Instructables
Many of us are Homo Sapiens Bureaucraticus. We spend nearly a third of our days influenced by nearby office rectangles: desks, clipboards, typing stands. I am driven to think that these forms drive our bodies into unnatural shapes, bend us into the creeping Morlocks that HG Wells prophesized. Then again, perhaps I need a dose of Cultural Relativism....perhaps a nerd scrunched over a keyboard is as noble a sight as a hunter-gatherer scrunched near the fire telling a buddy, "Yeah, that was a big mammoth, but you should've seen the one that I..." In any event, I am convinced that the office rectangle will bear further scrutiny and variation. Let us look again at the desk, typing stand, clipboard, and satchel.
 
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Step 1: The horror of the desk, oh the horror!

It is the thing invested with all that is bad and powerful in our video art. In films people can be seen sweeping the detritus away from the conveniently large rectangle to lustify a desireable member of one's sexual preference. Or people enter the room and are faced with a meglomaniac across a Gobi Desert of mahogony expanse, and he says (usually it is a he) "Now, that James Bond is in bonds [bruauh-ha-ha-ha!] shall we discuss how to aim our orbital laser to control the destiny of Earth?" or the more fearsome, "I'll expect that report on Wednesday." If your own desk cultivates no similar allusions, then I cannot help you. But surely your desk has gone a bit out of control from time to time. That's good, all is well, no worries! Whose clean desk ever said that the owner was very useful?

As our job descriptions grow ever more inclusive, the desk must be ever more accomodating. Chaos must be reared higher than before, as measured by inches of potential energy. Use the space above. A new idea? No, you know that, I know that. But design it yourself. You know your own needs, your ergonomics, exactly how far you stretch and yawn, how far you cant over in a faint, how many inches you push back paper to make elbow room, what things you need at hand. In this wooden shelf, I accomdated two realities: my life as a teacher demands two shelves, cognitized vertically -- daily class gear on top, supporting materials below on the lower shelf -- all done up in glowing wood to remind me that these office rectangles once began as flowing organic shapes in a world with no straight lines excepting the flights of subatomic particles of low mass.

In the open space below the shelf, you see a semi-vertical rectangluar surface, canted perfectly to take things demanding doing, and frequently used heavy books. When I am bored, I just randomly open the dictionary and read a word and its derivation, and associatively follow chains of meaning until I'm bored again. When students walk in and see the open dictionary, they know I am serious when I tell them to "look up the goddamned word if you don't understand it." The semi-vertical-leaning-stuff-shelf (the hyphen is your best friend) is free in horizontal space to better adjust to momentary ergonomic needs.

Yes, a yet third semi-vertical surface is present, another book-stand from my ancient days. I can't bear to get rid of it despite that it hasn't yet a well-defined function except to collect official memos from which I will be enacting nothing. Perhaps that's the answer?
HAL 90007 years ago
Carve Ducks!! Nice instructable, very useful tips
Wade Tarzia (author)  HAL 90006 years ago
No ducks, but I once carved a fantasy creature for a fellow amateur fantasy writer pen pal (now a pro, Jeff Vandermeer) for one of his stories wherein these telepathic creatures designed to hunt down humans have living human heads embedded in the top of their heads, which call out to friends and make them rush out to their doom. It was one of the most frightening science fiction monsters I ever saw, so I carved the beast and sent it to him. Came out pretty well for my first sculpture, I have a photo somewhere...not sure if it is digitized yet.
Wade Tarzia (author)  Wade Tarzia6 years ago
By the way, the story is called Balzac's War and is available post print publication on line somewhere I believe.
SkinnE6 years ago
Nice instructable. You're far too clever for me to leave a decent comment, but I agree with Hal. Carve Ducks! Anyway, the compliment is just a preface to asking about your beautiful piece of furniture not mentioned in the instructable nor the comments. I assume it's one of three things, a low bench, a chic coffee table, or a foot-rest. It's in the first picture just beyond your foot, and in the last picture holding up your satchel. Please tell us more. And continue posting instructables. Can't wait to see how you elongate chest hair to make it useful for catching fish. Or was it just for "fishing", which doesn't necessarily involve catching anything?
Wade Tarzia (author)  SkinnE6 years ago
Hi -- I'm sorry I missed this. Or, I did reply, but I sent it to a fellow who e-mailed my in box, so Elmundo us probably wondering why I answered a question he did not ask! Oh well. Here is what I sent him, and now you at last... That comes from one of the massive pieces of pine I inherited from my dad, who never ended up building the table he had planned on. From this pine I have built lots of children's toys, but I wanted one massive, almost "medieval" piece of furniture that preserved the outter contours of the original tree (as well as some of the holes from tunneling bugs in my dad's barn from 30 years of seasoning -- it is all that I have left of the beloved old barn!). So I built a coffee table, and used wedges to fasten on the legs, which I like. I made a mistake in measuring, though, so that the holes are 1/8 inch larger than the leg-tenons. How embarrassing. I was too tired to immediately make new legs, so I kept them and used the table. The wedges hold the legs plenty tight, so lazy me has not seen the utter necessity yet of fixing my 5 year old error. The table is very comfortable to put my feet on because (1) it cannot be hurt, it is so massive (I could barricade my door against the barbarians or zombies if I had to), and (2) the round edges have almost a massaging effect on the bottom of the feet. The designs you may see in the pictures are two game boards I carved on a whim. One is a 5 x 5 board for a game I invented during my old 'Dungeons and Dragons' gaming days, called Pictish Chess. A long story. The other game board is a popular board game going back to the middle ages. But I have no one to play the games with except old friends who live way far away (college is like that: you meet your soul mates and then they scatter around the country afterward, and it is hard meeting similar folk divorced from the free thinking world of college).
inquisitive6 years ago
Your wit and perspective are certainly a main reason I keep coming back to this site and pass it on to my friends!
edel7 years ago
Rather than being banned from further posting, I believe you should be chained to that desk and typing stand and not released until you have posted at least one fresh new thought a day. I love this site becuase I love to make things, but your posting has a dimension beyond a simple recipe, it contains a philosophy and that allows all us readers to take those thoughts and run with them, I love the shelves over the desk, it reminds me of when I did the same years ago when I was studying for my leaving cert (Irish exams, equivalent to what ever college entrance exams you do in your country) I put my bookshelves on my desk, now since I am an apathetic student at best (and a total hypocrite since I now tell my own students on a regular basis that they have to develop consistent study habits!) my bookshelf on my desk was to allow easy reach of the novels or other distractions rather than to facilitate efficient working or organisation. But it makes me think, I am currently wringing my brain out over how to organise my craft room, its a loft conversion so sloping ceilings and low walls, all the reasonable height walls have cupboards, so nowhere to hang shelves so what to do with all the little finniking bitteens of craft do dads. so in a (very long) nutshell keep posting please
Wade Tarzia (author)  edel7 years ago
Thanks. My next related project is a desk for my study -- many more rectangles will be involved as well as vertical space. I may even have an idea or two. ;-) Stay tuned. As for your own issues -- yes, I think a loft sounds great. A loft must be THE under-appreciated architectural improvement of the world. They can be hung, they can be raised, they can be cantilevered, thgey can be split-levels. The Irish traditional rural house sometimes had splendid loft space, as you know yourself, pressed into service as bedrooms, storage, etc. You could solve your space problems and support traditional Irish technological values (updated of course -- all tradition has that element of newness in it, albeit in small increments).
train108 years ago
Joined Instructables so I could comment. I read about future office design several years ago. In the article, recognition was given to the fact that we need the ability to work on several projects at one time. Not in the multitasking way most managers want employees to work, but in the way our minds might move from one project to the next as we do our work. The article described a vertically organized space (electronic, of course), where we could pull projects into focus as ideas occured and move them to the background just as easily. It made me think about ways to suspend paper-based work from a grid. Seeing your shelf-system reminded me about the reading and my ideas. I may have to redesign my workspace to accomodate something like this. Thanks!
Wade Tarzia (author)  train108 years ago
Vaguely related anecdote: I have a friend who knew Isaac Asimov the SF writer (very prolific writer in general!) many years ago. Asimov had a horizontal system: he had a row of typewriters on a long desk, and a rolling chair. He would type on one novel/book until the ribbon wore out, then roll over to the next typewriter (the next book), and do the same thing, & c. He generally had about 5 books going on at once. Every time I build a desk, it does get a little longer, but I've in no way approached this enviable system!
radiorental8 years ago
right on!! I am totally going to start woodifying/naturalsing my cube. I dont know why I didnt think of this before. cheers.
Wade Tarzia (author)  radiorental8 years ago
Funny anecdote: the grey desk you see under my office typing stand was a hasty solution when I was briefly hired at Gerber-Coburn Optical as a contract technical writer. They evidently though it was OK to treat a contractor like shit, and set me up at a round conference table, so poorly designed for typing and working in general, that I was soon miserable. I schemed: at home I built a modular computer desk, adapted to the way I had worked for 15 years at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and UConn Engineering (who always gave us great furniture -- give praise where due). I made the stand out of cheap 3/8 plywood and the legs in the form of open rectangular frames (diagonally braced rectangles) made of 1x2s. I knew I was doing something considered 'weird' in the stiff, conservative, unimaginative corporate culture, so I painted the desk the same shade of grey that was in the walls and carpets of the office, then carried the folded-flat table in without much notice. I had pre-drilled the holes, and brought in a small electric screw driver. I assembled the computer desk in 2 minutes, (just like they would do in Mission Impossible if they had to sneak in and build a desk fast!)and slid it under the round table. The computer monitor stayed on the round table, agreeably high, keyboard and other stuff went on my table. Wonderful! People walked by for days without noticing until one day some manager noticed and said , "Hey, you can't bring in your own furniture." I said, "But I did." He went away. I was feeling confident because I had just been told I had the teaching job I still hold, and didn't care much about being fired. I should do an instructable about that desk, now that I think about it. I still have it because my college had crappy computer desks made for typewriters and secretaries in dresses trained to hold their legs close together--all my colleagues are still stuck with them, for years and years! My ugly temp 'secret agent' desk is now over 8 years old, functioning well.
Love it! How about a picture of your chest hair?
Wade Tarzia (author)  judyofthewoods8 years ago
I wouldn't hesitate if I could tie it into a proper instrcutable, such as, how to twist an emergency fishing line out of your chest-hair ;-) Ouch!
Please do. Instructables gets better every time someone posts a nomadic/portable furniture entry
Wade Tarzia (author)  mycroftxxx8 years ago
I too love the idea of nomad furniture (and culture: nomad ethnography was once my academic sub-speciality); chests are very nomadic, and thus the antique toolbox in my living room, and the fact that my daily wearables are in a similar sea-chest (post-divorce life teaches the beauty of simplicity). I am debating whether or not to build a couch that has draws underbeath, or at least hinged lids. My futon couch is pretty beat and I never quite liked its design-- too many compromises.
I must say, this is easily one of my favorite instructables simply because of your colorful captions. you're a wonderful writer! p.s. i have to ask- what's with the soup can?
Wade Tarzia (author)  benjiwenjifoofoo8 years ago
Thanks for the kind words. The soup is my lunch. One of the least good things about me is that I fall in typical bachelor-writer lifestyle and eat way too much out of boxes and cans. But my blood pressure is great so I guess the salt from Mrs. Progresso's cooking is just replacing the salt my body needs in my otherwise low-salt diet?
xrobevansx8 years ago
I like the desk shelf....a lot. The bottom shelf is genius. If youmade that- Did you get this idea from a commercial product? Awesome. Also I like the Progresso Soup on the shelf. New Jersey!
Wade Tarzia (author)  xrobevansx8 years ago
There is a commercial 'heavy book' holder that also spins, sold for holding large dictionaries. But I was probably more likely inspired by medieval manuscript illuminations, showing monks at tilted writing stands. Those monks worked under hard conditions copying over Bibles and Beowulf all day long for years on end, and such, and they had to know what they were doing. Yet when I built myself a titled desk surface at my old technical writing job (where I felt very monkish) I could get comfortable. That has much to do about where you put your elbows, your culturally specific habits of leaning, slouching, etc. (see how cool this can get?). But I found that the desk was modified into a semi-vertical holding surface, my documents go go into a vertical holding pattern, which was useful. I am going to build a desk for my study with another one, of adjustable slant, to hold my largest book, The Dictionary of Old Irish, which seems to be about two feet high in its hyper-sized European cut.
Wade Tarzia (author)  Wade Tarzia8 years ago
Sorry for sentence errors above. Add a 'not' and some other useful words, as needed. You used to be able to edit your responses here; I miss that, am a lousy typist.
ewilhelm8 years ago
Brilliant! Post a picture of your chest hair comb when you get a chance. In all seriousness, when I saw your desk bookshelf I said out loud, "I need one of those."
Wade Tarzia (author)  ewilhelm8 years ago
Glad you liked it. I woke up this morning terrified: 'All those smart people at Instructables are going to say, "Hey, this is just about shelves and clipboards! You are banned from further posting!'" Of course, the shelves are of secondary importantance to the subtext. I say no more.