You can also view my gallery at Designs en Bois.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Designing for the Sexes

I've gotten started on my next project - a walnut writing desk.  This piece is a bit unique in that it will have tapered cabriole legs, as well as a curved crescent front and drawers.  My intent with this piece is to put more emphasis on design, and challenge myself in a few new areas (a curved front will introduce some interesting challenges).  While a Woodworking in America session convinced me not to give up entirely on SketchUp as a design tool, I have changed what role it plays in my process.  In short, I don't believe it can replace hand sketching or building of a prototype in the design process.  That being said, you can find my 3D model in the SketchUp warehouse. Aaron from Garage Shop had a great blog post about "Sketchup Abuse" that I think is a good read.  I'd also love to get other peoples' thoughts the role of SketchUp in design.

QuickTime Version (right click to download)
Windows Media Version (right click to download)


Aaron said...

Great stuff as usual, Rob. Glad to hear that you didn't chuck SketchUp out the window! As for your design process, I am a firm believer in "whatever works" for you. The full size mockup can catch stuff you would never find in a 3D model, and most folks (clients/spouses) can't look at a computer screen and visualize the final piece anyway.

Here is a link to some thoughts on SketchUp and adding needless detail to models over at my blog - maybe this will help someone.

Larry Marshall said...

Rob, in talking with lots of people about sketching vs SketchUp as a 'design tool' what seems the determining factor is how fluent person is with pencils and SketchUp.

It makes no sense to suggest there is something inherently superior in a pencil, but if you can't draw what you want with SketchUp, then a pencil may well be a superior tool.

Cheers -- Larry

Rob Bois said...

For me, the greatest value in SketchUp is that my sketching ability with paper and pen is severely limited (you may have gotten a flavor for that with my shot of my graph paper). I also just read Aaron's post about the right level of detail to include in SketchUp, and I thought it was dead on. I'm going to add that link into the show notes. Thanks for providing that.

Vic Hubbard said...

Uh oh..PINK!! LOL!!! Great information. Are you planning to recreate the mock-up first with the planned changes? I'm thinking the curve would change quite a bit with both the height and width adjustment.
I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

Rob Bois said...

Vic, that's a great question. I went back and forth on several changes to the model, and ran into some problems with design. By raising the bottom of the apron, or shortening the desk, I was corrupting the ratios I'd built into the piece (the front represents a 2x length to height ratio, and the sides use the golden ration). I eventually shrunk the aprons from 6" to 5" to add more leg room, but left the length the same but reduced the overhang. This was a compromise between form and function that I could live with. And this didn't change the arc on the front. Having the full scale model was invaluable for this exercise.

Bruce Somers said...


Great video content and nice to see you expressing your sense of humor (ending phone call). I can't wait to see the final product.

Rob Bois said...

Well I built a pink writing desk. How could I not find some humor in that? Plus, I'm working on Pepto Bismol as a new sponsor now :)

Danny said...

Best episode I've seen. I may try the mock up idea for my next project.

Michael Marzullo said...

ok, so I was going to give you crap for the mock phone call at the end, but..... it WAS pretty funny :) Wait. how did she see the video when the phone call was in the video nevermind.

really good episode. despite the environmental/disposal concerns with using the foam, it is a really great idea.

I used a CAD system in high school architecture classes. I find sketch up to be as difficult to use. I'm sure I just need to hunker down and learn it, but it seems like so much work. I sketch pretty well, so i guess the sketch up benefits don't outweigh the advantages for me yet.

maz012967 said...


Another excellent episode! I appreciate you sharing your design ideas and how you tested them against some of George Walker's protocols. I'm still torn about designing to real-world need (width, height, depth, strength, etc) versus classic ratios. I'm in the process of designing a three piece L-shaped corner desk for my wife and her requirements aren't exactly lining up with traditional examples.

Mike Z

Rob Bois said...

Mike, I have found that on almost every design I've done, there is a certain level of trade-off between form and function. I'd say the intended use is your best guide to help determine whether to lean one way versus the other. If you are building a purely functional desk for a home office, you would want to design with ergonomics as almost the only criteria. At the opposite end might be a show piece for a dining room such as a china cabinet. That would receive low use, but get much more attention and therefore aesthetics should be the primary goal. Those are two extremes, but I think help set a guide as to which way to lean when you do have to make trade-offs in a project.