True I.D. Stories #30: Manu-fracturing Relationships

By Core77 on July 24, 2014 in Design - Other
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This is a true story. Descriptions of companies, clients, schools, projects, and designers may be altered and anonymized to protect the innocent.

Editor: This True I.D. Story comes to us anonymously, from an up-and-coming designer ready to hit the trade shows. All he needed was a little manufacturing help…


I’d been working on this one [tabletop item] design for a while, I think Core77 even covered it. After a long development time, I finally got it to a point where it was time to industrialize it, get somebody else making it. Before that point I’d just been cranking out prototypes myself, with my little shitty little Craftsman router table—in other words, I was not set up to do any kind of real production.

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So I’m looking around for someone who can get the job done and I hear about this one older dude, I’ll call him OPG for Old Production Guy. He’s a friend of a friend of a friend, within an hour’s drive of my shop, and is by reputation a fantastic woodworker. He came highly recommended with years of experience in the furniture industry. The word was that he’d eventually moved on into a tangential field related to woodworking machines, but was now reportedly itching to make stuff again. With all of his experience, he sounded like a good fit, and having worked in the industry, he presumably knew all about the importance of deadlines.

So I pay him a visit, and this dude has a gigantic warehouse with access to like every woodworking machine under the sun. Table saws, bandsaws, router tables, shapers, planers, joiners, and all of these crazy contraptions for performing multiple operations at once. He grabbed some scrap wood and demonstrated the tolerances of some of the machines for me and they were pretty impressive. You could tell by the way he handled the wood and the machines that he’d been doing this his entire life.

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I figured with a warehouse full of equipment like that I might be too small-potatoes for him—I just needed a small run of these [objects] that I could bring to a trade show—but after I pulled out my drawings to show him, he seemed excited by my design and eager to make it, and my low numbers didn’t faze him. I got the vibe that he just wanted to make sawdust again.

So he asked me to bring out two prototypes, as I had designed both a smaller and larger version and he wanted to see them both. I brought them out there and we had lunch and talked about it while he looked the prototypes over. At the end of the meeting he goes “Okay, why don’t I try to make a couple of these and we’ll see how it goes? And then we’ll go from there.”

I was like “Wait, don’t you need like a deposit? Or to like, give me a quote?”

“Nah, don’t worry about it, we’ll just test it out,” he says. And I’m like “Oh, sweet!”

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So this was my first misstep.

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