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Thread: Open Source Furniture Design

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    SE Minnesota

    Open Source Furniture Design

    One of the presentations at SketchUp 3D Basecamp was given by Nick Ierodiaconou, a London-based architect and designer with a group called 00 (Zero Zero). He spoke about a number of things including a project called Wikihouse which is basically a structure whose parts were CNC cut from plywood, shipped to the site and assembled with minimal tools. The Wikihouse was designed in London, cut in Virginia and built at the Maker Faire in NewYork. Another thing he talked about is a site called Open Desk which offers a collection of open source furniture designs. The furniture is also designed to be CNC cut from sheet goods. I wouldn't classify this furniture as "fine woodworking" but I think the ideas have merit. The intent is to hit a point between Ikea and Wally World flat pack furniture and more traditional furniture that most of us are used to making in our shops. The idea is that these furniture designs are made available at no charge, can be sent to a local "maker" and delivered to the customer easily. Any shop with a ShopBot or equivalent could make these pieces. They can be shipped flat and assembled in the customer's home or they could be assembled before delivery. They could be made of plywood, termite poop, melamine, Corian or whatever.

    This is a simple small desk I modeled based on the downloaded CAD file from the Open Desk site.

    I don't think this sort of furniture will replace the fine Shaker, Federal and other classic style pieces many woodworkers like to produce but it would hit a lower price point that would be accessible to more people and it might be worth adding to your options if you have the equipment to make it. If you want to make your own designs to offer, SketchUp is more than up to the task. There are a number of makers listed on the Open Desk site and it looks like there's opportunities for more makers to be listed.

    Again, I don't think this will replace hand cut dovetails and proper mortise and tenon joinery but I believe it's an area of furniture design and production that is worth knowing about. Hopefully they'll get the videos from Basecamp posted soon and you can listen to what Nick said on this topic. He's much more eloquent than I am. Also take a look at the open Desk site and have a read.
    Irony: The opposite of Wrinkly

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    You know, I'm sure Table Saws were not very common at one time and it's features and standardization took some time to evolve. I see the same happening with CNC machines and 3d printers. They will be as common as the table saw in the upcoming generations home shops. Though I don't find most of the designs on that site to be of my taste, these will improve/change over time and probably will become a norm for many home wood shops.

    Interesting info, thanks for posting.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    i dont see me having one of those cnc ever, but i can see where they have there place and with some time i could probably run one.. but no interest.. let the next generations have the glory of plywood furniture or maybe solid wood just cut with a cnc instead..i think with more use of them they will figure out ways to make better joinery as well.. thanks dave for the post on this.
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    I like the idea. If nothing else having more visible designs swirling around should push the designers capabilities forward. I agree with Larry and Darren, I think in another couple of years we'll start seeing some really interesting pieces come out of some of the CNC work.

    This is already happening to some extent. Last year I saw a spinning wheel that a friend of LOMLs had just got that had a celtic knot carved into the wheel. Their website claims hand carved but I'd be a blue donut that the bulk of the work was done with a CNC machine and then it was just cleaned up by hand (or if it wasn't it certainly could have been...). The wheels in question:

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