A Modern Plywood Bench Using Spine and Rib Construction
As a furniture maker and artist, I’ve been exploring parametric sculpture for a while now and recently developed some new techniques that woodworkers and makers can use to quickly build and create their own parametric furniture with the Shaper Origin. Yes, you can build the entire bench with the Origin, but that's a small, low powered spindle. The process goes much faster if you add a router, jigsaw, and drill.
I call the construction technique: Spine and Rib Construction. As the name implies, the main components are a spine and a lot of ribs. The ribs slide into position so that they form around whatever shape the spine happens to be. That determines the shape of your bench. Spines can be straight, bowed or curved in many ways. This feature allows builders to experiment with the overall look by tweaking the spine shape, right up to the end. But, it can be overdone. See the article for suggestions. And, because the plywood parts have large, glued, connecting surfaces there is no traditional joinery. To introduce Popular Woodworking magazine readers to Parametric Design and Spine and Rib Construction, I designed this modern bench based on the shape of classic Cabriolet furniture legs. I’d like to also share it with members of ShaperHub.
Though the bench consists of simple plywood parts, the project involves several new processes and techniques. It’s a great project for the Shaper Origin, but there's a lot 'new' here. It’s critical that you follow my 10-page article in the December 2019 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine to build this project. There are a lot of added detail photos and step-by-step procedures that make the project go smoothly.
Edit: Popular Woodworking has made the print article available online here... https://www.popularwoodworking.com/article/a-modern-parametic-bench/
The two SVG files provided are coded for inside and outside cuts using the Shaper Origin. In a few days, I may add suggested spine drawings.
LAST TIME. The article is the key. This is not a difficult project for makers or woodworkers but it does require a clear understanding of unique milling, machining, and assembly processes.
ALSO: Read my three follow up blog posts at popularwoodworking.com
for additional tips and other details on successfully building this project.
Use the Shaper Origin to produce the 1/2" thick sample rib and router template. Yes, you can make the project with the Origin exclusively, but I don't suggest it. There are 48 ribs to make and at 3-4 passes for each rib, it's going to be a very slow and laborious project. Better to make the template and sample part with the Origin and use the template and a more powerful router (if you have one) with 5/8" bushing, a 3/8" bit and my shaping method to make all the ribs. Much faster.
Many very important details that can't be covered here that are in the PWW article. Critical information on a special upside-down shaping method, design options/limitations for the ribs, design options of the spine, the 4 special parts you need to make first, part layout for efficient use of plywood, a specific process for assembly, gluing, finishing, etc. are all covered and help ensure success on this project.
With 48+ parts to make plus sanding, detailing, assembly and finishing I suspect that many people will need 3+ days. It is not a difficult project if you take your time and are willing to be precise. It's worth it. In the end you'll end up with a unique modern bench or table.
Finally: have fun building it! You can make it as a bench with 48 ribs or a side table with 24. Spine and rib construction is a design concept that's ripe for experimentation. So, I'll have more to share in the future. Just remember to always play fair: The files, images, and instructions are subject to Creative Commons attribution/non-commercial restrictions.