An essential practice of improvising is developing x-ray vision. That is, you gradually train your eye, or mind to identify the essential structure of a thing, to understand how it works and how it is made. Often the best way to do this is to look from different angles, open something up, turn it upside down. The stool above is a good example. Turn it upside-down and you see immediately how to make it: 3 supports, 3 rectangles of wood, and the top pieces that holds it all together. If you’re not a woodworker (as we are not), you might hit a spot where you don’t know how to proceed. For us it is: how do we figure out the exact angle to cut the side rectangles, so that they match up with the leg supports, making a nice flush outside? What tool do we use?


We rely on two sources: adept friends, like Nina Saltman and Jim Dillon of Jim Dillion at Thousand Dollar Shop who know a lot about what we don’t, in this case construction and woodworking; and/or research via books, classes or the internet. Googling “how to cut angled wood edges” yielded the exact answer, with pictures that we needed. Well, not exactly exact, as we found out from the inciteful comment below. But it’s on the track, and more reading and talking would undoubtedly yield enough info to try, experiment, see what happens (with great care if using a circular saw!)

Since the we got the idea and question of making simple furniture out of plywood, we find that we’re noticing many more examples that we might copy. That’s another principle of the creative process: once you formulate a question, your vision shifts slightly and you begin to notice answers. 

This Rietveld desk looks do-able…

Gerrit Rietveld
Gerrit Rietveld

…and Ross Anderson’s out-there chair gives us permission to veer off the path…

Ross Anderson
Ross Anderson=

Top two photos via Holton Rower; bottom photo via Aqq Index

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2 replies on “Stool, Reitveld Chair and Other Plywood DIYs, Via X-ray Vision

  1. The wikiHow instruction is good but it’s for angles of about 45 degrees to 90 degrees only. The table shown requires 30 degree cuts (each leg representing 60 degrees of the triangle and each rectangle cut is half of that). Don’t try that with a circular saw unless you are very sure you know a lot about the limitations of the tool and know how to make jigs that will help you make the cuts safely. Even then, better to find someone with a table saw and the appropriate jigs. If you’ve never had a circular saw kick back on you keep it that way. People can get disfigured when it happens. I know from experience that it’s plenty scary even when you don’t get hurt. Warning over. Cool furniture!

  2. Thank you so much for YOUR x-ray vision. Point taken, and I’m realizing I should go back and clarify that it’s usually quite a bit of research that gives enough info to get going. But my nature with certain things is to leap, and find out the hard way.

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