The Story of CutterVision

I have been turning for over 12 years and I have always had difficulty with hollowing.  It can be so stressful not knowing where my cutter is.  Any second, hours worth of work can be destroyed just by cutting a little too much.  Stopping the lathe every few seconds to check the wall thickness with a caliper is a hassle,  not to mention how hard it is to find a caliper that fits every vessel.

I was excited to see laser systems come on the market a few years back.  Would this be the solution to the great mystery of where my cutter was?  Well, not really, lasers help but they require constant adjustment and unless you practice a lot, they won't get you really close to a constant wall thickness. 

Out of frustration, I developed a template based hollowing system. It was highly precise and once I used it I didn't use my laser again.  But it was difficult to set up and calibrate. 

Back in 2011, I was at a woodturing symposium.  Amid all the inspiring demonstrators and vendors I had an inspiration.  The laser is projecting a single dot onto the top of the vessel.  What if I replaced the laser with a camera? The camera, fixed in position with the cutter, would look down on the vessel. Then, the system could remember and display where the cutter is; even when the cutter was inside the vessel!

I immediately went home and set up a laptop with a webcam and proved to myself it would work.  But who would want to bring their expensive laptop out to the wood shop?  So, I started looking for the computer hardware that would make this possible.  But there just wasn't any computing devices available that were affordable at the time.  Luckily, the computer industry is a fast moving one.  In the fall of 2013, I found an affordable computing device that would work with a webcam.  I returned to writing the software again and talked to my friend Tom Steyer over at JTTurningtools.com  Tom was excited about the project and encouraged me to continue work. 

I can remember the first time I used the system, that is now known as CutterVision.  When hollowing, it was so relaxing.  Without the risk of blowing through the side I kept turning thinner and thinner and before knew it I had a small vessel with a 1/10 inch wall thickness. And with no stress.  Wow! I knew turners would love this.  The first time I tried duplicating a small spindle with CutterVision, I literally got goose bumps when I realized how easy it was to do precise duplication without turning off the lathe or grabbing a caliper. 

It is a lot of work to make a product like this available to woodturners around the country.  With the help of Tom Steyer who has designed the camera mounting systems, CutterVision is now available for purchase exclusively through JTTurningtools.com 

Stan Harder - developer and programmer of CutterVision