Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No Desks? How about lapdesks?

I am on holiday.
I'm sitting on this glorious, deserted  beach. There are a few wispy clouds and the waves are gently lapping at the shore. My wife and daughter are merrily playing in the low tide waters. And what's the thing I can't keep out of my mind?  LAPDESKS!  (Sad, I know.)

It was a little cloudy yesterday so I went into the little town here. I went into a little mom and pop import store and there on the shelf was a Daiso doc holder. Because I got rid of my desks, my students used these same doc holders (at a third of the price) as lapdesks. I liked them and the kids liked them. The price was right ($2 each at Daiso), they were light, a good size, and had a little storage for a few things to keep on hand.

But I've been rethinking about using these particular lapdesks. They would be ideal if they were more robust. Several shattered, the clasps and handles snapped off, and the normal lifespan of these doc holders was about a year. That means that I'll shell out $60 each year and have all of that extruded plastic on my conscience.

So I've been looking for alternatives. But it has been hard to find lapdesks that balance the holy trinity: cost, durability, and functionality. This little town has a Staples. I found a few candidates.

For $25 there was a real lapdesk. You know, the bean shaped plank with attached pillow.  This is too costly, too bulky and has no storage.
For $20 there are some plastic clamshell clipboards with enough storage for a notebook.  Nix: plastic and cost (but decent functionality).


At a liquidation place, I found large wooden clipboard for $3. It was a bit too big (30 x 50 cm) but durable. If I was to use them year after year I could justify the initial outlay of $75 and being wood they'd probably hold up for more than a year. But because there is no storage, it lessens their functionality quotient.  


And looking at the clipboards, I realized there is one more factor I need to consider: design.  The brown pressboard clipboards are oh so boring.  Maria Montessori had it right when she made her materials beautiful. It didn't make them any more functional but you wanted to hold them and use them because it was like holding art. Daniel Pink points out that design is important.  Even a toaster has to look good because in the 98% of the time it is not being used to darken bread, it has to not offend our sensibilities while it sits on the counter.    

Here is the expanded checklist for my new lapdesks:
  • Light (in weight, not luminosity)
  • Flat surface on which to write, at least as big as a notebook
  • Clip or a clamp
  • Storage
  • Cheap
  • Durable 
  • Can stand on its end for storing
  • Preferably wood
  • Comfortable 
  • Looks good

So I am left with only one alternative (again): build it myself.  Remember the risers?

I have a design in mind that should include all the requirements above plus take into account my meager carpentry skills. I had it rolling around in my brain, but I saw an interesting example of it as I was walking by a wine store (mine won't have wine in it).

It will be a 2x3 frame sandwiched between two pieces of thin plywood. The top piece of plywood will be a panel that slides in. The sliding panel will act as a lid for the storage compartment, plus it will have a clip on it to hold the work down.

I'll make a couple if prototypes to see if:
this model is going to work, I am able to construct it, and it is cost effective. I actually don't mind spending a little more if this lapdesk is strong, fun to make, and will hold up for several years.

I'll let you know how things go. Even if they don't.  



No comments:

Post a Comment