Subterranean Furniture: From the Basement to Daylight

Jan. 29 to Feb. 18, 2015, 6:30 to 11 a.m.
Wood Design exhibition

Mark Macek
Wood Design seminar, Spring and Fall 2014

"Wood Design is a material-driven craft and design course.  I teach a maximum of fifteen students per semester.  The class starts with six weeks of woodworking techniques. Although wood is hard and durable, it cuts and shapes with relative ease using steel tools. So, one must learn about the material and the tools in order to be effective.

I emphasize solid wood joinery using hand tools and power tools. 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.  We discuss the engineering properties of the material, the names and configurations of traditional joints, and how to analyze a joint’s strength.  Modern techniques such as bent lamination are taught.  We work with several species of wood and learn their characteristics.  We study furniture design history and visit the shops of Austin craftsmen.

The final project is a piece of furniture of the student’s choice of program.  It must be at least 50% solid wood, no digital fabrication, and no larger than the volume of a drafting table, 5’ x 3’ x 3’.  Final project design assignments include drawings, study models, models at 3”=1’-0”, and full-scale mock-ups.  We have two reviews before final construction begins.  I evaluate designs based on clarity of design intention, appropriateness of joinery, and quality of craft.   The class participates in school-wide final reviews with other design studios."

Work from:  Grace Dixon, Andrew Green, Bing Li, Katharina Stoll, Jordan Teitelbaum

Images courtesy of the VRC.
University Co-op Materials Lab >>