Why isn't Home Depot aping Ponoko?


Samuel Blanco made this desk himself from plywood (smartly the kind with holes in the bottom so he could loop his router and such underneath) for just $185. It won't win any awards for originality, but you can't beat the price.

It'd be nice, though, if there were a way for everyone to cut out big piece of wood like this. I just ordered a cut of wood from Ponoko last night for a car PC that I'm building. It'd be slick if Ponoko could work with machine and wood shops around the country to outsource bigger projects like Blanco's table. Or hell, it's a perfect opportunity for Home Depot or Lowes—upload your EPS file before you leave the house to go pick up your freshly cut pieces.

For someone like me who doesn't want to buy tools they're likely only to use a few times, a larger-scale manufacture-to-order service would be great. They could dip their toe in with services like cut-to-order wood for easy things like desks and shelves, then scale up to larger, more intricate projects with more materials if it makes sense. It'd let the hardware stores expand into a whole new marketplace, half-Ponoko, half-Ikea.

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16 Responses to Why isn't Home Depot aping Ponoko?

  1. Anonymous says:

    you know you can rent tools, or just hire someone to do it for you (You know, like a carpenter), right? Okay so you’re not hiring home depot but that probably means it’ll be cheaper, n’est pas?

  2. chroma says:

    How about throwing Reply

  3. kamill1 says:

    What about the independent wood worker/cabinetmaker/luthier. Localized trades people may be willing to take on small projects. One carpenter per 100 people sort of a thing. You dont have to charge an arm and a leg if you can break even plus dollar your time fairly. I would love to take independent projects like this for local friends, using local materials. Perhaps that is a better option? Also, you would really have to rely on the plans that are submitted, being accurate. No takesy-backseys. Woooooooo, this side is 1″ too short now I don’t want it. ;P

  4. Joel Johnson says:

    @Chroma: How do you mean?

    @Kamill1: Ponoko could get the jump on Home Depot by coming up with a standardized system for independent contractors. Lots of hurdles, but it could work.

  5. chroma says:

    Had the preview function not messed up, I would have directed you to this URL:

  6. Anonymous says:

    My 12 year old son made a large bat house, which required easily this much cutting of an 8×4 sheet of plywood. All the tools he used put together cost less than $100, and he did all the cutting himself.

    You’re psyching yourself out, Joel! If you stay reasonably sober and don’t over-caffeinate you could cut this out in an afternoon. (Too much coffee makes a shaky line, though.) Get a $40 saw and practice on scrap wood.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If you’re not as fancy as this desk, you can do what I did when I made my desk. Home Depot / Lowes / Whatever will usually do straight cuts for free. I came prepared with dimensions of my rectangular desk, picked up a piece of hardwood plywood, asked somebody to cut it for me, then checked out with a full sheet of plywood cut into 4 pieces.

  8. KurtMac says:

    Creepy. Seemingly unrelated, Lifehacker posted an article, within 4 minutes of this BBG post, similarly about building DIY desks.


  9. KWillets says:

    With a decent CNC plywood/sheet goods cutter, Home Depot could replace Ikea.

  10. techdeviant says:

    Personally I think sanding, staining/painting, and sealing take way longer than cutting the plywood up.

  11. SecretChimp says:

    Since you don’t want to own any tools, you would then need home depot to sand and paint the wood as well, right?

    I think the market for a service like this would be extremely small. How many people out there are handy enough to design and assemble a project but are too lazy/cheap to do the wood cutting? If you are capable of designing and building a wood project, chances are that you are also going to cut and prep the wood yourself.

  12. Anonymous says:

    As others have pointed out – Home Depot/Lowes will do circular saw (straight) cuts for free…. at least up to a limit, and then they want to charge you a dollar or two.

    This is because not everyone wants to own a bulky, heavy(ish) circular saw, and even of those people, many people don’t have -space- for a table saw and room to work around an 8 foot plywood sheet with either type of saw. Even so – these types of saws are very affordable.

    What they won’t do is the jigsaw cuts – and for good reason! Jigsaws are a very affordable, low-end tool, don’t require much space to work with ie: if you can fit the desk surface, you can jigsaw it.

    You can get a very low end jigsaw at Sears for < $50: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00961377000P?keyword=jigsaw

    And if you ever plan on working on your own projects – I’d recommend it. It doesn’t take much space, and can easily do all kinds of different cuts through different materials – wood, plastic, metal.

    Ultimately – Home Depot and Lowes address the -exact- need that they should in this area!

    The market for bespoke furniture is fairly small, and the cross section of people unwilling to shell out top dollar for someone else to do it, and also unwilling to DIY is even smaller.

    Ponoko is addressing an entirely different problem – laser cutters are REALLY REALLY frikin’ expensive. Particularly ones that can deal with such a wide range of materials. And they take up a lot of space. So of course – you get totally custom parts out of them (instead of just a limited couple of straight cuts like HD/Lowes), but that just goes with the territory of them hosting the large expensive tool for you. Effectively you are renting it as well.

    At any rate the DIY “almost equivelant to a really expensive desk” is VERY cool from a saving money perspective, but as carpentry goes, pretty unexciting.

  13. Downpressor says:

    I built my studio desk myself from good solid pine for under $200. Only used a power screwdriver to put it together. Slide out keyboard slab and undermount space for 19″ rack gear. Just worked out the sizes on a napkin and got the wood cut as desired.

  14. mralistair says:

    similarly i’d like a pay-as-you use workshop

    get a reasonably well kittec out workshop, the kind we had in woordwork and metalwork at school. with a few added laser cutters perhaps.

    then charge people an hourly or subscription rate like a gym membership. I think it’d could work in london where the space for tools and working is as much of a limit as the cost. plus the legions of architecture and art students around would surely pay for it.

  15. kaiza says:

    @14 http://techshop.ws/

    Sounds totally kick ass.

  16. Anonymous says:

    FYI – Ponoko is actually addressing this very problem.

    A core focus is distributed manufacturing nodes throughout the US – that do all types of digital fabrication (aka, lasers, CNC, 3D – at bureaus and at home).

    An announcement is pending.

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