Again, I’ve fallen into the habit of working in the shop and doing little blogging. So here’s another update on how the Stickley Double Costumer inspired coat tree is progressing. Since my first post, we’ve been working on creating prototypes of the two major components of this piece — the feet and the posts. First, let’s talk about the feet.
The feet were inspired by an oak tree on my property. I wanted to create the feeling that the coat tree is growing out of the floor, similar to how a giant, white oak grows out of the ground. The key challenges here were how, and how-much to flare the feet. We initially decide to create a boot that slid over a tenon cut into the foot that was made much like Stickley’s originally fabricated foot, that gave us enough material to shape the flair. This idea soon lead to questions about grain orientation, and whether to go with a single piece-of-wood boot, or a three piece boot that would provide an opportunity to show-off more joinery. We eventually tossed-aside the boot concept and came up with the single piece of wood prototype that you see pictured on the left in the above image.
Prototyping the posts proved to be a challenging task, and provided us with a pretty neat creation. The screen saver on my Mac inspired the effect I was trying to achieve. It’s a close-up image of a blade of grass arcing over due to the weight of a water-drop hanging from the top, and about to drop-off. The curve, and the shape of a blade of grass is what I envisioned for the top of the post. Developing a process for creating this shape was challenging. Eventually we decided to create the post from two halves, as Stickley did. Before glue-up we shaped the convex side of the grass blades (see image above); and after glue up we shaped the concave side (see image below this paragraph) using King Arthur’s Tools Holey Galahad carving tool. The overall effect is for the coat tree to appear to be growing out of the floor, flowing up the post, and then morphing into a lazy blade of grass at the top.
As with any design it is more about the journey then the destination, and most designs seem to keep evolving through out the design and prototyping process; and often well into the fabrication process too. During one of our many prototyping sessions we tweaked the design one more time, deciding that the posts should lean in toward one another as they extend from the floor. This we felt would better convey the feeling of a tree.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the others involved in this project. While the initial design components are mine, it has evolved through multiple versions, and only gotten better because of the synergy created by my collaborators. Geremy Coy is a very talented artist and woodworker who studied at the Marchutz School of Art in Aix–en–Provence, France. It was Geremy who reeled me in, and created the perfect, subtle feet for this design. The creation of the posts has been the passion of Matthew Weatherly, a renowned industrial designer, and talented woodworker and sculptor. Designing and prototyping with such talent, has definitely broadened my design skills.
In my Ready, Set DESIGN!!! post I mentioned that design is a two-step process. What I didn’t mention is that building furniture is a three-step process, with designing and prototyping being the first two steps. For this project, those steps are now complete, and we’re on to the final step —executing, and building, the design. Stay tuned!