Making Things

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This week I’ve managed to finalize a new table design. It, like all of my other pieces, has a simple name – T3. It’s the third table I’ve designed and leaves out the strange Scandinavian names that we’ve all become so fond of. No offense.

Making Things that Make Things

As it turns out, designing furniture is easy. If you couple a few simple ergonomic rules with a world full of visual inspiration, anyone can have a new design in just a few hours. The tricky part for me is determining how to make the things. One isn’t so bad; two gets to be a struggle and a hundred or a thousand demands some finesse.

What I mean by finesse is making the thing that makes the thing. I designed and modeled T3 in just a few hours. The design is great and is finally looking like it will be in the price range I want to offer a side table at- around $150. It has a feature that I call “the bowl”. The bowl is a cone shaped piece that joins the legs to the table top. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with an easy way to make the cone shape.

A Machine

I need a machine that can cut a shallow taper, repeatably, and then drill three holes to accept the legs. The whole thing then gets painted in a semi-gloss paint of your selection. Nobody sells a machine like that.

A few motors, gears, belts, linear rails and bearings and a bearing or two and I’m halfway through the design.

Bowl Machine

Sentry Gun

The design is a little rough and is definitely not a highly rendered masterpiece with motion controls and all that fancy stuff; but it works. More importantly, it gives me a sense of scale and an estimate of materials needed and how they will be arranged.

The red piece slides along the 20mm orange rails. Attached to the red piece will be a router with a bit spinning at about 18,000 RPMs. The yellow bit is the finished bowl which will rotate via a motor and pulley underneath the light blue base. For now I’ll move the router along the rails by hand. I estimate about two minutes per bowl. That should be plenty good, until folks start buying them by the dozen!

Conclusions

A hard pill to swallow when starting a business is how slow everything moves. Maybe it isn’t slow but it often feels that way. A thing to make a thing is just like creating a website, an About Us page or even sweeping the floor. You’ve got to buckle down and invent stuff sometimes – and you’re the draftsman, the engineer, the fabricator, the medic and the clerk.

Still doesn’t stop me from wanting an intern though.

Happy building. Leave a comment about the things to make the things that you’ve created!

All modeling was done using AutoCAD Fusion360. It’s free to use for people earning less that $100k!

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