We joke around the office that if you ask Sean to make anything (from a bookcase to a giant dinosaur), the first thing he does is open Photoshop. (No, .) So say you’ve crafted some awesome sign lettering or other cool pattern digitally, but now you want to transfer it to wood. You could spend thousands on a device to do it directly — or you could put to use the same tool that artists have used for years to trace and resize drawings: the pantograph.
Pictured above is the Milescraft 1298, a rig that holds a small router where you’d normally find a pencil on the artist’s rig. Result: As you move the stylus, so moves the router. This particular model works in 3D, too, so as you lift the stylus, so lifts the router.
As you can see from the Amazon reviews, though, this isn’t exactly for the impatient. From what I hear, using one of these takes some practice and a pretty steady hand. (Most of the negative reviews seem to come from people who either couldn’t figure out how to use it — the instructions seem to be lacking according to most reviewers — or broke it.) That said, once you’ve got the hang of it, you can do a lot more than simply trace characters. Think of it as the manual version of an automatic carving machine.
The real advantage, of course, comes in price. Amazon stocks this model for under $50 (Prime shippable, no less) where you’ll pay well over $1,500 for even the crappiest of digital carvers.