Woodworking through Improvisational Digital Fabrication
CHI 2018 • Honorable Mention Award


Digital fabrication tools have broadened participation in making and enabled new methods of rapid physical prototyping across diverse materials. We present a novel smart tool designed to complement one of the first materials employed by humans — wood — and celebrate the fabrication practice of joinery. Our tool, MatchSticks, is a digital fabrication system tailored for joinery.

Combining a portable CNC machine, touchscreen user interface, and parametric joint library, MatchSticks enables makers of varying skill to rapidly explore and create artifacts from wood. Our system embodies tacit woodworking knowledge and distills the distributed workflow of CNC tools into a hand tool; it operates on materials existing machines find difficult, produces assemblies much larger than its workspace, and supports the parallel creation of geometries. We describe the workflow and technical details of our system, present example artifacts produced by our tool, and report results from our user study.

Sarah Sterman, Jeremy Warner, Ethan Chiou, Eric Paulos

Special Thanks: Mitchell Karchemsky

MatchSticks: Woodworking through Improvisational Digital Fabrication, In the Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

Hackaday, Gigazine

CNC machine

Machine Portrait

Various ways to fixture. Green - alignment; purple - workpiece; orange - fixturing.


Layout of the gantry

machine layouts

Example joints created with our system

example joints

Example objects created with our system:

Side Table

side table example


toolbox 2



Small Toolbox

toolbox 1

Bringing the tool to the stock for larger/immobile workpieces.

og kineamtics

bring tool to stock

User Study participants created boxes of customizable size and joinery.

User Study