It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a series of posts that follow the development of a piece from beginning to end. I could probably come up with a list of excuses, but chronicling a project requires little more than having a camera on a tripod in the shop, taking the time to snap a few shots along the way and then a bit of writing. The truth is that I much prefer working in the shop to writing about it, so I tend to put it off.
With that said, this is the long overdue first in a series in which I’m going to chronicle the development of a new piece from beginning to end. The focus will be more on process than any given technique with the intention that it appeal to a broad audience. My hope is that by the end of this series, you will have an appreciation for the energy that designing and crafting a fine piece requires, regardless of your background. Although I have a rough mental outline, I’m not certain how many parts there will be in this series, but the logical place to begin is of course with the design.
Some designs are born from a very rough concept, that is explored in sketchbook doodles and then fully developed into working drawings. Others, as is the case here, are pretty well formed in my mind before I even begin drawing. In either case, some form of drawing is always necessary to iron out the details, solve or anticipate construction problems and formulate a strategy for actually building the piece. Also, this is going to be a production piece and not a ‘one-off’ which means, among other things, that I have to account for shipping constraints. UPS and FedEx both have well defined limitations on the box size that qualifies for ground shipping. Over a certain size and a package falls into the freight category, regardless of weight, and shipping becomes very expensive. I’ve learned this the hard way.
When it comes to drawing, I use a combination of traditional and digital techniques depending on what I’m working on. Cabinetry and other rectilinear pieces, I almost exclusively model in Google Sketchup and hardly ever bring pencil to paper. For pieces such as this one, which will be more organic and full of compound curves, I find pencil and paper to be a lot quicker. Overall I prefer this method of working. As I’ve emphasized in the past, proper proportion is crucial to the success of any design. With rectilinear pieces, a designer can always rely on the principles of the golden mean to assure pleasing proportions, but with more sculptural work, such design queues are more elusive. I find that the only way to be certain in these cases are with full size drawings and I really enjoy creating them. It’s certainly more enjoyable than moving a mouse around a pad and tweaking Bezier curves.
I have an old drafting table, but hardly ever used it, so I moved it out of the shop because it was taking up too much space. The assembly table in my shop is my preferred surface for drafting full size plans because of it’s large size, despite the height being too low for this task. I spent several hours hunched over it, but by the end of the afternoon the image of the piece in my mind was successfully transposed into a real workable drawing. What this piece is exactly, I’m not going to unveil it until the very end, but there will be plenty of clues along the way in the form of photos, tags, maybe links, etc… There is no name for this piece, I may solicit some suggestions in the end, so during this series I’ll simply refer to it as The Prototype.
As always, thanks for reading.