“Where’s That Submarine Research?” – Cataloging Your Stuff

I took the big file of submarine research, surveys and photos and tossed it in the trash. Then I stopped to think about it. Was I really ever going to use this information again? I’d done three sub movies before, what were the chances of ever doing another one. I looked at it sitting on the trash pile and then scooped it back out, just in case.

That’s been my constant dilemma, what to do with the dozens of boxes of files from past film projects. I finally decided that if  there was no way to easily put my hands on a file, I might as well toss all of them.

I’ve been in the midst of trying to catalogue and organize my collection of +2000 books and decided the research needed to get catalogued the same way.

The thought of trying to manually type in the info of all those books kept me from even starting the project until I found Delicious Library. When you open the program you are presented with a virtual bookshelf.

This is the way your books appear on the virtual bookshelf

You just wave the barcode on the book in front of the screen and the program searches the internet and within 3 seconds it loads a photo of the cover of the book onto the shelf. The window along the side records the publisher, date, value, reviews and a lot more. There are multiple ways of organizing and viewing the items including by Dewey decimal system, author, title, location or value.

If the book is older and doesn’t have a barcode, you can enter the ISBN number and it will log it. You can also input older books by inputting the title and author and it will search for all the books editions.  If, like me, you have a LOT of books, or DVDs, when you purchase the program you can also purchase a handheld barcode reader that allows you to scan about a hundred items at a time. When you plug the scanner into your computer, the program will download and record the items onto the ‘shelf’.

The program is also a great way of cataloguing anything else, including research. I created a system of boxes and have the various files noted as to which box they are in so I can do a word search in the system and an icon of the file and its location pop up.

The only downside is that Delicious Library is  for Macs only. For PC users, the nearest similar products which work similarly are  Librarian Pro 2, or All My Books.

A “Sweet” and Cheap Architectural Detail Resource

Yes, I thought it was time for a bad pun. The “sweet” resource I’m talking about is the Sweet’s Indexed Catalogue of Building Construction. Not the modern version, mind you, but the earlier volumes. In particular I’m talking about the first one ever printed, in 1906.

Reprint copy of the first edition of Sweet’s

I found my copy in a used bookstore about 25 years ago, back when 3rd Street in Santa Monica was still a sleepy street lined with great used bookstores instead of chain outlets. It was a 1970’s reprint of the original, in great condition. But the most striking thing about it was how different it was from it’s modern relatives. This book was printed for people who actually drew details, and both wanted and needed to know how things were built.

Most of the products pictured throughout the book had either detailed drawings or photographs of the items, with dimensions and cutaways showing how they operated and how they were integrated into the architecture of the building. This was a far cry from the ‘updated’ version, void of details, which was meant only to be a means of calling out the correct ‘part number’ on a drawing rather than giving the architect a full understanding of the specifics.

The original volume, if you can find a copy, has a green cover. The reprints will have a tan cover. The most useful ones for our work run from 1906 to the 1930’s. They aren’t easy to find but Google has solved that problem. Among the millions of books they have digitized for their ebook site are the 1906 and 1907 editions of Sweet’s. The digital editions aren’t as crisp as a printed copy, but the details you’ll glean from them are priceless. You can download it as a pdf and have it on your computer whenever you want to refer to it. Here is some of what you’ll find:

A sample of a typical advert featuring both photos and detailed sections

details of furnace and ducting showing how the duct and registers are attached to the wall framing

One of hundreds of photos showing details such as trim, ironwork and tile.

Detail of large furnace for an office or apartment building

An early central vacuum system

And here’s proof that people had MUCH bigger heads 100 years ago

Another good source in Google Books is a magazine from about the same time period called The American Builder which has some good articles with details. This ad for a drafting course is great. Considering an average draftsman would have made about 35 to 40 cents an hour at that time, $100 a week would have been top dollar.

Graphic Standards From Across The Pond

Here in the US, the book we primarily turn to for all questions of an architectural nature is the AIA Architectural Graphic Standards. For our work, the third and fifth editions are the most informative because they were printed at a time when architects had to draw everything rather than order most elements pre-made. If you happen to be drawing up European architecture, though, it won’t do you much good.

In the rest of the world, the architectural book most people turn to for similar answers is Neufert’s Architectural Data. Soon to be released in it’s 40th edition, the book is printed in 18 languages and is the architectural Bible in the metric world.

Ernst Neufert

Ernst Neufert worked at the Bauhaus as chief architect under Walter Gropius and later taught at the Bauhochschule until the Nazis closed it down in the early 1930’s. Seeing the need for a book that graphically laid out the architectural standards of the time, the book was first printed in 1936 and soon became a big success. Like Graphic Standards, the book is mainly a visual reference of architectural design and space standards for the European continent.

The book has had a number of English language editions, but the 1998 International is the most useful and easiest to use for the metrically-challenged. A large number of each edition are printed so it should be fairly easy to find used copies. You may have better luck throught British booksellers than second-hand businesses here.

kitchen standards from an earlier edition

In Britain, The book many people refer to is McKay’s Building Construction. Originally published in three volumes over an eight year period, the recent re-publication has combined them into one book. The books are so popular in England that when they briefly went out of print, students were encourage to beg, borrow or steal to get a set.

page on hand-cut stonework

Written by W.B. McKay, who was Head of the Building Department at both Leeds and Manchester colleges, the book is particularly useful for our business as it shows and describes exactly how the various methods of construction (wood and masonry ) are carried out. Filled with hundreds of beautiful perspective drawings by McKay, the book takes up where Graphic Standards ends.

Like Neufert’s, this can be had in used editions, the most recent from 2004. I found my copy in a bookstore in New Delhi, India, so you may have to search around. This is definitely a book that is worth the search.

If you’re in a hurry, you can order it here.

methods of forming masonry openings

Suggested Reading – “Illustrated Cabinetmaking”

Face it, having to design furniture or create construction drawings for it is not on most set designer’s list of favorite-things-to-draw. Sometimes you can get away with doing what’s basically a giant napkin drawing but most of the time you’ve got to get into some real details: like joinery, hardware and material specs. And there are the standards: what’s the widest bookshelf you can have before you’ve got a serious sagging problem?

If you have only one book on furniture and cabinetry, Illustrated Cabinetmaking by Bill Hylton, is a good choice. Written for woodworkers, this book is an excellent reference for anyone who needs to draw or understand furniture design and construction. The book details over 90 different pieces and contains over 1300 beautiful pencil drawings. Each spread describes the piece in detail with exploded views and details, and gives design variations as well as sources for measured drawings.

 

 

There are also chapters on joinery, door and case construction, styles and the basic design standards for each type of furnishing.

Typical layout showing exploded views and details

Examples of joinery details

Each chapter is begun with a design standards chart

The book is published by Fox Chapel Publishing and retails for $24.95.

Required Reading – “Backstage Handbook”

You can never have enough good reference books. Even with the seemingly endless information that’s available on the internet, having a good reference book close at hand can save you hours of searching internet sites for a critical bit of knowledge.

There are certain books that are part of my kit that I make sure to always have with me because the information they contain is so useful and job-specific that I’m sure I’ll refer to them numerous times during a show.

One of these is the Backstage Handbook. It’s subtitle, “An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information”,  is a perfect description of it’s contents. Profusely illustrated with crisp black and white drawings, the book is a visual reference of hardware, materials and architectural elements. Written by  Paul Carter, the book was originally written for those in live theater. Now in it’s third edition, the book includes chapters that pertain more to film work as well.

I’m now on my third copy of the book as they often fall apart from heavy use. The book becomes my repository for notes, tables and other bits of technical info that I want to keep in one place.

It’s a nice compact volume that provides a quick way to look up typical fasteners, steel sizes, material weights and sizes and a lot of other information you’ll often need without resorting to sifting through a McMaster-Carr catalogue or various other books.

It’s published by Broadway Press and retails for $18, although you can sometimes find it cheaper through Amazon. This is definitely a book you should own.