Wood Shop Acclimation Project for the Beginning Design Student
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Shop safety courses have long been the only way to introduce beginning design students to the tools, methods and appropriate behaviors in the shop environment. These courses and programs are geared towards providing important knowledge so the student can successfully engage the shop. However, they lack hands on experience and can often lead to creating a culture of fear with some students around certain tools and operations. The wood shop acclimation project is executed shortly after students take the shop safety course and prior to being asked to make anything in the shop on their own. It is provided to allow for greater hands on instruction for each student, creating in the students a better sense of confidence in operating the equipment safely and efficiently. The project was conceived as a way to efficiently mass produce a specific item that each student would be required to build to support their current studio project in some way, as a site or as a display. The faculty designs these items and the students would be shown why the item was designed the way it was. Often highlighting economy of means as major design consideration. Since each project always uses plywood as its main material the dimensions of that sheet in relation to each item's components are carefully calculated to minimize scrap. Instilling in the students an important lesson in valuing material. A step-by-step process is designed and laid out for the students. It takes them from a full sheet of plywood to the final assembled item. Along the way certain tools such as the panel saw, table saw and compound sliding miter saw are described in terms of what they do well and why they are being chosen to perform the specific operation in the process. As an extension to the shop safety course, students are given three concepts to apply to each tool in order to operate it safely and without damage to it, them or the material. These concepts are feed, guide and support and are described at each part of the process on each tool. This gives the students a starting point to correctly evaluate how they need to use the machines properly. Lastly throughout the process students are given an introduction into the appropriate use of jigs and fixtures to aid in the process of mass-producing the item. This stresses the importance of planning out the sequence of how you make something as well as supporting the decision of which tool to use for a specific operation. For example a sled is made for the table saw with multiple fixtures attached to it allowing each part to be cut efficiently and precisely with out measuring that can often lead to error. Also assembly jigs are made so that holes can be drilled identically without the need to measure and mark. The wood shop acclimation project not only serves as an important safety and instructional tool but also as a means to show the students via the design process a way to consider construction, fabrication sequencing and logic related to material and fabrication processes. And most importantly instill in the students a high level of knowledge driven comfort in engaging the wood shop.