It's always tempting to put up a project and only show the 'straight line' from concept to result- Get these materials, do these steps and voilà a finshed project! I don't know about you, but my path is usually a little more meandering. I thought I'd share the design process and some of the mess-ups on the way because it's interesting.
Step 1: Inspiration
I was looking for some sort of modular interlocking design. The paper folding patterns I found were very cool but a little too intense to imagine making in cardboard on a room sized scale. I scaled back my ambitions and started sketching some ideas.
I ended up with two designs that called to me. One looked sort of like large dominoes and the other had a star design made out of the negative space where the pieces came together.
Step 2: Refine the Design
I still needed to decide how many and what size the panels should be. I knew I wanted the overall divider to be taller than me and at least 6' wide. I wanted an odd number of panels vertically and ended up with 40 panels.
I drew it up more accurately on the computer and liked how it was looking.
Step 3: Mockup
I cut enough pieces to lay out a 3 x 4 grid on the floor. This would let me see if the idea was headed in the right direction. I'd be able to tell if I liked the star pattern made by the negative space or if should reconsider the dominoes. After spending the evening cutting out cardboard pieces with my CNC machine I came to two conclusions:
First, there was no way I was going to have the time / patience to cut out 240 pieces.
Second, the recycled cardboard looked kind of crappy and the design was cool enough to deserve a better material.
1/4" plywood perhaps?
Step 4: Making a Connection
Step 5: One Last Trip to the Drawing Board
Step 6: Production Time
So it was with a little trepidation that I set out one Saturday to cut my 40 panels. I figured it would either take 4-5 hours or 4-5 days depending on the machine's temperament....
Things went relatively smoothly only taking 7 hours or so. Each panel took about 5 minutes to cut out. I spent the time waiting for each piece to finish by lightly sanding the edges of the previous one.
The next day was another six hours spent cutting out the connectors. They took a while to calibrate so that the slot sizes were perfect. The difference between too loose and too tight is just a couple hundredths of an inch. Even though I had tested to get the right size earlier in the week I ended up having to completely recalibrate them. Just part of the CNC magic.
Here's the CNC in action:
Step 7: Assembly
We brought the room divider over to a friend's minimalist contemporary house to assemble it there and take some classy photos (it didn't fit in our doublewide anyways ;) ).
Here's the divider coming to life:
All in all I'm really pleased with the project. It was fun to watch the design evolve and the finished product looks really sharp. It may even be marketable. I'm definitely going to explore more interlocking techniques as they really lend themselves to the strengths of the CNC.
If you like projects (you know who you are) there's lots more at our site- Mike and Molly's House where we chronicle our Mighty Projects on our Mini Farm (aka our backyard) so come on over.