Home → Magazine Archive → September 2015 (Vol. 58, No. 9) → Technical Perspective: A Woodworker's Easy Fix → Abstract

Technical Perspective: A Woodworker's Easy Fix

By Marc Alexa

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 58 No. 9, Page 115

I like woodworking. I have built quite a number of pieces of furniture, like cabinets, shelves, beds, and tables, as well as a ladder, a shack, and other things. Not being professionally trained, I restrict myself to simple construction projects, for which I trust my intuition on stability. For more complex constructions I stick to the standards I find in books. This obviously limits my freedom.

As a computer scientist, I know it would be possible to check the validity of a construction using physical simulation. If the panels chosen are the right type (thickness or kind of wood), the main structural problems are where the pieces come together—in the joints. Each joint bears linear and rotational forces; the result of the weight of the wood itself and the stuff being put onto or into the object (for example, the person on a ladder). There are natural limits to these forces in the joints, which I could find in the literature. Given all this information (combinatorial structure of the panels, dimensions, loads, limits on joint forces) checking validity is a straightforward project in scientific computing.


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