Frequently Asked Questions

Basics

Opendesk is an online marketplace that hosts independently designed furniture and connects its customers to local makers all around the world.


We're disrupting the traditional 20th century model of mass production. We don’t have a factory or a warehouse, and we don’t ship furniture around the world. Instead we have a global network of local makers. Designed specifically to be distributed as a digital file, Opendesk furniture is emailed and cut out using CNC machines in carpentry workshops around the world - just like sending a pdf to your local print shop.

We’re able to kit out workplaces around the world quickly, affordably and sustainably - all thanks to distributed, on-demand manufacturing. To get started, add designs to your online basket and fill out the Quote Request form. We'll do the rest!

* For makers - we believe in distributed manufacturing that’s human centred, social and local. Makers who join the Opendesk network will need to have professional-standard CNC capabilities and reasonable access to plywood sheets to be able to make our tested product designs for local customers. When a customer requests quotes via Opendesk, we invite local makers to quote and then connect the customer and chosen maker to fulfil the job. Opendesk support is available throughout the whole process to ensure everyone is happy.

* For designers - we believe in supporting emerging designers by bringing their digital designs to a global audience via the Opendesk platform. We let designers chose their own licence terms and retain all the rights to their work, and you’ll get an 8% design fee for every piece of furniture made commercially through our global maker network. We will be posting design briefs soon for upcoming collaborations - stay tuned!

* For Customers - by using a network of local, small-scale professional fabricators (rather than traditional mass manufacturing processes) customers and small businesses can get Opendesk designs made on-demand in a cost-effective and socially responsible way.

This video sums up 'Requesting Quotes' and how Opendesk works:

If you're a customer looking to kit out your workplace, we offer a sustainable, fast and locally-made solution through our marketplace model.

Are you a maker? Opendesk provides an opportunity to get more work from customers requesting quotes through the Opendesk marketplace.

If you're a designer, the Opendesk platform provides the opportunity to get global distribution for your work. For all furniture sold through our marketplace, we provide an 8% fee to the designer, which is much better than the industry standard of 2-3%. Your designs could also end up in some of the most innovative workplaces in the world, with past clients including the likes of Google, Etsy, Wework and General Electric.

We’re changing the way products are designed and made by connecting customers with manufacturing workshops around the world; making furniture as close as possible to where it’s needed through digital fabrication tools. That’s why you request quotes from local makers in your area instead of buying directly from us.

It’s also possible to download the manufacturing blueprints for many designs on Opendesk. This is because we want to empower hobby makers to build our designs in their garage workshop or local makerspace. This is where the ‘open source’ component comes in.

Designers decide how they license their own product designs: some are published without license restrictions (typically under Creative Commons Attribution or 0 licenses) while others are free for non-commercial use only. We embrace open source because we believe that it can produce attendant benefits and a more ethical model of production without the intellectual property incumbency typically associated with 'business as usual'. This means that we’re able to host professional product designs which can be freely downloaded and made by enthusiasts in makerspaces, Fablabs, Techshops or other suitably equipped facilities.

Part of our broader mission is to create a viable business model that benefits independent designers.

For any order made through the Opendesk marketplace, the price includes a platform fee (12% of the manufacturing cost), a channel fee (18% of the manufacturing cost) and a designer fee (8% of the manufacturing cost). You can read more on our model here).

This design fee is then paid out to the respective designer(s) on a quarterly basis depending on how many of their designs were sold through the marketplace.

The specific technology we chose to start with is CNC machining. CNC stands for computer numeric control - it’s basically a machine run completely by a computer. They’re a standard piece of equipment in makerspaces all over the world where woodworking is done. In its simplified form, think of it like sending a pdf to your local print shop: the CNC machine is the printer for wooden parts and you can plug the design in. These machines have eliminated the need for large factories or long-distance shipping, and ensure that products are produced only in the numbers required.

For materials, we’ve chosen to use flat sheets in common dimensions, with birch plywood as our basic material. We offer white laminate for some of our designs and are working on expanding our current offering at the moment.

You’ve come to the right place! We’re changing the way products are designed and made by connecting customers with manufacturing workshops around the world; making furniture as close as possible to where it’s needed through digital fabrication tools.

To get started, browse our designs and add products you’re interested in to your online basket. Once you’ve filled your basket with all the products you want, submit the "Quote Request Form". Your request is then sent to our sales team who will reach out to your closest makers for a quote and lead time. This takes approximately two business days.

When you’re happy with one of the quotes you’ve received and want to proceed, we will invoice you and confirm your order with your chosen local maker. We'll then introduce you to the maker and all you have to do is arrange a convenient delivery time!

If you’re looking for some help and advice filling out a larger office of workplace, there is also the option to fill out our Workspace Enquiry form and someone from the team will be in touch to guide you through the process.

On each design we provide a price range, which is based on average prices of past transactions. The price you see includes the maker manufacturing costs, designer fee, platform fee and channel fee. Requesting quotes from makers near you is central to our local making model, so we would never provide an exact price as it varies depending on manufacturing costs, taxes and material availability relative to your location. However, as we receive more pricing data from makers and jobs in different locations we'll be able to provide better and more accurate price ranges.

Typically, your order will take between one to four weeks to be delivered, which is pretty good compared to the industry average of six to twelve. That’s particularly impressive when you think our makers don’t hold stock and need to craft and hand finish each design once it’s ordered.

Great! If you’ve done your homework on CNC routing and know a bit about CAD/CAM, just download the file and adhere to any license conditions the designer has set.

It’s important to know that the design files have been tested in Baltic birch plywood and are mastered for a certain material thickness; you can find this material thickness in the design file, but mostly it is 18mm which is slightly thinner than ¾”.

Before you do your tool-pathing, you’ll want to make sure that you measure your sheet thickness and scale the drawing up or down to match your sheet thickness. Many furniture designs listed on Opendesk need to have a snug (tight) fit of the joints to provide good stability.

If you think it’s a step too far to make the furniture by yourself and would rather pay a professional, hit “Request Quotes” on a design of your choice and we’ll connect you to local makers who can assist.

Makers listed on Opendesk are professionals. All have been through our rigorous three step maker on-boarding process to ensure they are well drilled in furniture making. You can be sure that your furniture will always been made to the highest quality. So in short, yes you can trust them!

You will also have full on-going customer support throughout the process. Where your payment is concerned, you’ll also have security in case anything doesn’t go to plan.

Absolutely. Opendesk has worked hard to build a network of craftsmen and local makers who go through a rigorous on-boarding process to join us. This allows us to offer a twelve months warranty on all standard products that have been ordered through the Opendesk platform and maintained in line with normal standards.

If you do experience any issues with your furniture, or have any questions on maintenance, please don’t hesitate to contact your maker directly and copy us in.

Our warranty is subject to any prevailing consumer protection laws in certain countries, including the USA and the UK.

Your Opendesk furniture is made from a natural wood product and should therefore be very durable and age gracefully over time. However, to keep your Opendesk in top condition please adhere to the following care guidelines:

* Clean your Opendesk using a damp cloth and mild detergent. The oils or varnishes used on your product will typically be water-repellent, however to prevent water-staining do not leave surfaces damp for prolonged periods. For the best results, wipe down with a soft dry cloth after cleaning.

* Avoid contact with extreme heat. Placing hot objects, such as very hot mugs onto the surface of your Opendesk may result in burn marks, which are difficult to remove without surface sanding.

* Avoid prolonged exposure to water or other liquids. Mop up spills promptly and where necessary wipe down surfaces using a damp cloth to prevent staining from coloured liquids. Take particular care of any cut plywood edges (end-grain).

* To prevent discolouration of the natural wooden surfaces of your Opendesk over time, avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. In cases where sun-exposure is likely it's recommended to move your furniture every three to six months by rotating it 180-degrees. This will prevent differential discolouration.

If you take proper care of your Opendesk it should last for many years like any wooden furniture piece, however if your product is experiencing intensive use it may require a basic refresh to exposed surfaces after 12-24 months to ensure longevity. It is recommended to treat exposed surfaces such as table-tops with a light sanding by hand using a fine-grain sandpaper (eg. 400-grit) to remove any surface dirt and imperfections, before applying a single coat of OSMO Polyx-oil by hand or roller. Your local maker may also be able to offer a call-out maintenance service on request.

Yes. Every Opendesk maker is trained in the same manufacturing processes and will deliver the same result. However, because Opendesk is made from natural materials, there will be subtle differences in texture (e.g. wood grain pattern) and colour, making every piece of furniture unique.

We have launched our Value Added Services offering, which enables customers to request modifications. For now this service is limited to dimension changes on some of our standard designs, however it will be extended in the future to include a range of services from logo etching to customised design! At present, it is possible to request minor modifications, such as special tailored sizes, on a limited selection of our product. Each product does have its own limitations as to which changes are possible. This current list of products includes:

Studio Desk available in:

W: 600 L: 1200
W: 700 L:1400
W:800 L:1600

Unit Table available in:

W: 600 L: 1200
W: 700 L:1400
W:800 L:1600

Lean Desk available in:

W: 1300 L: 1200, 2000, 2400, H: 738
W: 1600 L: 1200, 2000, 2400, H:738

Team Desk available in:

W: 950 L: 2000, 2400, H:738

Lift Standing Desk available in:

W: 915 L: 1200, 1600, 2000, 2400 H: 738-1068

You can find out more about these changes and any associated fees by clicking the product links above, and you can request these changes by clicking the ‘Get in Touch’ link under ‘Dimensions’ on the product pages listed above.

This isn’t something we currently offer under our Value Added Services, but it’s coming!

That said, when you request quotes from local makers through the Opendesk platform and someone from our team gets back to you, mention that you’re interested in this option and we can see if it’s something we can accommodate for a design fee.

* Makers - We work with professional, small-to-medium sized manufacturing companies (often with a proud local tradition) and refer to them as ‘makers’, ‘fabricators’ or ‘manufacturers’, more or less interchangeably. We prefer the term ‘makers’ as this is closest to Opendesk’s heritage in the so-called ‘maker movement’ and it can include anyone manufacturing our furniture - not only professionals in our network, but also enthusiasts using a download for DIY purposes.

* CNC - stands for Computer Numeric Control which basically means digitally controlled. Manufacturing using CNC is a decades-old technology, which in recent years has become more widely available and affordable.

* Plywood - is a flat sheet material manufactured from thin layers or "plies" of wood with adjacent layers rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. This means that the ‘wood grain’ (which provides strength) of each layer differs from the adjacent layer, making plywood strong and less susceptible to warping and bending than single pieces of wood. It’s also easier to produce and thus less costly. The various layers are visible from the side of the wood, which provides a characteristic design feature to the furniture.

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Makers

Being a verified Opendesk maker is a great way to get additional work from customers using the Opendesk marketplace to have furniture made - particularly useful if you have downtime with your CNC machine.

Our model is based on what we call “Open Making”. This is a model to allow designers, makers and customers to transact in a transparent, open way to create beautiful products on-demand, close to the customer and in the most efficient way possible.

One reason to join is that the tested, high quality product designs make it possible to produce furniture in small batches without the usual overhead with clients and/or designers, which many makers find difficult to do in a profitable way. We’ve noticed that customers, designers and makers all use a slightly different language – at Opendesk we try to overcome that by defining common standards (but with plenty of leeway to make it personal!).

When you become an approved Opendesk maker, we will send you quote requests for local enquiries from clients as we receive them. You’re asked to respond to these enquiries by providing a quote or by declining, similar to how you most likely work on a daily basis. A client will typically get quotations from three makers. If your quote is selected, we will connect you to the client to progress and arrange delivery.

Your quote should include your manufacturing costs, delivery and assembly (if required), and lead time. On top of this Opendesk will add a 38% markup before presenting it to the client: 8% for the designer, 12% for the Opendesk platform and 18% for the sales channel (you can read more on our model here).

The fee is then collected by us and we pay the designer(s).

Companies who have a suitable CNC machine and work with plywood a lot are the best match for Opendesk. Different sized companies are suitable for different jobs that come through the Opendesk marketplace.

We find that very small CNC ‘jobshops’ can do very well on Opendesk and are particularly effective at small batch orders that need to be delivered quickly. However, for larger jobs it has become apparent that multi-CNC-machine workshops (often with a larger staff of multi-skilled carpenters) find it easier to deliver larger volumes within a limited timeframe, at consistent quality. However, these jobs are more sporadic and often have much longer formative stages.

Part of our broader mission is to create a viable business model that benefits independent makers. To do that we want to reduce the barriers to entry for skilled and qualified makers who have professional-standard CNC capabilities and reasonable access to plywood sheets.

If you have the right equipment and skills to produce Opendesk furniture, there are no costs or fees to be listed on Opendesk and start receiving Quote Requests. In order to join and become a verified maker, you’ll need to go through our onboarding process, which involves three steps:

Step One: Qualification - Pre-flight checks that makes sure you have everything required to be an Opendesk maker.

Step Two: Establish price - You’ll be asked to submit some key information that we use to design and improve the platform, you’ll do an estimation for one of our designs, and you’ll be given guidelines for producing great media content to accompany your maker profile.

Step Three: Fabrication - Learning how typical jobs are conducted once the order has been agreed, we’ll ask you to make a Studio Desk in order to evaluate your competency and your timings.

The whole process takes approximately a day to complete end-to-end. Once complete, and provided you meet the standard required, you will have a profile live on the Opendesk website and will be ready to start receiving quote requests for your local area as they are made through the Opendesk marketplace.

You’ll earn money only when customers place an order and are happy with the result.

All Opendesk design files will include information on which bit size a design is mastered for. Generally speaking, most designs can be achieved with a 6mm or ¼” cutter and a 45deg chamfer bit. In some cases some cuts are able to be achieved with an 8mm bit in order to speed up the process. It is important to check the drawing to understand what bit is required.

From talking with many other makers we find that picking the right plywood quality (affordable but with only minor imperfections) is an important part of getting the cost right.

Mostly grade B/BB works, but you’ll need to carefully examine the quality and size of the ‘plugs’ on both faces in each batch you order, as the same grade from different suppliers can be quite different.

We’re working with the assumption that you have your own method to safely transport your final products to your clients.

As a minimum, all loose parts should be wrapped in bubble wrap twice over. Where appropriate, bundle small components with large components to avoid pieces getting lost.

If the customer pays for delivery, the products will remain in your care and ownership until they have been delivered and accepted, and it’s your responsibility to ensure the final quality – like with any other job you take on.

Of course, if the customer pays for delivery the products will remain in your care and ownership until they have been delivered and accepted, and it’s your responsibility to ensure the final quality – like with any other job you take on.

To start the process, fill out the Join as a Maker form. You’ll receive an email with further instructions to create your profile and submit it for moderation. We will then contact you with our maker on-boarding process (detailed above). This is designed to find out a bit more about you and ensure that you can produce Opendesk furniture to the level required. Once completed, your profile will be switched live and you will be able to start receiving quote requests as we get them local to you.

In order to build the world’s most equitable and distributed supply chain, we need your help.

We ask that you respect the Opendesk business model and conform to the standards of quality expected.

We ask that you respond to any quote requests as quickly as possible to reduce wait time for customers.

We ask for open communication lines always: if you have feedback or aren’t happy, let us know!

Adhere to design updates: we will communicate with you about any important changes made to the designs listed on Opendesk - it’s important you read and take these on board.

Opendesk operates on the philosophy that we should only ever deliver a service and product that would delight us if we were the customer. We hope you agree :)

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Designers

We are establishing a new way to invite designers to work with us. We’ll be publishing design briefs online during 2017, and inviting designers to submit relevant work. We’ll be using the insights and learnings from all the work we’ve done over the past few years - with amazing clients and their workplaces - to help inform this.

We’re excited to launch the first design brief in the coming months, so if you’d like us to keep you updated about what’s next and when the brief goes live, please head to the Designer Collaboration page and subscribe.  

All Opendesk furniture is made using a 3 axis CNC router which comes with its specific requirements. It is important to understand the way the technology works in order to be creative around it.  

We want Opendesk products to be as universally accessible as possible. Makers with the most basic CNC machines (i.e. machines without automatic tool change) should be capable of making all Opendesk products. Therefore, we encourage our designers to simplify the manufacturing process of their piece of furniture as much as possible (without compromising their design vision, of course).

* Reduce the number of different cut depths where possible. The fewer machine operations the better.


* Avoid small components where possible as they tend to get sucked up by the machine or catch on the cutter. This can cause damage the other parts being cut and can cause accidents.


* An alternative to small locking pegs is to use simple universal hardware solutions (please see ‘Design for Hardware’ section for more info in this).


* Avoid reverse side machining where possible.


* Always draw for a 8mm diameter cutter.


* The fewer the number of tools used to cut a product the better. e.g. the commonly used tools are 8mm cutter for profiling and pockets, 6mm cutter for holes, chamfer tool and fillet tool for edge details.

We work primarily with birch plywood or white laminate sheets (1220x2440mm/ 8x4’). We also offer a curated selection of laminates on request as an alternative to the online offering. The standard quality birch plywood Opendesk works with is B/BB. This quality should ensure the minimum amount of knots on the plywood sheet.

In a bid to keep Opendesk’s products as universal as possible, we do not advocate the use of over oversized sheets (3050x1525mm / 10x5’). However, in the case where a product’s dimensions require the use of oversized sheets we highly recommend that laminates are used in order to avoid quality issues (i.e. low quality material with lots of plugs and defects).

Furthermore, not all CNC machines are large enough to cut oversized sheets. Only 40% of our makers have oversized machines that will support the making of such products.


Grain direction*: the grain direction should be considered when designing and nesting the components of a product. This is for aesthetic reasons.

*Grain direction: In most countries the grain runs down the length of a standard sheet (8x4’ or 1220x2440mm).

Use of laminates: when working with laminate it is important to consider that thickness is likely to increase. An 18mm laminate can actually measure up to 20mm thick. Skimming* can be used to accommodate a product designed primarily for birch plywood.

*Skimming: Removing the laminate layer over the surface of the part. This is done when two parts need to be glued together to create a single component. This can be seen on the legs of most Opendesk Tables and Desks. This is essential, as glue will not work when applied to the laminated material, only the ply surface.

Nesting: nesting is the arrangement of components on the surface of the sheet. Efficient nesting should be considered from the start of the design process. The typology of the product should dictate the amount of material required to make it. The sheet can be visualised as a grid, divided into wholes (1220 x 2440), halves (1220 x 1220) and quarters (1220 x 610).

Material thickness: Opendesk works with plywood standard thicknesses that are universally available: 12,18 and 24mm. Thickness can vary +/- 0.5mm from the original, therefore tolerances of connecting parts need to be taken into account in the design. When deciding on material thickness designers should bear in mind the product typology, size and construction method.

All designs hosted and made through Opendesk are sent as DXF files. We use this file format as it’s the most universally usable by CNC-machines and their CAM software worldwide! We use Inventor and Autocad – but you are free to design with the software of your choice, as long as it can export a clean DXF. In terms of Autocad standard export functions, we highly recommend using a version 2000 export if available. We would also ask that when drawing, you close all polylines.

A basic 3-axis CNC machine has a number of standard operations, as illustrated. These include:

* Cutout: the tool (drill-bit) will go through the whole thickness of the material. The cutout operation can be done outside the line to create components or inside to create a hole.

* Pocket: the tool will cut down to a specified depth, leaving a given thickness of material. In an 18mm sheet you can create a pocket of depth from 1mm up to 17mm, for example. Similar to a cutout, a pocket can be cut inside or outside of a drawn line.

* Holes: the machine simply drills a hole. The diameter of the hole as well as the depth has to be indicated. Holes are mostly used to dowel-joint two elements that need to be glued together.

* Chamfer: a chamfer can be added to the side of a component to create a bevelled edge (such as on a table top). Standard angles are 30, 45 and 60 degrees, with other angles requiring custom-ordered or made cutting bits.

We try to avoid reverse side machining as not all makers have the right facilities to do it properly. It can also create a lot of extra work for makers (therefore increasing prices) and can increase the chance of error. That said, it is possible to operate the machine on one side of the sheet and to then flip the sheet over to machine the reverse side. This does enable further options in the way the product is designed, made and assembled. However, as stated above, double-sided machining increases the cost of making and hence the price of the final furniture piece.

It might seem obvious but it’s impossible to create an internal square corner as tools are round drill bits. A dogbone is a commonly used name for various ways to draw internal corners for CNC. It means adding an 8mm circle onto each internal corner.

Sheet materials, however manufactured or engineered, still vary in thickness. Designs often need rigid connections, but in other locations may require a looser intersection of parts - a sliding drawer, for example. With this in mind we have developed four standard fit types that vary in tightness to assist when designing and for Opendesk:

A > Mallet-Tight (-0.60mm pinch)

Use this for structural elements that need to be rigidly connected to create a stiff frame. As the name suggests, carefully malleting together is required to get the parts really tight.

B > Press-Fit (0.00)

Use this for parts that need to be snug, but not super-tight. These should be able to be pressed together by hand with a bit of effort.

C > Push-Fit (+0.20)

Use this for parts that need to grab together, but only lightly. Think pushing Lego together.

D > Slide-Fit (+0.50)

Use this for parts that need to move past each other smoothly, like a drawer or hinged door.Getting these different fits right means drawing to the indicated tolerances (in brackets). These need to be added to the drawing regarding the type of connection wanted – and if used correctly has a huge impact on the structural integrity and makeability of the final product.

When preparing a design file there are some important rules to follow and guidelines to consider:

* It’s important to check a file in order for it to be ready for a maker - it’s the designer’s responsibility.

* Layers in the DXF should correspond to the different machine operations. We have a template DXF file with a library of layer names, and we’d really like you to use these!

* No doubling up please! Would be great if you could get rid of all duplicate layers or lines in the drawing.

* Curves: We really do need all curves to be closed, and not facetted. There should be no intersecting curves either – sorry!

* 3D Model : it’s really helpful to build a 3D model from the production drawing to check connections between components and dimensions fit – it’s the best way to find this out – and better to find out before we cut it out!

Layering identifies different actions the machine should take when cutting. To explain (apologies if this is obvious) they include the following:

TOP – a cut into the top side of a sheet

REV – a cut into the reverse side of a sheet

Pocket – depth specified

Cut – depth specified, relates to material (eg 18mm cut for 18mm material)

Fillet – depth specified on line along which a chamfer is to be cut

Radius – radius dimension specified on line along which a radius is to be cut

Inside – the tool will be inside of the line drawn (eg for an internal hole of pocket)

Outside – the tool will be outside of the line drawn (eg for cutting out a part)

Example: TOP-POCKET-INSIDE-12mm

This is the layer to use for a pocket of 12mm deep that’s on the top side of the sheet and the area to be pocketed will be inside the line/region drawn. We’d really like you to put your design into these layers when it’s ready to be sent over to us to have a look at!

Opendesk will often use universal hardware solutions to secure joints. In the spirit of distributed manufacturing and universality of making, any hardware specified should be easily accessible and shouldn’t be reliant on one specific supplier.

The Design Engineering team in our London studio works alongside designers to prototype, iterate and improve Opendesk furniture - so it’s always up to date with our makers’ capabilities and the needs of our customers.

Amongst other considerations, we’ll make a decision around the suitability of your design based on how ready it is to prototype and how ‘makeable’ it is. If we do decide to take your design forward, we’ll take on the task of prototyping it again through one of the makers local to our East London studio. We like to get our hands on everything we make available.

We understand that you cannot control or take responsibility for the actual production of the design. That’s where our maker network comes in. Each maker goes through a rigorous on-boarding process to ensure that they make Opendesk designs to the highest standard.

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