Step 8: Appendix: a Brief, Selective History of Nomad Furniture


Hunter-Gatherers (or Gatherer-Hunters) were the original nomads, but not of the animal-herding variety (with almost no exceptions). They owned only what they could carry on their backs for 10 miles or so. Ethnographic analogy: Multipurpose leather hunting bags could be used to sit on and stand on: Eskimo (Inuit) hunters would stand for hours in -30F weather by a seal hole waiting for a feather ice-glued to the breathing hole to tremble with the seal’s breath, then harpoon the seal. They would stand on one of their rawhide equipment pouches to slow heat transfer to the ice; when hunting done, get off the pouch, put hunting things back in it, and walk away. (We could use very durably built dry-bags).

And consider the complex social use of sitting furs: Eskimo (perhaps the Nunamiut?) would put down a sitting-fur, usually around the camp fire when hunting beyond the community, and sat there communing. But when privacy was desired (traditional communities offer almost no privacy, yet they too want some) the Eskimo would MOVE his fur to the side of the tent, and everybody would know to behave as if he were not there. (This could not go on too, too long, of course, because humans living pre-industrial lives tend to be well socialized rather than psychopathically allied to individualism as we are, and loners would eventually be defined as anti-social and treated as such; exceptions exist, I’m sure).

For other H-G cultures, consider in general the use of animal hide as the ultimate in nomad furniture, but don’t forget hammock nets! (Trees required, but once found, a net-chair/bed keeps you away from a lot of bugs and moisture, and keeps you ventilated; see Tim Anderson’s Instructable about hammocks). We carry the modern equivalent when we camp: closed cell foam sleeping bag pad of course. I carry also a 6x12 inch scrap of closed cell pad for sitting on around camp to keep butt warm and dry and less prone to incursion of disease-carrying insects (the deer tick particularly).

Neolithic/Bronze Age/Iron Age Agriculturalists

You don’t move away from the place where you plant crops (some exceptions: hunters might plant something, wander off on seasonal cycle hunting, come back and see what grew -- a transitional state). Now you can build heavier furniture, but many societies didn’t really do that. Look at “tribal” furniture and you’ll see a lot of mats and stools (the Japanese tatami must be the ultimate evolution, though the Japanese have not been “tribal” for a very long time nor were they ever nomadic-- they have embodied nomad furniture into their lifestyle). I use stools to double as easily moveable coffee (or beer, or wine) tables as wells as to sit on and stand on. A dwelling without at least one accessible stool is really under-designed. Consider also woven baskets and mats and wooden chests.

Woven grasses and leaves are undervalued -- people make amazing things from grass, from rain-cloaks to bags to sails to chairs -- look at a rural Irish chair woven out of hay ropes. So if you want to make ancient nomad furniture, look to your lawns for raw materials.

In this period also, animal-herding nomads developed, and they could get animal hairs for weaving, and here we see the invention of the woven rug, perhaps, original to those $5,000 beauties some people can buy, and these are primary nomad furniture as you can see from many Eastern cultures (see the book _Nomad_ for a real-life detailing of such matters in a modern Iranian nomad group).

Recently (in relative terms)

Scandinavian-design (the pure form) furniture, of course; no need to say more.

Wooden chests, of course; I will say more even though I need not: blanket chests, sea chests, tool chests. I use three chests in my house: one to store blankets and sheets (was originally made to hold my children’s toys), a second (photo below) in place of a bureau for clothes that can be wrinkled without putting you at risk of social penalty (I keep as well a defensive one-way boomerang as a kind of weird joke about pistol ownership in America), and the third an antique tool chest to store antique tools awaiting their rotation into public display.

I love these chests, especially the one in my bedroom -- open it up, throw things into the right slots after the laundry is done, and then sit on top to pull on my socks. They are all very nomadic -- they have moved to three dwellings in the last 7 years, and the beauty of a chest is that usually its volume and light contents mean you can move a chest (noamdically) without unpacking it, as you would have to do for most bureaus (I usually put my very items such as gold bars inside a gutted TV for safety-in-disguise).

The great fact about chests, great enough to be emphasized, is that you can sit on them as well as put things in them, so if your aesthetic is sufficiently flexible, you can put chests in your living area, and everybody will admire them, rest on them, and need not know that inside they store your spare pots or comic book collection. If you use a side-opening door (see my toolbox/bench Instructable, which inspired this Instructable) you can both sit and open at once. You can see an antique tool chest in my living room in the background of my "Office Rectangles/satchel" photo (inside the tool chest has wonderful slide-aside ditty-trays on two levels; they slide aside so you can get at the large long objects under them).

Chests as a whole are alive and well but I think are undervalued....or insulted in the form of big plastic storage chests which encourage you to get them out of sight, though they are useful. Chests can have a third function besides storing and sitting: art objects. I carved a design on the top of my bedroom chest (see photo below).... but nobody ever sees it because I usually have clean clothes awaiting filing on top). Today I reveal this carving only to my girlfriend and you, my very dear Instructables Reader. Build a chest TODAY.

But the bench! -- While you are designing your chest, do not forget a bench! Who could record in full the many uses for a 3 or 4 foot long low bench? A bench of approximate height 12-15 inches (similar approximate width), 3-4 feet long, and perhaps built like a storage box may well have the dimensions much sought after by Unified Field Theorists and Occultists alike. Something lies in these dimensions that puts the human in a trance-like state, just as the eternally dimensioned Monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A bench of these dimensions is perfect "informal sitting" height (also "lace up my sneakers" height), is narrow enough to be scooted aside against a wall hardly noticed, and is long enough to be straddled at one end with the other end used as a work surface for your Instructable projects: that would be in the tradition of "heirloom technology": for example, refer to an antique draw-knife bench. And if the bench were made box like, it would hold many useful things inside while permitting nomad lifestyle with its convenient size and well placed handles. Add handle at one end and wheels at the other, as I did to my toolbox/work-bench (see other Instructable) to enhance your nomadism. Be sure to mount wheels so that they only contact the ground when you grag the other end of the box-bench and tilt upward for rolling transport.

Besides the example of my toolbox/work-bench, I made a three-foot long, well-braced wooden bench for weight-lifting with free-weights but to also double as a bench to sit on in the family room of my former house (second photo below). It tripled as a small but welcome coffee table in an apartment later. Now I use it for all of these functions as well as a low table for my sewing machine used for large pieces such as sails (though rather tippy for that: not recommended without more lateral bracing (feet), easily done with wood cross-pieces temporarily c-clamped to the legs, or you can inset some t-nuts for more elegant temp-screwing on of the lateral support feet).

<p>I personally prefer furniture with wheels so that it would be easy moving it around when you decide to switch the furniture pieces around for a change. I have built a mobile server tray which is very useful for when guests come over and you need to serve drinks or food to more than just a few of them. the convenience factor is truly what I prioritise whenever I think of refurnishing the house.</p>
<p>Sounds like a good idea for small tables. </p>
It seems that as you progressed with your experimentation, you spiralled onto a path once trod by others, your later pieces especially the map box, reminds me of the campaign furniture that once accompanied British officers around the globe.
I have no doubt I was solving some similar problems in similar ways = parallel evolution. :-)
I very much like the whole 'Nomadic Furniture' thing - from when I bought the book of the same name, By James Hennessey &amp; Victor Papanek - originally, I believe written in 1973. I bought mine when I first saw it in the UK, in 1974. It is still available, with Amazon selling a 2008 version. I doubt very much they updated it much, as the contents have the same relevance now as they did then. I must say, even though it's more than 30 years old, I still look through it for inspiration - it is THE BOOK, as far as I am concerned, on this subject.<br><br>Anyone with the slightest interest in this subject should grab a copy (no - I don't have a vested interest, I just say what I think.)<br><br>Well done on your piece as well, though, nicely done.
Yes I bought &quot;THE BOOK&quot; when I moved to Europe in 69 and it does give one inspiration when looking through it. That and all the Whole Earth Catalogs I still have, I just can not throw them away. I buildt several projekts from &quot;THE BOOK &quot;and the one I liked the most was the card-board soffa, chair. It was great and everyone liked it, maybe I will make one again someday.<br>Take care everyone,<br>Larry
there was some qusetion about the use of through tenons so i looked up a example of a shelf from the craftsman style furnature era hop it show you all the through tenon is the design feature you want for knock down furnature and it looks just great Roycrofters is the r symble stand for
I once went to a museum with the Roycrofter's stuff feaured. Nice stuff!
Oh my god. I thought I was the only one in the world with that ancient GE alarm clock, i've had that thing for at least 18 years, pure awesome! :D<br />
its realy that old. i have one up in my room.
I also have that same clock. Been around as long as I can remember and love having it wake me up to NPR in the morning.
Mine used to wake me up to NPR, but that function did fail. Only the alarm stills works. Sounds like an aircraft cockpit fire alarm :-)
Ha! It keeps on going, too! Haven't the heart to get a new one while this still works.
I love the furniture that you have made and the narrative that you have created to go along with the furniture; it was a good read. I read the comments that were posted and you have no need of defending yourself, some will understand some won't. The pictures offer a great wealth of information in ideas to create furniture pieces for myself. Keep up the good work and I'm sorry that those beds you have made were never used I hope that things change for the better in the future.<br>Take care and strive to be as Verbose as you can.<br>Dan
Have not logged in in a long time. Thanks for the kind words. I will continue to be verbose. it is Life Force at its most overt :-)
Awesome stuff!<br> <br> I'm doing an entire building method from 2x2x8 lumber. Check my other stuff too:<br> <a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/KoffeeKommando/ ">https://www.instructables.com/member/KoffeeKommando/ </a><br> <br> If you drill the 2x2 sticks you can go crazy and make all kinds of furniture:<br> <a href="http://www.gridbeamers.com/ ">http://www.gridbeamers.com/ </a><br> <br> There is also slotted plywood furniture:<br> <a href="http://www.playatech.com/ ">Playatech</a>
I agree with Topcat2021. Enjoyable to read, interesting projects. I'm off to re-read this one yet again, and read your other Instructables several times. <br><br>Inspiring, I hope to build more with some of these ideas, both useful items and toys. So far I have built one headboard, one child-sized bench, and little else.<br><br>on a more personal note, I'd like to say:<br>It's really tragic that the beds were never used as intended.<br>I hope that things improve, I truly do. Hopefully everyone involved will see this site and think better of you.<br><br>Best wishes for smoother sailing ahead.
It's not ugly, all you need to do is sand it down and slap a new coat of varnish on it. Good as new. Simple but functional.
I have always kept my possesions down to what could be hauled in one van load. I'm taking about everything I own so you have to reduce your possesions down to the necessities of life. I'm packing the van for move it be ideal to break down furniture into components that lay flat on the van floor or a trailer pulled behind if necessary. I never plan to store anything i own you get more into it then it's possibly worth. but then again your furnature can be better then most othewrs as your dollars are going into stuff you use everyday. I think alot of tressel coffee tables and kitchen tables. underdressers side tables and book shelfs. I also think a entertainment cent is a necessity these days this has become a lower profile unit then in past as monitor / tv become larger less you have it wall mounted. a place for the desk top if you even own one anymore. A place to set your glasses at night or that cup water for late night thirst. keep up the good design work you have inspired other they link back to you here too cool dude.
I like the idea
Is there a guide somewhere for cutting the tenon/wedge?
Maybe, but I don't know where. Any fine furniture textbook would tell you (if they had edge and tenon designs). I think an ~ 1 to 8 slope works well. If the slope is too steep, the wedge will work itself out within days or weeks from mere floor vibration from people walking. Also, depends on the hardness of the wood; a softwood wedge deforms a little and can hold like a nylock nut does, so to speak.
if your going to be cleaning under the desk why not desig it to be multi functional . look into fine wood working back issues all on cd twenty bucks back in the day they showed a fancy saw horse made of oak woods the 2 X 3 boards were hewn with an hand adze this gives the wood texture and is a vey nice look it is a style of saw horse that is built using mortices and tenons an old door laid on top makes a table a five or six panel door one of the old school doors is stromers and fir a flat top to it. the weight of the top might keep it in place or put trim on it so it fits and covers the door. wa la desk and when you need to vacuum under it move it piece by piece and re assemble piece by piece really no fastners necessary. I have my whole shop sewt up this way. open door lift saw to table plug n go next trade for router or lathe clamp to door heavy doors and saw horse dont crumble or sway. no particale board or flormaldahide in this construct<br />
I belive there are five essential elements to the furnature of a nomad they beith a underdresser for the bed roll out bed socks on underwears on toss old sock corner basket next drawer shirt then pants both legs at once. With paractice one can get dressed fast answer the door just before they knock. two night stand essential for glass of water must stay hydrated or shrivel up and blow away. glasses and night light to see in dark room wall can break nose on way to john all that water and place to find glasses when waking that knock at door again who is that anyway. a coffee table place to eat breakfast lunch and dinner . oval is better those pesky corners are sharp and you like to wrestle company after they keep waking you up. next is book case for those manuals periodicles and your important stuff how to manuals. a roycroft design just looks great. and now a days its a monitor stand you know you want one because your tv is now your monitor as well.<br /> and that means dresser size entainment center everything has surround sound even computers there it goes again thats that pesky sound oh it the cell phone again must be thosae guys at the door can hear them knocking with surround sound up and on. I'd add a kitchen cabinet i like this one design none of the other stuff is necessary i'm a verbose minimumalist.<br /> bed nightstand oval coffee table bookcase and monitor stand.
Help! &nbsp;I don't quite understand the tenon/wedge method. &nbsp;It appears that that the &quot;ear&quot; sticking out beyond the bookcase side (the part which the wedge goes through) is at a level HIGHER than the shelf itself. &nbsp;So the &quot;ear&quot; is NOT a direct extension of the shelf which fits through a slot in the bookcase wall. &nbsp;Am I correct? &nbsp;How does it all go together? &nbsp;How does the &quot;ear&quot; fit with the shelf?
The shelf and tenon are the same piece.&nbsp; Perhaps the photo angle confused you. It's just a classic tenon and wedge, no fancy tricks, no worries! :-)
&nbsp;yeah... there's some crazy optical illusion going on in that picture... it looks like the&nbsp;tenon&nbsp;is an inch or so higher than the shelf. It also looks like it's a different colour.
<div>Nothing strange in what you see, the tenon is farther back than the face of the shelf, and the angle of the camera is shot from above, so it&rsquo;s natural to look higher. If you draw an imaginary line from the top edge of the shelf &nbsp;and try to go around you will see that it meets the top edge of the tenon. <br /> The change in color I will guess is from the exposure of the tenon to more light than the shelf which most of the time covered or shaded from the books. Also this can happened if the tenon got more varnish on it than the shelf, if it was varnished while assembled.</div>
Nice clock radio. I have been using the same exact model for years. Still works great, in fact.<br />
&nbsp;I just checked your word count...<br /> <br /> .... ITS OVER 5000!!!!!<br />
Sorry I could not think of any more to say on the subject at the time.&nbsp; I will try to say more later. I am ashamed of my brevity....
I inhabit a &quot;manufactured home&quot; (Yes, Virginia, it is a Trailer!!!)&nbsp; It was furnished when I&nbsp;moved in, in early thrift shop.&nbsp; The time will come when I need to replace things, some earlier than others.<br /> <br /> I ould like to know if there are further resources on making furnature, but mostly I want to build kitchen cabinets that are more efficient stewards of space.<br /> <br />
I'm sure there are all sorts of resources out there, but I didn't use any of them, you know as much as I.
The pic shows a well made, well finished, attractive, small piece of furniture. I have done a fair bit of home furniture construction & would like to offer a few comments: Never use nails for structural fastenings in furniture, take the trouble to buy "countersinkk headed" longish screws ( longer holds better in end grain) preferably Phillips or Pozidrive (not slot headed type) with full length parallel thread. Use the screws with PVA (Gorilla what else) glue to achieve strong movement free joints. Yes it means you will need an electric drill & selection of drills plus a good quality three lobe countersink tool. But then you are set for life! Pine is a good low cost readily available material, well suited to beginner projects. Be carefull to wipe off excess glue that oozes from joints, this ensures you can stain the timber lightly should you wish ( light spirit based stains can be applied before or after glue up). Allways finish with at least two coats of a good quality satin finish polyurethane clearcoat. You need to be especially careful with brush application, everything must be spotless & dust free, use about 5 to 10% thinner (usually turps) with the first coat & do not try to build coat depth, settle for penetration. Second coat again do not attempt to build coat depth & be carefull again about dust & avoid runs at edges.
I finished it in linseed oil, but I wish I had used tung oil. The nails actually look good. They are copper rse-headed boat-building rivets used without their roves; the square shafts hold well enough for the use.
I saw this when looking for furniture ideas and decided to build two wedge bookshelves for use as a desk. I am in the middle of that now and thought I'd actually read you essay. It was quite entertaining. Thanks and great job.
Done now.
That looks great! I see you also have an old electric pole insulator on your desk as I do -- always a good conversation piece.
I kinda got lost at the intro. What are you trying to teach us?
Life, the universe, and everything -- I tried to get it all in. It's hard work. ;-)
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish !
42!!! YES! I love it when people pick up on these things!<br/><br/><ul class="curly"><li>Wade, so I assume your alarm clock bench/desk/end table doesn't get moved a lot. There are lots of cobwebs all over it! Yikes! I also love that alarm clock, my father used to have one just like that back in the 80s. I think he still has it actually. Thanks for a great ible.</li></ul>
Yes, the cosmic digits are always important to consider. Long have I mediated upon 19,742.42424242 ;-) The cobwebs are part of the design. My aim was to produce a natural variant of the flying buttress, produced through aerodynamic Brownian motion. Must NOT move the nomadic nightstand (for paradox is part of art!). Yes, this is a 1980s radio alarm clock, showing its age since it no longer works quite properly. But I keep it around as an example of heirloom technology (and it is one of the first clock radios I owned with battery back up! That could save a guy's job, when you think about it). However, I am always interested in passive dust collection strategies. Know any? I am disturbed by dust on the whole, yet beyond going around and actually removing it, I am clueless about what to do. Sounds like an award-winning instructutable could be done for this topic.
Loved the essay. I spent three or four years living a semi-nomadic life. I sometimes wish I were single again (even though I love my husband to death) so I could be free to travel again.
Nice read!
Oh, thanks. I was wondering if people could read any more ;-) I mean, really READ (read something larger than can fit in an average screen e-mail message box). Possibly the computer screen (not necessarily the computer) will be the critical factor in the decline and fall of western 'information-age' society, wherein the information is sometimes curiously defined and detested. ;-)
I'm a strong believer in utility before fashion. However, utility should aspire to embrace some fashion. As for the long diatribe, I'm afraid I respectfully disagree on a few counts. First, ones ability to read is evidenced not by their willingness to read an unnecessarily long rant, loosely connected to furniture creation. Second, you most certainly broke the "writer & reader" contract. You underestimate your audience. You intentionally speak over them as if to say you are their superior in some cerebral way. Third, as a person who profession requires clear concise communication at all times with all concerned parties, you take way to long to get to the point. Nobody ready a DYI forum is going to be interested in your overly complex way of explaining you affinity for simple furniture. Fourth, I get why you do it. Do you?

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Bio: If you read blogs, come vist mine: www.tristramshandy21st. blogspot.com where right now I am posting chapters of my humorous and philosophical nonfiction, "In ... More »
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