Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Design Process

I do not know how many posts this is going to be or if this is going to be a consecutive series or random bunch of posts.  I am starting to do my own line of toys.  It is not that I have completed all that I want to do in my books or cannot find anything on the internet.  There is just a sense of great accomplishment I feel when the design is all mine.  Designing is something that I have always enjoyed.  This is probably a reason I am in the R&D department at work.  I am hoping to convey some of the ideas and patterns that I use when I am working on a design project.
One of the first rules in the beginning stages of design is that everything is possible.  It is far too easy to think of an idea and dismiss it without a second thought because there is some flaw in it.  I want to create toy plans that uses standard dimensioned lumber (thickness) and people can make with basic power tools (table saw,drill press, table router, and either a band saw or scroll saw).  This is my first design in this endeavor:
One huge problem, I do not have a lathe.  I cannot make the broiler on the engine.  Not a problem, the broiler is a purchased leg that I found at Lowe's.  The entire design of the engine is based around that piece.  Another thing that could have worked is a rolling pin. This was actually my first idea.
A great place to get ideas is look around, never limit the idea at this stage.  Magazines and window shopping are great ways to get ideas.  Think of ways to do things better.  The concept of the train came from a toy circus train.  Different parts of train come from different trains that I have made in the past.  For example, the caboose has elements general train, the box car is similar to the puzzle train.  Each of them have my own twist to them.  The top decoration is my design along with the decoration by the wheels.  The cage car is something I did.  I want the exposed dowel look to be more of my signature look.  The picture comes from a rendering done in a 3D modeling system.  That is going to be detailed in another post.
Another thing to remember is not to toss out an idea because there is "no possible way" it can be made, parts do not exist, there is no way it can be assembled, etc.  At this stage anything can happen.  Designs may have to change or be redesigned to over come these obstacles, but that is not in this stage of design.
Another good thing to have around is a sketch book.  This may be a simple spiral bound with blank sheets in it or just plan printer paper.  I like the spiral bound because I can keep the drawings some what organized and I don't loose them.  The sketch book is to put the ideas on paper.  This is by no means a final design.  It is a way to get the ideas out of the mind and on a tangible document.  This is where a lot of the problems come out and are solved.  Add notes and concerns to the sketches.  This is not the place to solve all problems.  For instance, I really did not know how I was going to put the bars in the cage car and caboose.  The sketch did not solve the problem, it was something that I have to figure out on my own.  I have a plan, but not sure it is going to work out.  The down side of this necessary step is that it does not put parts into perspective.  At this point I get excited about the project and  want to get right into it.  Unfortunately this would be a mistake.  Proportions are important in a project. 
I will end on this side note.  I was listening to a podcast where they made the statement that they really do not measure their parts.  They determine the critical dimensions and base everything else off of these dimensions.  I heard that and thought it was absurd. Come to realize they are more right than I thought. For example, my last truck.  My key dimension was the length and width of the chassis. The cab was a little long and I planed the wood down a little too much for the bucket.  This was never a show stopper because I knew how the other parts related to each other.  Some parts had to grow and some had to shrink.  It is the relationship of the parts that is important.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My bathrooms

The company I work for is launching a new line at one of the big home improvement stores and just did their production pilot.  For the most part it went really well, however we could not take the pilot samples and put them into inventory.  Largely because we machined the parts on the unfinished side of the plywood.  A mistake that will not happen again.  This line is kind of a step forward for us.  The carcass is made out of plywood and the features are a little more decorative then we normally do.  I am actually really please how this line turned out and excited to see what it is capable of doing in the market place.  So what happened to all the samples, they were sold to employees for a bargain price.  I picked up enough to do two of the bathrooms.  So here are the before pictures: 


 Just because it was funny when he walked into the bathroom and got this perplexed look on his face and asked "Where did it go, daddy?"

I knew there would be challenges but not ones I was expecting.  The demo was pretty straight forward. The hardest part was getting the tops out of the bathroom.  A hammer made that job a lot easier.  The second challenge was the connections from the wall to the faucet.  I replaced all the hoses because honestly the solid metal ones are prone to cracking while out of the house.  I had a 1/2" compression fitting out of the wall and a 1/2" fitting to the faucet.  I purchased the 1/2x1/2 flip valve and the 1/2x1/2 hoses to redo the plumbing.  I guess "flip" means the the threads are smaller than 1/2" so my hoses did not fit and I had to go back to the store for new hoses.  The good news is that I had not installed the sinks yet so changing was not a big issue.
Next major issue was the P-trap.  Same size cabinet in should mean the same plumbing in.  Nope. The cabinets I put in are 4" taller than the original.  I thought just a simple extension. Nope. The contractors who put in the plumbing put in the bathtub plumbing and everything was glued in except the P-trap.  So I re-plumbed everything.  In hind sight, I should have plumbed it correctly rather than using the bathtub fixtures again.  It all works and no leaks.
I am actually disappointed that I could not do the master bathroom also.  They did not pilot any units in the profile I wanted for the upstairs bathroom.  The extra 4" in height makes a huge difference.  My first install of a bathroom was not too bad.  I was surprised how easy the cabinets went in.  All I have to do now is install hardware and touch up.

 I still need to get the mirror up in the down stairs bathroom.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Front End Loader

This is the next piece of equipment that is in the Wood Magazine construction series.  I think that I am getting better at these.  They are not as hard as they use to be but they still provide a challenge.  It is all made out of walnut and maple.  Wood magazine is getting more into the different thickness board.  It is getting more tedious gluing up several pieces for a small piece.  There tends to be a lot of waste so that the part can be handled safely.  They still look great and love the design.

 The hardest part of the entire project was sticking this nut on a threaded rod.  I should have welded together when I had the chance.  It is going to come off the first time it is played with.
The other big issue I had with this piece is the wheels.  I just ordered a bunch of 2" wheels because I was running out and these are 2 3/4".  This is not a standard size I purchase so I had to go to Rockler to pick up these wheels.  I guess it was better than paying huge shipping rates for eight wheels but they were still expensive.
I did make a couple of modifications to the plans.  I have a problem with the skip loader breaking where the arms meet the shovel.  This is because the holes, thin board and the grain make this joint very weak.  This is joint is used a lot and has a lot of stress put on it. So I put a cross member and drilled through the length of the cross member for the threaded rod.  This took out the weak grain and the thin board issue.  I also did it on the back side of the arm for the same reason.  I would probably put in an axle peg instead of the threaded rod in area that was just to tight to screw on the acorn nut.
Looking at the pictures I realized that I forgot to put on the roof to the cab.  Something to do this weekend.
Just as a tidbit of worthless information.  This construction set does not go outside; I have worked too hard on it and it is too nice.  I felt bad because even though the set gets played with, carpet and wood flooring just is not the same as dirt.  About a month ago I was planing a bunch of cherry and accumulated a pretty big pile of shavings.  The kids scooped and plowed that pile throughout the garage and had a blast.  I now have a decent size container of shavings so that they can continue to play in when I dump it out.  A couple words of caution: It will get into the house and the shop will be a mess.  It is well worth the trouble.