Models Help Projects Succeed

BIG OR SMALL, MODELS help refine design. The author uses three kinds of models to help her visualize furniture projects before they are built. Full-size mock-ups can be assembled quickly with cardboard and straight pins, as she does here.

mmm'M A BIG PAN OF MAKING MODHLS and ] mock-ups before I move on to a fin-JLishcd piece of furniture. Whet he r the prototypes are cardboard or foam, full size or one-eighth scale, they help solve a long hst offurnituremaking problems. Models are good for demonstrating knockdown features and can help me decide what construction techniques to use. Clients love models because visualizing the real thing from drawings can be difficult: models can show clients how finished pieces will look in their intended room settings, liven ifl'm

building a project for myself, a quick model can prevent disappointments later.

1 use several types of models, and the applications and the materials for each vary. I have three favorites: the quick, full-scale mock-up. what I call the scale appearance model, and the full-size detail mock-up like the one in die photo below.

A Quick, Full-Scale Mock-Up

A mock-up is a quick, inexpensive, full-scale. approximation of the completed piece. The purpose is to catch any obvious mistakes in proportion. I usually build one right after I have my design concept drawn, dimensioned, and approved. The mock-up shouldn't take more than an hour to construct and should be taken to the site.There. 1 can tell if the finished piece will be the right size for the intended space, ifit blocks too much light or ifits position or dimensions will cause some other unexpected problem, such as limiting the swing ofa door. Ifthe project is a dining table, I can place chairs around the mock-up to see ifit makes the room seem too crowded, allows room for serving platters, and seats the required number of people comfortably

I use inexpensive materials that can be worked quickly. Mock-ups need not be pretty. For most projects. 1 use corrugated cardboard, which can be used for curved as well as angular projects because I can bend it with the "grain."And I can draw on it with a pencil or marker to suggest details.

Sometimes the appropriate mock-up material is foam board, polystyrene foam sandwiched between smooth paper. Foam board looks cleaner than cardboard, and it doesn't have the strong grain that corrugated cardboard has. It is available at art and architectural supply stores and comes in a range of thicknesses (Xin..A/, in.,'A in.) and in sheet sizes up to 4 ft. by 8 ft.

Both foam board and cardboard are easily cut with a utility knife. 1 use a cordless hormelt glue gun for quick assembly On those occasions where hot-melt glue is not appropriate (it can be messy and thick). I have used a quick-drying white glue called Ivlmer's® Tacky Glue. 1 also use a variety oftapes including repositionable tape, which is good for changing things around. Check the adhesives section in art or graphic supply stores.

A handy fastener for buttjoining is an ordinary straight pin. the kind used by tailors to hold fabric together. These are available at fabric stores and often at grocery and drug stores. Straight pins are great for making a knockdown mock-up (see the photo on the facing page).

For more sculptural applications, such as a chair or lamp base, or wherever it is important to show mass. I use rigid blue foam (extruded polystyrene). It is used in construction as insulation and comes in 2-ft. by 8-ft. sheets. 1 in. and 2 in. thick. Avoid the white foam. It breaks up into little pellets and doesn't sand well, 3M® makes a spray adhesive especially for foam that bonds almost instandy. so you can stack up layers of foam to get a mass of material very quickly.

Blue foam can be worked quickly with most woodworking machinery and hand tools. The board can cut cleanly with both a handsaw and a tablesaw. sanded quickly with a disc sander (be sure to use a dust mask) or sculpted with a Surform® tool or a file.

Other materials are also useful for mock-ups: scrap wood for those times when cardboard just isn't strong enough, aluminum foil to simulate a mirror or metal parts, and construction paper or poster board bent, cut. or nsed like a veneer. Be creative.

When you build your mock-up. it's a good idea to make it easy to alter, so you can make changes without too much trouble. After all. you're really trying to see how the shape and proportion work, so a mock-up that's easy to adjust will be a lot more helpful than one with permanent joints. Be sure it is easy to disassemble, so the mock-up can be moved to a site or stored until completion of the real piece. Don't be tempted to toss the mock-up before the piece is completed. It will come in handy when you need to try out design changes that occur in mid-project.

A CUSHION THAFS REALLY FOAM. High-density, white Polyurethane foam shapes easily and is perfect to mimic upholstery in scale models.

A Scale Appearance Model

After the mock-up. 1 consider making an appearance model — a scale model that looks like the real piece only smaller. 1 make appearance models when I am designing a piece for production or if a one-of-a-kind piece is particularly sculptural, uses unusual construction techniques, or if the concept cannot be conveyed adequately with a drawing. A model gives a more realistic sense ofthe finished piece, especially ifyour drawing skills are weak: it makes a great presentation tool, and it can be used • to create photos of a room setting when thejob site isn't available for a mock-up.

DETAIL MOCK-UPS TEST ALTERNATIVES. The author used white foam to make a full-size detail mock-up of a cabinet handle. Several options can be made as detail mock-ups and then tried out 011 the quick, full-size mock-up.

SIMPLE FIXTURE MAKES CUTTING small model parts safer-The author made a small crosscut fixture for her radialarm saw to reduce the danger of small parts getting pushed through the big gap in a standard saw fence.

A nice appearance model takes a day or two to build.

1 make appearance models of furniture at one-eighth or one-quarter scale, according to the size ofthe project. It's best not to go overboard on detail, or the model begins to look too cute, hke doll furniture. Small details also lake time to do well and often don't tell you much. Ifthey are really important, do the third type of model, a full-scale detaU mock-up. More on that later.

Wood is the primary material on most ofmy appearance models. 1 used to mill my own small stock, but 1 found that it was time-consuming to cut the very thin stock that is necessary. And quite often, the quality was not as good as the store-bought model-making material. It can be tricky to mill small stock without having it explode in the planer or chip badly, Many hobby shops and architectural supply stores carry a good selection ofbasswood, cherry, and walnut. 1 avoid balsa because it doesn't cut cleanly. Many ofthe places that carry mode 1 - in a ki ng supplies also sell ultra-thin plywood. 1 have seen three-layer sheets (1 ft. by 2 ft.) of ply as thin as VM in.

When the project calls for a substance other than wood, 1 use a variety ot materials. Blue foam is good for simulating the look of upholstery. The re is a better quality,

white, high-density polyurethane foam available in sheets X in. to 2 in. thick that is more expensive but holds details better and is more uniform (see the photo on p. 61). You can paint it with acrylic paint.

Acrylic sheet or rod can be used to simulate metal or glass. It can be bent with heal from a heat gun. torch, or in an oven and painted wilh a metallic paint. 1 have used pieces ofacrylic sheet to simulate glass tabletops by painting the edges green (a light green marker is even easier).

Painted wood can be used to simulate other materials. For example, there are faux marble paint kits avadable in paint stores or art supply stores, so you can machine a tabletop in wood and then make it look like marble or granite. To make the patterns look right on scale models, you may have to alter your technique slightly. For instance, to get a smaller pattern that looks right, a tight-pored sponge, hke a sea sponge, works best for marbling.

Don't overlook paper as a model-making material. W h e n used hke a veneer, it is quicker than paint and can simulate laminates and stone. Art or graphic supply stores carry paper in glossy or matte finishes, and the number ofcolors will surprise you. Ask for Pantone® paper. While you are in the graphics department, get a can of instant spray adhesive made just for paper.

And don't leave until you check out some markers, pencils, and press-on snipes and patterns. Architects and designers use diese to simulate details; you can loo.You can draw on inlays or drawer and door lines. A dot can simulate a knob, a horizontal line can suggest a wire pull, and markers can simulate aniline dyes.There are wood-colored markers, but you need to test the color to see ifit approximates the real wood color.

Special tools help model making

Though the construction of scale models can be relatively quick, it requires some special tools and fixtures to make the machining of small parts safe and accurate. For example,

I made a small-parts crosscutjig for my radial-arm saw (see the bottom photo on the facing page).The jig helps block off the big gap in the fence that could swallow up small parts as they are being cut to length.

To deal with this gap problem on the tablesaw, I made a wooden diroat plate with a narrow slot. I also can rip thin material on the tablesaw without having it slip under the bottom edge ofthe fence by using an easily installed facing for the fence that goes all the way down to the table surface. I always use push sticks; sometimes I use two, one in each hand. Feadierboards are also good for keeping your fingers away from the cutting edges.

Joinery for models I often simplify the joinery on appearance models. I use butt joints when I can get away with it, but I also use tliin dowels or wooden toothpicks for through-dowel joints when necessary. Dado joints are pretty easy with a router table and M«-in. and X-in. straight bits. Make certain that the hole in the table is not so large that it creates a safety hazard when machining small parts. I use little De-Sta-Co clamps to make quickjigs to hold the small parts when I machine them on the router table.

Mortise-and-tenonjoinery may seem a bit extreme, but occasionally, I find that it provides detailing important to the look of the finished piece. And it may help hold the model together. I drill out holes and clean out corners just like 1 do in full-scale mor-tisejoints, but I use a shopmade J4-in. chisel. I made the chisel by grinding the tang end of an old, dull file. The steel is hard enough to keep an edge.

One store-bought model-making tool that I find useful is the tiny brass bar clamp. The bar clamps are handy because they fit in small places. Other good clamping tools are clothespins, paper clips, tape, and rubber bands.

Scaled construction hints at real problems Although the tools are smaller, scale model making provides a good opportunity to think through the whole construction process on full-scale pieces. As I build the model, I imagine that I am doing everything in full scale, and based on that experience, I choose the best construction technique for the real piece. It is important to remember, however, diat if a construction operation or detail is easy in scale, it may not be when it is full size and vice versa. For example, once I neglected to account for how difficult it would be to lift a glass top in and out ofa frame repeatedly to get a perfect fit; on the model, it was easy to fit because the small piece of acrylic was so light. Conversely, some things can be awkward on a scale model because die access is tight or the parts are so small that clamping is difficult, but on the real thing, access may be a simple matter of reaching your arm inside ofa cabinet or using a bar clamp.

Full-Scale Detail Mock-Up

Mies van der Rohe. the famous architect, once said, "God is in the details.'" So when I am working on a piece that has unusual edge or surface treatment, a unique pull, connection, or foot, I mock up just the detail. The full-scale detad mock-up lets you see your design in three dimensions. Ifyou have already made a full-scale mock-up of the entire piece, then it's a good idea to attach this detail mock-up to it (see the top photo on the facing page). Work precisely on the detail mock-up so that you can work from it to budd the real thing.

My material of choice is foam, both the blue and white types discussed earlier, because foam is so easy to work.When I use wood, I prefer something that can be worked easily, such as pine. Wood is the obvious choice ifthe detad is turned on the lathe or if it requires a texture that cannot be expressed in some other quickly worked material.

JAN ZAITLIN is an industrial designer and a furniture-, maker in Albany, Calif.

Fas I build the model, I imagine that I am doing everything in full scale, and based on that experience, I choose the best • construction technique for the real piece.

Photos Make Models Look Real

Scale models that are made with care can be photographed to look hke full-size pieces, as shown in the photo at right. This is a great design and presentation tool.

Determine the Background

The easiest background is a sheet of paper large enough to fill the picture frame. Use any color paper as long as it isn't glossy. Bend the paper, don't crease it, so it sits on a tabletop and runs up a wall behind the table. For a more dramatic effect, use a roll ofback-ground paper, available in a variety of colors from professional photo supply stores.Tack one end to the wall, and put a table about 3 ft. away from the wall. Roll the paper onto the table, and set the roll on the floor. Place the model on the paper near the front of the table, and focus light there. The background fades into darkness, which contrasts with the lighted model.

Photos of the Piece on Site

To see what the piece will look hke on site, 1 use three pieces of foam board taped together on the back side to form two walls and a floor large enough to house the model and fill the picture frame (see the photo below).To give a sense of scale, I use a few props.This can be as simple to do as drawing an outline of a door with a circle for a knob at the right height. When ] was photographing a model of an audio-visual storage system, I drew a screen on a cardboard television set, which was just a rectangle of gray cardboard propped up from behind with a little cardboard triangle.

Figures Add Human Dimension

I find scale figures helpful, too.You can make a quick one by photocopying a figure from an architectural graphics book or a department store advertisement. Enlarge or reduce the figure until it is the right size. Use spray mount to fix the figure as a

THREE PIECES OF FOAM BOARD can make a room-With the camera pulled back, the Illusion Is revealed. The backdrop Is held up by string and tape. Simple shop-style clamp lights can substitute for the electronic flash shown here.

MODELS LET YOU LOOK at the result In advance. This scale model of a conference table comes to life when photographed with a few props and an appropriate background. Cardboard or clear acrylic human figures add scale.

culling guide to any rigid, thin material, like X-in. acrylic. Then glue a small triangle to the back oflhe figure to make it stand on its own.

Photo Tips

In addition lo a 3.5mm camera, I would suggest lhat you use a macro lens or a set ofmagnifying lenses, called close-up fillers, which screw onto a lens to allow you to focus at much closer distances than standard lenses. A tripod and a cable shutter release allow you lo snap a shot without wiggling the camera. Light stands can be fashioned with clamp-on shop lights and a chair for a stand. Bui daylight shooting is often quicker and can be just as effective. Just be sure lhat your film is matched to whatever fighting you choose. Any good photo supply store can give you advice on choosing the correct film.

How To Sell Furniture

How To Sell Furniture

Types Of Furniture To Sell. There are many types of products you can sell. You just need to determine who your target market is and what specific item they want. Or you could sell a couple different ones in a package deal.

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