Links

The average compensation of architects, from the AIA. (ht: Jason).

Facebook and Twitter attract narcissists. Study.

The death of trees has been linked to increased cardiovascular and lower respiratory deaths.

Buy/rent calculator from the NYT. Very well done.

The tricorder is here. A small relatively inexpensive device called the Scanadu can now read your vitals.

A Studio Gang project, the Clark Park Boathouse, that I worked on the mechanical drawings for (geo-thermal exchange system, ventilation, cooling, etc.) is nearing completion.

Details

I've been sketching a lot of details by hand lately. This is the progression of vertical plywood to a gyp wall that I'd be using to make built in bookshelves.

Have to do something while my soon-to-be shop doesn't have power.




Mahogany Table

I buy most of my wood from a place in Chicago called Wood World. Anyways, my wife began accompanying me on trips there and every time there was this huge slab of Honduras mahogany that I'd always come up with a new use for every time I saw it. Huge, 10' long, 3" thick (12/4), 28" wide.

For our first wedding anniversary my wife bought me said slab... I ride a bicycle and the IIT wood shop is only open when I'm at work. Plus, huge chunks of wood are like diamonds. If they're huge you do not cut them. The basic concept is to use the slab as a table but without cutting, drilling, or otherwise mechanically altering it.

This is the photo I received in a card for my wife and my's one year wedding anniversary. I removed the price from the sign, but it's roughly 72 board feet worth of wood. 
These are just some initial sketches. I initially wanted to use channel iron but it was pretty expensive. In my experience it tends to be higher quality steel.
I borrowed the idea of the electrical outlets hidden in the steel structure from the tables in Crown Hall's Graham Resource Center library.
3D screen grab in Rhino. The table consists of three basic piece: the cast iron legs, the mahogany table top and the armature that ties it all together; which is also the part I have to make. It's essentially two custom bar clamps that are tied together with angle iron.
Orthographic projection. We actually used this drawing on an ipad while I was in the shop.
Actual fabrication was hectic, which I'm not used to. There's a translation from drawing to reality, "field fit," that needs to take place - especially since I'm not a veteran designer. We were rushing around the shop kind of fast because I made my friend Brian and his father, who show up at 6:45 AM every morning, stay until 8:00 PM, and it was really hot in the shop. Their shop is called Special Tool Engineering Company on the southwest side of Chicago. Brian is the third generation of his family to work there. I have to take photos of that place. You could build anything there.

This is a Bridgeport milling machine. It is to a machinist what a table saw is to a woodworker.
I'd never seen one of these before, it's drill bit that's essentially used for zeroing a measurement. It has a separate metal piece for the tip that's connected with a spring. It's exactly 0.2000 inches so that you subtract 0.1. As soon as the tip begins to wobble you know you're up against the piece that you're measuring off of.
This is the digital readout that gives X and Y coordinates. It does more than that but this was the first time I'd ever seen a digital readout on a Bridgeport.
Drilling the actual holes to a five 10,000 of an inch. Totally unnecessary and really cool.
Countersinking the holes to remove burrs.
This is essentially an automated swivel head bandsaw. You put in a piece of flat stock (bars of steel)...
... and it advances the steel and cuts it perfectly.
These are the holes being drilled for the bolts that clamp the table top. They got threaded after this but I didn't grab a photo of their threading setup. It was basically an arm that swiveled with the tap perpendicular at the tip. Much nicer than the typical hand tools I use because everything is square and flush when you're done.
Ugh... I fancy myself a good welder (at least when the work is somewhat level or on a pipe), but I was unfamiliar with their MIG and it was running way too hot.
Quenching the steel so I could get it home without lighting my car on fire.
I ran some simple electrical on the back. Typical 14 gauge stuff, three duplexes total.
Before I put the electrical on I steel wooled all the angle iron and rubbed boiled linseed oil  into it. You have to wipe off the excess after about ten minutes or else it will be sticky for the rest of its existence. The linseed oil darkens the steel and gives it a waxy finish that protects it somewhat from rust. On the left you can see the swagged cord that connects the outlets. I have a grommet on the other side too so I can switch it if need be.
Getting the slab in the room...
This is the connection to the legs. Two 5/8" lag bolts on each end. I should have welded a plate horizontally next to the angle, drilled another hole, and maybe put diagonal stiffeners in. It's essentially a point connection and isn't as rigid as it should be. I'll add it another time.

This is the fixed end of the armature on the back edge of the table. I may rotate the armature at some point too. You can see the slab isn't quite flat - I couldn't find a  30" planar (ha).
The electrical is hidden in the back so the cords can be concealed to some degree.
The 3" angle iron is slightly off center so that your legs won't hit the cross member if you cross your legs. The legs on this are from my lathe table except that this time they're turned the way they're supposed to sit. I chose 3" angle for two reasons: structurally it's spanning 6' 2" (74") and the rule of thumb is L/20 so 3.7" - which makes it undersized, but it's really only carrying a lateral load. Also, the table top really shouldn't be over 29" or 30" tall, the legs are 24" high, and the table top is 2-3/4" thick so anything bigger than 3" angle is going to make the table either too high or not leave enough room for your legs. If it's weak in any way it's torsion, but I don't perceive that as being a problem.
I did a time lapse of all the sanding just to show how ridiculously laborious it is. At some point I may actually put all the stills together into a time lapse video. As my woodworking/architecture professor (Frank Flury) once told me "finishing is 50% of the work." It seems like way too much but it's dead on. Finishing takes forever and there's very little joy in it. I hooked up my orbital sander to the smallest cheapest wet-dry-vac I could find. Win, literally zero dust. Tropical hardwood dust is oddly scary - especially panga, jatoba, and the like. Plus I got to collect some of the dust in case I wanted to fill in the grain at some point. In my world instead of getting buttons in little packages with shirts you'd get sawdust with your handcrafted furniture in case you wanted to change the finish and make your own filler (using dust from the wood makes the color match).
After sanding I raised the grain. That is, wiped the wood with a damp cloth to remove dust and  make the grain stand up.  After you sand wood and wet it the grain will feel different even when it's dry. If you sand it again it won't do this anymore. Even though I'm using an oil finish and it shouldn't be necessary. If the wood somehow gets wet later on it will no longer feel smooth.
I started with 100 grit, did a quick pass of 120 (I'm weird), then 150, 220, and finished with 320. The finishes will later get 320 up to 600 grit and a 0000 steel wool. Kind of unnecessary.
The finish for this ended up being about six coats of Watco Teak Oil wiped on, dried for one to two days between coats. It's not a protective finish and it takes forever to fully dry. First time I've ever used gloves, I recommend them.
The finish isn't done yet so this is kind of a base coat. The teak oil has an "in-the-grain" look and feel so you can still feel the grain.
This is after the second application of teak oil. it's still a little oily in this photo, but the grains starting to  show much better.
This is after it's a bit more dry.
The flange at the end is 1/4" flat stock butt welded to the end of the 3" angle. You can see where it's welded from the bluing. It's tapped to accept the 3/4" bolt which holds a 1/2" piece of steel that is milled to hold the end of the bolt.
 The wood edge is the rough-sawn side, if I rotate it 180 there's a much cleaner side and no protruding clamp.
Mostly finished. It's 10'2" (3100 mm) long, 28.5" (725 mm) wide, and the table top is at 29-1/2" (750 mm). The actual slab itself is 12/4. That is, 2-3/4" (70 mm). The legs are 76 lbs (35 kg) apiece, the armature is about 45 lbs (20 kg), and the table top is 220 lbs (100 kg) for a grand total of roughly 440 lbs (200 kg). Bucky wouldn't be impressed but the Vikings would probably approve.
The finish is oddly hard to photograph. It looks glossy but it has a satin look and feel up close.

Battlestation. My firm was selling their Aeron chairs so I picked two up for $40 apiece. I guess that's the upside to mass layoffs in the architecture field.

DIY Christmas

My wife came home with a Christmas tree, somewhat unannounced, about two weeks ago. After she set it down she said she was off to go get a stand... hmm. The ubiquitous Christmas tree stand in the US is stamped sheet metal painted red and green; I'm not a huge fan, so I offered to make one. She expressed her skepticism, but a few days after finals I built it.

It's made from leftover 1 1/4" angle iron (about 5' of it) from my previous coffee table project. I chose a triangular base because it would never wobble and would most easily hold the tree. The three pieces are identical which made fabrication quick and simple. More so in this project, because of its utilitarian nature, I let the material and fabrication process guide the design. For example, aesthetically, the angle iron should be rotated to show the flat side on the outside, but this would require some fairly difficult cutting and welding to make the connection between the three pieces. Instead I chose to keep the top flange hanging to the outside so that the angle iron could be simply butt-welded to one another.

The three pieces just prior to butt-welding them together then bending the legs up and welding them in place.
I tapped the angle iron to receive 5/16"-18 screws.
The finish is the same boiled linseed oil  that I usually use. I use steel wool beforehand to remove most of the mill slag.
Next I had a problem with the Christmas tree ornaments... so I designed some a laser cut them. Bonus: I found all the plywood in the garbage bins around the M&M building.This was a quick job from start to finish. For next year I'm going to come up with some more interesting designs and use  the 1/8" Baltic birch ply (it cut much faster and was burned less).

This photo was taken before I sanded them to remove the burn marks.
The cut-outs left on the laser bed.

 Here's a video of the laser cutter cutting the ornaments out. It's kind of like watching a waterfall or fire; even though it's not that exciting it's oddly mesmerizing and hard to avert your eyes.

I made some frames from Peruvian (tropical really) walnut for a few in-laws and myself. I also grabbed some panga lumber for the first time; beautiful wood but it explodes when you machine work it. I kind of liked it.
The finished stand. Still need to get some black bolts... Home Depot lacks aesthetic options.
The finished product.
The staves (soon to be molding) of Peruvian walnut being routed to form a rabbet.
This was my Christmas gift to my sister-in law. The frame is 11" x 14" (inside) and made of Peruvian walnut with maple splines.
The photos is a silver gelatin print I enlarged from a B&W negative I took of her in Napa. It's mounted on museum board .

Fall 2011 Studio Work

My studio project this semester took place at The Plant in Chicago. I described it a little bit in this post. It was nice to have an actual client this time around, and to top things off it's entirely conceivable that they may implement some of the ideas that our studio came up with - being as that they're in a seemingly perpetual state of demolition and construction.

This is my 3' x 4' board that's on display at the plant right now.
Plan view (Google Earth view).

This is a Sanborn (historical) map overlaid over my plan. The old non-existent  buildings inform the new layout along the old rail corridor.

Birdseye view looking west. The beer garden is in the center with hops to the left and greenhouses to the right.
Birdseye view from the south looking north.
This is the terraced seating area between the great lawn and vending area of the beer garden.

The beer garden with terracing.

Diagram of the greenhouses,
Section of the greenhouse.
The back of the greenhouses. That's a double height rolling door on the left.  The concrete is left exposed so it can be used for work (i.e. compost can be laid against the wall, sand or debris can be piled, etc.)




The hop garden/parking lot made from simple telephone poles and stainless wire rope. Everyone really liked this which is funny because of the sheer practicality. If they actually built this I wouldn't be too surprised.

This is the initial scheme for the drainage of the street and site. I reconfigured the idea  to be less complex and more effective.
In the final scheme water from the street flows into a recessed planting area with well drained soil while the run-off from the site flows through the gabions and into the same area. The recessed area can store some amount of water as it waits to percolate into the soil. In the event of a large storm excess water would flow into the sewage system as it already does.


The Plant - Architecture Installation

About two weeks ago I helped my studio professor, Mary Pat Mattson, setup an installation at The Plant. The Plant is a former pork processing plant on the edge of the Chicago Stockyards and served as the site for our project. The whole place is overbuilt - 2 1/2' thick columns, stainless steel, solid brick floors, and cork insulation throughout. Pretty cool.

We hung 3/32" stainless cable on 1/2" embedded anchors; to go with the overbuilt theme. The lower end is held in tension by a brick, there are more than a few laying around this place. Lighting is accomplished with simple clamp lights. I anchored some conduit to the ceiling with pipe clamps and tapcons for the lights to secure to.

I should have brought a bigger tripod and a note saying "yes it's a camera, please move along." I need to re-edit this too...


Pre-public arrival.

Jason talking to the documentary film maker. He's been following John Edel around for a few years and says he's going to make something in 20. Should be interesting. John is a really cool guy. He manages his pie in the sky thoughts with a down to earth attitude that's impossible not to admire.
Max.
Nice and blurry, just the way I like me. Photo Credit: Vija.

Walnut and Steel Coffee Table

I just finished making this walnut and steel coffee table for a friend. It cost $250 in material and measures 45" square and 18" high. This is my first attempt at building something with high-end materials that's more affordable and light weight. 

I didn't document the production process as well as I usually do, and many of these photos are from my camera phone. It's really hard to stop what you're doing and pick up a camera at every step but as a learning tool it's almost always worth it.

These are some quick sections trying to figure out the edge detail.
This is how the details were actually made using 4/4 walnut and 1 1/4" x 1/8" thick angle iron.
The boards are joined on the short edge with dominos with beech and glue then they're clamped. Those strips on top are the end grain glue-ups/solid strips that make up the underside edge.
Prior to oil.
After the first coat of oil.
Marking the bent corners with a scribe prior to cutting them on the bandsaw. I left thickness on the backside for the opposite flange.
The legs are bent, then welded on the backside of the miter.
This was my first time using a MIG - I learned on a stick / arc welder.
The frame uses 36' of 1 1/4" angle iron (it comes in lengths slightly longer than 20'). The legs and frame are four of the exact same pieces butt welded to one another near the corner. The cross member is needed as the walnut would be too thin to support a substantial load.
More walnut furniture in Crown Hall. Teak oil finish - about 6 coats taken to 320 grit and buffed out with #0000 steel wool. The top is 4/4 (3/4" walnut) with strips of 1 3/8" wide walnut on the underside with grain set perpendicular to the top boards to give the appearance that the table is actually made of boards going opposite directions. Not sure how I feel about that - it's kind of dishonest (in the Dieter Rams sense).
The typical rule for coffee tables is to make them 2/3's the length of the largest couch and the same height as the top of the seat cushion. In this case that makes the table 45" square and 18" high.
Corner detail.
I took some steel wool to the metal frame before rubbing some boiled linseed oil onto it. After about 15 minutes you wipe off the excess. This both protects the steel and makes it darker and leaves a sort of waxy feel to it. This is what farmers used to use to protect their tools from rust.
Here's a short video I made about how I made the one-piece leg-table top supports. It's sped up a bit in the middle of the clip to make it less boring. The 90 degree triangle is removed from the angle iron, then it is bent to 90 degrees, and welded on the backside. I've used the same process to make hundreds of pipe brackets in factories.

Walnut Entry Table

For my final project in my summer furniture class I built an entry table with storage space for shoes. It has a solid walnut frame and maple plywood for the interior. The finish is a semi-gloss polyurethane, but I'm going to strip the front, top, and sides and apply tongue oil instead. Walnut more than most woods looks much nicer with an oil finish.

It measures 36" high, 48" long, and 16" deep. The shoe cubbies are 10 1/2" wide; 15" deep; and they range in height: 4" for flats and sandals, 6", 8", and 10" for winter boots. The concept was to build something that had a sense of permanence. That is, literal heft and construction techniques that would last. If you put a gouge in solid wood it just reveals more wood.

Axonometric drawings.


Exploded axonometric view.



Rendered exploded axon.


Parts list.


I modeled our entryway and made this rendering using Rhino and Maxwell Render.


These are the process photos. It took me two and a half to three weeks (6-7 days a week at roughly 12 hour days) from start to finish. The actual construction was done in the first two weeks. Finishing is mostly just being patient. I've since decided to strip the walnut of the polyurethane finish and instead use tongue oil.

The two 10' long, 9" wide, 1 3/4" thick walnut boards cut into 1/3's to make joining easier.


Jointing - making two perpendicular planes square so that the remaining planes can be squared.


Using the table saw to get the rest square. Walnut is one of the best woods to work with.



This is called a domino machine by Festool. It makes a floating mortise and tenon joint. What's that? Basically a squared dowel. It allows the wood to shrink, swell, and move without damaging itself. It also allows the maker to waste less wood because everything lines up perfectly. The resultant piece is also much stronger.


Creating the mortises for the oak tenons and wood glue.


Gluing.


Once gluing is done it's off to the planar to make everything uniformly thick.


I kept the boards in order so that the grain pattern will follow around the piece. It sounds simple but it was surprisingly difficult to keep it all in order.


This is the interior shelving for the shoes. It's 3/4" maple plywood.



Humidity was a huge problem...


The plywood grew by a 1/16".


This is the jig to make the finger joints. You adjust the width of them by moving the back piece of wood. The difference between perfection and utter failure is within the width of a single line of lead (look at the left side bottom of the photo). All those pieces are tests.



Routing out for the shelves and strips for the walnut within walnut inlays.




This is the walnut routed on three sides for the shelves, the walnut strip to hide the plys, and the walnut inlay on the exterior.


More RH problems... I had to hand file each side of all the fingers, but it's better than fighting it during assembly.


This is the second jig I built to put the frame together. The first one was too weak and this one was too. If I built it again it'd be made of 2x8's and lag bolts.


This is all done to ensure that everything is square. Lots of planning beforehand. If you screw up here you just bought yourself some expensive firewood.




To flatten the finger joints I made a jig (see a pattern here?) that would elevate the router. It was incredibly sensitive. The removal of 1/64" of an inch is very visible and it's easy to just push the jig down a little harder and do just that.



Putting polyurethane on the maple ply. It ended up with 4 or 5 coats.


The inlays.



Japanese sawing off the excess for a flush finish.


Dominoed backing - I used 1/2" maple ply. I hate when you buy something from IKEA or whatever and the backing is 1/8" MDF/cardboard veneer junk.





First coat of the polyurethane. I should have used gloss for the first several coats THEN semi-gloss. Regardless, I'm stripping it soon and replacing it with tongue oil.


Using a micrometer and planar to get the right thickness. I made it five thousands (0.005") over so that it would compress in the joints.



I didn't want to use nails and I also wanted the pieces to be solid so I routed out the furring strips to create an egg-crate joint wherever they intersect.


The butt (back).



Here you can see the egg-crate joint and the dominos. The lack of steel means it will last forever as long as it's not abused too much. Wood on wood joints instead of steel means everything expands and contracts at roughly the same rates as the temperature and humidity changes.




The live-edge corner.


Using a block plane to get everything nice and flat. I also had to tape off the inside so I could apply the finish without disturbing the already applied finish on the maple.



Crown Hall was empty so I used it as a big photo studio.










The view in my large format.



This was the digital test photo...


... and the 4x5 film negative. Shooting in Mies's masterpiece - empty none the less - is quite the perk of going to IIT.


Modern furniture + neo-georgian architecture = kind of awkward. Guess I'll have to design a house to put my furniture in.