Designing Stuff

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Too often we build stuff and "expect it to work".
The technical aspects of design have always interested me, and answering the question "How do we know the design is correct?" has always been of interest.
Many of us who wood work for a hobby also work in other technical occupations so I thought the following article might be of interest. It is about software and quality, but the issues seem to be the same for any design/build process.
http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1397,1543588,00.asp
When I make something new -- even if it is a simple design I (try to? :-) ) think of these issues. (Along with the usual issues.)
Is it pleasing to the eye and touch? Will it work? (Is it functional?) Will it work if someone use it in an unexpected mode? (I have seen people turn stools and chairs over and stand on the rungs...) How will it fail? Will it fail safely. Is the usage obvious? Did the pieces fit -- or did I jury rig something leaving a future safety/repair problem. Are there "safety threats" such as sharp corners, and edges, is the material hazardous, can fingers, or clothes catch in unexpected ways, will it fall over? etc.
Anyway -- just some food for thought.
This was the article that lead me to finding the previous. http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1397,1783112,00.asp
--
Will
Occasional Techno-geek
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WillR wrote:

answering
of
It
Software can never have qualtiy untill there is a standard way of building a program that uses code that has proven itself for the intended application. When you build a house, the 2 x 4 is of a known wood type suitable for frame construction. The frame construction itself has been developed over the years with techniques (such as headers, joists, spacing, nailing patterns, etc) that have proven in use and proven in the laboratory. Software doesn't have that - oop guys veered off of that track from the very start. In fact programming right now is like building a house under a tent. The workman every day go in and you here a lot of noise and shouting, the foreman comes out and says it going great, they even take you blind folded in a show you the kitchen, and you see it looks great. The comes the day, where they take the tent off, and you find that rooms don't connect, the kitchen is in the basement, all of the bathrooms are next to each other, etc...
Al
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snipped-for-privacy@usa.com wrote:

Hope you don't expect me to argue with you on that rant. ROTFLMAO.
Love it!
I prefer woodwork to the old eng. and high tech crap. It's more peaceful.
Just love it when I can form and function to agree and the wood grain and finish complement the finished form. And I don't have client arguing with me over the technology to use.
--
Will
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{schnipfered for brevity]
What works for me may not work for others. When I am faced with a project for which no blue-print exists, I ask myself (and the client if there is one) a ton of questions. Then the approach is as follows: Draw up a 3D model. Render it, look at it, rotate it, take it apart, look at the pieces, rotate them, then ask the following questions: What would Steve Jobs do? What would Krenov do? What would Mies van der Rohe do? What would it look like to Klee, Gropius etc. Then I'd turn on CBC classical music station, quickly change my mind and stick my iPod in my ears instead and stare at the problem till droplets of blood appear on my forehead and I get a hankering for some tofu. The solution is close when that happens.
Simple, really.
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I'm reminded of the cartoon which says: "On the internet nobody knows you're a dog."...So just to clear up something... I absolutely abhor tofu. My sense of the humour/the absurd sometimes gets lost here...
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Robatoy wrote:

Yes, good thoughts. I too play the CBC classical station at those moments. It does help with achieving oneness with the universe and hence illuminating the one path... But (and it's a big but), I detest Tofu -- except a little in my Hot and Sour soup.)
I am curious though -- about the blood drops -- have you ever ruined a counter top that way?
And as for the the loonies advice (SJ -- never did like dealing with him...) -- who needs it.
The rest I can work with. LOL
--
Will
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Methyl methacrylate aluminum trihydrate-style solid surface (Staron, Gibraltar, Meganite, Corian etc.) cannot be stained. Some compounds, like poly-varnish, stick to it like dog-snot to a screen door, but it will not penetrate into the material itself, hence the use of it in dentistry in the form of caps. My blood is not one of those compounds that will stick. Tofu, on the other hand, is likely to blow a hole right through it. I mean, that stuff is not from this planet.... and some people EAT it!!
CBC classical station is a must sometimes. I often deal with decorators, so I need some calming influence, lest I be spending 15 to 20 in the Big House for strangling a decorator with one of their sample chains. Messy.
..okay...in with the good air....out with the bad..
OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
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Robatoy wrote:

Robatoy:
Somehow after reading one of your posts I can cope with any kind of day. Your AMT must be rubbing off on me.
The CBC comment is right on. However, when I shifted some stuff in the shop -- below grade -- the reception kinda pooftered out. Normally I don't like opera, but even that can work quite well some days. I am trying to find a place it works... In the meantime FOXY 88 out of Barrie has to suffice -- sigh.
Some cabinet and stool design was helped along by the calming influence of some Mozart for example. :-)
I used to hate oak furniture. Now that I can put on a finish I like -- I really like the contrast between the grain and the form and the soft glow of the resting object... Ommmmmm
On another topic... Good thing about the blood.... Although when I was designing electronics (in a life time best forgotten) we used to say that it wasn't really finished till we had shed blood on some sharp component. So maybe your counter designs are not truly finished and you will be called back to do more work...? Would that be good or bad?
As for the counter tops -- I have one here to replace... When I quit blowing cash on new toys I will come to see you for a replacement... I suspect the $150 cost of the round trip will be worth it.
Keep on trucking and selling those counter tops -- as you are the only guy working in the country you have to make up for the rest of us slackasses.
<g>
--
Will
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I need your addy. I used to have a link to your site..mmm..where did it go...
Drop me a line at the Contact addy on my web site. www.topworks.ca.
I have ways to save you a ton of money if you want solid surface.
Besides isn't Bailey's Restaurant on 11...south of Stroud?
r
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Robatoy wrote:

will do
it's pretty obvious tho.
--
Will
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On Tue, 12 Apr 2005 14:25:18 -0400, WillR

I don't really know anything about writing code for money, and the only book I ever read on it was "Code Complete", which was a damned interesting book, even to an outsider. (That, and "The C Programming Language", are my all time favorite computer reads.)(Well, excepting maybe "Microserfs", which was pretty damned funny.)
I do know that furniture, and in particular, Purpose Built Furniture, has to subscribe to only two cardinal rules, albeit with applied codae.
1:    It must look good.
2:    It must work good.
Although I have listed them as first and second, there is no actual difference in importance between the two, excepting the fact that when I was a carpenter I could always achieve 2 but not always 1. I only considered myself a cabinetmaker when I could achieve both.
Now for the codae:
Making something work good takes a mechanical mind.
Making something look good takes an artistic mind.
Most designers have both but in varying proportions. One side must be let loose and the other educated.
Furniture must work without documentation.
Something that looks good but doesn't work good will piss everyone off.
Something that works good but doesn't look good is why engineers don't usually make it to Broadway.
A perfect piece will tell you where and how to touch it.
There is no such thing as a perfect piece.
Furniture lives within rooms that live within houses that live within lifestyles that live within dreams.
In order to design properly, you must understand dreams, quickly.
Perfect design is no more than identifying a need, intuiting the dream behind it, and realizing both desires, which are often in competition, making it all work in 3D, and staying within a tightly controlled budget - both yours and theirs.
Simple, really.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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Tom Watson wrote:

Ahh... Maybe you know who went dumpster diving and why? But I digress. :-)

It sounds so darn simple doesn't it?

They don't often come together -- but when you do see it, and you see a piece by such a person -- well I get goose bumps when I look at the work and usually have a silly smile cause it makes me feel good. If I came to buy that day the "sales person" usually rubs their hands in glee.... cause they know that "gotta have that" look.

I have used some that needed documentation. In those cases I am still not sure if I liked it well enough to read a book. So I will agree on this point -- for now. (It was mostly commercial office furniture -- some nice - some not-so-nice -- but definitely complicated.) The point is well taken though.

I have even bought a few of those pieces -- ans so has SWMBO. We look a lot more closely these days when we buy. When we make it ourselves we now spend a lot more time planning than building -- it pays off.

Ouch.
Even a great piece does that. :-)

True I am sure. But I have seen a few pieces lately that made wonder about there not being a perfect piece.
I mentioned previously a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. I saw some great work in the furniture displays. Many pieces gave that "feeling". I saw many I did not like but could admire the craft work -- and those pieces may have awed others.

Maybe I will never be a great designer then -- I have to think and "feel the vibes" for quite a while sometimes. But your statement does define the goal nicely though...

You would mention budget. A great picture till that moment. LOL

And pigs fly?

All kidding aside you have some great work on your site.
Thank you for the thoughts.
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Will
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Nothing like the word 'BUDGET' to put a chill up one's spine, eh?
Scratch the 'simple, really' when you start bringing money into this picture...<G>
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Robatoy wrote:

That's why more and more I make stuff -- and then if people like it they can buy it. When people ask "Why was it made that way?" I just shrug -- or say "What do you expect from a <insert appropriate occupation here> - do you like? Wanna buy it?"
If someone really hates it, I agree and tell them an idiot probably designed it. Again, saves arguments -- at least we can agree on something then. :-)
Also saves a lot of explanations. <g>
-- Will R. Jewel Boxes and Wood Art http://woodwork.pmccl.com The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. George Bernard Shaw
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On Wed, 13 Apr 2005 20:29:37 -0400, the inscrutable Tom Watson
WillR said:

"How about if it just works well?" the WET countered.
(Wannabe English Teacher ;)

Nice.
I have a feeling that when I start making furniture, it'll be a real eye opener for me, though the shave bench didn't prove to be too tough.

<g>
All true. (Or should I say "all good and well"?)

Like a woman.

You neve met Sadie... <wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more>

Ah, I like it.

As usual, things such as this are much more easily stated than achieved. Good goal, really. Thanks for the little talk, Tawm.
---------------------------------- VIRTUE...is its own punishment http://www.diversify.com Website Applications =================================================
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On Thu, 14 Apr 2005 07:06:39 -0700, Larry Jaques

"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves."
Brendan Behan
(hee, hee, hee....)
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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Tom Watson wrote:

That was cruel and called for.
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Will
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On Thu, 14 Apr 2005 19:48:30 -0400, WillR
Ah hell, me and C-Less been playing this game for about ten years.
I love the man but just like to show him the reins once in a while.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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Tom Watson wrote:

I did not say un-called for. <g>
...and he does seem to need those leather reins -- must be a fetish. LOL
I figger they will turn him back at the BC border as as undesirable when he visits Lee Valley.
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Will
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On Thu, 14 Apr 2005 21:10:15 -0400, the inscrutable WillR
True, you didn't.

"What, I can't take my guns, knives, and rocket launchers into Canuckistan? Whuffo?"
--
"Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free
than Christianity has made them good." --H. L. Mencken
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