Design Critique 04/14/2010

A furniture design may begin with just a spark; a page torn from a magazine, a stack of flame birch lumber, or some fiddlehead ferns pushing through the pine duff. All it takes is the seed of an idea to build around. Drawings come together, first in your head and then rough sketches on paper, perhaps full size drawings or mock ups. There’s a customer to please, even if that customer is the toughest (you). In the best world they “get it” encouraging you to push. Push your skills, talent, even push the wood. Push you to make something truly good at the workbench. Sometimes I think figuring out a design is a bit like trying to take a great photograph. My brother is an accomplished photographer having spent a lifetime capturing the beauty of Montana. We often discuss the really great shots, the ones that make you feel blood rushing through your veins. The great shots can’t be found. They find you. Just keep your eyes open and ready.  

 It helps to get another eye to look with you. Not just any eye but another builder. Someone who can get just as excited as you about that flame birch. Someone who’s been down many rabbet holes and is not afraid to go down many more in pursuit of good work. Someone not trying to impress but is straining just like you, to see something magical happen when the shellac sets the figure ablaze.  

 That’s a bit of what I hope to create with this design critique. A place to bring your ideas, design problems, finished pieces, or projects stuck in the mud in front of lots of experienced eyes. Focusing our collective eyes and experience to see what we can teach each other about design. The process generates more than just feedback for the builder. Ideas are tossed out, decisions explained or defended, and questions raised. Speaking for myself, I feel energized as I connect with many of your comments. I was also impressed with the positive spirit that comments and questions were given and received.

 I took some time and added a page titled “Design Critique” where I’ve spelled out a few guidelines for submitting work. Judging by the initial response to the first couple of posts this is hitting a chord. If you have something to submit for a future post, check there for instructions.

 As a follow-up to our debut submission two weeks ago, I want to include a couple of shots from Tom Giacchina and his table now complete and delivered to his clients. He chose to join the two planks with a curved joint based on feedback from them. Attached are his comments:

Thought you would like to see the finished piece. The clients love it and as they said, “pictures do not do it justice”. I delivered the table with full expectations that a revision or redo would be in order. They had only seen pictures up to this point. The simple legs do away with all of the other structures that would of been needed and puts attention on the top.

I created a template of one side of the curve and then made another to match it. I was careful to make sure it was  as close to a perfect as possible. I then used a router with a patterning bit to follow the curve with the pattern taped onto the table.

As to how they went together. There was one spot where I could get a biscuit in it and another where a dowel was placed. When aligning the two points it was almost self clamping, the biscuit/dowel acted as a wedge that forced the joint together! Hard to explain but it worked. I use only a couple of clamps to keep the joint tight.

George, I am honored that you are taking the time to look at this with me. It has been a growing experience for me. Some of the ideas were exciting and made me question what I am doing. You think you are doing your best but sometimes your best is to deal with what is in front of you at that moment. I love the table I made but I do see where I settled and what it takes to take it to the next level. Still scary for me, but I am not done yet.

 George R. Walker

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About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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