03 – The Side Table

Once I cut through the block of pine that I had used for my shape optimization tests. I think I got in the groove where I wanted to make more tables. In the last two weeks before my departure for home, I built a small side table with a walnut top and pine legs.

It is a simple design inspired from the form of a temple gate or torana. Lightweight and portable, it can be placed in a corner or along a wall and can find use as a nightstand or as a surface on which prayer items could be placed, or even just as a decorative piece by itself.

I decided that this handcrafted piece would make a great gift for my friend who would be getting married by the time I reached India. The table fit perfectly in my luggage in between the rolls of clothes and safely completed its journey of a bus ride and two international flights. I am glad that it was received well and now occupies a corner as one of the first furniture pieces in their new home.

Seat Frame: Shape Optimization Test

I wanted to put Autodesk Fusion360‘s Simulation feature to work. I decided to create a block that supports the three legs of a stool and ran the space optimization study over it. Using a plastic like ABS in the simulation and MDF for the legs, I could get an estimate of the stress-contours (best among woods and plastics). I used these as templates to remove excess material and decided to 3D print a piece, a slide in joint/frame for my seat.

Now this is the step which is not the right way to go about testing a part for strength – since plastic has a non-linear Young’s modulus and 3D printed parts are neither really solid nor with uniformity among the layers, FDM is definitely not the way to obtain a test piece (however SLA printed parts fare better in this). But I did it anyway, to see how much this shape could take with a ten percent infill just with the defining walls on the outside making up this part – would anyway be a good indicator.

Surprisingly, everything fit well and the seat was able to take my weight, but because of the lack of joinery, it would wobble and slide out of the fixtures with any movement. So, as a way to keep this piece serving some purpose, I just applied some wood glue to the dowels and jammed them between the legs and the top.

For future, this frame could incorporate a clever locking mechanism for the legs and maybe have a smoother, more organic surface without the very much visible fillets.

Say Chairs

The idea to write this came the moment I sat on a chair which was returned to my household after many years by someone who had needed it, this chair used to be my favorite lounging spot when I was a young and filthy pubescent boy. Sinking back into it, I was transported to the times I had spent on it studying and playing (with myself) – sometimes masterfully executing both the tasks at the same time. Only on that chair could this be possible and so today, I have decided to write this in honor of that chair.

People spend their entire lives sitting on chairs and yet so little is said or thought about them. Most people look at chairs seeking immediate comfort while others have a humbler ‘usable/non-usable’ approach to them. It is sad that such an important object with which we interact on a regular basis is pushed away from serious discussion except in design journals and coffee table books that themselves cost more than what most chairs do. Chairs are like people. A good chair means a lot and can be felt like a lover’s arms when he/she embraces you from behind and yes, as weird as that might sound, it is true. You might not be aware of it but you too have a special one in your house or are already parked on it right now as you read this.

You get to know them by sitting on them. The longer you sit, the better you know if they suit your actions and demands or not. Some are old good friends in distant places – meeting them after years would still feel as if you had met only last weekend, some gratify your tired back and bottom in an instant (highly utilitarian) while others are neutral as if no one sat on them ever and are so easy to forget unless frequently visited. The special ones get highly personalised, shaped and accustomed to the person whom they belong to. A new chair would not tell much, fresh out of the shop it has not seen the world, but old chairs have a lot to say about the people and places they have seen.

I remember spending time alone (not playing with myself) in this isolated area of our school where discarded furniture used to gather dust. Some chairs were probably as old as the school itself, the layers of paint could never cover up the classes they had attended.  A few injuries here and there, a chipped side and probably a replaced wooden backrest which was taken from another chair at some point only fortified their character. Both poor and bright students had sat on them for considerable times but the chairs showed no personal inclination towards any single individual, even the names scribbled or etched couldn’t do that. Apart from the spirit of the school they had nothing to show or say. In contrast to this are the chairs which one resorts to in thoughtful times or in reclusion, the thinking chairs. What makes these particular chairs special? Think about it and comfort would soon become an auxiliary factor. Only when we stop for a while to become aware of and appreciate these relics we sit on as we rush about our lives shall we learn how an object affects us more than we can really imagine.
Here is a great narrative on chairs as a strong visual tool that can decide the impact of a scene or even a great story in cinema. I assure you that this video will change the way you look at chairs.