Articles on this Page
- 12/27/17--18:39: _2017 Best How-To's,...
- 12/27/17--18:39: _Steven M. Johnson's...
- 12/27/17--18:39: _Today's Urban Desig...
- 12/27/17--18:39: _Tools & Craft #...
- 12/28/17--10:07: _Joseph Herscher's H...
- 12/28/17--10:07: _The Give Back Box O...
- 12/28/17--10:07: _An Unusual Design f...
- 12/28/17--10:07: _Today's Urban Desig...
- 12/29/17--10:14: _Design Job: Innovat...
- 12/29/17--10:14: _2017 Best of Auto D...
- 12/29/17--10:14: _2017 Best of Auto D...
- 12/29/17--10:14: _Our Favorite Storie...
- 12/29/17--21:16: _Our Favorite Storie...
- 01/01/18--21:23: _Our Favorite Object...
- 01/01/18--21:23: _Our Favorite Digita...
- 01/01/18--21:23: _Our Favorite Practi...
- 01/01/18--21:23: _What Designers Had ...
- 01/01/18--21:23: _Design Job: Passion...
- 01/02/18--10:44: _Reader Submitted: A...
- 01/02/18--10:44: _Norway's Auto-Dimmi...
- 12/27/17--18:39: 2017 Best How-To's, Fabrication Techniques and Tool Hacks
- 12/27/17--18:39: Steven M. Johnson's Bizarre Invention #357: The In-Car Toilet
- 12/27/17--18:39: Tools & Craft #78: The Mechanics of Stropping, and Why It Works
- 12/28/17--10:07: An Unusual Design for a DIY Spring-Action Knife Sharpener
- 12/29/17--10:14: 2017 Best of Auto Design, Part 1: New Stuff
- 12/29/17--10:14: 2017 Best of Auto Design, Part 2: Retro-tastic
- 12/29/17--10:14: Our Favorite Stories from 2017, Part 1: Crazy Stuff That People Did
- 01/01/18--21:23: Our Favorite Objects from 2017
- 01/01/18--21:23: Our Favorite Digital Fabrication Stories from 2017
- 01/01/18--21:23: What Designers Had to Say in 2017
- 01/02/18--10:44: Norway's Auto-Dimming Highway Lights
One of the best things about the internet is the tons of folks posting helpful information that teaches you how to do stuff. Here are our favorite how-to's, fabrication techniques and tool hacks from this year.
An anonymous artisan posted a helpful tutorial on how to create a Danish cord seating surface:
Artist Cam Bergerman revealed his technique for making leather handle wraps without needing to stitch them together:
A Dutch guy named Bas showed us how to make a simple, elegant DIY ruler stop:
Woodworker Derek Jones Instagrammed his trick for how to integrate a pencil into a marking gauge:
We learned the Japanese kigoroshi technique for getting joinery to fit together perfectly:
The Wood Whisperer showed us how to easily create pillowed legs, no power tools necessary:
Shannon Rogers walked us through how to apply Masterpiece Wood Finish:
Broken Dremel tool? Here are fixes to three common Dremel problems:
Cabinet installer Brian Way showed us how to hack any manufactured miter saw stand into a mobile work station:
Air compressor too loud for you? Industrial designer Eric Strebel shows you how to build your own ultra-quiet unit:
Lastly, another from Strebel, who ran down his 10 helpful tips and tricks for hacking a drill press into a much more versatile tool:
On Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan is a Rescue Mission. They provide services, hot meals and shelter to the homeless. Each morning there is a queue of homeless people outside the mission. Many of them appear to be mentally unwell and/or suffering from drug addictions, judging by their slurred speech and impaired motor skills. When they congregate, it becomes quite noisy, with loud and animated conversations taking place. For the most part they are harmless but I can see how a tourist would cross the street to avoid them.
Along this same block are other businesses, including offices for the Whitney Museum and a rather tony window treatment and paint store. The businesses on this block have learned that the homeless will camp out and sleep on the front stoops of their buildings. So they have acquired a bunch of police barricades and shackled them together to block the stoops off each night.
The window treatment store has taken it a step further. This array of bars appears to have been commissioned specifically to fit their entryway.
They've opted to have the thing made out of square bar stock and shiny chrome, like they wanted it to look nice.
It seems like it'd be a real pain in the neck to unshackle and carry inside each morning, but I guess that's the cost of doing business in a world where no solution for homelessness appears to exist.
In my last missive on the subject of sharpening I pointed out that when a tool has a belly for a bevel it's easy to sharpen ineffectively. The problem is of course that stones and sandpaper are hard surfaces and you get a point contact with anything except a straight line. Carvers have an even worse problem when sharpening any gouge. At best, with a perfectly straight bevel, they have at most a line of contact along the curvature of the gouge. There are tons of techniques for sharpening carving tools on a stone but for routine maintenance the go-to tool of every carver is a strop.
A strop is a piece of leather that is either plain or treated with a very fine abrasive. Unlike the hard surface of a stone, when you put your tool on the strop the leather gives, you get more than a point contact and you hone a much larger area of the tool at the same time. If you have treated your strop by rubbing it with a fine abrasive, usually in the form of a honing compound on a wax stick, you effectively make the strop into an abrasive hone that will conform to the curvature, both front to back and left to right or any edge tool.
The advantage to carvers is that with a strop you can sharpen faster and much easier than you can with stones. The advantage for cabinetmakers and joiners is that if your tool has a rounded bevel, or you were just sharpening ineffectively, you now have a way to actually sharpen at the cutting edge without having perfect technique. The strop glosses over inconsistencies in honing and gets you an edge, fast.
There is a trade off -- The bevel of the tool will be more rounded over time. This isn't a big deal for carving tools, but for cabinetmaker's tools you can easily round the bevel more or make the back of the tool convex. Another use for a strop is to wear away any wire edge the you created with your stones. However with a treated strop, which is an abrasive in itself, you also run the risk of creating even more wire edge. To solve that problem I use an untreated, that is plain, strop.
Another point to consider is your average honing compound is coarser than the best finishing stones. If you sharpen to 6000 grit, or with a diamond stone, a treated strop will be finer and give you a finer edge. However if you use a 8000 grit stone, and work it effectively, or a top notch Arkansas stone, a treated stop might make your tool duller. This is a problem that is easily dealt with but I think I should write a bit about strops themselves and stropping compounds. I'll do that in the near future.
When you strop you are stroking a fairly sharp cutting edge against an easily damaged piece of leather. In Maurice Fraser's article on sharpening he details techniques for effective stropping.
This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.
UX designer and machine-making madman Joseph Herscher is at it again. It would be hard for him to top his roast-turkey-making system, but we think he's done it here with his automated system for both wrapping presents and decorating an Xmas tree:
Following this gift-giving season, many of us probably have a boatload of cardboard shipping boxes lying around. Instead of breaking them down and tossing them into the recycling, there's an easy way for you to put them to good use.
An organization called Give Back Box works together with charities to set up the following system: You take your empty shipping box, load it up with stuff you no longer want and that you'd like to donate to a charity, then you go to GBB's website to print out a prepaid shipping label to that charity. Then all you've got to do is drop the box off at a post office or UPS center (or order a pickup online) and boom, the box is being used again, and you've gotten rid of some unwanted stuff that someone else could use.
Get started here!
This is a very creative way of turning lemons into lemonade. John Heisz accidentally dropped and broke his oilstone, rendering it useless. But then he devised a way to repurpose it by cutting it up and building a spring- (actually sponge-) loaded contraption to turn it all into this nifty knife sharpener:
I pass this abandoned bicycle daily. It's near one of those corners on Hester Street that has no garbage cans. This bike has long since been stripped of its useful parts. There also used to be a chair shackled to it, but someone has destroyed the chair and left only the seatback.
Someone has prised open the bike's rear cargo container and filled it with what looks to be their lunchtime trash.
On the one hand I admire the person for not littering. On the other hand….
If you look closely you'll see they've even stuffed garbage down into the seatpost. Now that's thorough!
You can make a salary. Or you can make a difference. Or you can work as the Design Director, Global R&D Innovation Kitchen at Herman Miller and make both. About this Opportunity As the Design Director, Global R&D Innovation Kitchen, you'll be responsible forView the full design job here
This year we saw a lot of fantastic auto design work, in at least two categories: Brand-new stuff, and retro-tastic. Let's start with the new.
BMW unveiled a sexy roadster version of their i8:
Toyota pulled the wraps off of this toolbox-based truck design:
The designers from Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations team created this insane kitchen on wheels for a celebrity chef:
We got to see inside Porsche's design studio, to take a look at how their designers are tackling their upcoming Tesla competitor:
Bollinger showed us a cool design trick in their B1 electric sport utility truck. With no engine, you can have complete pass-through storage:
We saw a $250,000 car, the 911 Turbo S, being assembled largely by hand:
Bentley showed off their crazy trim package for falconry enthusiasts:
These folks here actually built a traffic-straddling Jeep Cherokee:
Nissan showed off their concept vehicle for dog lovers:
Netflix shone a light on Ralph Gilles and the auto design industry with an entire episode in their "Abstract: The Art of Design" series:
Click here for Part 2, the retro-tastic stuff!
Auto design is one of those fields where we can learn just as much looking backwards through time as we can looking forward to the future. Here are our favorite auto design stories from 2017 with a retro-tastic twist:
We got to see a wicked animated visualization of the Porsche 911's design evolution:
And a similar animation of the long-lived Honda Civic:
Speaking of the Civic, Honda showed off their old/new retro-electric version of the car:
And speaking of Porsches, Singer Vehicle Design optimized this 27-year-old 964:
We asked you what the best model year was for the venerable Pontiac GTO:
Another classic muscle car whose evolution we looked at was the Chevy Chevelle:
Infiniti's retro-futuristic auto design experiment was a real socks-knocker-offer:
We learned the surprising history of the Porsche Boxster, "Made by Mazda, built by Toyota, in Finland:"
German car, Roman candles, American yuks. We saw a couple of nutjobs turn an old BMW 3-class into a rolling Fourth of July celebration:
We sang the praises of the interior design brilliance of the much-loved Honda Element:
And incredibly, a bunch of enthusiasts managed to re-launch an updated production version of Pontiac's defunct Trans-Am:
In 2017 the world's wack-jobs continued to impress us with their creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking. Here are some of the nuttier things we've seen people do this year:
This Italian cyclist, fed up with being cut off, armed his bicycle with anti-personnel projectile fireworks and targeted an antagonist:
The world's laziest graphic designer created this perfect poster:
Saturday Night Live released this hilarious Ryan Gosling sketch about a font-obsessed designer:
This designer built a hidden, moveable studio under a bridge:
At a spa in Germany there's this fantastic treetop sauna complex:
John Economaki of Bridge City Toolworks invented this clever contraption that allows anyone to make their own chopsticks:
The late, great comedian Mitch Hedberg, as it turns out, had quite a few things to say about design:
These Australian nut-jobs set up Box Wars, which combine creativity, combat, cardboard and chaos:
This guy was masquerading as an architect, got busted and is off for prison:
And lastly, who knew you could get sued for having a house too similar to your neighbor's?
Each year we see surprising things that expand our understanding of how the world can, could or should work. We also see spectacles that are just plain fascinating. By understanding how various and unusual problems are solved, and by witnessing the spectacular, we can all grow as designers. Here are some of the things that drew our attention in 2017:
We got a good look at how WWII jeeps were crated for shipping. It's not flatpacked, but darn close:
We saw an animation that explained how these ingenious 2,500-year-old Chinese wood joints actually make buildings earthquake-proof:
This slow-mo footage of bullets traveling through transparent silencers demonstrates how they work:
You can learn a lot about how furniture is designed and constructed by examining chair skeletons:
Centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci came up with this design for a self-supporting bridge, which people have since built:
Ever wonder how thick the line of a Sharpie is, and does it matter depending on the color? It matters to machinists who make marks with it, so this guy investigated:
In the 1930s, dirigibles were the pinnacle of luxury travel. What were the amenities like onboard the Hindenburg?
A creative director used rotoscoping to trace the abstract shapes "drawn" by a ballerina in motion, and the resultant video was pretty stunning:
A Chinese company invented a way to clear floating garbage off of power lines--by equipping a drone with a freaking flamethrower:
We got a look inside President Trump's "White House North" penthouse:
We also saw how the President travels, and it involves a heckuva lot more than a bulletproof limo:
Beautiful, practical, attractive and/or just plain ol' desireable, here's my list of the best objects I came across this year:
Victorinox's all-black, unfortunately-named SwissTool BS:
Marc Newson's stunning hourglass for Hodinkee:
Microsoft's beautiful, design-ey Surface Pro:
Stanley's Master Series line of thermoses:
Pensa's sexy One Drop glucose monitoring devices:
Daniel Perlman's no-drip wine bottle design:
Hushme's noise-canceling "mouthphones," which I'd like everyone around me to begin wearing immediately:
This transforming open/closed sign, originally designed by Yosuke Ikeda and perfected by Matt Harrison:
Calavera Tool Works' leather shop aprons:
Davis Furniture Industries' wide variety of sexy wall hooks:
This brilliant design for a traveling hanger, by Japanese brand Y:
This elegant box that an industrial designer turned cello maker produced from his cut-offs:
These hubcaps that automatically deploy snow chains:
And finally, Ron Gilad's awesome "Dear Ingo" task lamp chandelier:
We didn't see as many digital fabrication stories in 2017 as the year previous. But that doesn't mean innovation is slowing down; it just means it's becoming more precise and tailored. Here's some of the past year's best:
Dutch consultancy Arup figured out how to achieve the low cost of sandcasting with the complexity of 3D printing:
Behold the Cubiio portable laser engraver:
MIT & Steelcase collaborated to come up with this Rapid Liquid Printing Machine:
A father-and-son team invented a new, inexpensive type of metal 3D printing machine:
Adidas unveiled kicks created with a Digital Light Synthesis method:
Affordable desktop CNC machines have now expanded into the area of textiles:
Artist Stefanie Pender combined traditional glassmaking with digital fabrication:
And finally, we learned that Jay Leno uses DMLS 3D printers to keep his collection of 286 rare vehicles up and running.
In 2017 we were lucky enough to have both Tim Prestero and his team at Design That Matters as well as Eric Strebel of Botzen Design share some great advice, workflow and efficiency tips and a look at their processes. With an emphasis on hands-on, their information should make your own shop time more productive.
The Industrial Design Prototyping Process Series
Some Business Advice
Lastly, art director Chris Do released this very useful information: Business Tips for Designers: Hourly vs. Flat Rate, How to Price, Increase Revenue & More
From smartphones to sneakers to motorcycles, designers were hard at work building the latest and greatest products during 2017. We've rounded up our favorite interviews from the past year with both up-and-coming and already prominent designers. If you're looking for inspirational quotes to start your new year off right, this is the place:
We asked HomeMade Modern's Ben Uyeda five questions about his favorite tools and how to be successful as a designer on YouTube.
During a visit to his studio, artist and designer Tom Sachs spoke with us about collaborating with Nike and why failure is a vital part of the design process.
Jason Pohl from OC Choppers' talked about his insane career and the art of making motorcycles.
Levi's Head of Design Jonathan Cheung answered our Questionnaire, covering everything from foolproofing product ideas to productive procrastination.
frog's Yona Project team discussed redesigning the awkward gynecology visit experience through their new speculum design.
IDEO's Design Director Danny Stillion talked with us about their imagined future of driving and what it would mean for daily life.
A small sustainable design and branding studio in downtown Seattle. We treat our clients’ businesses like extensions of our own and our vendors like our best friends. We love learning, craft, and change. We’re serious design & sustainability geeks with a desire to influence the entire design industry. We work our asses off for companies that we respect and clients who appreciate us. Office topics of conversation revolve around what we’ve been reading lately, what we’ve been eating and drinking lately, dogs, babies, race and social justice, and the occasional internet meme.View the full design job here
Having lived in a tiny apartment in London, I had come to rely on the humble tubular-frame folding chair. Dragging them out when friends came over when all the usual bulky and cumbersome dining chairs were taken.
As homes within densely populated cities become increasingly smaller, demand for space-conscious furniture has increased. Take a look at the folding chair market, and you won't be surprised to find an array of offerings, all utilizing similar folding mechanisms with the sole intention of saving space—usually on a budget.
The Native folding chair aspires to be more than a back-up for occasional guests. A folding chair that encourages everyday use and practicality without compromising on ergonomics by offering a more conventional dining chair form.
Inspiration for the project came from both contemporary Danish styles and Nomadic living trends with the intention of encouraging a new way of thinking as to what environments a folding chair can succeed in.
In our homes, the budget-minded among us will turn a light off when leaving a room. There's no point in paying for electricity when no one is around to reap its benefits. But this money-saving tactic has traditionally not been possible with highway lights, which municipalities are obligated to leave on all night in case a car should pass.
The Norwegian municipality of Nes I Hole has therefore installed sensors on their light poles along their local Highway 155. With no cars around, the lights default down to 20% of their power; as soon as they detect an oncoming vehicle, the lights kick up to 100%, and communicate with each other to synchronize the illumination with the car's presence. Here's how it works:
As stated in the video, the system will pay for itself in under five years, and other countries with higher energy costs would reap the savings even faster.