# Fun with rectangular office technology

3 Steps
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 9000 says: Oct 18, 2007. 12:44 AM
Carve Ducks!! Nice instructable, very useful tips
Wade Tarzia (author) in reply to HAL 9000Jan 29, 2008. 12:26 PM
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.
By the way, the story is called Balzac's War and is available post print publication on line somewhere I believe.
skinnyboy says: Jan 12, 2008. 8:27 AM
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?
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).
inquisitive says: Jan 17, 2008. 10:51 PM
Your wit and perspective are certainly a main reason I keep coming back to this site and pass it on to my friends!
edel says: Mar 6, 2007. 7:14 AM
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
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).
train10 says: Nov 19, 2006. 9:54 PM
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!
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!
radiorental says: Nov 18, 2006. 7:09 AM
right on!! I am totally going to start woodifying/naturalsing my cube. I dont know why I didnt think of this before. cheers.
Please do. Instructables gets better every time someone posts a nomadic/portable furniture entry
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 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!
benjiwenjifoofoo says: Nov 19, 2006. 9:41 AM
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?