Hannah’s Rietveld crate chair and other DIY furniture

HB gave herself a scrapheap challenge and made a Rietveld crate chair. I’m green with envy, it looks so great. She said it’s super comfy, which makes sense given the Adirondack-y angles and nice big armrests wide enough to rest a drink. Photos below are from the lady herself.

Plans for a Rietveld crate chair drawn by Hannah Blows

Hannah’s plans

Woman sitting in Rietveld crate chair in garden with a cat behind her

Hannah relaxing in the finished product with a friend in the bg

Definitely would like to make this, we need some furniture. Note to self: minute differences in the angles, measurements, screw placement, materials, etc. make a big difference in the final result. Tread with care and joy.

In relation to the crate chair, see also Rietveld’s original plans, Self-assembly’s instructions, and Susan Young’s Instructables post.

Other beginner-friendly DIY furniture

For other beginner-friendly DIY furniture that is geared towards simplicity (fewer cuts, mostly right angles, straightforward lumber sizes, not much fuss in finishing, etc.), check out: RietveldBuilder, this Rietveld couch plan on Etsy, Van Bo Le-Mentzel’s Berliner Hocker, Ian Anderson’s Two-by-two chair on Self-assembly, the Wave Hill Garden Chair (inspired by Rietveld’s Red Blue chair), Rietveld’s Beugel chair (I can imagine tweaking this design slightly to be more easily made with few tools), Jesse Kamm and her husband’s Donald Judd-inspired furniture, Judd’s original wood furniture that one could attempt…

I’m sure there’s a lot more along these lines out there by more female and less Euro-centric designers, would love to see other inspo and plans.

Materials and tools

If you’re not salvaging, then you have to select materials at some point. Popular Woodworking has some good writing on this topic, particularly their Choose the Right Plywood, How to Prepare Construction Lumber for Furniture, and What’s the Difference Between Screws? articles. Some DIY furniture plans like Enzo Mari’s Autoprogetazzione call for nails, but most of the time you’re better off with screws and glue for longevity.

The bare minimum of tools I like to have around for a DIY furniture project along these lines includes: a sliding t-bevel + protractor or a combination square; a sharp hand saw (read about Japanese pull saws vs Western push saws); multiple grades of sandpaper; a drill with a bit for pilot holes; a screw driver that matches up with your screw heads; a long metal ruler; a pencil; and a good vacuum. Additional items that are great to have include: a chop saw or table saw; a countersink bit attachment; and clamps.

Measurements are such a critical part of furniture making. If interested in figuring out how to choose good measuring tools, see Popular Woodworking’s “Precision Instruments for Woodworkers” parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. You probably don’t need crazy high-quality tools for the sorts of DIY furniture I’m talking about here, but if you’re buying a new tool, you might as well buy the best you can afford.

Edited 26 June 2020 at 11:30am to add notes about materials and tools and to add Self-Assembly links since it’s back online.


The CD-ROM tree

Remember those free trial CD-ROMs you’d get in the mail or with a magazine? It started with AOL Online and then tons of other software providers caught on. Instead of tossing them away, my mom collected them. Around Christmas time, she’d drill holes in the top and hang them outside on the bare tree near the mailbox. I’m sure I gave her a hard time about it as a teen, but they made me smile when I got back home from school each day.

At the end of the holidays, she’d get rid of the discs that were too banged up and would keep the ornaments that still had their rainbow surface for the next season. The tree got fuller every year until the mid-2000s when they stopped arriving. Eventually the lacquer and aluminum flaked away from the remaining discs, and then the CD-ROM tree was no more.

The Internet Archive has an AOL CD-ROM collection online for anyone that wants to browse this slice of tech history.


On applying the three Rs to digital stuff

Reduce, reuse, recycle ♻️ Can this apply to digital material? What would that mean or look like?

When I say “digital material” I don’t mean visual waste like excessive banner ads and endless newsletter popups, but actual bytes of data. Is there an alternative to emptying the trash and/or permanent storage? Device storage – the management of it, its functionality – is effectively invisible until you have a sudden problem with it. The dreaded “low disk space” warning.

This feels somewhat analogous to our IRL trash problem, but an obvious difference is that emptying IRL trash ≠ emptying digital trash. When you empty the trash at home, it becomes someone else’s problem. When you empty your digital trash, it disappears (mostly). Also, it’s worth acknowledging: right now our physical trash problem > our digital trash problem.

If we focus on the digital side of things for the moment though, the biggest issue is that people don’t empty their trash. It’s a lot easier to dump a bunch of old files on to a hard drive and call it a day than to actually go through and get rid of unnecessary stuff. This is hoarding.

Consider this condensed intro to the compulsive hoarding entry on Wikipedia as of today:

Compulsive hoarding […] is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that […] cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarding behavior has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members. […] Compulsive hoarders may be aware of their irrational behavior, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items.

I would guess that most of us (without a doubt including myself) are digital hoarders. For me, at least, it’s driven by mild fear, a “but I might need that” mentality. It’s the same reason I frequently leave multiple browser windows with multiple tabs open. So many major services – Gmail, iCloud, AWS, Dropbox – are built to encourage this behaviour. Some services even actively discourage deletion, or make it impossible. I’m looking at you, Facebook.

But stuff, both physical and digital, has to be cared for. I pay more and more for services that store my data, I worry about hard drives failing, I get secondhand anxiety when I borrow a loved-one’s phone for a moment and notice that they have 160,000+ unread emails. On top of this, the amount of electrical energy used for data storage is significant and is only expected to increase.

So if you apply the three Rs to our digital lives, “Reduce” is still right up there on the priority list. “Reuse” and “recycle” are a little harder to port over… Perhaps we could say that by contributing to open source technology and data, you are reusing and recycling digital material. I need to do more of this.

And to think, I haven’t even touched on the importance of recycling electronic devices! A separate note, maybe.