Furniture design: Working in the shop

In the early weeks of the Furniture Session, there was much focus on the design stage of our chairs. We did our sketches along with ideation, 1:1 drawings, a 1:1 cardboard model, before we finally began our technical drawings. The technical drawings are what hold all of our instructions for building the chair. As I drew my technical drawing, I had periodic meetings with the shop techs who will assist with building the chair when the shop is open.

Technical Chair Drawing

My design was refined for building, then for the next two weeks the class only worked in the shop. Due to the fact there are 25 students in this group, we were split into two groups. The morning group had shop time from 8-2, and the afternoon group worked 2-8. The morning and afternoon shifts swapped the next week, so I got a taste of both.

The shop is a pretty big one stocked full with everything you should need. At first when working abroad, I was concerned with what I had access to. I even brought some of my own tools since I wasn’t sure what I might need. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some machine and supply highlights that might be of help to know before you come.

Large Machines

  • Table saws (2, and one is a Martin with a huge sliding fence)
  • Drill presses (2)
  • Bandsaws (3)
  • Router table
  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Interestingly, A horizontal drill press (never seen that before)
  • Drum, belt, spindle, and orbital sanders, along with hand sanding

Classic Tools:

  • Hand drills
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Allen wrenches
  • Bits
  • Pipe and ‘C’ clamps
  • Hand planers, chisels, sanding blocks

Drill bits: (Specifics)

  • Bradpoints (Classic)
  • Forstners
  • Hole saws
  • Tenon plug cutter (very handy for making your own short dowels)

FEAR NOT! Safety glasses and ear protection are provided along with demos and other tools to keep you safe!

The first day in the shop consisted mainly of demos, choosing our planks, then marking the planks up. I fit a few rough cuts in on day one, but not much was built. Everyday the morning group has lunch around 11:40ish, which lasts about 40 minutes to an hour, while the afternoon group eats dinner around 5:40ish and it goes for an hour. There is a lounge and a kitchen for the students to bring their own food or chill for a minute when working.

Prepping the seat for the glue

Days two and three were when everyone’s pieces started to be roughly cut and pieces were shaped. I, in particular, had to work faster than everyone due to my design choices. I already came here knowing how to woodwork, so I have been utilizing my time abroad learning how to hand cane my seat and seat back. Caning is a form of weaving using cane (dried strips of a rattan palm plant).

Though my chair is not a traditional Danish design, I wanted a traditional Danish weave. I was sent to a different workshop to learn how to cane. I worked with a highly skilled master, who is a friend of my teachers. Being sent to the weaving workshop twice caused me to miss two of my sessions in the shop, so I went early and stayed late on the days I could. I was a lot more work, but it was totally worth it.

By the ending week in the shop, everyone was on the grind. Things were coming together… and things were coming apart. Those who needed more time came early or stayed late like me, while some were finishing early and left earlier. Everyone was at different skill levels to start off with, and by the end of the week it was slight chaos. The shop was full of all of us scrambling, including those who needed to weave, those who still needed to sand, and those who needed to apply a soap finish to officially seal the wood.

So this past week has been nothing but work, but the payoff was great as everyone’s chairs look amazing! In the final weeks to come my next assignment is to make a poster for my chair and prepare for my final presentation.

I finished!

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