Shop Talk Podcast Episode 12: Justin Brouillette on Shifting Portland CNC from a Job Shop to a Product Factory

Muna Idriss Muna Idriss April 19, 2024

2 min read

Welcome to this episode of Shop Talk, a podcast from the team at Autodesk Fusion where we catch up with designers and makers live from their workshops. Whether you’re a Fusion fan curious about what our users are doing or simply looking for something to listen to in your own shop, we’re bringing you candid conversations with talented designers who pour their hearts and souls into their craft.

In this first-ever traveling episode of Shop Talk, designer and Autodesker Jonathan Odom travels to Justin Brouillette of Portland CNC to see his shop! Justin is a content creator, product designer and inventor, shop owner, and educator of CAD, CAM, CNC, 3D printing, and small business development. It was great to visit his shop and see how he approached the common job shop challenges of machine setup, organization, tidiness, and assembly line design.

Below is a short excerpt from the conversation to give you a taste of what to expect. You can also listen to the full episode below:

This excerpt is edited for brevity and clarity.

So, Justin, you’ve taken Portland CNC from being a job shop to manufacturing and selling your own products. How did that transition happen?

So, I went to design school and bought a CNC router for my garage to make products for myself. I needed a way to pay for it because I wasn’t immediately selling products so I started up Portland CNC as a side project. Locally, there weren’t many creatively using CNC routers in 2017. Credit to Fusio that people can now more easily do 3D machining, but back then it just wasn’t as common. So, we found and serviced a niche of people who wanted weird stuff made on routers. For a while, I just kept chasing that because it’s really hard to say no to people saying “I want to pay you to make this.”

For example, right now we’re making these for a local woodworker: chair legs out of solid walnut. If you’ve ever tried to cut wood, it’s completely different from metal. It’s challenging and sometimes it doesn’t turn out well. The way I always describe how job shop work felt for me is like being a firefighter: every day is new, there’s no consistency, and you’re reinventing yourself constantly. Whereas, with a product, the next time we make packaging for the tool holder, for example, we’re changing things because we know it will be better. I know a lot of people run job shops very well and more power to them, but I was always trending towards the products in the first place. We still do job shop work, the ideal situations where it fits the Venn diagram well, theirs and ours.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Shop Talk. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, catch up on any episodes you missed, and get your audio-only fix on Spotify.

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