The objective of this assignment was to design a wooden vessel or utensil to be used in
some manner for thanksgiving dinner. We were given two weeks to complete the assignment and were not allowed to design sets of dishes.
We started brainstorming for this project in class in groups of 4 or 5. The task was to sketch ideas on post it notes and to come up with as many ideas as possible in 15 minutes. We were encouraged to come up with ideas off of other people's ideas, and to not limit ourselves in our brainstorming. The majority of ideas I came up with were pretty silly, and I didn't end up using any of them for my final product.
I then began to do some brainstorming on my own. I tried to think of the problems encountered most often at my family's thanksgiving dinners, and tried to think of solutions to those problems. This was a little bit hard for me because I have worked the last three thanksgivings and haven't been to thanksgiving dinner in about 4 years. I was able to come up with a few issues from memory, and felt the issue most important to address was the difficulty of passing dishes around the table. My family always has all of the food laid out on the table during dinner, and some of the dishes are difficult to pass across the table. I remember the mashed potatoes dish always being quite heavy, and the butter dish being slippery and hard to hold. I felt it would be easiest to come up with a solution for the butter dish rather than for the mashed potato dish.
After deciding to design a butter dish, I sketched some ideas until I came up with the idea I would eventually construct. I wanted to focus on making the butter dish easier to hold and pass across the table while still making sure that the dish can function as a butter dish. I initially thought that putting handles on the dish would be a good idea, but decided that adding handles would make the dish too clumsy and give it too much surface area for a simple butter dish. Without handles, the dish would need some type of edge that would be easy to grip, and so I decided to use that design, keeping in mind that the dish would also be thick so that it would be easy to hold. I decided to make rounded corners to eliminate the possibility of having potentially sharp corners.
I did some research on other types of butter dishes that are already out there and looked at their dimensions to get an idea of what the sizing would be for my product. Some butter dishes were a little bit fancy, but the majority were very simple in design. All of the dishes were higher at the edges than in the center and weren't much larger than a stick of butter. Common dimensions were 8" by 4.25".
I started the construction process of my dish by creating a template of the dish in Adobe Illustrator. I used the dimensions of 8" by 4.25" to create a rounded rectangle. I made another rectangle 1/4" inside to show where the lip of the dish would be. I did not make a template for the height, because I wanted the height to be similar to the height of the wood I purchased, and so I planned on controlling that when sanding. I printed out the template and taped it to the wood, then cut the rough shape out with the bandsaw.
When I took the template off to do machine sanding, I noticed that I had made an error with the bandsaw. This would take a lot of sanding to correct, but I was able to cover it up. The shape of my dish, however, ended up being slightly uneven due to this. The corner where the mistake happened was sanded much more than the rest, and I didn't want to sand the rest down anymore for fear of losing the shape of the dish. I believed the mistake to be small enough to continue working on the dish. After machine sanding I had to do quite a bit of hand sanding on the edges of the dish to try to smooth out the corners and edges.
After sanding on the outside was finished, I used a hand router to create the lip on the dish. What this was really doing was taking wood out of the middle of the wood, so that there was a lip on the edge of the dish. I needed help from one of the woodshop guys to set up the hand router, as I was unfamiliar with how to use one. After learning how to use it, I started to use one on my dish. It turns out that the bit on the hand router was not the right kind for the type of wood I was using, so this created a jagged edge and burned the wood in several places. Me and the guys in the woodshop were able to catch the problem and change the bit, but not before it had caused some damage to my project.
I used a chisel on the inside edge to even it out and make it rounder. I then hand sanded the entire dish to try to even out all of the imperfections, and was able to do so to a limited extent. I was not able to completely fix the unevenness of the edge of the dish, but was able to make it much better than it originally was. Sanding the surface of the dish eliminated many of the burn marks caused by the router, and created an all over smoother surface. I chose to finish the dish with mineral oil because it was a relatively inexpensive finish that would also be safe for food. I applied the mineral oil to the dish in two steps. I first applied it and let it dry for 2 hours. I then applied a second coat and allowed that to dry for 24 hours.