles. A statue mile is 5380 feet; a nautical mile is 6080 feet. Why the difference? As previously discussed a mile or statue mile is 1000 Roman legion paces, a nautical mile is one minute of angle of the earth’s surface at a distance of 40,000 km. Polar circumference and equatorial circumference is not the same. So a knot is NOT a naut per hour, but a knot has been redefined to a naut per hour = a knot! Knots are used in nautical and aeronautical industries as a measure of speed, but it is incorrect to say a knot per hour.

Enough about knots, knots in a rope that is.  Well not, or knot quite.  Let’s talk about how deep is the water. When we were young and smart we didn’t venture out further then we could touch the bottom or at least see the bottom. Then we got brave, or silly, and went out further. If you were like me you would take a stick to see how deep it was. Pretty soon the stick didn’t touch the bottom. Now we invent the fathom. We find a big rock and tie a long rope to it. Since King Henry says a yard is an arm’s length, we try that but it takes up too much rope so we double it to 2 yards or 6 feet and call it a fathom.  Off we go into the world and sail into a bay no one has ever charted so we need to see how deep it is. We have the deckhands throw over the “sounding line” and count the knots. He’d report back, “Aye Captain, The Sea, she’s so deep she’s unfathomable!” Hence our common saying, “unfathomable,” meaning beyond fathoming, or in modern usage, as beyond comprehension. To this day nautical charts are labeled as “soundings” marked in fathoms or in feet.

Coming Next: Angles

Well I’ve done it again. We didn’t get around to angles for another month. Next month I promise to talk about angles! I hope. Till then, “Keep makin’ chips, and accurate chips.”