Literary gold mine for CNC millers

Furniture & Lighting
Literary gold mine for CNC millers


From 1976 to 1983, Popular Science magazine, along with the American Plywood Association, ran an annual plywood panel project design contest for its readership. Often the winning projects were items of furniture, but that was not a requirement. A potter’s kick wheel and a folding plywood boat are notable exceptions. The rules were simple: Apart from common fasteners, the entire project had to be constructed from one or more panels of plywood, cut to make most efficient use of the material. In 1984, these projects were collected, by original contest editor Alfred W. Lees, into a book called 67 Prizewinning Plywood Projects.

1984, of course, was decades prior to the advent of accessible home CNC milling, so all those carefully shaped and slotted parts, at the time, had to be laboriously hand-cut using a jigsaw or similar tool. Today, the book is a rich, untapped resource for CNC enthusiasts. I scored a used copy on Amazon, and besides the projects themselves, the book yields a bumper crop of ideas for clever tricks to incorporate into your own designs.

14 thoughts on “Literary gold mine for CNC millers

  1. Robb Smith says:

    Thanks for the great tip.

    The most innovative use of plywood I’ve seen was a plan that used two sheets of plywood to form an enormous Fresnel lens for microwaves as a cheap alternative to a satellite dish (back when satellite dishes were six feet across). It was developed by the BC Ministry of Science and Technology to promote the use of plywood, so I assume the science behind it was sound.


  2. says:

    Was just designing a table to be cut out on a CNC. Thanks for this, I just ordered a copy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Remember too that Google Books has full view of Popular Mechanics. You won’t get fully detailed drawings but the issues do give the basics. Issues with winners of the contest include:

    Popular Science Feb 1977
    Popular Science Aug 1978

    1. Anonymous says:

      I meant full view of Popular Science, not Mechanics.

  4. Sean Michael Ragan says:

    Thanks for that tip. It had not occurred to me, and I’m sure it will be useful to people now that the price of this book on Amazon has been driven up to $90! There were like 18 copies at $4 each before this post went up.

  5. AlwaysPrivate says:

    I’ve use a plan for a desk from this series of plywood plans literally for decades. It’s been the basis for a potting table.. a set of 4 matching tables along the garage wall.. and several computer desks/ project desks.. great plans..

  6. Leonardo Gutierrez says:

    Hi, actually I use this book for my bussiness in Colombia, great tool. Thanks

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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