Design Lab: Sawdust

Projects The last few days, most of what I’ve produced in the Design Lab is sawdust. (Pro safety tip: don’t put your carpentry workshop in the same room with a high-value digital resource like a 3D printer — sawdust and computers mix about as well as water and computers.  It’s sort of a good thing that our cupcake printer doesn’t work at the moment.)

In the meantime, I’ve been turning plywood into parts.  I got the plans for a rolling cart, suitable for tools and a series of bins or small tubs for a limited supply of materials for low-resolution prototyping.  The idea is that the cart is capable of traveling to a group of students, rather than the students traveling to the lab.  Sometimes grades want to use the lab at the same time; or they’re working on radically different projects at the same time.  I wanted to have a way of moving the supplies for one project to the students, rather than trying to have two groups in the lab at the same time.  The smaller space will allow me to work with a group of students more efficiently, but it means that we’ve given up much of our storage environment.  The cart will enable some materials and tools to travel at a distance. Want Design Lab? Let it travel to you.

If you’d told me five years ago that becoming a designer would entail becoming a garage-workshop hobby carpenter, I’m not sure I’d have believed you.  But I have to say, I’m enjoying the work.  The design of the tables was easy enough; the tables lead easily into the sawhorses, both of them; and the sawhorses supported the carving up of the plywood to make the parts for the rolling cart. Ta-da!

Plywood becomes Parts Some three-dozen-odd cuts later, I have thirty-three pieces of plywood ranging in size from six inches by one inch, up to forty-six by thirty-six inches. Some may be larger than that, actually. I also have a half-sheet of plywood that I didn’t expect to have, so that’s a bonus. I’ll be able to make some tool racks from that, and maybe a cubby/cart for scrap wood.  Exciting!

I wound up laying out the cut pieces from the first sheet of plywood, so that I could visually confirm that I’d cut all the pieces I was supposed to. One of the pieces was a 16 1/4″ long by 1″ wide piece… and I cut right through it because I mis-read a line I’d drawn. I wound up having to cut it out of the scraps I’d made from the rest of the plywood.

In the end, though, after sweeping up the sawdust and throwing it away, I was left with a stack of cut pieces, ready for assembly next week.  The design process is coming along nicely.  I even had a parent help for a couple of minutes, along with a kid, holding the sheet of plywood steady while I ripped through it with a circular saw.

I’m getting reasonably competent with the circular saw. My cuts are sufficiently straight, without a whole lot of wobble; and I’m getting stronger and more agile with the saw. This is not an entirely bad thing — call it a career-broadening move.

Completed Parts The room of course, smells of birch-wood now, since we got higher-quality plywood for this project.  And I feel now as though my saw is very well-broken-in.   The next thing to get a workout is going to be my drill/power-screwdriver combo, as I assemble this thing next week.

I do feel that I would not have done nearly so well at measuring and ripping the parts for this project, though, if I hadn’t spent so much time practicing geometry over the last six months for my Bardic training program in DOGD.  Funny how training in geometry strengthens and awakens my capacity to be a carpenter…

The project originally came from Workbench magazine.

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