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Adventures in Custom Table Top Design – Part 2

by Jacob Peel, Marziah Rajabzadeh, Jolene Byford, Elyssa Kelly, Heather McGinn, Ric Battaglia, Karim Hassanein

“Do, Learn, Adjust” is a common refrain in our office. When our minimal surface table top failed to hold after being removed from its frame, the Bassline team quickly decided we needed to stick with the form of our design, and find a way to fabricate it with the tools and materials already present in our office.

Using Grasshopper and Rhino, we created the cut-file for a mock minimal surface to be constructed with plywood slats. After sourcing the wood, we started another round of shifts. This time, we were tending to our CNC router, sanding and cleaning the finished slats, and assembling the table. Several members of the team had never worked with the router before, so this ended up being a great way to expand our internal user base.

To support the slats, we routed two rails that follow our undulating surface, and rest on the Bassline structure. These rails turned out to be a little too thin, flexing under the weight of the slats in some places, but they just had to hold up for the launch party. We plan to re-cut them out of aluminum or steel, powder-coated black to match the legs.

After a whirlwind of doing, learning, and adjusting, we finally had a table top to present at Steelcase’s launch party. There was a brief overview of the Bassline product, and a Q+A session where the product representatives asked project teams about our experiences, challenges, and feedback.

With that, we jumped into sharing our work. Because so much of our final product was the result of experimentation, we brought our unsuccessful mesh and resin top to illustrate our process. People responded with interest, and appreciated how transparent we were about the things that didn’t quite work. We wanted to convey how much we learned while making our table, in part because we did everything ourselves without assistance from outside fabricators.

As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones to ditch the sub-top, but none of the other participants had designs that pushed down past the top of the leg structure. Steelcase gave us a shout-out for “breaking the rules”, and expressed interest in speaking with us about how to eliminate the sub-top altogether.

We took risks working with materials and techniques that were unfamiliar to us, in order to find an unexpected and exciting solution. As a result, we produced a unique piece of furniture, encouraged the manufacturer to think about their own product in a new way, and increased our internal pool of CNC experts. We feel pretty good about all that, but we’re not ready to give up on minimal surfaces, or fabric architecture. Inspired by the ideas we left on the cutting room floor, we’re ramping up for something bigger, and we’re bringing in some friends…

More details in the months ahead, so mark your calendars for Design Week Portland, April 2018. And watch this space!