Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It's not about the woodworking

Generally speaking, when I build something these days I want it to reflect developing skill and craftsmanship.  I am heavily focused on improving the quality of the work I do.

This project is different and it is causing me to focus on different things.  I have a toddler granddaughter that I will be spending a week with over the holidays.  During our weekly video chat my son commented that he thinks she would like me to make her a little stool she could sit and stand on.  I haven't made her a gift yet, so it seemed like a good idea.  Not being an authority on stools for toddlers, I searched for internet images and found lots, but I didn't like any of them.  They are all just smaller versions of familiar adult stools that don't fit my idea of what a toddler is looking for in a stool.  At my age, it's doubtful that I can see the world as a toddler does, but that's what I think.  I decided I would have to design one.

One thing I know for sure is that, at nineteen months, my granddaughter doesn't give a rip about fine woodworking.  For her, it's all about functionality, tactile experience and visual interest.  As her grandfather, I care about her safety, so that's a fourth design criteria.  The more I thought about it, the more I began to think of something like a one-step stepladder:

  • angled to make it stable
  • something for the hands to grasp so all four limbs are involved in getting up on it
  • something to keep the feet from slipping off the sides
  • easy for her to move around
Basically, I decided that what she would like best would, seen from the side, be an "A" frame.  I think it will encourage her to stand in the center of the step and use the top of the "A" for her hands to help her get up and steady her as she stands on it.  I wanted it to have highly rounded corners for safety and decided that circles could add functionality, a pleasing tactile experience and visual interest.  Here is the prototype I came up with:

I am pretty happy with it.  I think it might have been better to make the base slightly wider, though it seems stable.  I made the step 8" high and the stool 16" overall, which seems possibly a bit tall.  When she sits on it, her legs will be about 90 degrees, but it's a big step up for her.  My thought was that she goes up and down steep stairs at her house and is, of course, growing rapidly.  I want to place it in her environment and see what she does with it, if anything.

Now that I have stumbled on this design, I've had several further ideas.  If my granddaughter likes it, I think I could make her a two step version of it next year, maybe in a little nicer wood and with more craftsmanship because it would have more lasting utility for her.  It also occurs to me that my wife might like this better than the variant of the Shaker step stool I made her.  It seems a little safer and is much easier to carry around.

I enjoyed this project, even though the woodworking is very basic.  Designing something from a clean sheet based on a general request is not something I do often.  I think it adds to your woodworking and gives you a better perspective when you look at pieces designed and built by other woodworkers.  I think I will do it again soon.

1 comment:

  1. A fine looking stool, but more important, it is one that she'll remember for a lifetime. I am in the process of building a desk for my not so toddler granddaughter (12) and loving every minute of it.,