Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bending Railings to Your Will

Food for thought, what if we used railings for millwork and egress paths? By millwork I mean custom work, not fixed sized cabinets which are often referred to as casework by some architecture and interior firms). As for egress paths, I've written about them many times (I've put a list of those posts at the end of this one) in the past and the example of using a line based family kept me busy for quite some time with requests from people to get their own copy. Busy enough that I finally made it possible to download directly without needing to ask. I also recently mentioned the technique that Brian Mackey uses to demonstrate stair clearance using a railing, so that's yet another way to bend railings to your will.

A railing can do the same task as the egress path I've written about. That example only came about as a possible example of how to use the new line based family template (new in 2006), not something optimized for the task but it's worked pretty well over the years. If you consider applying a "person" profile to a railing, like for Brian's stair clearance, you've just got to sketch the path the railing takes. You can schedule the railing and provide a similar tagging approach to identify each path as different as well as display the total length. Give it a go?

Back to the idea of millwork. Railings are based on profiles, so are cabinets, at least when you are being really schematic. Obviously it won't really do the job for fabrication or construction documentation. If you want a fast way to "draw" millwork a railing works pretty well. A railing sketch is really tolerant of the path being straight or curved too. To get started you sketch the base cabinet profile, save it. Sketch the upper cabinet, save it. You can incorporate the counter profile in the base or make it separate. Load the profiles into a railing type and adjust some values and you can get something like this.

It works pretty well as long as you don't care about seeing drawers and doors. What you see in the image above is railings posing as millwork cabinets and face-based families (line work only) assigned to the Casework category.

It is necessary to keep the upper and lower cabinets separate otherwise you can't get them (upper cabinets) to show up above. In the plan view you see here I've temporarily turned on the underlay so I can apply the Linework tool to see the upper cabinet. Relatively small price to pay for the views that really need to see it.

The neat thing about this approach is that you can get schematic design info such as overall length of different millwork conditions via a schedule. Then when you are ready to dive deeper you can replace them or, as in the image, overlay face-based families to "finish" the detailing. One schedule (early) for schematic and  another (later) for a more detailed summary of cabinets pieces and parts. It isn't hard to make a railing look a lot like something else in a schedule. Just change the schedule title, rename the railing type, change the assembly code values and you've got a pretty convincing railing slash millwork. Maybe call it milling or railwork?

It won't satisfy everyone or maybe anyone...well it did make a few folks more content than they were a few years ago when we decided to do it.

Past Egress Posts (a summary)
Egress Path
Egress Path Update
Egress Path Tags - New Versions
Egress Path of Travel Uh Oh
Egress Example Update
Egress Regress
Egress Family Arc Version


Jay Polding said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the good post. Really good examples as well. It got me thinking, what about inserting casework into an empty curtain panel and using the curtain wall? Do you see any advantages to this?

Steve said...

I've heard of some people using that technique. For quick/schematic layout though the bending of a railing is pretty hard to beat.

Steve said...

Another example of using railings "inappropriately" is for sun screen elements. The profiles of fins and the frame work is described pretty well with railing bits and pieces.