Posts tagged furniture
Object Guerilla: The Book III

A little less than two years ago, I submitted my first manuscriptGuerilla Furniture Design, to Storey Publishing. After six months of editing, we completed the photography and illustrations. I am now pleased to announce it is up for pre-sale on Amazon, and hits bookstores April 7th (barring shipping issues). During two-year process I have learned a great deal, moved halfway across the country, and worked to explore new methods of writing, research, and open source design.  Instructables, the site that launched my writing career seven years ago, is now sponsoring a contest based on the book, with prize packs featuring furniture and posters designed by my (beautiful and brilliant) wife,  Amanda Buck

Amanda and I had the good fortune to hand-screen the posters at Baltimore Print Studios, run by our friends Kim and Kyle. BPS is a full-service letterpress and screen printing shop, offering workshops, press rental, and custom runs. 

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Flat-Pack Design: Past, Present, and Future

Twice in the last few months I have been out to FabLab Baltimore, at CCBC Catonsville. Last week, I took the introductory workshop that is a prerequisite for using the facility. At home, I've been hard at work on the CAD files that will translate my Ziptie Lounger into some form that a CNC router will understand. All of this is in preparation for prototyping my first machine-made piece of furniture, which I've posted over at OpenDesk, a platform for distributed design. Distributed design, in its simplest form, operates something like Instructables -- a central online repository of DIY manuals that folks can follow to make their own products. However, making something from scratch still presents significant barriers to entry, namely skills, tools, and time.

OpenDesk, along with similar startup Assmbly, are challenging (or, to use a current term of art, "disrupt") the traditional design-manufacture-wholesale-retail model that the furniture business has operated on for a hundred years. Designs are uploaded to the OpenDesk site, where they can be downloaded directly for free or, for a fee, sent to a local networked fabber who will cut, sand, and drop-ship the parts to the consumer's doorstep. Everyone in the chain -- OpenDesk, designer, and fabber -- make a small profit. Due to the nature of both the fabrication machines and the distribution network, all of the products are flat-pack.

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Enzo Mari is legend amongst furniture designers -- a cranky old radical, chewing over cigars and long Italian syllables as he lacerates the current state of design. Now 85, according to the Wikipedias, he is still best known for his 1974 book Autoprogettazione ?, a DIY instruction manual detailing 19 simple pieces of furniture. Setting out harsh constraints for himself, Mari used only common dimensional lumber fastened with nails, avoiding cuts, joinery, and finishes. The results are severe in form, stripped to an irreducible degree (much like the zip-tie). Pre-internet, Mari then released the designs as a simple, (initially free) book instead of as actual products, in the hope that folks would learn about carpentry, design, and the expression of quality through the process of building. 

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Zip-Tie Joinery

Henry Petroski is a professor of engineering at Duke University, and the author of a great many books. One of those books, The Evolution of Useful Thingsexamines the history of paperclips, zippers, Big Mac packaging, and other small artifacts of modern life. Each case study presents a similar story: small need-based inventions, patiently iterated, have been refined down to a perfect, simple form. The paperclip, for instance, was the end point of innovations in wire manufacture, steel milling, and the inadequacies of straight pins. 

In 1958, Mauras Logan was working at Thomas and Betts, an electrical-products company. Manufacturing bombers for the air force, workers knotted together bundles of loose wires with waxed nylon cord. It was inefficient and sometimes crippling to worker's hands. In response, Logan invented the cable tie: a grooved metal strap, fed through a small, stamped-metal pawl, created an instant, irreversible knot. Fifty years later, the zip-tie has progressed according to Petroski's Law, evolving into a spare nylon machine. The design of zip-ties has been solved to an irreducible degree. 

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Tractor Stools

This summer, on our road trip out west, the lady and I were on the lookout for old cast-iron implement seats. The classic, butt-cupping shells were first used on horse-drawn equipment in the 1850's. Prior to that, most farm implements were walk-behind. The term tractor seat came into use as farms were mechanized in the early 20th century, but serious collectors insist the proper name is farm implement seat, as unwieldy as that might be. For ease of use, I will refer to them as simple tractor seats throughout this post. 

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