‘Milking Stool’ Development

“All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow” – Grant Wood.

The milking stool design came about through much experimentation and prototyping with steel strapping commonly used in packaging and transport of timber packs.

I have been experimenting with the idea of tensional products, designing and prototyping components to be held together under the strain of a simple mechanism, ideally a mechanism that is easily found and acquired or made. As a designer / maker who specializes in the traditional carpentry skills I am often at the timber yard sourcing material. It was at the timber yard that I recognized the strapping as having a potential to incorporate into a furniture product. It is easily acquired and simple to apply. I have since spent the last few months refining the stool design to level that it is at now.

The incorporation of steel strapping, which I view with much excitement , is so simple and can be used in a diverse range of assembly applications – either in itself or as modification of its function.
The stool has come a long way from its initial four-legged stool design where, at first, the four legs were turned on a lathe all at once. However, this was identified as an unworkable path, due to excess waste, a hazardous practice, and high production costs.

Throughout the initial research and development phase, cork was identified as having the perfect density and rigidity, while having the flexibility to compress and allow the strapping mechanism to apply ideal tensioned pressure. The strapping and cork, as well as being identified as functional components to drive the project to fruition, also contribute to an attractive and unique image.

The second phase resulted in the product losing a leg, hence becoming a three-legged stool. This lends itself to the ‘milking stool’ representation. The stool adopted a simple leg structure made out of high quality birch plywood, an ability to stack, and was streamlined to be manufactured through CNC processes.

The stool is made up of 3 plywood legs and a cork seat, the stool is assembled by slotting the three legs into the cork seat, which has stepped slots that correlate with the legs to ensure that they key into place and maintain a correct location. The cork seat and legs are then secured with a length of stainless steel strapping, which belts around the outside seat squeezing legs into cork which flexes slightly to ensure the ideal tension is achieved with the specialized strapping tools.

The product is also environmentally friendly. Materials used in the stool are either from recycled parts or are recyclable themselves. The cork used in the stool design is made from recycled wine bottle cork stops that have been collected, crushed into different grades of particle, and then compressed in slabs of 100 mm x 600 mm x 1000 mm using a polyurethane glue. The plywood is Russian Birch plywood and made with plantation birch and laminated together with phenol (A) bonding agent, which is low in formaldehyde.  Lastly the stainless steel strapping is 100% recyclable through melting it into new stainless steel products.

I love this idea of simplicity in design and the stool has gone through many stages to get it to a point in which I feel it is successfully streamlined, this had been especially achieved in getting the design to a point in which all components can be manufactured by CNC router

The stool is simple, however boasts a unique image through the contrasted tones of cork and ply, with the addition of a smart strip of bright stainless steel that belts the whole thing together like a ribbon. The design, while incorporating an industrial element of steel strapping typically used in packaging and transport industries for its function, now heralds its attractive and simple nature as a decorative addition, while still acting as the key to the assembly without which the product would merely be parts without a whole. ­The stool is both light in weight and in its visual image, the legs are slim and the negative space that the legs create offers to its lightness. The leg simplicity is only interrupted by the stacking nodule that protrudes from the leg to offer a point for which stools can sit on top of one another, also adding a visual point of interest. The stool is a package of parts – simple, unusual and functional – giving a new vision to the humble three-legged stool.

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