Saturday, 12 January 2013

Where do i begin?

Well for the last 12 months I have been snowed under a mountain of paper work, but finally it is coming to an end. The last year has been filled with many long hours of designing, running through trials and research, research, research and you guessed it research. 

I have been just itching to start machining and making this piece and begin to see it become  realty instead of just being a nice dream on a bit of paper.  

There are just a few more tweaks that I need to make to the engineering part drawings, cutting lists and life scale drawings. It all seems like its coming together……… slowly. Like the pace of a snail.

There is just so much to tell and quite honestly i dont know where to begin?

Note: This story will be running all over the place so even though you may have read an old post have a look to it again as I may have added more to it. This journey is a huge whirl wind and probably should have started it a long time ago.

Well my baby has grown a lot more than this but i guess i should show these pics any way.

These are the rough computer concept pics of the Ikebana Cabinet. Its not to scale but this should give you a rough idea as to what it looks like.

Her name is "Four Seasons"

I wanted to create a piece in which it wasn't a traditional Japanese piece but was based on traditional principals. 

I based my idea mainly on Ko-dansu cabinets which means small cabinet. 
The further you go back in history with Japanese cabinetry and can see that  this will derive from Tansu ( traditional mobile storage cabinetry). 

Although the piece doesn't move around parts of it are taken away from it allowing ones self to use parts of the cabinet in other areas of the house. 

Another function of this cabinet is if it wasnt going to be used as a Ikebana cabinet it had the possibility as being used as a Kodo cabinet. Kodo meaning way of incense. 

The  idea of being mainly used as a Kodo cabinet plays more into the function of having the piece being able to break down. The thing that breaks down is the draw boxes actually having the ability to be taken out of the whole cabinet. Really they are not draw boxes more small little nick nack boxes since they have lids. This function can still be used if the user decided on keeping it just as an Ikebana cabinet.


Lets say the user had this as a Kodo cabinet which was down stairs in the living room. Now the user wanted to take their incense utensils, burner and ingredients into the bath room or bedroom to use. They would not need to move the whole cabinet but they could take what they needed in the drawer box than move up stairs with it. 

Note: The incense should never be burnt inside the cabinet. not just the factor that it could cause a fire which is the main no no. but over time from the oils, waxes etc burn from the natural ingredients it would stain (dis colour) the inside timber surface of the Kodo cabinet.

Now Kodo cabinets do actually exist its really just a Ko- dansu cabinet but used as a Kodo cabinet, meaning it has a unique function but uses the principals from the Ko- dansu cabinet.

Tansu cabinets in Japan were made for many different reasons. One of the main factors that runs throughout all of them was its modular ability. Throughout history Japan was prone to a lot of natural disasters which still today it is. Cabinets/ chests etc were made so they could be moved around with ease which would hold the users belongings. As well with certain pieces if the owner moved into a smaller home and the current cabinet they had was too big it could be broken down into smaller cabinets to fit in side the house. 

I wont be going into the indepth history of this so much but a great book that I have used as a reference 
research point for this is called "Tradional Japanese Chests A Definitive Guide" which was by Kazuko Koizumi. I own this book so if you would like to borrow it ask me. 

There are many different aesthetic features that I would like to talk to you about as to reasons why you may think I have chosen them. Some double up as a practical feature as well.

The diamond negative space in the middle where all the doors meet up. Negative space was a common design element used within Japanese design especially in Zen Gardens. This Japanese design element is called Kukan/ Supesu break it down (Koo-kahn/ Soo-pay-soo) which means ' space it not empty'

I got this from a book called 'Elements of Japanese Design' Even if you are not doing a Japaneses piece I'd still recommend getting this book no matter what your designing. The book was by Boye Lafayette De Mente which was the author for Samurai strategies.

Again like I said if you want to borrow books just ask I own this one as well.

Over here where we have about 8 design elements that make up most of western design. Japan has 65 key elements that make up their design.

Negative space often plays into further aesthetic features. One example is the half- circle shaped "full moon" bridge in the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in Tokyo. This bridge is meant to be viewed from a distance, so that the reflection of the bridge in the water combines with the bridge its self to form a complete circle. This is just an example as to why negative space is added into a design and how it can further enhance the design. taking the whole principal idea of "more is less" approach.

The reason for my negative space is that it creates a window. A small window in which invites the viewer further into the piece. The window obviously would be showing a snap shot of the Ikebana. Giving the viewer a vocal point of a burst of colour that contrasts with the darkish outside appearance.

Creating the idea of a "World inside a World" which is one of the main themes that i have been running through my ideas for this final piece.

The practical side for the negative space for my design is that you dont need any handles or finger pulls. It creates that stream line neat look which is what I wanted achieved with my piece. The diamond shaped negative space is big enough for a hand to fit in to pull the two front door flaps down and open the rest of the doors. Also handles would not work for my design since the back doors sit right behind the front door flaps only a couple of mm spacing plus the function of the front door flaps folding up ability would not work.

I decided to have blond timber edging on the outside surrounding the dark veneer around the doors and some of the other paneling and contrast to that in the inside blond veneer with dark timber edging. The blond edging drawers the vocal point back to the negative spaced diamond as well. Again inviting the viewer to concentrate on the diamond negative space giving that sense of wonder as to why its there again.

The introduction of red into the piece has great importance as well. The main colours that you will see through Japanese design are black, white, red, yellow and green. You would have obviously noticed this especially in Japanese food if you have eaten it. I wanted the red to be subtle and not too over powering but still give that interesting appeal that will stand out to some extent.

This strip or red and also the other elements of red full under the Japanese design element Medatsu. Which when broken down is (May- daht- soo) What this means in English is "Creating Focal Points"

"Japanese designers attempt to achieve this goal by making objects that are appealing because their qualities are subdued and subtle in a charming way rather than gaudy or glaring" ( page 84 Elements of Japanese design). This can also refer back to the diamond negative spaced section.

I wanted the piece to have both that organic feel to it as well as geometric feel. Organic feel from the curved legs, marquetry used (which ill speak about further down the track)  and the Ikebana presentation. Geometric feel from the shape of the doors, base, top, shelves drawer boxes etc.

(will be mentioned but further discussed down the track) The marquetry will not be displayed on the inside.
For one reason is that it will create too much dominance and take the attention away from the Ikebana presentation. But the main reason fulls under another Japanese design element

Buenryo-na which when broken down is ( Bwane-rio-nah)
In English this means Avoiding the Bold and Impudent.

Having an Ikebana presentation next to the marquetry( planning on using cherry blossom marquetry) in the same vocal position will create repetition and sameness.

"According to Japanese aesthetics repetition is a sin" (page 87 Japanese Design Elements)

I want to control the amount of colours used within the piece at specific focal points keeping it to a minimum. Traditionally you would not see in a Japanese house a living flower next to a painting of flowers or a family portrait hung in the living room or sitting room since this is where the living subjects spend a lot of their time. (para phrased from page 87 of Japanese Design Elements)

The cherry blossom marquetry will be kept to a minimum and each section different not creating any repetition. ( this will take things a little longer since no real patterns can be made)

(the above Ikebana arrangment here is not the one I'm using this is just to show what I'm trying to convey.) To be really picky this Ikebana arrangement would actually look out of place here and would not work. Its too small for its displayed spacing and it seems lost, again a great reason to make sure you choose the right Ikebana arrangement to its correct display section)

This is how the front door flaps would fold up. I wont go into too much detail on how they work at first since ill be explaining that a lot further down the track. The basic idea is that at the bottom of the door flaps ZYSA hinges are used which hinge it to the base. ZYSA hinges are also used within the fold line.

(ill post up a pic of these hinges later on for those who dont know what im talking about).

These hinges are perfect if your wanting them to not be seen  in folding sections. They can do a lot of different openings that the standard hinge cant do. Also they act as a decorative feature. The one problem is the high accuracy needed to install them, like with dowels there really isnt much room to play with. Also u need to pick the right material to use with them to create the right effective grab so it doesn't tear out when weight is applied to it.

 Another benefit with it is that the hinge isnt sloppy meaning you have certain angled points that it will stay at. But this depends on the weight load. The molding at the bottom will have a step for the bottom part of the door flap for it to sit on. As for the top section to stay at this fold with out falling down ill be installing magnet housings into the door. You will not be able to see these as they will be covered with ply than veneered over.

So when the negative magnet hits and positive it will stay together. Although testing will need to be done with this. ill need to make up mock doors that are at the finished doors weight and test it. When the doors are folded it will leave a 2mm gab between each flap so a strong enough magnet needs to be used, but not too strong. Don't use those fringe magnets u get from $2 shops, im talking about industrial magnets. Much testing needs to follow up with this since im going on a hunch and i have not seen anything like this. A lot of testing will need to be tested with the magnets getting the right clamping pressures, weight loads etc.

The idea is to stay at this fold section and also have the ability to be closed with ease. It needs to be strong enough to stay in this position for ages as i designed this piece in which the user could have it opened all the time if choosing to, creating sort of a sculptural piece not just a practical piece.

I was inspired by the folding sections in origami and thats how i got this idea. Also with folding sections in Japanese puzzles and also in flowers/ plants for the image of the folding doors.

When designing pieces open your mind to all areas of inspiration. When designing Art Nouveau pieces I often draw inspiration from calligraphy, nature, the female body etc etc. Inspirations from nature and the female body are especially used within Art Nouveau. Look at an artist called Alphonse Mucha who was a 1930s Art Nouveau graphic artist. Really admire the way he conveys female hair and smoke.

One of the main things I needed to test with this door was its proportions. The door flap needed to be small enough where it could be folded down with ease by one person with out any major effort, but at the same time not to small where it would limit the size of the cabinet. The door flap when folded down had to be the right size that it didnt push the user to far away from the cabinet. With the right proportions with the folded door flaps it helped to push the user far enough away where their feet would not hit the legs when obtaining items from the cabinet. The legs curved out from the base they do not run in a straight alignment with the cabinet. I think I went through about 5-6 different sizings till I got the one I was happy with. Im about average size so I decided to base it off my proportions. The Bottom of the door flaps had to be at waist height since you access this cabinet without any bending down or major stretching.

The thickness of the doors are 16mm. I decided on using this thickness since there needs to be enough thickness for the lock plate to be installed (will explain this further down the track). Also I there needs to be enough thickness for the ZYSA hinges to be installed, there needs to be enough material thickness on each side of the hinge for necessary strength to avoid tare out. As well the right amount of thickness to install the magnets into the housings. The doors also had to be not too thick as when folded they could create too much of a thick appearance. At the moment it would be 32mm. I believe this is still a little bit too thick but any thing more than this would create too much weight plus visually it would look to bulky.

Another note the door flaps when folded down need to be able support a drawer box on it. Its not a huge weight requirement since the boxes will only hold cutting utensils for the Ikebana arrangement or ingredients/ utensils for incense burning.

Another note on choosing the right proportions for the door when closed. The cabinet needed to be the right proportion for the Ikebana. When an Ikebana is presented in an Alcove there needs to be enough empty space so it doesn't make the piece seem crowded, but no too much room in which makes the piece seem out of place or lost. I made the space around an average size from what different images and sizings I have seen from Ikebanas in books and on the Internet. The proportions of the depth of the drawers had to play in with this a lot as well.

Spaces are meant to be neat and relatively plane since the attention is on the Ikebana its self. The space proportions play in with the proportions of the Ikebana. Also specific display trays are chosen on the sizing of the Ikebana and space. If time allows me Id like to make my own. Ikebana arrangements are only meant to be viewed from the front. (Ill talk further more with is in another chapter focusing more on Ikebana arrangements).

The way the doors fold out will block most of the frontal view of the outside of the cabinet which would be showing the marquetry( ill only be doing this if time allows me as well) Id like to see none of the cherry blossom sections when looking front on to the Ikebana arrangement.

One thing that is not shown here on the Ikebana cabinet because its a design modification is at the bottom of the legs they sort of kick out with a bit of a curve. You will understand what I mean when this story further unfolds. There is one issue with this cabinet that I'm quite afraid of though which I don't think it will happen since I have got the proportions pretty balanced. Its the ability for the cabinet to topple over forwards when heaps of weight is put on the folded door flaps when folded down. I have a few back up plans that I have come up with which ill note further down the track regardless whether it happens or not. But one idea ill let you know now. There is a large enough gaping at the back of the drawer boxes inside the cabinet where they hit the drawer closing stoppers on the drawer runners in the carcass build up. At the end of the drawer closing stoppers and the back point of the cabinet internal sides theres about enough room for a clenched fist. To avoid the cabinet from falling over I can place weighted blocks there. Extra weight will be placed at the back point at the bottom and at the top if needed which will counter balance the cabinet if too much weight is placed on the front.

Like I said I don't think this will happen size I'm confident with the proportions but its always been in the back of my head. And I always believe its a good idea to have back up plans. Its just one of those things you can not see whether its going to happen till it happens. Thats why in many cases custom made work tests your skills and thinking so much since you need to try and get it all right in one go. Because unlike with manufacturing where you can do evaluations and evolve the product and get out the kinks. Custom making you usually only have one shot and that is why one of the reasons why custom made products cost so much. A lot of the work is in the researching, designing and engineering some times more than the actual making.

The old saying the more you spend on the design the less time it will take you to make it.

One of the features im quite proud of which really only came about when the actual piece was pretty much finished in life scale drawing stage was the pull handles on the drawer boxes.

The pull handles are actually Japanese coins that are connected to a brass loop which are secured in the diamond housing. The coin would sit on a angled wedge that is secured also in the diamond housing. connected to the coin would be decorative red cord. The coins I would be using are the ones that have the square hole in them. Each drawer box will have one at the front and two on the top, one for each lid. As well I was thinking of attaching one to the key that is used to open the locked latch that locks to the two folding door flaps.

The coins are about the size of a 20 cent Australian coin.

I didn't want to have handles sticking out of the front of the drawer boxes as well didn't like the idea of finger pulls. Thought this idea looked pretty cool and was unique something you don't really see. You have a unique cabinet why not have unique handles.

The back doors that swing open I cant use ZYSA hinges. This is because due to the angle of the shape of where the doors meet with the sides there will not be enough grab. Plus the holes for the hinges would need to be bored in from an angle. I worked out there was going to be 1.5mm gaping from outside of face of door to internal section of hinge. This postion was located in the middle of the door. I decided to offset it further inwards since the sides are 21mm thick and the doors are 16mm. This still didnt work since it just relocated the 1.5mm play to another area.

So what my plan is using normal bras hinges but making recessed hinge rebates a bit deeper than you normally do. Almost recessing the hinge flush with the side including the hinge pin. This will make a lot more sense later down the track and process photos are added. This is just merely to show you what im thinking. Who knows this may completely change.

Connecting with the thin red stripping used in the top and bottom moldings I wanted something similar to run with the drawer boxes. I decided on to use exposed decorative splines. Dove tails are admiring especially clean nice fitting ones that vary in shape and size and I do admire the technique and skilled that is required its just I find too many people use dove tails and don't take the advantage of using something different.

There were a few reasons why I choose this type of joint.

First reason is throughout Japanese design/ making joints have been highly highlighted. Why hid them when you can make a decorative feature out of them. One maker that I admire who designs and makes Japanese furniture and other related pieces to carpentry is Chris Hall. Look this person up as he makes amazing work. Really love how he makes his joints. He actually sells books on Japanese joinery and measurements with them he has invented many of this own.

I actually own one of his books which is a 3 part series its on Japanese Splicing Joints. These books are full of useful information and everything is well thought out. I highly recommend buying them they are not that expensive. This is because your paying for a computer file copy of it. So be prepared to doing a lot of printing and binding. Trust me totally a worth while investment.

All his drawings are done in sketch up, which is what this computer concept is done in. I also recommend obtaining this program if you don't have it. You can get the program from google for free and each year they have a new version which is also free to down load. You can pay for the entire copy which you also get side programs with it. I haven't had the need to buy the full version since I have not had the need to use the extra icons. The free version comes with a lot and has pretty much what you need.

Its a great program to get ideas out fast and calculations. But with every program it has its limitations. If your wanting to do high tech drawings I recommend two programs Auto Cad and Solid works. Both cost a bundle. There are burnt versions out there. If your a student in a design/ art field you can get student copies which have a license that last a year so id recommend that. I didn't use solid works or Auto Cad since I have not used those programs in a while and didn't have the time to teach my self again.

One thing ill mention. Don' t and I mean Don't design your idea just on a computer. You can not obtain the correct proportions from a computer screen. A hand drawing is usually best since you get a better grasp of proportions. Once an idea moves its way from final concept stage mock up models either scale or life size should be done, also life size sketching as well as  life scale drawings should be done. Doing this you will obtain a clearer view of proportions for everything. (this is how I like to work, everyone is different, its just in the past have seen people fail to obtain proportions when coming to final thing since they have just done it all on computer. There is nothing wrong with these technological advancements it just they need to be used in the right manner and in the right order no matter what your project is.)

An idea should only be dropped into a computer when technical drawings need to be made for part drawings or when to do a graphic concept of it. Part drawings are good since some times you don't have time or the space to keep pulling out your life scale drawing. I recommend to get cardboard tubes and make caps to cover the ends store your life scale drawings in them when they are not being used. The current ones your using and this is if space allows you make or buy a large mobile board (white board same ones used at schools) hand place the one your referring to on it. A life scale drawing should always be your reference point.

(tangents see what I mean, get used to it. This info is not just for me to record but for those to further learn and push them selves in their design/ making careers.)

K back to the task at hand.

Building on from reason one above I choose this joint since it greatly followed the Japanese element Buenryo-na. subtle, interesting and not too over powering.

The second reason why I choose this type of joinery is because of its structural characteristics. Its actually stronger than dove tails since it has long grain going with long grain. Dove tails in drawer boxes have long grain doing to end grain which is the second weakest joint. End grain to end grain is the weakest type of joint there are processes used to further enhance the end to end grain joint, especially in butcher block material but is has its limitations/ weaknesses still.

Basically joints are broken down in to 3 jointing sections. Long grain to long like lap housing joints, bridal joints, butt joints biscuit joints etc etc. Long grain to end grain dove tails etc etc. And end grain to end grain like miter joints. There are many other ways to strengthen these joints like different glues components ie hoffamns( bow tie mortises for miter joints, used a lot in picture frame industry) I wont go into huge detail with this since there are many different books that go into way more detail than I could ever go into.

The splines will be two different lengths one 70mm long and the other half the size which is 35mm. It goes in a pattern 2 long, 2 small, 2 small than 2 long. Since the drawer boxes are only 80mm in height there needs to be specific measurements, random cuts are not just made. A lot of high precision work will need to be carried out with this which ill explain in further detail when it comes to this process.

Long story short a jig will be required to make these slits. Im thinking of making a jig for the table saw. The only thing is ill need to order a 2mm thick saw blade since the splines are 2mm thick.

I wanted to have the same contrast inside the drawer boxes to outside like the rest of the cabinet. I wouldn't mind having compartment sections that break away from the draw box and can be taken out. Using these compartment sections for areas to store either Ikebana utensils or incense ingredients/ utensils, basically making things more organized. But this would be only if I have extra time to play with like with the Ikebana tray. The kind of compartments im thinking of can easily be added later down the track if I want to add more things to the Ikebana cabinet. 

The splines would be visible inside the drawer boxes as well. 

Still thinking about adding in a locking mechanism for the drawer box lids. May add this if I have time to play with.

Top Drawer boxes will be identical to the bottom ones as well.

The rails would produce a concave curve. Visible exposed dowels that go through the tenons of the rails will be visible on the fronts of the legs. These would be blond creating an interesting contrast with the dark legs adding to another aesthetic feature but also improving the strength of the legs with the connection to the rails.

The legs for the cabinet taper in two different directions. They taper downwards at the front and on the side they also taper downwards but on a curve.  Starting from 60mm and finishing at 40mm at the bottom. I'm making my own sort of glide feet that will sit at the bottom of each leg. This will be in a blond colour creating a contrast to the dark timber of the leg.

So the folded doors stay in place when closed and don't want to fall down. Magnets will also be place into sections of the back door that meet up with the front door flaps. So the back doors don't keep opening up will use magnets placed into the top part of the door and into the rebate section where the doors sit at the very top. Again all the magnets will be placed into magnet housings and covered over with ply and veneer. The ply is just added as a flat barrier so over time the veneer wont sort of morph around and sag around the magnet.

Because of the complex shape of the piece it can not be finished in one whole go (finished a term used to stain/ oil). What will happen is that ill make everything and do a huge dry run. ( dry run just means put everything together without any glue just to make sure its doing to go together properly). I wont be doing any major sanding before the dry run since there will be a lot of fitting up and could cause scratches/ bruises dints etc. All the major sanding will be down when I know that the dry run is successful. After the series of stages of sanding will do the finishing. Once stages of finishing are complete will do final assembly/ fit up. There maybe still some tweaks that ill need to figure out when coming to final assembly/ fit up but will work it out at the end.

I also will be making a transportation box for the piece as well if time allows me. This will insure the piece is safe from being damaged when sending off to photo shoot, to customer if I decide to sell it or to final piece apprenticeship end of year awards if i get excepted. Will need to be transported to judges first. Box compartment will also hold all sketch books, life scale drawings and all the other documentation.

You may ask why is she called Four Seasons?  Well for starters i think i need to go back further than just describing the name.

First i must explain to you as to what an Ikebana Cabinet is than you will get the idea of the name. 

Ikebana Cabinets do not actually exist. Traditionally Ikebana displays were displayed in alcoves in  the walls of Japanese tea houses. The alcoves were used for many other things not just Ikebana arrangements but ideally they were used as an area to display something eye catching and kirei (beautiful). 

Bare with me on this through out this story ill be speaking a little Japanese, since with this piece i have been learning Japanese along the way. like i said research research research and you guessed it research. 

As well bare with the tangents as i go on with them, just like now.

K back to the name decision. During the different seasons the Ikebana arrangement would change a lot depending on what types of plants/ flowers etc were in season. Japanese flower arrangements are not like the typical flower arrangement that you may think that you can just buy at a normal flower shop. An Ikebana arrangement does not just show off the flower its self but the stem, the leaves the roots, sticks, soil, water etc etc etc. It really depends on what aesthetics the creator is trying to display. It takes many years of practice to reach the title of master in this field. Ill go more in depth of Ikebana arrangements later in this story. This is just a small insight as to what they are. 

So in brief  Summer + Autumn+ Winter + Spring= Four Seasons. 

to get a better idea as to what Ikebana arrangements look like ill show you some pics since a picture is worth more than a 1000 words. 

The Ikebana appearance will also depend on what its room surroundings are that its going to be displayed in, the area of size of the alcove. 

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