I don’t often do prototypes. I’d rather just build a project and see where it goes. But I did one prototype some years ago that I still have.
In this case my mom had asked me to build a small bookcase, and had something specific in mind that, as she described it, looked like a ladder. I’d seen bookcases like this before. They usually involve two vertical members that meet the wall at an angle near the top, with shelves increasing in size as they go down, giving the whole thing the appearance of leaning against the wall. In truth, that’s exactly how it works: The weight distribution against the wall keeps the whole thing upright.
Not sure this was what she wanted, I grabbed a piece of scrap 1/4" plywood and mocked one up. Nothing fancy and not really even to scale (I made the shelf pieces all the same size, for example), but it illustrated what I thought she’d described.
The next time I saw her I took the prototype with me, and she thought it was perfect. I measured the space where she wanted to put it, then took my notes back home where I got to work on the bookcase. Since I now knew what she wanted I no longer needed the prototype and left it behind. The finished bookcase, delivered on my next visit, fit the space perfectly and she quickly filled it with books, photos and other items.
My mom’s been gone four years now, but that bookcase still occupies that space in their living room. On a visit a few weeks ago, my dad asked if I wanted “that model” back. I wasn’t sure what he meant until he brought out that little prototype – I had no idea that my mom had kept it, or why. But the fact that she did is significant to me, and so I know that I’ll always keep it somewhere in my shop.
Like I said, I don’t make prototypes often, and doubt that will change. But this one time I’m thankful I did.
Which seems appropriate this week.