Get instant digital access.
Subscribe Now!

Bracket Art

In his book “The Art of Race Car Design,” Bob Riley describes what he calls bracket art. “There are a lot of brackets on a race car, at least that’s what I call them, whether a bolted-on piece or a welded-on piece.

“I want,” he continues, “all the pieces to flow instead of having jagged edges. In a way, it makes a better design.” We’re constantly making brackets for our own projects, and we always take Riley’s words to heart as we work. We find that taking the time to make every bracket just right gives us not only the satisfaction of quality craftsmanship, but also yields homemade hardware that simply works better–and doesn’t have sharp edges that make us bleed.

We recently refined a crude bracket into something that “flows.” Maybe it’s not art, but we like the finished product a lot better than the original. Here’s how a few extra minutes made that difference.

Step 1:

This crude bracket originally held an a/c evaporator to the radiator mount on our Miata-powered MGB GT. It did the job, but it certainly wasn’t art.

Step 2:

The rectangular bracket had sharp corners and more material than needed. We started tracing minimum dimensions for it.

Step 3:

As we determined where to start cutting away material, we kept in mind that we also wanted to maintain enough metal around each mounting point. Further, we wanted to eliminate sharp transitions that could lead to stress risers. We put a radius anywhere a stress riser could occur; we’ve found that tracing washers is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Step 4:

Our clunky bracket is now marked up to be transformed. We decided to take a little off the bottom and a lot more off the top. Since the holes are offset, we needed smooth transitions with flowing radiuses. And, again, we wanted to eliminate sharp corners that make us bleed.

Step 5:

Before trimming the straight edges, we used a Rotabroach hole saw to put a concave radius in one spot on our bracket.

Step 6:

With that radius handled, we were ready to cut the straight lines.

Step 7:

We admit it: Working a bit too hastily yielded some imperfect lines. (Learn from our mistakes, kids.)

Step 8:

A little time with a sander solved our sloppiness.

Step 9:

After a little sanding, our much-improved bracket (top piece) looked far better. It may not qualify as actual art, but it’s a lot better than what we started with.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more articles.

Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
10/2/17 5:20 p.m.

One of my professors in engineering school had a saying about good design:

1. Make it work.

2. Make it simple.

3. Make it pretty.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/2/17 5:59 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

One of my professors in engineering school had a saying about good design:

1. Make it work.

2. Make it simple.

3. Make it pretty.

It could be argued that 3 is the inevitable result of 2.

I know some engineers who stopped listening at 1.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/2/17 6:34 p.m.

My experience is that the majority of the time, beauty does in fact follow function. And if there's no way to make something attractive in a way that we associate with aesthetics, good design  is still its own reward. Custom wiring jobs are one of the best examples of this. Tight, intelligently-routed looms imply that all is right with the world. Haphazard nests of wires suggest that failure is imminent.

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
10/2/17 6:42 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
stuart in mn said:

One of my professors in engineering school had a saying about good design:

1. Make it work.

2. Make it simple.

3. Make it pretty.

It could be argued that 3 is the inevitable result of 2.

I know some engineers who stopped listening at 1.

This. So much this. 

vwcorvette
vwcorvette SuperDork
10/2/17 8:07 p.m.

Strother MacMinn, in a response to a survey I sent him on automotive design, said (and I paraphase here) that if you can spend the money and time to make something ugly you could just as easily make it beautiful.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/2/17 8:39 p.m.

Thanks, glad that you enjoyed the piece. Carl definitely knows his stuff.

iadr
iadr Dork
10/3/17 8:44 a.m.
Keith Tanner wrote:
stuart in mn said:

One of my professors in engineering school had a saying about good design:

1. Make it work.

2. Make it simple.

3. Make it pretty.

It could be argued that 3 is the inevitable result of 2.

I know some engineers who stopped listening at 1.

IMO, working for a dealership, engineers stop halfway through step one... and start messing with another aspect that already worked.

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
10/3/17 9:16 a.m.
iadr said:
Keith Tanner wrote:
stuart in mn said:

One of my professors in engineering school had a saying about good design:

1. Make it work.

2. Make it simple.

3. Make it pretty.

It could be argued that 3 is the inevitable result of 2.

I know some engineers who stopped listening at 1.

IMO, working for a dealership, engineers stop halfway through step one... and start messing with another aspect that already worked.

Yeah, my gut reaction was "unless they engineer for Audi or BMW, then they never make it through #1"

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
10/3/17 10:03 a.m.

As the engineer who posted that quote, I'd like to say that many (most?) of us strive to work through all three steps whenever we can.  Time schedules and budgets that are out of our control do often get in the way.

TurboFocus
TurboFocus Reader
10/3/17 12:03 p.m.

im honest, i stop at 1.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr UltraDork
10/3/17 2:53 p.m.
TurboFocus wrote:

im honest, i stop at 1.

Me too for the most part.  I am too impatient when doing an engine swap or whatever.  I spend time once it is done to go back over areas that I can do better, but initially, I am make it work...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/4/17 10:11 a.m.
stuart in mn said:

As the engineer who posted that quote, I'd like to say that many (most?) of us strive to work through all three steps whenever we can.  Time schedules and budgets that are out of our control do often get in the way.

I wish it was most. In my experience, it's more like "some". I've worked with one engineer who puts the first crazy idea that comes to mind into production, and he'll come up with the most tortured math possible to back it up. Then things fail, and he trots out the math to show that it's impossible. Combine this with a lack of attention to detail in fabrication and he's not a credit to the profession.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
10/4/17 11:35 a.m.

Or you can be like me. 

Start at 2, go back to 1, remember that 3 was a thing and pretend you'll eventually remake the part in a prettier more functional revision later, and never come back to it. 

b8MgtsIKswngPr0JNqqcJ9McqIY6Regg