Friday, 18 September 2015

Keeping Time: Aesthetics

The form factor of the metronome was next on my hit list.  How was this object going to look?  My original design borrowed traditional material combinations from scientific equipment – wood, brass and glass – to modernise the archetypal metronome form, replacing the timing chart with a suspended glass test tube to collect the dust. 

Preliminary prototype
The first problem came when trying to work out how to make the glass square-based pyramid.  My idea was to use brass L-profiles running along each corner of the structure to glue the glass in to.  After speaking to the glass and metal technicians, I found out that the standard joining method would be to just glue the glass with UV cement using a former.  This would make the brass structurally unnecessary, and so using it felt to me like I was falsifying the construction in the design.  And so it was back to the drawing board!

Design development in Solidworks
For the next iteration, I took the design back to two components; a box to conceal the metronome workings and a stand to hold the test tube.  I wanted the materials use the same trio of materials for this design - wood for the box, brass for the stand – but this time, I reduced the glass element to just the test tube itself. 

After knocking out some Solidworks models, I still wasn’t happy with the design.  The proportions of the timepiece seemed wrong; the box was too large and seemed to dwarf the pendulum and the test tube. Then there was the issue of whether to hide the mechanism or open the box up and have it on show.
The metronome mechanism
The idea of displaying the metronome mechanism in a glass-fronted box bothered me.  If left completely revealed, the mechanism looks quite messy. The gears are partly hidden and the base plate from which it is suspended feels unsightly – it wasn’t designed to be seen.  Having no experience in woodworking, the simple box construction wasn’t going to give me a finish I was happy with and, overall, I just wasn’t happy with these designs.

It was only after talking to colleagues that I decided to adapt one of my design elements.  Instead of creating one bent brass piece to hold the test tube, why didn’t I create the whole thing from flat brass plate and bend a box out of it?