I was against this thing from the start, because I cannot stand badly-acted infomercials where someone pretends they cannot manipulate a simple device. But before I say any more, check this thing out:
While I am drawn to things that fold up small and then expand, my kneejerk reaction was: No way is this thing suitable for a workbench. First off there's no shelf (as with a plastic sawhorse) on which to lay your circular saw between cuts, and you cannot do that thing where you raise the blade and rest the circ saw on the floor beneath the material (as with wooden sawhorses), because the crossmembers of this Centipede Sawhorse take up all the space.
Over on our Discussion Boards, design student seandavidson has recently solicited Workstation Help! from his fellow forum members. At 45 posts as of press time, the thread has grown to just under four pages of power-computing expertise (mostly in the first 48 hours, no less), and even though the OP is just about ready to pull the trigger on his dream machine, there's lots to dig in to, especially if you expect to be cranking out renderings on a regular basis.
Longtime member Cyberdemon is especially helpful (and sensitive to the use case), drawing a nice analogy regarding his Macbook Pro: "for the purposes of pumping cad it's kind of like buying a BMW X6 because it's a good 'off roader' sometimes it's worth it to get the Jeep and not care what people think." He also notes that "more ram [sic] will NOT improve multi-tasking while you render. Modern rendering software will eat up 100% of the available cores. That's why your computer will suck at doing anything while you're rendering even if you have 64 gigs of ram"... To which hatts responds:
Many rendering packages incorporate a "low priority" feature which will have the rendering job ease up a bit if the user is trying to do other things. Other packages let you set aside whole cores during rendering. (This is a tick in the "RAM doesn't matter" checkbox.)
However if s/he gets into motion graphics or any poly modeling, there are plenty of functions which utilize RAM. Video rendering, dynamics simulation, retopologizing, all use RAM. (This is a tick in the "RAM does indeed matter" checkbox.)
Tradesmen travel with their tools, and the best of them have organized systems for hauling them. Remember that shot of Benjamin Lai's kit? Then there's Ron Paulk, who's got an entire shop inside a box truck. And while you don't see systems like Lai's and Paulk's every day, one tool organization system you've probably never seen is the one on the International Space Station.
Timothy Peake, a former British Army Air Corps officer and the first British citizen to become a European Space Agency astronaut, is ISS-bound come 2015. As part of his training, he's working with a replica of the toolbox set-up they've got up topside, and on his Flickr page we get a rare look at the storage system.
Inventor Dino Makropoulos, who has spent years working on his Eurekazone Track Saw system, has recently developed a pair of new product designs that potentially obviate the need for the track. His new UEG, or Universal Edge Guide, is an attachment for a circular saw that enables the quick, safe breakdown of sheet goods, via a rail that rides along the factory edge of the sheet. And not only that: As Makropoulos is obsessed with user safety, he's introduced a design element in the saw base that makes kickback just about impossible.
Don't believe us? Watch this insane video (and please kids, do NOT try this at home) where Dino purposely tries to create kickback with a circular saw, both with and without his UEG attachment:
Now in the first two attempts in the video, where the saw is not fitted with the anti-kickback base, the only reason the saw doesn't fly out of Dino's hands is because he's a pro carpenter and has been for years. NONE OF YOU SHOULD EVER ATTEMPT THAT—he's done it for demonstration purposes only. In the hands of a novice or even a pro that's just not paying close attention, a kickback can cause grievous injury.
As the latter half of the video demonstrates, by fitting the base of the UEG with a stiff plastic fin well aft of the blade, he has made it virtually impossible for kickback to happen.
Here's another example of something you'd never try with an ordinary circular saw:
For those that don't understand why cutting a plywood sheet sideways without a UEG would be insane, I'll explain: As you make the cut across the sheet, the sawblade leaves a kerf—a slot the same width as the blade thickness—behind it. As your cut progresses, the weight of the top part of the plywood will sag towards the lower half—closing the kerf and causing a potentially vicious, saw-hurling kickback. With the fin that Dino's installed, it is impossible for the kerf to close around the blade. Which means no kickback. (For those of you saying "riving knife," read the Q&A below.)
The other thing you'll spot if you watch that video closely: During the last cut, as Dino gets towards the end, the wood accidentally shifts sideways. Ordinarly that would be a recipe for disaster, but the steadying effect of the edge guide working in conjunction with the fin precludes any potential kickback.
We caught up with Dino for a quick Q&A on the new design:
The simple rule for designing any organization system, whether for tools, clothes, the top of your desk, etc., is: Everything should have a place for it—and the more clearly delineated that space, the better. If your desk is messy right now, it's probably because it's covered in things that don't have dedicated places. It's easy to scoop pens up and throw them into your pen cup, but it's the uncategorizable things—that catalog you think you might need later, a stack of documents that's important but not urgent, some business cards you've been meaning to file—that create the mess. And then you spend time sifting through all of it to find the thing you're looking for.
Delineating areas for objects is also important, and ideally it should be one-to-one. From a design perspective, I don't find dresser drawers very efficient, because they hold stacks of clothes, and I'm invariably digging through three items to get to the fourth. Ditto with toolboxes, where you spend five seconds of rummaging for every one second of grabbing. Multiply that wasted time over millions of tool-wielding workers that get paid per hour or per job, and you're looking at a lot of man-hours down the drain.
As we've mentioned in some of our earlier posts on tool storage, when designing your own system there are two opposite poles you can lean towards: Broad-and-shallow, or tight-and-dense. The first approach means you can see every tool in the collection, which makes selecting a tool much quicker, but requires a large surface area. The second approach is better for a space-tight or mobile application.
Here's a good example of the former that has tinges of the latter. Oregon-based cyclist Josh C., who runs The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles website, is a self-taught bike mechanic. When he found the pace of his restoration work suffering from poor shop organization, he resolved to build a better tool storage system. "My workspace is small and physical real estate comes at a premium," he writes. "I needed a solution to keep my growing bike tool collection organized, within my reach and mobile."
Earlier this month, we took a look at Sunglass, a product design collaboration site where users can download plug-ins to connect their local CAD environments to the cloud. Their partnership with Cadenas Part Solutions, a company that creates digital catalogs for major parts manufacturers, is starting to reveal the promise of such a system.
The two companies' newly-announced joint venture, the Sunglass Parts Library, provides users the ability to instantly access parts files—gears, motors, hinges, etc.—and integrate those parts directly into their CAD files. "It's the first interactive application with the ability to integrate an enterprise-grade manufacturing library directly into the 3D design environment," they write. The analogy isn't perfect, but the team-up is sort of an industrial design version of the iPod-and-iTunes ecosystem: Its success is dependent not only on the interface's ease-of-use, but also on the ability to sign up multiple bodies—in Apple's case, the music labels; in Cadena's case, the parts suppliers.
Earlier we wrote about Gerber's GDC Hook Knife, a keychain-mounted device intended to cut you free from a seatbelt. We also mentioned that that's a statistically unlikely need for your average motorist to have; if your car is submerged, the larger problem is going to be getting out of the vehicle before it fills with water. Back in the days of roll-down windows, you could crank them down if you got to it quick enough—once the water pressure got too great, it would trap the windows firmly within their rubber seals and you'd be screwed. However, with today's power windows, you've got the issue of the motors shorting out if you've driven into the drink.
Every year some 400 Americans drown in their cars. (That's just 0.01% of the population, but man, what a terrible way to go.) If you can't get the window open in a sinking car, you'll need to break it. And yes, there are objects designed specifically for that task, like the carbon-steel-tipped LifeHammer Plus and LifeHammer Evolution.
Those with dedicated workshops of their own design have the luxury of placing their own power outlets. Bur for DIY'ers making do in mixed-use spaces, or tradespeople on jobsites, the chaos that is extension cords is a built-in part of any project: You need to keep the tool connection out of the sawdust pile, and arrange the cords in such a way that you and others won't trip over them.
When it comes to sketching, line quality is everything. To build up the desired thickness using ink, you can either switch between multiple pens or you can hit the same line repeatedly with the same pen, as Spencer Nugent has done above; if using pencil or a pressure-sensitive stylus on a digital device, you can hit the same line and/or press harder, as Michael DiTullo's done below.
So this currently-under-consideration-at-Quirky design proposal has me curious. Designer "HSingh" is pushing for a pen with an adjustable tip, whereby a dial in the barrel somehow alters the nib's width.
There's virtually no explanation for how the thing would work, but the question is: Would you guys use this to change line weights, or do you prefer the old-fashioned way? And does anyone remember having to swtich back and forth from like, five different Koh-i-Noor Rapidographs in design school?
Statistically speaking, most of us only use crowbars when we're about to be arrested for Menacing, but if you've ever had to do light demo around the house you know how handy they can be. Someone actually stole my crowbar a couple of years ago, and I never bought a replacement since I haven't recently needed to pry anything open or dispense street justice.
Maybe it's just as well that I've held off, as a new crowbar may be hitting the market at the end of this summer. And, usefully, it also happens to be a hammer. And a 1/2-inch socket wrench, and a couple of other things. I'm normally skeptical of multi-tools, but the Cole-Bar Hammer, which is currently up on Kickstarter, look pretty promising:
I know what you're thinking: How well would that central joint hold up when the tool is extended into a full-length crowbar?
When I used to work for an artist who specialized in photorealistic portraiture, I remember watching the assistants use a projector to draft the preliminary pencilwork for his medium-to-large scale (30”×40”+) paintings. Since we were working with digital compositions, it was a simple matter of lining up the image with the canvas or archival paper, then painstakingly tracing the photograph and background onto it.
Now that software has democratized and simplified the tools of creating images, I imagine this is a common practice in artists' studios. But what about drawing from real life? Most everyone has seen or at least heard of camera obscura, but it turns out there's a somewhat more, um, obscure tool that draftsmen of yore had at their disposal.
Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin (Art Professors at SAIC and CMU, respectively) note that "long before Google Glass... there was the Camera Lucida." The device is a "prism on a stick," a portable lens-like device that is affixed to a drawing surface, allowing the user to accurately reproduce an image before them by hand.
We have designed the NeoLucida: the first portable camera lucida to be manufactured in nearly a century—and the lowest-cost commercial camera lucida ever designed. We want to make this remarkable device widely available to students, artists, architects, and anyone who loves to draw from life. But to be clear: our NeoLucida is not just a product, but a provocation. In manufacturing a camera lucida for the 21st century, our aim is to stimulate interest in media archaeology—the tightly interconnected history of visual culture and imaging technologies.
According to the well-illustrated history page on the Neolucida website, the device was invented by Sir William Hyde Wollaston in 1807, though the Wikipedia article suggests that it was actually developed by Johannes Kepler, whose dioptrice dates back to 1611, nearly two centuries prior.
Selections from Pablo Garcia's personal collection of vintage camera lucidas
The YouBot doesn't come with an "end effector" that can perform the rotating motion you and I would do with two hands to get that leg into the table. Knepper's team devised an elegant workaround, using rubber bands attached to two different rings:
Another day, another design, another multi-hour stretch to focus focus focus on your design work. If you're like me, you vacillate between needing the total silence of an empty studio and the busy-ness of working in a cafe. But what if you need to be in the studio? Perhaps all the cafes are closed, or perhaps you have a few hours before your next meeting, and it doesn't make sense to pop out for a quick cafe work session.
Enter Coffitivity, my new favorite web site for those moments when the office is either too quiet or too loud. The site simply recreates the ambient sounds of working in a cafe, that slight murmur of voices and random clinking of glasses that makes a cafe a cafe. They point to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research that suggests the link between creativity and this sweet spot:
We argue that noise distracts people but that the degree of distraction induced by various noise levels will affect creativity differently. A high level of noise may cause a great deal of distraction, causing individuals to process information to a lesser extent and therefore to exhibit lower creativity. A moderate (vs. low) level of noise, however, is expected to distract people without significantly affecting the extent of processing. Further, we reason that such a moderate distraction, which induces processing difficulty, enhances creativity by prompting abstract thinking. We predict, in sum, that a moderate level of noise will enhance creativity relative to both high and low levels of noise.
It's been just over seven months to the day since the Morpholio Project debuted their Trace app to much acclaim. By January of this year, they had added several new tools for designers beyond the original audience of architects, and now, just a few months later, they're pleased to announce a suite of new tools that constitute a major release. "The App Store's number one portfolio app re-imagines the portfolio as a design utility, moving it into the fast, flexible, at-your-fingertips device era. The project seeks to advance the ways that creatives access, share, discuss, and get feedback on their work from a global community of users."
By combining production and presentation software with web-enabled tools for sharing and critique, the app offers a fully-integrated platform for production and collaboration. To hear Morpholio's Anna Kenoff tell it, "Aside from making design production easier, we wanted to know if better tools could make it smarter by integrating the wisdom of crowds and capitalizing on the power of the touchscreen to capture feedback."
To achieve this, Morpholio had to become very sophisticated about all the ways that designers communicate—not just through language, but most importantly through their eyes and hands. Over the past year, the team of architects and programmers has collaborated with experts from various disciplines to build a robust design-centric workspace that could be used by anyone—from fashion designers to photographers, architects and automotive designers, even tattoo artists. It builds on research into human-computer-interaction to deliver innovations like a tool for image analytics called "EyeTime" and virtual "Crits" where collaborators can share images, and comment on each other's work via notes or sketches. Human behavior data-mining is essential to offering these forms of powerful feedback, letting you know how your followers are interacting with your work.
In design school these days, we've gone so far around the 'sustainability' bend that it seems like the word might have lost meaning all together. That's why whenever we see a unique take on the cradle-to-cradle conversation; it's a breath of fresh air. The most recent addition to the canon of sustainable design comes from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design's Hannah Dow, in her senior BFA thesis project cleverly entitled, Temp Tools.
I created Temp Tools aiming to stir up the conversation about the complete life cycle of objects; Thinking about where our items go once they leave our house in a garbage bag. I hope that with Temp Tools, I can get people thinking about other things they own that could be designed in a similar way as the tools, with sustainability in mind.
Hannah has been developing the tool line, consisting of a skewer to roast marshmallows or hotdogs, a spatula, and a shovel for nearly 8 months. Each tool in the line can be fitted to a stick to be used as a makeshift handle and will fully degrade in nature leaving only flower seeds in its wake. While sustainable design will never embrace the 'hey, just toss it out' mentality, maybe we can still do a little guilt-free littering with our Temp Tools.
We asked Hannah to share with us some insights into both the material exploration and product development leading to Temp Tools:
Core77: How did you develop a composite material strong enough to create a durable 'temp tool'?
Hannah Dow: The material the tools are made of is what comprised my first four months of the project. After trying to find a man-made, biodegradable, strong material that I could purchase and coming up empty-handed, I realized I needed to do my best at making whatever it was that I wasn't getting elsewhere. The composite material is completely natural and biodegradable after use and strong and rigid during its role as a tool. If put into production the tools would be made using a 3-4 part mold seeing that the material is a kind of liquid wood mixture.
Whether you're using a frying pan, a television remote control or a circular saw, you are at the mercy of whatever ergonomics the manufacturer designed—or didn't design—into the thing. Badly designed plastic molded handles, like you'd find in a cheap pair of scissors, are often the worst; the parting line is usually in the perfect place to bite into your skin every time you squeeze it.
But if you have an object with removeable handles, well, then you can get your hack on. YouTube user Pocket83 figured out an ingenious way to get rid of the chintzy knobs on his drill press and step it up to a more ergonomic solution:
The otherwise-useless skill I've picked up from working in a photography studio: Untangling and elbow-winding a kinked extension cord. It's a pain in the neck to do, but after each and every shoot I have to go about the room collecting and organizing them.
Which is why this RoboReel Power Cord System is looking good to me. When I first saw it, my kneejerk reaction was "That's ridiculous and bulky, who would want that?" but quickly came to realize how much time I'd save in the studio alone. For those in shop and garage environments it's bound to be even more useful and, with the ceiling mount, out of the way. And I dig the built-in safety features you'll see in the demo vid:
P.S. For those of you using compressor-driven tools, the company is working on an Air Reel variant; for those of you with lawns, their Water Hose Reel can be rigged up for hoses and sprinklers.
Remember Ron Paulk's Mobile Super Workshop? The Washington-based builder crammed a highly functional production shop into the back of a box truck, exhibiting the kind of clever design thinking that only comes from a lifetime of building things.
Paulk, of course, is not alone in his mobile woodworking needs; across the country in Connecticut, Brian P. Way has his own woodshop-on-wheels. Way is the founder of Precision Woodworking LLC, a high-end millwork shop, and he opened his "Lean Truck" to a camera crew at the JLC (Journal of Light Construction) Live exhibit in Providence last weekend.
I'll never tire of seeing how makers solve problems using design. A truck is one of the more fascinating vessels for a shop in that things have to be designed 1.) for easy access and removal, 2.) so that they don't roll around in transit, and 3.) to fit within tight space constraints. Everything from Way's pull-out drill press table, to the extendable material support arms, to the portable-drill-holding rails, to that clever little diamond-plate lip he added so one person could load the table saw, all speak of careful thought and high efficiency.
Paulk and Way are both builders, but too often, I feel, guys like this don't get credit for their design skills. I'd love to see what these two would do if, say, entered in a competition to design one of Manhattan's tiny apartments. The interviewer nails it when he assesses Way's overall scheme and says "Nobody should complain about not having enough room."
The simple French Cleat technique is a clever way to hang things on a wall, whether permanently (as with a cabinet) or temporarily (as with rearrangeable modules you can easily pull on or off). Here popular woodworking YouTuber Steve Ramsey uses it to add some order to a tool collection that's spun out of control. (And sure, the hyper-animated Ramsey seems nutty, but he's nutty to the tune of 56,000 subscribers.)
I was kind of surprised that he didn't slant the tops of the screwdriver holders towards the wall, to prevent the problem he addresses around 5:00, but his eventual solution seems to handle it fine. And that's part of the fun of watching maker videos anyway: Seeing what you would do, what you wouldn't do, and how different folks solve different problems.
Want to build a wheeled, revolving bookcase designed in 1890? Yeah you do
Tools for Working Wood is the name of a Brooklyn-based company that sells, well, guess. And in addition to their retail arm, they've got a website featuring articles on craft along with some very interesting information for makers—from 1889. The company somehow got their hands on several volumes of Work: An Illustrated Magazine of Practice and Theory for All Workmen, Professional and Amateur, a 19th-Century British magazine aimed at craftspeople. And the team at TWW has decided to scan every issue they've got, releasing new updates each Friday and making them freely downloadable.
While the information listed in Work is over 120 years old—TWW goes so far as to include the disclaimer "[some of the articles] describe materials and methods that would not be considered safe or advisable today"—I've totally fallen down the rabbit hole. Advertisements for tools of the day, like this crazy-ass hand-powered table saw...
...share space with articles on how to build a workbench that folds into the wall, or breaking news like the then-new production method of metal spinning, or why you should make your own "callipers" rather than buy a set, and an "Our Guide to Good Things" section where they review tools and materials of the day.
One surprise is their letters section, called "Shop: A Corner for Those who Want to Talk It," whereby craftspeople of every stripe—metalworkers, furniture builders, watchmakers, toolmakers, and even people toying around with these newfangled things called cameras and electricity—sound off with tips, techniques and criticisms. Which brings me to a second surprise: Trolls existed even in the Victorian era. One reader writes in to criticize an article from a previous issue, opening with "I would point out that the description you give of the process is evidently far from correct, nor have I any idea as to what is intended...."
For those of us that don't work on the factory floor, it's rare to see an object get made in its entirety, from start to finish. But here NYC-based designer Jimmy DiResta—you'll remember him from Dirty Money, the Discovery show where he and his brother dumpster-dove for raw materials—shows us how he whips up a tool bag from scratch. While every step of the process is shown, it's fast-forwarded during the tedious parts, providing a comprehensive look while still coming it at sub-six-minutes:
If you couldn't guess by the watermarks, DiResta recorded the video for Make, who visits his studio twice a month. The complete materials list for the bag is posted here, along with a brief description of the project. "I think learning how to sew," he writes, "is a must for all makers!"
Did you ever wonder how craftspeople used to split thick wood into boards, prior to the invention of bandsaws and sawmills? They performed riving using something called a froe, and good God does it look tedious:
As you can see, the froe had to be banged downwards with a mallet or maul made of wood, for obvious reasons. (Ideally you'd want to make the mallet out of a tougher wood like maple; this guy makes them out of baseball bat blanks that have been deemed too heavy for the sport's regulations.) Using a froe and mallet was used to create things like shingles, panels, chair backs as you just saw in the video, and anytime you had a thick board you needed to divide into multiple thin boards.
While it no longer has any commercial application, there are still hardcore dudes rocking this technique, both in the field and in the shop. Be thankful next time you're resawing boards on a bandsaw...
Is there anything you use all the time, even though you know the design of it sucks? For me that thing is safety goggles. I have a hard time finding a pair that fits properly, particularly when worn with a respirator and/or ear protection. Some companies make them in different sizes to ameliorate the fit, but my local hardware shops stick with the one-size-fits-all variety, presumably to keep stock down.
3M is attempting to tackle both poor ergonomics and the retail inventory issue by designing the SecureFit, a purportedly better-fitting pair of one-size-fits-all safety glasses.
After studying models of the human face and sussing out contact points, they've calculated a (hopefully) universally-fitting wraparound curve for the lenses; coupled with the flexible temple you'll see in the vid below, they're claiming this will provide a better fit for many.
I'm eager to try them out if I can find a local stockist. The only thing that gives me pause is the permanently-pinned ear stems; since the glasses won't fold up, that means they'll be stuffed into a toolbox or drawer with a bunch of other tools in and around them, increasing the potential for my other eyewear pet peeve—scratched lenses.
I always assumed protective eyewear with design flaws was just the name of the game. Have any of you had good experiences with a particular pair, especially those of you with smaller heads? And has anyone had a good experience with prescription protective eyewear?
I hate the imperial measurement system, and can confidently say that anyone who doesn't recognize the superiority of metric is a freaking idiot. How nice it must be for you Aussies, Germans and Koreans to drill an 8mm hole, realize you need it a smidgen bigger, and yell down the ladder for a 9mm bit. Versus us Yankees drilling a 7/32 hole, then having to do an equation in your head to calculate if you need a 3/16 or a 1/4.
For the non-mathematically-gifted like me, dividing things with fractions is the worst. For example, when doing DIY projects you often have to calculate the midpoint of a particular piece—whether it's wood, fabric or metal—and I'd be constantly scrawling equations onto the piece of wood I was working and having to sand the marks off afterwards. That is, until I learned this simple tip to easily find the exact midpoint without having to divide fractions.
Let's say I want to find the midpoint of the board above. We take a tape measure to it...
...and see it's 17-something. That's all you're looking for, ignore the finer gradations.
Then we take note of the nearest even number, whether higher or lower than the actual measurement. In this case the nearest even number is 18.
Years ago, while studying ID at Pratt I had the pleasure of taking a sculpture class taught by the master crafstman Toshio Odate. It was in his class that I first used a block plane, and I was all wide-eyed at the gossamer shavings that came out of it.
I was reminded of this as I came across this video from the William Ng Woodworking School in California, where they offer a class where you make your own plane. (The video is not a tutorial but an unnarrated look at what you'd be doing in the class.)
For those on the West Coast, the three-day class will run you $385 plus another $75 for materials.
In an earlier interview we did with Otherlab's Saul Griffith, he discussed the importance of creators fabricating their own tools. While he was referring specifically to modern-day digital fabrication, his point was something that woodworkers have understood for centuries. "Using a finely tuned wooden hand plane you make yourself," reads the hand plane course description, "is probably one of woodworking's ultimate experiences."