Week 2 – Forms

This year I am going to try and postpone as many decisions and plans as long as I possibly can in the project.  Last year I spent a lot of time thinking about the construction process and planning too far into the future.

Unlike a solid wood project where I need to select your wood before I can start, a veneered project allows me to postpone this decision because the core of each panel in the project is constructed of plywood and glue.  A not so nice thing about veneered projects is that you spend a few weeks creating the wood that is used as a substrate for the project.

The starting point for this project is the creation of a master template on which almost all the curved panels in the project will be based.  First I created a template of the outside shape of the project on the bandsaw and cleaned it up with a spokeshave.  I then decided that I would split the project down the center so that I would have a set of left panels and right panels.  Each side of the project would consist of the door and a back panel.  I don't know exactly how big my door will be at this point, but that does not matter since I do know that the shape of the door and back panel will match the master template.

Master template of bending form for cabinet door panelsI picked one side of the master template (let's say it was the left side) and decided that this would now be the shape of both sides.  I made a copy of the left side of the master template plus about 2 inches of the curves into the right side, because I needed to be certain that the edges of the panels would transition smoothly across the left/right boundary.  I decided that my doors would be a little over a 1/2 inch thick, there might be up to a 1/8 overhang of the top (but it really doesn't matter because I can always make the top a bigger version of the master template and nobody will be the wiser), I guessed that my bending form might me skinned with two layers of bending ply, and thus I decided that the ribs for my bending form should be 3/4 inch smaller than the master profile of the cabinet.  So, I took my master template to the shaper table and proceeded to create a copy that was exactly 3/4 smaller than the master.

Assembling the ribs of the bending formI then proceeded to make identical copies of the the master template from 3/4 inch MDF.  Each copy had three index holes that I used to align the template as well as align each copy with the next.  I had originally planned to have a  1 1/2 inch gap between each rib but was convinced by the instructors that their experiences with that large of a gap did not result in a smooth form.  I decided to go with a 3/4 rib and 3/4 inch gap and assembled 21 copies of the rib together to make the skeleton of the form.

Bending form skeleton with handles I was also advised to put some handles on this monster so that I could get it in and out of the vacuum bag more easily.  I added some handles and attached the ribs to a base and had a bending form ready to be skinned.  The final step in the process was to wrap the ribs in a skin of bending ply.  I spent a few hours doing dry runs and figuring out how to apply a skin, how to load the huge form into the vacuum bag, how to orient the bag and platen, how to seal the bag, and how to maneuver the excess material of the bag as the air was being sucked out.  I then mixed up a batch of Unibond 800, smeared it onto the ribs, popped a couple staples into the skin to hold it in place, and loaded the entire form into the press.

Skinning the bending form in the vacuum press

Week 1 – Mockup

My first day as a second year student at The Krenov School The first week of school as a second year student is exciting and different than the first week of school as a first year student.  Instead of cutting up my fingers learning to sharpen like I did last year, I spent the week working on the mockup of my first project.  See "Week 0 - Design" for a description of the design process of this project.

Mockup of mediastinum cabinet structureThe initial design of the cabinet was a 3-leg 30 inch tall cabinet with two curved doors and two curved swing-out caddy drawers.  I took the outline of the cabinet from the plan view of my SketchUp drawing and taped it to a piece of plywood and started cutting out the outline of the cabinet.  I took a guess at the shape of some small curved tapered feet and cut those on the bandsaw along with a tall spine for the back of the cabinet.  A little bit of careful pre-drilling and some drywall screws and I had the skeleton of the cabinet mocked up.

With the skeleton of the mockup complete, I started cutting up cardboard to make the doors and caddy.  I screwed each caddy into the cabinet using a singe screw so that I could emulate the swing-out motion of the drawer.  I then took the customary photograph of the completed mockup with a banana for scale.

Version 1 of the Mediastinum mockup

Last year it seemed that the ease with which a mockup comes together is inversely proportional to the effort required to construct the real piece.  This mockup came together very quickly.  This makes me very nervous.  In the next few weeks, reality will begin to creep into the pseudo-reality of mockup-land and certain accommodations and concessions will be made to the initial design in order to actually build it.

Week 0 – Design

I am back at The Krenov School (formerly The College of the Redwoods) for my second year.  As a second year student we are expected to jump right into the design and mock-up of our first project when school starts.  This series of blog posts will attempt to document my progress on the project and keep me honest about the crazy amount of time that I am spending on a single piece.  Here we go...

After putting it off for almost the entire summer between my first and second years, I sat down in mid-August of 2017 and began brainstorming on some project ideas.  I wanted to continue with the table top radio series that I had done the previous year, but I had also made a commitment to create a larger piece of furniture.  I knew my first project was not going to be a chair, becasue I would save that as an option for the Spring semester when Ejler Hjorth-Westh was teaching.  Since Greg Smith teaches in the Fall semester, I knew I wanted to pursue some sort of cabinet so that I could leverage his expertise.

I met with Laura Mays the week before school started and showed my radio sketches and talked about building a larger piece.  She pointed out that another radio style cabinet is not a larger piece.  Ok.  Back to square 1.  We settled on pursuing something that touches the floor about the size of a locker (the footprint of a nightstand but taller).

I try to regularly spend time on Pinterest and add images that I find interesting to a board of possible inspirations for the next project.  Here are two of the pieces that I had tagged on Pinterest for the Fall of 2017.

Danish sewing box
Eames turntable

Next, I used my extremely primitive and frustrating drawing skills to spur some creativity by doing some sketching.  The first sketches were just variations on the existing pieces, then a rounded shape cabinet starts to appear, then something with feet that looks like a locker, and then I end up with something that looks like Brian Newell's cabinet.

I decided I was not ready to recreate a Brian Newell piece and pursue compound curves on a large scale, so back to the drawing board.  I took the curve from the previous drawings and tried to find one I liked that would give me the shape I was picturing in my head.

More Curves

I seem to have a general shape I like but that I cannot draw very well in 3D.  I decide to take a crash course in SketchUp and realize I just need to get a decent copy of the curve imported into SketchUp, then trace it, and then extrude it, and then I will be pretty close to getting a general shape of the piece in  3D.  I am not sure exactly what happened next, but in my search for a cleaner image of the curve I either uploaded a sketch of the curve to Google Images to find similar shapes or started searching for images of curved chests.  One of the images that kept popping up was a cross section drawing of the mediastinum.  That was the curve I was looking for.  I traced the image in SketchUp, added some feet, doors and swing out caddies, did a little rendering, and that is how this project was born.

The Mediastinum
SketchUp 1
SketchUp 2