Carmichael crafts business with newly purchased CNC router

Ryan Carmichael looks over the CNC router he purchased last fall and now uses to make a variety of woodworking projects, like flags and decorative signs.

By Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—As a longtime lover of woodworking, Ryan Carmichael of Halstead recently decided to take his skills to the next level. Equipped with a new CNC router that he purchased last September, Carmichael has started a business called Third Street and has been taking custom orders for wood projects.

“I’d seen these and kind of always wanted one and finally took the plunge and bought one,” he said about the CNC router. “It’s been a learning experience.”

CNC routers use a computer-assisted design process and can cut in three directions, making them a versatile machine. Carmichael didn’t have any experience with a CNC router before he purchased his, but he’s been using the Internet and trial and error to teach himself as he goes.

“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I’m definitely not a pro, by any means.”

And his Third Street business is off to a strong start. He estimated he made about 30 projects for Christmas, including some that he gave as gifts. A popular project he had at Christmastime were decorative signs with a family’s last name on them, which he designed himself. He’s also made a number of Wahoo game boards.

So far, he’s been able to figure out how to carry out all the ideas people have brought to him, even if some took longer than others. A lot of his customers so far have been friends on Facebook or his wife’s customers at the hair salon.

Lately, he’s been taking a lot of orders for American flags. He also offers customization options like engraving a Halstead Dragon or the seal of a branch of the military over the stripes. He estimated the flags take him three or three-and-a-half hours to make over the course of several days.

Carmichael uses a computer program to tell the machine how to cut or carve the wood.

“I don’t know how to explain all of it, but you can draw lines, squares, circles, join stuff together, curves,” he said. “I’m still kind of learning this, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”

He’s mostly been using pine, maple, or PBC for his projects. Along the way, he made a lot of what he called “expensive firewood” with his mistakes.

Different route bits cut the wood in different ways, and a project will often require Carmichael to switch bits several times.

“I don’t even know how many router bits I have,” he said. “They’re all different bits for different processes.”

Carmichael said he’s barely scratched the surface of what the CNC router is capable of.

“I learn something new every time I turn the thing on,” he said.

Just this past weekend, Carmichael started experimenting with cutting acrylics by tracing a basketball silhouette that lights up. He’d like to offer these sorts of products for sale, too.

As Carmichael grows more skilled with the CNC router, he plans to do pieces with rounded textures with more depth in a semblance of 3D. His first project like this, a Jayhawk head, he just attempted last week. Designing and carving both take longer in this process.

He works full time at Farmers Coop, so his time working on Third Street projects is limited to evenings and weekends. He estimated he’s been spending about four hours on weeknights in his workshops and often most of the day on Saturdays and Sundays.

Carmichael had a hard time picking a particular project that’s been his favorite.

“Usually the last one I make is my favorite,” he said.

The Carmichael family shows off some of the recent projects they’ve made recently. Ryan does most of it, but his wife, Gina, and their kids, Reece and Rylee, also pitch in sometimes. The light-up acrylic piece that Reece is holding is one of the latest experiments on the CNC router.

His favorite thing about the new business has been the feedback he gets from customers.

“Finishing up a project and it looking good,” he added.

Carmichael’s family has also been getting involved in helping. His daughter, Rylee, said she’s been trying to learn how to use the CNC router, too, to help out when he gets busy.

“Sometimes, like when he was first trying to figure it out, I helped him a little because we have a program at school where we use Illustrator, and it kind of has the same tools that we use on there,” she added.

It’s becoming a hobby that Rylee is interested in developing herself.

“He’s already made it look so much fun, and like he said, it’s so much fun to see people’s faces when you give it them,” she said. “I think that’s one of the best things about it.”

Rylee also helps with painting and staining some of the projects, as does mom Gina. Carmichael’s son, Reece, has helped a little bit, too, carrying wood.

“He’s the muscle of the group, more than anything,” Gina noted.

Gina added she’s been impressed by what her husband has built, both with the CNC router and his other projects.

“I like to brag about him, because all of this stuff he built himself,” she said, referring to his workshop, which he completely renovated himself.

Carmichael said business is going well, and he continues to have orders lined up, including some for projects he’s never tried before.

For more information or to place an order, visit Third Street on Facebook. Carmichael did warn that he’s about three weeks out on orders right now, and once he starts getting busier at the Coop in March, he expects to have less time to work on his side-business with the CNC router.