You are so right about CAD not being able to handle all design tasks. I think it is very good for general planning, and for detailed measurement, but useless for surface details, texture, etc.
Another thing I have considered doing for a large piece is to draw it out on cardboard to see if the proportions fit the place I am going to put it. I think that is going to be essential with the built-in office furniture I am designing for my very small office. I worry that the desk surface area will not be large enough and that the inside corners of the U-shaped desk might not be angled optimally for both of us to work at the same time.
For me, the hardest decision is the wood to use. We have limited options here; hardwoods are essentially non-existent naturally, so they are quite expensive and there is not a wide selection.
I especially like your observation on: "How do you know when a design is finished?...When taken a step further doesn't look right, and the designer goes back a step and tries again."
You mention the 'accident' of a plane stroke; I think you mean an unexpected revelation in figure in a board, perhaps applying to door panels or the top of a credenza. Yes, that discovery could change the structure of a piece, or where the designer would want to put the emphasis and visual impact, say with shadow lines, step backs or beading. Joinery. It seems the use of joinery could be divided into two camps: functional and showy. Closed mortises and tenons are structurally functional, wedged through M&Ts are showy (and classy, in my book) and if done in contrasting woods, often visual attention-getters. Seems to me that the first consideration would be the wood, what type, texture, color, and finish, then the details of the joinery considered to blend in with or feature the design and material.
Ah, yes, computer desks/stations. I've never been able to design the ultimate workstation, have come up with all sorts of moveable chairs with hydraulics, screen arrangements (I'm assuming a computer professional here, who will need multiple computers used more or less concurrently), infrared keyboards on the chair, etc. Fortunately, I'm really happier in an easy chair with Powerbook, feet on the ottoman, books "arranged" around me on tables, ottoman, portable book stand adjusted for the easy chair, and so on. Therefore, the desk space is never fixed. Need more? Bring on another table.
However, for the desktops, one Mac and one Windose, I use an old drafting table with a very high hydraulic chair. Makes it a lot easier to get up and down, can even work standing up.
Therefore, I'd suggest no U-shaped single desk. Instead, make an adhoc "U."
Actually, I'm talking about what David Pye ("Nature and Art of Workmanship" and "The Nature and Aesthetics of Design") calls the workmanship of risk. That is, you do everything you can by hand to allow accidents to happen. Then all you need do is recognize when to keep an accident.
I disagree about wedged through M&T's, personally think they look sort of clunky (it's what I don't much like about the Craftsman designs); but they facilitate a knock down approach, which is very cool. Now a pegged tenon is so cool, strong and good..... Good thing we don't all have to use the same style books.
It's hard to disagree with you about choosing the wood first. To me this and the joinery are more or less concurrent, all mixed up in the process. I couldn't begin to say which comes first.
"the workmanship of risk. That is, you do everything you can by hand to allow accidents to happen. Then all you need do is recognize when to keep an accident".
...did Pye say that somewhere? I've seen his concept defined as "the idea that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making," as opposed to the workmanship of certainty, with pre-set, repeatable results guaranteed, as in a production run.
And, I'm thinking you are referring more to tusk tenons as clunky looking knock-down joinery, when I meant to refer to through, wedged tenons, gracefully carried out thusly:
a little hard to describe in words: instead of two vertical slats attached to both top and bottom units at the back, which would set them out from the wall a little, you could inset narrow strips as mounting blocks, say 4"long and only 3/8" wide, 1/2" protruding, centered on the 12" deep sides of the base and maybe three places along the back, then rout a loosely mating groove in the plywood underside edge of the top unit to rest over them. Round them down on the edges slightly for a smooth fit. I'd still tack that thing to at least one wall stud, but small cleats like that would keep it from sliding around, and even 3/8" dowels would work here and there, though mating them would be tricky on such a large piece.. I hope you'll post a picture of it with the stained glass in; sounds very fine indeed.
Assuming you plan to use the headboard as a back rest, which may be dubious given you use a waterbed, I think you have two choices. One is to attach it to the wall. The other is to somehow introduce two sturdy stiles, at least 4X4. Pretty much what you and Barb have said.
It's my interpretation/implementation of Pye's workmanship of risk. The more process automating things you get out of the way the more opportunities you have to introduce risk. A hand saw introduces more risk than a table saw. I suspect he said a lot more, but I have limited patience with philosophy texts. They seem to spend so much time refuting all counter arguments in advance that the core ideas are hidden by the excessive number of words (that last phrase is a joke, taken from Amadeus).
I like your wedged tenons OK; but I tend more towards a certain modesty in revealing joinery. The Japanese consider reveal joinery bragging. I'm not far off from that attitude.
The more we discuss it, the more I agree with attaching it to the wall.
This is not the old-fashioned kind of waterbed, Pam. It looks like a regular mattress. The center is a waveless waterbed mattress, surrounded by 4" thick sturdy foam edges. It is entirely contained in a fabric cover -- same kind of heavy damask-looking fabric as a standard mattress. There is very little movement because the water mattress is cellular. It does mold to the body and you can heat the water, so the bed is really snuggly in the winter.
I finished the base this morning except for its doors. I am gluing them up right now. So they can deliver the bed tomorrow and we will be ready for it. Now on to completing the design for the top part.
although she probably has a pretty good idea how to do it the way she wants it anyway. She's already built the base unit, with side doors on it for storage, I think, but wants to attach a top unit above the 74" wide, 12" deep base, apparently attached to the wall, so just about anything goes. She doesn't have to listen to any of it, but let's take it as a design exercise. We could put one small bank of drawers above the sleeper's heads and hang a gooseneck lamp, or go clear to the ceiling if we want, with gothic tracery and hand carved pilasters standing on each side of a false drop, concealing amber canister lighting. She had mentioned wanting to have lighting, a place to store books and put coffee cups down, as well as including stained glass. I envision drop-down leafs at the bedside on butler tray hinges, with routed cup holders in the leaves (joke). But seriously, if any of you had to design such a unit, what would it look like? Sounds a little like she wants to 'camp' in the bedroom, or 'cocoon' in there, with all the conveniences. Where would we build in storage for the remote control for a flat screen TV, place the telephone for easy access in the dark, or hide a secret compartment? Any takers?
If your waterbed leaked a coupla' weeks ago, Johanna, it sure will be good to be up off the floor tomorrow, huh? ;-)
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