Sketchbook B: The Bookcase

A few months ago, I came across Ponoko, a New Zealand-based online fabrication service and marketplace. People make everything from jewelry to furniture. Ponoko offers a marketplace where people can sell products or plans.

I decided to make a small bookshelf for my office based on a bookshelf I made in Shop Class in the seventh grade. After signing up for a free account, I downloaded the “Making Guide” that explained the whole process.

My bookshelf, assembled, with an assortment of books and DVDs.

Basically, you upload an Illustrator EPS with your cuts and pick your material. They laser cut the material and ship it to you. Using their template, I marked my cuts on an Illustrator file. You use different line colors to mark cuts and burns. Once I was done, I uploaded the file to their server and selected materials. Materials include various types of wood, acrylic, metal, felt, leather and cardboard.

I had one minor problem when ordering. I planned to have the piece made at their San Francisco shop to save on shipping. So I designed the shelf to use 6mm bamboo that was only available from the San Francisco shop, but when I went online, I could only use the New Zealand facility which didn’t have the material I wanted. (The San Fran shop is relatively new and I’m assuming, slammed.) So I had to change to another 6mm material - an Italian Poplar plywood - and pay a little extra for the shipping.

A close-up of the laser burning, The edges are darker from the laser cutting. The “B” is burned in at medium strength.

It was a few days before they started processing the job. But when they started working on it, everything progressed quickly. And once the shipped it, it once took three days to get here from New Zealand. (And I didn’t pay for express shipping.) Total time from order to arrival was about two weeks.

I opened the box and started to assemble it. When assembling, I figured out that I made a couple of very minor measurement errors that made a couple of pieces a tight fit. A little sanding and filing and everything fit.

Based on the prototype, I’m going to make some changes to the design. The slots need to be slightly bigger. And with heavier books, there is some slight bowing, so I’m going to modify the support under the shelf. (Or look at a thicker material).

If you are interested in designing and creating 3-D objects, I highly recommend looking into Ponoko. The online experience and process is very well thought out. Everything is documented so it’s very accessible to designers who maybe aren’t familar with the fabrication process.