Friday, 29 December 2017

On the 4th day of Christmas...

... this blogger gave to thee...
... four living hinges...
... three books for reading...
... two felted tooties...
... and a day Binging with Babish.

Today’s post (which is a day late) is about something simple that looks complicated. In plastic, you see living hinges every day. They’re on your shampoo bottles, food containers and any piece of generally disposable packaging where a plastic hinged lid is made as a single injection moulded component. They’re common in plastic products because they’re resilient to repeated bending, easy to make and cheap to manufacture. In wood however, they’re a little different.

When used in woodwork, living hinges become an ornate patterning of pierced line work, which give flexibility to a ridged material. This is all done using a variation on a technique called kerf bending. Kerf bending involves cutting regular slots the width of the sawblade into the solid piece of wood you’re using, making sure not to cut all the way through the base, which thins out the material enough to make it flexible enough to curve. Living hinges are a variant on this process because rather than partially cutting through the wood, the wood is pierced right through in a repeated overlapping pattern, which again allows the solid form to become flexible.

Living Hinge Swatches through Obrary: The Open Library of Product Designs

Some living hinges are made of a simplistic linear repeat pattern, varying the length and spacing of the lines allowing the angle of movement go from barely there to three hundred and sixty degrees in a book like hinge formation. Others cuts patterns are more elaborate, triangles, curves and lattices being used to create a different range of flexibility.

It can be achieved in a few different ways. Some people use laser cutters or CNC machines, which are the higher end option, however, it can be done a little cheaper using low tech option, by using a scroll/fret saw or by hand using a jewellers’ saw. This way might be a little more time consuming, but if you’re wanting to experiment with using wooden living hinges, a hand saw will cost you next to nothing and would be a good place to start, before investing in hundreds of pounds of equipment.

You might go crazy breaking saw blade after saw blade, but that's why they come in packs of twelve right?

Might need a couple of packs if you're planning on attempting any of these...

Lumbra Light by Dukta Flexible Wood

Last year, on day three of the twelve days of Christmas, I posted about the Lumio Lamp designed by Max Gunawan, since then my lovely sisters gave me a similarly designed light, shaped like a book, with velum pages which unfold like a pop-up book and at a certain point illuminates. It is one of the nicest things I own. It gives a beautiful warm, defused light, can sit open like a book or opened three hundred and sixty degrees in a full light... and I seem to remember squealing with delight when I saw that it was a version with a living hinge spine.

The Lumbra Light by Dukta doesn't fold, it doesn't expand, but reminds me of the soft light that my book light gives and the beautiful way the light emits from the pierced spine, casting shadows on nearby surfaces. Made with birch wood ply, Dukta uses the lattice pattern created by the hinge, to wrap around the rounded corners of a frosted acrylic box light. The light can we used with or without legs, the legs certainly embracing the trend for tripod mounted light fixtures which we've seen over the past year or more.

It's modern, without appearing fussy, despite the patterning and that's going to be a theme with all of these designs.

PLAAT ‘Technical’ Bag from Qoowl Design

Now, I could have made this post up entirely with bags. South African company Indalo Decor have a line of satchels and rucksacks, Michiellie Chapman has a beautiful laptop case and if you search Etsy, there are purses and wallets there too, but all of these examples have one thing in common. They use the living hinge as a flap opening on a more solidly made bag. The PLAAT 'Technical' Bag from Qoowl Design, however, is a solid - or not so solid - length of laser cut living hinge, paired with a leather lining and simple magnetic clasp. This out of all the bags I have seen, embraces and celebrates the living hinge the most. It really couldn't be more simply designed and yet this is what makes it elegant. 

Tryst Stool by Tate Anson

The Tryst Stool by Tate Anson, is using living hinges in a similar linear formation as the two previous designs, with a twist. Instead of using the linear patter to simply curve the wood and bend it round a form, Anson is using the hinges ability, when cut completely through at one end, to fan out and increase the surface area, allowing the legs to taper without adding extra weight or bulk. This gives the simplistic form of the stool an intricate, modern aesthetic which doesn't compromise on the durability or functionality of the stool. 
 Push Sculptable Metal Bowls by Fundamental | Push and Trio Variants

The fourth living hinge, probably can’t be called a hinge, but in my opinion uses a similar technique to change a ridged form into a more malleable material. In the case of Fundamental's 'Push Sculptable Bowls' that material is metal, which is one I'm a little more familiar with. Metal is a weird material if you think about it. It's strong but can be made malleable with heat, ridged but can bend easily under the right conditions and is difficult to break unless put under great stress, and traditionally to make bowls, you gradually and repeatedly heat and hammer the metal until it becomes concave but not with Push bowls. The Push bowl, made of copper, brass or steel, utilises similar laser cut patterning to that of living hinges - specifically a triangle kerf - to give the initially flat form enough flexibility to be pushed by hand into the desired bowl shape.

Going through various pattern formations and iterations of your design is just a natural part of the design process, and finding which particular living hinge pattern will give you enough, but not too much or too little flexibility is part and parcel of that process as well.

The nice thing about living hinges, is that people are starting to apply them to all kinds of designs, they're in furniture, accessories, lighting and now 3D printing is becoming more and more popular, there are even designs playing with printing plastic fabrics which are akin to living hinges. But I'll admit, I kind of geek out when I see laser cut living hinges, there is just something really beautifully elegant about them.

But yeah, maybe buy a few packets of saw blades if you're going to give this technique a go.

Merry Christmas! Part five tomorrow…

Link || Dukta Lumbra Light via Architonic
Link || PLAAT ‘Technical’ Bag from Qoowl Design
Link || PLAAT ‘Technical’ Bag via Design Milk
Link || Tryst Stool by Tate Anson
Link || Push Solo and Trio Sculptable Metal Bowls byFundamental via Homeli
Link || Michiellie Chapman Living Hinge Laptop Bag
Link || Indalo Decor

Link || Living Hinge Patterns from Obrary: The Open Library of Product Designs

Listening: Christmas Magic - The National

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