Hand Model Making

This section provides information about hand model making, why it is used and the materials and tools commonly used and how to use them.

Designers have used model making as a medium for creative exploration and to convey design ideas for centuries. In contemporary design practice, advancements in digital design and fabrication technologies are having a big impact on the way we conceive, represent and prototype designs. However, like hand drawing, hand model-making remains an important part of the designer’s skillset.

The following pages will introduce you to the fundamentals of hand model-making. These skills will be helpful for assembling models that use components made by the digital fabrication machinery at the FabLab.

Why go analogue?

Analogue models rely on manual labour or hand making for their production.

While digital model making techniques allow us to produce accurate, refined pieces quickly and reliably, there are many advantages to traditional analogue techniques:

  • Work at home or in your studio – with no reliance on sophisticated machines or technologies.

  • Fast and economical – hand making can be both faster and cheaper than using advanced technologies.

  • Direct and spontaneous – spatial ideas can be explored and conveyed without significant planning or preparation.

  • Haptic feedback – hand making develops an intuitive understanding of structure and material properties.

  • Engagement with process – leading to satisfying outcomes and learning through making.

  • Unexpected possibilities arising through free play.

Today many design practices harness the benefits of both analogue and digital techniques to achieve their design intent. One example is Frank Gehry Architects, who continue to design buildings using analogue paper models, which are then 3D-scanned and digitised so they can be optimised for constructibility.

Analogue techniques

Many of the digital fabrication technologies you will use at the FabLab and NExT Lab are advanced replications of analogue techniques. For example, laser cutters are a digital evolution of hand cutting using knives or machine tools, while 3D printing and CNC milling can be related to traditional techniques such as casting metals or sculpting clay or marble.

Just as digital fabrication techniques can be classified into additive and subtractive methods, analogue techniques can be classified into component and monolithic.

  • Component techniques – produce individual pieces which must then be connected using either mechanical connections or adhesives. Essentially, cutting and pasting.

  • Monolithic techniques – produce solid forms from a single material. Examples include clay sculpting, papier-mâché and resin casting.

The following articles will focus on component techniques. Information about monolithic techniques including casting and clay firing can be found in Wetworks and Foundry & Kilns (VCA).

This section will also focus on small-scale projects – or anything that would fit on your desk. For larger-scale projects, visit the Machine Workshop.

Last updated