"Suspension Bridge" Pot Rack

RAPID PROTOTYPING

Here's a small project that nicely shows the progression from napkin sketch to model to mockup to fabrication to installation in a short amount of time. For Emily Luchetti, the James Beard Award-winning executive pastry chef (Farallon, Waterbar, The Cavalier, Marlowe, Park Tavern).

 

The Commission

Our office was putting an addition on a house in Sausalito, including a large open kitchen. I laid out the entire kitchen - all the cabinetry, counters, sinks, and lighting seen here.

The house opens to a view of the Bay, so the Project Architect gave me a quick sketch for a pot rack that evoked a suspension bridge. It would be hung from beams at the ceiling, providing a shelf for pots and bottles, plus a bar from which to hang utensils. The shelf would be frosted glass, acting as a diffuser for spotlights mounted on the ceiling – essentially turning the entire structure into a light fixture as well.

 

Study Model

First, I made a quick-and-dirty scale model so we could see what would be meeting at which joints. While the "bridge" idea was conceptually simple, the specifics were complex. What with rods bolted into other rods, "suspension" wires, and cross-bracing wires, a lot of parts were joining other parts. This little model (about 8" long) helped us understand how the various elements came together.

 

pot rack little study model.jpg
 

Full-Scale Mockup

Next I built a full-scale mockup in our office of one of the three segments of the "bridge," using available wood and bicycle derailleur cables, and testing it with weight. This demonstrated how the structure would work and gave us a sense of the actual size and scale, and the clearance height beneath.

pot rack full scale mockup.jpg
 

Working Drawings

Then I prepared working drawings for the fabricators. They're informal, but sufficient, showing how to:

  • Cut, cope, drill, counterbore, and thread the rods
  • Cut and drill the sheet metal and metal plate
  • Cut, bend, crimp, and thread the wires

(Click an image to expand.)

 

Details

After one fabricator had cut the steel parts, another one had to weld them. Rather than making detailed drawings or verbal descriptions, I simply made jigs for our welder. Slide the parts in until they stop, weld them, and you're done. It was the most mistake-proof – and fastest! – way to be sure they came together correctly.

pot rack detail - bike spokes.jpg

For the hardware nerd:

  • Bracket screwed to beam with allen-head screws. 
  • Vertical rod slotted over bracket and held in place with expansion pin.
  • Cable yokes bolted to bracket and rod with allen-head screws and acorn nuts.  
  • Wire held in yokes with ordinary bicycle spoke nipples threaded onto the wires; cable tension is adjusted by turning them as you would tension a bicycle wheel.