Spring 2015

The foundation of this course is the do-it-yourself ethic. Everyone needs to practice making things in order to become accomplished at it. In this class, wood is the primary material of construction for several reasons. Although wood is hard and durable, it cuts, shapes, and joins together with relative ease when using steel tools. So, one must learn about the material and the tools in order to be effective.

Wood construction is both additive and subtractive in nearly equal measure. The strength of wood comes from its grain direction. Although it is strong in some directions, it is very weak in others. The parameters resulting from this relative grain strength determine the shapes and connections that are practical in wood. These parameters facilitate design decision-making.

Following author David Pye, I define craft as the exercise of judgment, dexterity, and care in the practice of making. I emphasize solid-wood joinery using both hand tools and power tools. During the first five weeks, I will demonstrate techniques, and you the student will perform the same exercises, as well as several short design/build assignments. We will make traditional wood joints and use modern techniques such as routing and bent lamination. Your mind, your hands, your tools, and your lumber will spend time working together. You will be sharpening tools, buying and moving boards, operating machines, and getting glue and dust on your clothes. 

We will study furniture design history and analyze how good designs indicate a working knowledge of the material. We will visit local wood and metal shops to meet artisans who are in the business of reading architectural drawings and building the designs. In a tanglible way, the work of these makers connects the design to the finished product. It is impossible to draw every design at full scale, so the artisan makes decisions about the smallest details. 

During the second half of the semester, you will fabricate your final project, with each of you designing a single piece of furniture to be completed by the end of the semester. We will discuss the program, the functional requirements of the piece. A chair, for instance, is not a generic thing but a particular thing, for relaxing or for sitting at a table - the more specifically it is programed, the better. You will use a variety of media to render your designs and to evaluate your decisions. Your final project will receive several design reviews including an intermediate critique with guest reviewers. We will also participate in school-wide final reviews.