I Make it Up as I Go Along

“I am not very good at visualizing the final outcome of my projects. Unless taking the time to make a detailed prototype is justifiable (almost never in my case), I often employ what programmers and software designers have come to call “iterative design” – a cyclical method of tweaking and refining the product as the user provides feedback. This is merely a fancy-pants way of saying that I make it up as I go along.

So, seeing the bench at its final height, I decided to remove some of the bulk in the middle. I laid out a relief where my legs will be, and sawed several relief cuts, then chopped out the waste with a chisel. The top and bottom edges were chamfered with a spokeshave. Finally, I rounded the back of the seat, and hollowed the seat with an adze and travisher. The hollowing is functional in that I have something keeping my rear on the bench when I have to occasionally push hard on the treadle.

I don’t like to rush irreversible changes to anything I build; instead I try to get something functional and work with it before devising improvements. Sometimes I aim to improve functionality, but I also do this for aesthetic reasons. In this case, I left the shaping like this for several weeks before deciding that the plank looked too heavy. To lighten it up, I added a heavy chamfer all around the underside. When building only one of something with the materials on hand, I’ve learned to adapt along the way.”

– Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “Iterative Design in Vernacular Workholding, or A Dumbhead’s Guide to Holding Stuff” in Issue Nine, available here.


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