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Goings on at the Because We Cannery

Gamer-themed coffee table ideas

Design is an iterative process, where changes occur as the best solution presents itself from the back-and-forth between the client, the physical constraints, and our ideas. And so sometimes ideas we've come up with for a small part of a project no longer fit into the larger picture. These orphaned ideas are still cool, so we love to share the sketches for them with you! Recently we were asked to produce a gamer-themed coffee table as part of a larger office remodel we're doing. The lounge it was slated for changed ideas, and a so overtly gamer themed custom coffee table didn't really work anymore.

The first idea we came up with was this Tetris-styled table, where the blocks are various shades of wood inlay into a maple top portraying an endless perfect game falling into place.

The next idea was for an 'ultimate battle' space invaders styled table, where the 'bad guys' get more and more modern as they ascend up the table. This one would be black resin inlay into a maple top.

Really loved the progression of characters on this one.

The last idea was for something a little more modern as games go, and it's for a portal-themed table. An LED-ringed mirror on either side of a nice maple butcher-block top makes it appear as if the top is endlessly passing between the two portals, one red and one blue!

Shame that these three rough sketches won't be made real for this project. Maybe next time!

Jeffrey McGrew
Friday, October 5th, it's the Oakland Art Murmur and our Fall open house!

Fall is here and this Friday is First Fridays in Oakland (i.e. the 'Murmur'). So stop by and help us join in the fun!

We are opening our doors for Because We Can's fall open house.

We'll be starting early at 5PM and going until 8PM-ish.

All are invited, so come on by! We'd love to see you.

We'll be celebrating and showing off recent projects completed and underway. It's a great time to drop by and talk shop with us as well!

We'll have some snacks, some drinks, the now-almost-complete paint job on the '67 van to show off, and more. Lots check it out!

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words!

Friday, October 5th

5PM - 8PM

2500 Kirkham St Oakland, CA 94607 (510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Jeffrey McGrew
BWC Intern Project, Cabinet and Benches

Now that summer is officially over, we really should tell you about our summer intern, Abigail. While she was here she was able to design and fabricate multiple pieces, from a large cabinet to some small bench prototypes. The cabinet was a basic design that needed to store some items we have in the shop space, but we decided to go to town with the doors. Abigail had fun designing them, and learned a ton about our workflow here at Because We Can.


Here is what Abigail says about the project: This cabinet was my first experience using Revit to design a furniture piece. Previously I had considered Revit to be strictly reserved for modeling larger architectural models but was both pleased and surprised to discover how intuitive and efficient Revit was at modeling not only the overall furniture mass, but also the joinery details as well. After completing the Revit model, I exported the doors of the cabinet into Adobe Illustrator where I was more easily able to design the decorative motifs. From designing and building this cabinet, I believe I gained a greater understanding of the impact modeling programs have in aiding design and fabrication.

Next Abigail worked on a bench prototype for our Burning Man camp with The Serpent Twins. She made several prototypes to make sure the design would be sturdy and easy to assemble.


About the benches Abigail says: I took a similar approach to designing the Winged Benches as I did the cabinet unit. I first designed the overall mass within Revit and then exported the model pieces into Illustrator where I drew the decorative profiles and winged back. It was fun to design such an animated piece with such a simple configuration. Designing this flat pack bench that assembles without any additional hardware only further confirmed for me how digital fabrication enhances both design and production.

Thanx Abigail! Good luck in school!

Jillian Northrup
BWC Intern Project, Robot Head

Well, summer is ending and with that our summer interns are leaving us to go continue their educations. But while they were hear we all had a good time, and they may have even learned something! We like to give out interns a project that they get to take all they way from design to fabrication using our in house process. They start out creating a design how ever they want to (paper or software), and then dive into our software flow. We use REVIT to make just about everything, so we make them do that too. Much of the time is spent learning the software, but what better way to do that than with a project!

After the design is done in REVIT, we show them how to take their designs into the CAM software (Aspire) and fabricate it on the CNC machine (Frank!).

Beatrice, one of our summer interns, was given the task to make a card holder for our front door. We have a few promotional pieces that we wanted easily accessible near the front. She had to take measurements, look at available materials and come up with a design that everyone agreed on.


We asked Beatrice what she learned though the process, and here is what she said: "My goal was to design a card holder that will draw interest and prompt people to take the cards. I also thought it would be nice to make an addition to the robot collection in the BWC office. I sketched on paper and modeled the card holder mixing Revit and Illustrator. Then Frank the CNC router cut out the wood, and I assembled the pieces by hand at the shop. Being in charge of the design and assembly steps was a great hands-on lesson on the digital fabrication process."


Thanx Beatrice! We love your head!


Jillian Northrup
Couch Design for Techshop

A couple months ago we were brought in by Techshop, SF to be guest designers for one of their corporate events. We took a day to brainstorm with the clients for a couch and a side table design. During that session we drew on paper, white baords and modeled designs in Revit. By the end of the day we had a design that everyone was excited about. Palm/Techshop Couch-4

We focused on making the design one that reflected the CNC fabrication style that it was going to be made in. By using a high grade "EuroPly" and aluminum sheet we were able to do a staked design with an exposed edge to get our curved shapes. In the middle of the stack is a layer of aluminum to add strength and interest, and to use more of the TechShop machines!

Palm/Techshop Couch-1

The wood was all CNC router cut, the aluminum was waterjet cut and the brackets and feet were waterjet cut and welded.

Palm/Techshop Couch-2

Palm/Techshop Couch-3

It was a successful fun day for the corporate team, and in the end they got to keep the couch for their office. So cool!

Palm/Techshop Couch-5

Jillian Northrup
Summer open house at Because We Can!

July is here and this holiday weekend is First Fridays in Oakland (i.e. the 'Murmur'). So stop by and help us join in the fun!

We are opening our doors for Because We Can's summer open house.

We'll be starting early at 5PM and going until 8PM-ish.

Come on by!

No roller disco this time. Instead we will be enjoying our new enclosed fruit tree laden yard along with some BBQ and drinks (while supplies last).

Come meet and greet the designers of Because We Can, Jillian & Jeffrey, as we show off some of our recent projects, including the progress on the LongNow SF bar design, a Robinson Crusoe & HMS themed office space, lots of local residential work, and some big 3D carvings for Wikipedia.

We'll have some snacks, and some drinks, the paint job on the 67 van to show off, and we've reconfigured the Shop. Lots check it out!

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words.

Friday, July 6th

5PM - 8PM

2500 Kirkham St Oakland, CA 94607 (510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Jeffrey McGrew
Designer's tour of LA

We recently took a trip down to LA where we are always impressed by the amazing fonts, architecture, art and display.It is a great place for a designer to get inspired! From fonts on apartment buildings,


to the famous Griffith observatory,


to bowling alleys you drive by unexpectedly,


and amazing wall graffiti near Silver Lake!


There are so many interesting things to do and see. Of course we had to check out the great Modernist exhibit happening at LACMA. It's a great show if you get the chance!


And then, on to Disneyland! Where the buildings and landscapes have been expertly designed to amaze! From the outside wall of Space Mountain,


to the wonderful statues in the Tiki Tiki Tiki room,


to unexpected nooks filled with psychedelic flowers!


Los Angeles once again, does not disappoint. We leave inspired and a little sun tanned.

Jillian Northrup
Meet us at the Maker Faire 2012!

See me at Maker Faire!

We're excited and proud to once again be included in this year's Maker Faire!

It's so great to have participated every year. This year is talk-a-riffic for us! First you'll find us on Saturday, at 2:30 PM on the Make: Demo Stage giving a repeat from last year: The Secrets of Secret Doors.

Later on Saturday, on the Innovation Stage at 4:00 PM we're on a panel with Jon & Kyrsten and other co-creators of the Serpent Twins. We'll be talking and showing off all about how we made them. We're really excited that the Serpent Twins project we helped with will be at the Faire! You'll probably see us helping unload them and taking a shift of babysitting them during the day.

Then on Sunday, again at 4:00 PM on the Innovation Stage we'll be giving a special 'Ask a Master Maker' panel with a nice selection of experienced Makers to answer your every question! Ask us about projects, going pro, how we did something, or anything else you can imagine!

Looking forward to seeing you at the Faire!

Jeffrey McGrew
Drawing Storage Table

This is a great piece that we designed for a construction company that deals with numerous large drawings.And we just posted the design of their new office here.

The counter height allows it to be a nice large standing meeting table while reviewing the large drawings, and with the accessibility to pull out another drawing for reference if needed.


L:\BWC Bucket\projects\PMC_2011\SD_Office\Shop Drawings\Drawing_Storage_Work_Table - Sheet - 1 - Front & Top Views - Work Table

The labels on the front are a dry erase material so the naming can be changed quickly and easily.


We designed it in two halves so it could be more easily shipped, and more importantly, fit through the door!


Which allowed us to make some fun joinery details...


It is a great casual meeting table, and a great center piece to the space!


Jillian Northrup
Diner Wall

We finally got photos of this project from late last year! We had helped ClifBar out with an internal wall they were building to showcase and promote the philanthropy projects their employees could help out with as part of a company program. They had a cool idea to show off the different projects available as "menu items", so the diner wall concept was born.


We helped with designing the layout of the wall, sourcing the nessesary items and fabricating the specialty objects.... like these 'ticket takers' made out of old bike wheels!



And this 1950's counter! complete with diner accessories!


And finally, of course, a cool diner sign.


The wall is a well used hit!


Jillian Northrup
New postcards

Our new postcards from 4x6 showed up recently. And they look great! postcards

Each one showcases a different project that we completed last year, and covers a range of commercial and residential projects and well as a good range of styles.

This is from a residential office project. A swiveling desk design for a muti functional room. Other elements have since been built:


Next, a commercial project for Anno Domini, a San Jose Art Gallery. Giant folding, rolling kiosks to expand their usable space:


Then, another residential project of curving stairs and useful but still beautiful storage space in this Library loft space:


And finally, an internal marketing project with our own in-house library project.


Then, of course you must check out the back!


Jillian Northrup
Lots of new projects up on the website

We've been busy! Too busy to get some of the great projects we've gotten done on our website. So we took a moment, and posted up a few past projects for you to see. Enjoy! We love coming up with concepts for what companies could do with their offices. It a service we offer, where we're brought in to help brainstorm some big ideas as inspiration.

A few recent examples are helping out Joyent, a cloud software service provider:

We also helped come up with some fun ideas for local hometown heros, Pandora:

And a little longer ago we helped YouTube out with some ideas too:

Now some more tangible office interior elements! We did some signage and branding elements for video game company Envie Interactive. Love that glowing 'V'!

Speaking of games, we also did some early conceptual art & 3D models for their video game:

One area we've really expanded upon is in our architectural services, undertaking some larger buildings. Two examples from last year are the ideas we came up with for a commercial building in SOMA:

And some value-engineering focused redesign of a small live/work loft complex for Oakland:

Now back to work! ;-)

Professor Kitty, the office kitty, working hard

Jeffrey McGrew
Secret Maker Superhero Armoire

For those Makers that also want nice things, and have wonderful treasures to display, may we introduce... The Secret Maker Superhero Armoire Display Case! IMG_8826

Looks like a regular large glass fronted Armoire you say? Well watch this...


The sides open to reveal not only access to labeled pull out cubbies, but also, le coup de grâce: hidden pegboard tool and utility belt storage.


Beautiful etched glass and front aluminum detailing by day....


Full on Maker storage by night!


With awesome little cubbies!


This armoire was made for the same room as the Swiveling desks we made a few months ago. More images of the room and all the pieces we've made for it can be seen on the project page.


Jillian Northrup
Thanks for the Great open House!

Thank you all who came to our open house last week and making it an awesome fun event filled with interesting people, robots and Roller Skates! IMG_8845

We'll do Roller Disco again whenever we have the floor space. Here's our poster shot for next time!


Jillian Northrup
Company mascot

Our comapany mascot, marketing director and cat (we all wear many hats around here) needed a new bed. You know, to hold important meetings in and, well, nap.So I whipped something up for him the other day.


He seems to enjoy it. And it jazzes up the office a bit!



Jillian Northrup
New Maker Faire Blue Ribbon website

The good folks at Maker Faire just launched a new website devoted to the Blue Ribbon winners!

While the Faire started in 2006, in 2007 they got the great idea to hand out blue ribbons as awards to the best projects that year. Just like a state fair!

We won big in 2007 with our Artgolf project, getting five blue ribbons and entertaining an army of kids. We've also gotten ribbons in 2008 & 2009 for Artgolf revisions & other projects.

Last few years we've just given a talks, like the one we did last year on the secrets of secret doors, and talks aren't eligible for ribbons!

Frankly we're honored and humbled to be recognized by such a wonderful group of people. See you at the Faire this year!

Jeffrey McGrew
March Open House

March 2nd is First Fridays in Oakland (i.e. the 'Murmur) and we are joining in the fun!

We are opening our doors for Because We Can's quarterly open house.

We'll be starting early at 5PM and going until 8PM.

Come on by!

We currently have 2,000 square feet of open concrete floor behind our studio, so bring your roller skates! Really no fooling.

Come meet and greet the designers of Because We Can, Jillian & Jeffrey, as we show off some of our recent projects, including a San Francisco bar design, a San Diego office design, and some local residential work.

We'll have food, homebrewed beer, we've got some new toys to play with, and we've cleaned up the place. Maybe the BWC band will even play!

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words. You have been warned!

Friday, March 2st

5PM - 8PM

2500 Kirkham St Oakland, CA 94607 (510) 922-8846

Click here for the Google Map.

Jeffrey McGrew