Design Challenge

I have been designing furniture and other wood projects for many years. Usually I draw out the plans and then proceed to make the cuts and adjustments as needed. I am at the point where I feel my project designs are not very challenging or creative. I am curious if any of you use any particular methodology to get your creative design juices flowing. How do you stretch your imaginations to take a traditional idea and make it unique, eye catching and interesting? What is it about a project design that causes the observer to look at it with wonder?
Roger
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Often I finish a project, stand back and look at it and wonder my self. ;~)
I am currently working on 2 projects with numerous dado's that appear to be stopped while in actuality they were cut complete. The effect is that the stopped end is square ended with no use of a chisel or tool to square the end. These dado's hold square ended drawer slides flush with the ends of the dado's.
I have used this similar technique to inlay square pieces of wood in small box sides.
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Leon wrote:

Here's another example of not getting trapped by the conventional way of doing things - in this case drawer guides. Why does there have to be a groove in the drawer side and a guide attached to the inside frame? That Tried & True method means the drawer can only be opened from the "front". But if the guides are on the drawer sides and the "groove" it rides in are on the piece the drawer is in - THEN the drawer can be opened from "front" or "back". Think "kitchen island" - or woodworking bench. AND you can integrate the drawer guides and drawer pulls into one unit.
http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/DasBench/CBbench13.html
charlie b
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Thanks Charlie, I'll keep that in mind. Because this is a Jewelry box I don't want the drawers to slide out from the back. That said however, several years ago I built an end table/magazine rack/3drawer chest that sets between 2 recliners. The drawers simply set and slide on the web frames but the table looks the same on both ends and sides. The drawers slide out either direction like the ones you built
In addition to you suggestion above, I dadoed the chest sides to receive the slides. I also dadoed the drawer sides and backs. The backs are rabbeted and are the full width of the drawer. These rabbets also have a dado for the slides. Before assembly and while working the fronts and backs and cutting the dado slots on the end of the backs I got carried away and cut them in the fronts of several drawers also. Had I not corrected this mistake the drawers would have opened from either front or back also. Each of the 24 drawers has a combination of 12 separately cut rabbets and dado's. Yesterday was spent cutting 244 dado and rabbet joints plus a few mistakes.
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I find that just browsing the web or magazines can spark something..
I'm mostly a turner, so my examples would be the AWW magazine and rec.crafts.woodturning... Something good, bad or ugly will trigger an idea or "vision" for a project.. The one's that I like best are the ideas that might work or might not... IMO if you're not taking a chance on failing, you're not expanding/growing in your work..
mac
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How about the photo gallery at Nortwest Timber http://www.nwtimber.com .
It's like visiting on of the botiques that sell high-end woodworking on consignment.

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I keep a sketch pad with me most of the time that I am awake. I also carry a small file where I can rip things out of magazine that I find inspiring.
I recently started to use a product called One Note, made by Microsoft. I am sure that there are other similar programs. One Note allows me to scan any ideas that I cut out and make notes about the ideas that I have. The really cool thing is that it makes searching much easier.
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Tue, Nov 27, 2007, 10:32pm (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (RogerWoehl) doth query: <snip> I am curious if any of you use any particular methodology to getyour creative design juices flowing. How do you stretch your imaginations to take a traditional idea and make it unique, eye catching and interesting? <snip>
Plans? Plans? Don' need no steenkin' plans.
Google. Lots of google images. On any subject at all - surprising how many wood images come up. Or, think of something you want to make - then make it, no plans, nothing, just do it. I've made stuff that way that came out great, but after I was done I had only a vague idea how I'd done it, and am not sure if I could duplicate some of it or not. Made my saw stand that way, looks kinda deco, works great. Originally made it higher than I liked, so cut the top off, took out 6 inches, put it back together, with the top turned 90 degrees, a few other mods, and it's just right - no plans, measured as I went along. I think I could kinda duplicate it, but only if it was where I could look at it close as I worked. If I couldn't look at it, it would probably be vaguely similar, but totally different. Finest kind. For things I actually want to clone, I make patterns. Otherwise I usually just wing it. More fun that way.
JOAT You'll never get anywhere if you believe what you "hear". What do you "know"?. - Granny Weatherwax
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"Roger Woehl" wrote in message

Some random thoughts, in no particular order:
Basically dimension, proportion (it's amazing what how much better a 1" table top can look than the ubiquitous 3/4" table top), shape (curve or straight), texture (grain), and color (natural or artificial) are just some of the variable parameters to deal with.
Like beauty, a good design is in the eye of the beholder. And, like music, a good design is notable for both embellishments, and for what is left out (the space between the notes is often more important than the notes themselves) and, also like music, building upon a genre (mission, federal, etc,) that has appeal to the beholder.
I generally design for the space a piece must occupy, an extra bit of challenge for those of us who are somewhat "design impaired". I've not found a definitive and thoroughly satisfactory solution, but Blackburn's "Furniture by Design" or "Practical Design Solutions and Strategies" are not bad places to start. There have also been some excellent articles in magazines the last couple of years dealing with design parameters like the "golden rectangle" and "Fibonacci series" (sp?), but not anything that will take you all the way to where you want to go ... at least as far as I've been able to tell. Might want to Google the wrec because this has been discussed heavily in recent times.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
(Amazon.com product link shortened)=*
Proportion is the hardest of all for me because it changes drastically with your view of the piece ... that, to me, is the "sticky wicket" of furniture design and something that is probably best learned through prototyping.
On important pieces, I almost always "prototype".
Since I do mostly my own designs, I make a conscious effort to critique each piece after I have had some time to live with it in the hopes that some of the 'art of design' will somehow appear, but it apparently is just not in my bones as it remains a struggle for me.
Good luck ... Basically I am still searching myself.
--
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Last update: 11/16/07
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Swingman, I thought you music analogy was interesting. In one my recent projects, I had this perception or vision of it as musical in some way. The lines or spacing or dimensions or something about it made me think "musical." I didn't give it to much thought at the time but now I wonder if there is something to the idea of shape and musical pattern that gives a piece elegance and presence. Thanks for the pique.
Roger

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"Roger Woehl" wrote

You're welcome ... in a clich' nutshell - "I feel your pain". I've been struggling with this very same topic/issue for some years and have about come to the singular conclusion that to please one's self with regard to either furniture design, or music, is hardest of all. I've rarely walked out of the recording studio, or the shop, with something I'm totally pleased with.
To recognize, and most importantly, to appreciate, a talent in others is all that some of us will ever be allowed ... c'est la vie. :)
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Wed, Nov 28, 2007, 6:57pm (EST-1) snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com (Swingman) doth sayeth: <snip> I've rarely walked out of the recording studio, or the shop,with something I'm totally pleased with. <snip>
Yeah, I used to be like that too. Then I lowered my standards. Much happier now.
JOAT You'll never get anywhere if you believe what you "hear". What do you "know"?. - Granny Weatherwax
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I like the sketch a rough picture. Write a few dimensions next to the picture and start cutting method. If I have an idea or some special design for legs, top or whatever. I will pick up 1/4" Luan plywood either rough cut it or scale it out with a quad pattern to get the shape down. That will develop into a pattern I can keep for later.
Sometimes you hit a dry spot in ideas. Look at magazines, woodworking shows, get to some display houses. I like antique furniture. I like to go to Historical homes to look at the furniture in them to get ideas.
Roy
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Roger:
One approach used in "lateral thinking" is to change what they refer to as the "entry point"
Think about a table What are the parts legs apron top maybe stretchers possible a drawer
Consider the legs Normally there are four, sometimes three and sometimes one central pedestal. What it there were FIVE - or only two? What if there were NONE? Would it then be a "shelf"? But if the top were "table size", would it still be a "shelf"? Consider the apron does it have to be straight on top, on the bottom or on either the top or the bottom? does it have to be flat or can it be curved? can it be pierced to the point of being almost non existent? does it have to intersect the legs it's full width or only at a small area, or perhaps a couple of points? Consider the top how thin can the top be and still be functional AND not look odd? does it all have to be flat? What about a step down in it, or a raised feature? can the ends curve up or down, or one up, one down? do the sides have to be parallel and the ends as well? does the thickness have to be uniform or can you go with a taper and adjust the legs so the top surface is horizontal? Consider the stretchers can they be arcs rather than straight? do both ends have to meet the legs the same distance from the floor? Consider a drawer why one instead of two or three? do they need to be layed out symetric on the apron or can they be asymetric? What about staggered one up, one down, or stair stepped?
Now think about some of the joinery. do the legs have to meet the table top at 90 degrees? can some, or most, if not all, of the joinery be "blended" (think Sam Maloof rocking chair joinery) so that you can't tell where one part ends and the other begins. What about color and shades of a color. Dark looks "heavy", Light looks - well - light. The eye sees the highest contrast first. So a dark leg on a table in a light colored room will be noticed before lighter parts. What if you play with a heartwood/sapwood piece for a leg or two and exploit the light and dark outline?
Basically it's a break things down and examine each part - and consider other possibilities than the "tried and true", "traditional" assumptions of what each one "should look like" - or how it's "supposed to work".
The world of woodturners break all "the rules" and new ideas and techniques have been, and continue to pop up and spread through the community. Turners are scorching and sand blasting and grinding and carving and painting, inlaying, bandsawing and wire brushing pieces exploring possibilities, starting with Why A Round Cross Section? Why Symetric About a Single Axis? Why A Single Piece Of Wood? "Flat Work" on the other hand is pretty static, with a few exceptions - some of Michael Fortune's work for example.
charlie b
ps pick up a copy of "Lateral Thinking - Creativity Step By Step" by Edward de Bono - ISBN 0-06-090325-2 $15.00 US for much better explanations, examples and exercises
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Charlie, I like the akimbo approach--the looking at something from a different angle or level--the what if and so what if I did attitude. Thanks, Roger

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