Blog: Trial & Error By: John Heisz

When it comes to building it, I get a lot of enjoyment from the design stage of a new project. Puzzling out the details and trying to think up more efficient and elegant ways of doing something are a challenge and, if I’m equal to it, it makes the end result even more satisfying.

Much of the time, I can visualize the details in my head, enough to get it down on paper (or recently SketchUp) to further refine. It then comes time to take that basic plan and bring it to life with real world material. Often, while fabricating the parts, I will make changes on the fly if I see a better way to do it.
Sometimes, you can do without a prototype, such as basic projects with few moving parts. Other projects, the ones with moving parts and parts that interact with one another usually need a mock up to physically test before you can finalize the design – the idea is that having it work well on paper doesn’t mean it will perform as expected when made.

During a recent project I became stuck – I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory way to perform a deceptively simple task. Unusual for me, my ability to visualize failed me and I could not form a mental picture of the details of the mechanism I needed. I tried using SketchUp but I didn’t get anywhere, without the basic design concept in mind, I couldn’t start to draw anything.
So, to try and break through this creative roadblock, I went to my shop and just started cutting parts and piecing them together until I had
something that resembled what I was trying to do:

Not very elegant, not very efficient but at least a start. It did what I needed it to do and that was the main thing.
From there I started to improve and ‘distill’ this design to a more practical state. Cut more parts, piece them together, try different things

until it starts to feel familiar. With each revision, the design (and my understanding of it) evolves, until it reaches the point where further refinement brings diminishing returns.

At this point I’m satisfied with what I’ve done. I feel I have neatly solved the problem. Even if the path taken was less than ideal, the end result is what matters.