Riffing on a design in SketchUp
Dave Richards demonstrates how he uses an existing piece of furniture as a jumping off point to somewhere new.
During a conversation with a couple of new woodworkers, we got to talking about designing your own projects. Both of them expressed a bit of confusion regarding how to get started. I suggested that starting with an existing piece and sort of riffing on the design could be a good place to start. This got me thinking about the Designer’s Notebook, “Scandinavian-style platform bed” by Peter Lutz, in FWW#285. He wrote about being influenced by different existing bed designs as well as some physical considerations about constructing and moving the bed.
As an illustration for my friends, I made a quick model of Lutz’s bed using a queen-size mattress and my calibrated good eye as a guide for dimensions. I will make a disclaimer that I have no idea if these dimensions are even close to what the author used for his bed. It doesn’t really matter, however. Since there is no intent to make a one-to-one copy of it, close is good enough.
Creating the basic model made it easier to think through practical issues like the way the joinery will be done and the materials requirements. Can I get and process wide enough stock with the tools I have available? After that I started thinking about design variations, modeling new details as they occurred to me. One thought I had was possibly carrying the Danish cord texture from the headboard to the foot. I made a new footboard with a rail that could get wrapped with the cord as an example.
As I worked through the design options, I set up tags (layers in older versions of SketchUp) and used those to swap out different parts. That gives you a sort of mix-and-match capability. You can play with different elements quickly and easily that way.
Since this was just done as an example, I didn’t take the design changes too far and I won’t claim that any of my changes are successful but hopefully it gives you an idea.