For this project, we were to make a spatula fit to our own hand using only fair curves as well as maintaining at least 50% of our edges. The spatula had to be made out of a 4"x12"x2" block of beechwood. The goal was to learn about the intersection of aesthetics and function, as well as gaining the hard skills of using the band saw and various sanders.
Understanding What's Out There
My first step in this process was to raid my kitchen for all of my spatulas and analyze them through sketching. I pretended to cook with each of them and asked myself the following questions: How did their form change how I held and interacted with the spatula? How does the angle of the handle change my arm positioning? Which ones are comfortable to hold? Which ones are my most used? Why? etc.
From this initial research, I understood the following: the spatulas that had the tool part exist on a different plane than the handle tend to keep the arm at a more natural/comfortable angle, handles that are too bulky limit the usability of the tool but the ones that are too thin lack a feeling of control over the tool, and the size of the tool part of the spatula does not really matter since they have different purposes.
Sketching, Prototyping, and Iteration
I knew starting the sketches that I wanted my spatula to be rather simple. I wanted to preserve the elegance of fair curves and not over-complicate the form since I knew that It would not add anything to the functionality.
The photos above show the first model of the spatula: It had too many features and replicated the molded plastic spatulas I have in my kitchen drawers. The curves were pushing the edge of being fair, and did not meet my objectives of keeping the form simple. However, I did find that the handle was very comfortable when the spatula was flipped on its side. I tried to maintain the handle being longer than it is wide going into the next iteration, but tried to make the difference between the tool plane and the handle plane more emphasized to keep the elbow lower when holding it as well as to give the form more visual interest.
I went back to my sketchbook and made a new profile sketch to address the issues above, and I went back to the foam to prototype the sketch.
The photos above show my second model of the spatula. The curves are more fair, and therefore the form respects the property of the wood more, he handle was very comfortable, which was something I wanted to keep going into the next iteration, but the spatula looked like a butterknife from above. The tool got too thin, and therefore made the tool less intuitive. I also leaned a valuable lesson on properly transferring the sketch onto the block before sawing, as I accidentally made a left handed spatula.
I began to sketch more profiles that tried to fix the problems from above, and once I found one I was happy with, I made it out of foam once again.
The photos above show my third and final foam iteration of the spatula. I swung the spatula much wider than I wanted because I was overcompensating for the last iteration. This one I tried playing around with sanding down the handle to make the grip more comfortable and using the lines for graphic elements to take into the beechwood model. This one was more spatula-like, but the large tool part and over-sanded handle made it seem too mushy for me; the spatula lost the sharpness and clean lines that I enjoyed in the second model.
The Final Model
For the final model, I went into Illustrator to create a profile marrying the second and third designs that I would trace onto the beechwood block itself. I followed the steps shown in the storyboard drawing to fabricate the final model.
Precise cuts on the bandsaw allowed me to keep more of the edges than I anticipated, as the corners fit perfectly in the joints of the fingers.