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Mid Century Modern Find of the Week: Candy-Striped Model 97 Rocker

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

This gorgeous Danish modern rocker was designed by Holger Georg Jensen for Tønder Møbelværk in 1958. 

This piece is known as Model 97, and these surface occasionally, but this particular piece is a bit special as it retains its colorful original candy striped wool upholstery.

There is not much known about this designer, and his pieces are commonly attributed to Søren Georg Jensen, but most of (Holger) Jensen's work was done for a company called Kubus in the early- to mid-1960s.


These "Mid Century Modern Find of the Week" posts are provided courtesy of Mid Century Møbler, which specializes in importing vintage Danish Modern and authentic Mid Century furniture from the 1950s and 1960s.

Space Saving, Eco-Conscious Gear for Campers & Road Trippers

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

The official first day of summer was this week, and with that begins plans for epic outdoor adventures. To help jumpstart your planning, we've compiled a list some of our favorite items that camping objects that feel essential rather than overdone and help make sure you conduct your camping or road trip in the most sustainable way possible. 

An Inflatable Lantern Powered by the Sun

There's nothing about this lamp that's not to like—for one, it's inflatable so it can be packed away easily into your backpack. It's also solar powered and lasts up to 12 hours on one charge. Lastly, it's waterproof, so it can also float on water! We're daydreaming about night swimming in a quiet lake with these as we speak...

A Tech-Friendly Wood Burning Camp Stove

The Biolite Wood Burning Stove is unique in that it uses kindling as opposed to butane to fire up your food, and the other bonus (besides being as eco-conscious as you are) is it can also charge your phone if needed. We see you glampers out there.

The World's Smallest "Washing Machine"

This one's for campers and road-trippers alike: the Scrubba Portable Laundry Bag. You simply throw your clothes in with some water and soap, rustle the bag around and voila! Freshly washed clothes (for campers, just make sure you use eco-friendly camping soap and don't drain into waterways!) 

ButtValet 100% Biodegradable Cleansing Wipes

We just can't resist a product with as rich of a name as "ButtValet". 

Hydrapak Collapsible Water Bottle

How do you fit a 1 liter water bottle in your pocket? With a Hydrapak Stash Water Bottle, which collapses to a quarter of its size, allowing you to save space and all those disposable plastic water bottles you were thinking of bringing on your camping excursion.

A Small but Powerful Water Filter

You should always have at least 2 liters of clean water on hand during a short camping trip, but this super-tiny water filtration straw can ensure you're getting safe sips from pure water sources if you ever find yourself needing more. 

A Space-Saving Fly Fishing Kit

For the impeccably-dressed camper in your life with a love for fishing, there's this impressively compact collaboration fishing pole and hip pack by Topo Designs and Tenkara Rod Co. Let them catch your dinner for the night!

A Camping Pot Made of Silicone?

This pot solves your issue of finding a place for your enormous cooking pan in your pack. With a body made of collapsible food-grade silicone and an aluminum base, the design of this is fantastic for several reasons: it packs up compactly and easily, the silicone helps prevent heat burns on skin, and the polycarbonate lid allows for easy straining.

Happy summer adventuring!

If you buy any of these products through our links, Core77 may receive a small percentage of the sale. But trust us—anything we don't truly love ain't allowed on this list.

POV from the Cockpit of an Autonomous Race Car, a 3,000 Year Old Prosthetic Toe and the Process of Restoring Vintage Hot Wheels Cars

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

The Core77 team spends time combing through the news so you don't have to. Here's a weekly roundup of our favorite finds from the World Wide Web:

Check out YouTube channel "Bare Metal HW" - he restores vintage Hot Wheels cars.

"Craftsman Tools Steals Small Inventors Wrench Idea, and Loses David vs. Goliath $6 Million Patent Case."

Here's your new winter hobby. (Knit first, make soup later).

POV from the cockpit of an autonomous race car.

Less stubbed toes, more painful running experience

Did their blinding iconic hotness ever really dim?

7 deadly sins as apps.

Smart Purchases: A summer staple.

Gaze into the eyes of an AI created human. It's uncomfortable.

"A prime example of high-rent blight, a symptom of late-stage gentrification."

At what point will prototype camouflage just become an available color option for new cars?I'm glad we are heading into summer so this craze has some time to cool down before the next school year… This week in google doodles: It's ya boi OTTO. Hot Tip: Check out more blazin' hot Internet finds on our Twitter and Instagram pages.

A Cohesive Line of Cuisinart Products Focused on Intuitive Operability

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Beginning with the design of the CBT500 Blender in 2002, Big Bang has worked closely with Cuisinart to define, implement and evolve their visual brand language on over 60 kitchen electric products ranging from the category leading Griddler™ to the prosumer, Elite™ line. Leveraging signature forms, intuitive operability and critical attention to materials, finishes and manufacturability, Big Bang has helped Cuisinart maintain their position in the hearts of meal makers everywhere.

View the full content here

Reader Submitted: A Student's Take on Multi-Functional Furniture for the Ever-Evolving Millennial 

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Designed for the millennial generation, Cilla encapsulates multi-use, through surface and storage. I wanted to change the way we look at common storage—the way it opens and the way it hides things. Cilla is the design outcome of this iterative research, an interpretation of visual and physical storage space for the millennial consumer. It's both masculine and feminine, functional and personal. And a thoughtful answer to multi-functional furniture and storage.

View the full project here

A Video That Finally Explains the 4th Dimension in a Way We Can Understand

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Geometry was my best math subject, and it served me well during my CAD jockey years. But one thing I could never wrap my head around was the notion of a 4th dimension. People smarter than me would try explaining it to me at a bar, and while I could comprehend the individual words coming out of their mouths, I could never put the concept together in my head.

Finally, after seeing this video by the folks behind a game called Miegakure, I can start to wrap my head around it:

Miegakure is an interactive puzzle game that lets you mess around with different shapes while toggling back and forth between the 3D and 4D world.

The fourth dimension in this game is not time, it works just like the first three: it is a mathematical generalization. [The game] plays like a regular 3D platformer, but at the press of a button one of the dimensions is exchanged with the fourth dimension, allowing for four-dimensional movement.Your ability to move in the fourth dimensions in addition to the usual three allows you to perform miraculous feats like seeing inside closed buildings, walking through walls, stealing objects from closed containers, binding two separate rings without breaking them, etc...These actual consequences of the mathematical formulation of 4D space have been thought about for more than a century (in the 1884 novella Flatland for example) but it is the first time anyone can actually perform them, thanks to the video game medium.

Here's what the game looks like:

IKEA's Recipe Sheets are the Paint by Numbers of Home Cooking

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

IKEA has been getting a lot of design attention lately, but can we please take a moment to talk about their Easy Recipe Series instead of those godforsaken Frakta bags? Thank you.

Here's the deal. Instead of opening a bag of IKEA frozen shrimp, scratching your head for a good 10 minutes trying to figure out how to cook and season them, you can now put your raw ingredients onto a visually pleasing piece of paper, crumble everything up and cook. Observe:

I'm a fan for multiple reasons: 

1) The sheets are printed with food safe ink, which takes care of my main concern right off the bat. 

2) IKEA then takes it a step further and makes the sheets parchment paper, a material you could already be using to cook your meal in the oven. 

3) Since everything folds up nicely, there's presumably minimal mess.

4) To top it off, the layouts are right in line with my personal kitchen OCD. Just look at that top notch organization. Each individual ravioli is well tended to. 

Buy all the freaking Frakta bags you want. Turn them into accessories or sneakers, for all I care. I'll be laughing at you from afar while eating my perfectly seasoned salmon.

Design Job: Make a Splash this Summer as a Product Designer at Swimways Corp

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Swimways Corporation, located in Virginia Beach, VA, is a leader in outdoor recreational products. Recently Swimways has joined with Spin Master to create an outdoor Global Business Unit which is key to driving innovation and growth within the category. Our mission is making free time more fun through innovation! We

View the full design job here

Watch This Making of an Equus Alligator Watch Strap Video

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Most of you reading this blog, and most of us writing it, know what it is to make things. And we've all seen tons of videos of other people making things. This one here, of an expert saddler/sellier crafting an alligator watch strap for Equus, stands out for being the cleanest and quietest making-of video we've ever seen.

Look how freaking spotless his workbench and fingernails are. Notice he doesn't need to wear protective eyewear, a respirator, noise-canceling headphones nor gloves. Of his entire complement of tools, perhaps only one or two need to be plugged into a socket. This looks like heavenly work to us:

Hand Tool School #35: What to Do While the Finish is Drying?

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

I co-host the WoodTalk podcast with Marc Spagnuolo and Matt Cremona, and it's a running joke on there that I never put finish on anything. 

That's not entirely true, but I do tend to put it off a lot. The reason is that my shop is useless once I have applied a coat of finish. I can't work on anything as the dust will end up settling in the wet varnish or shellac or whatever. Even moving around and organizing things will kick up dust particles. 

Since my shop is pretty small, I essentially have to leave the shop for an extended period of time once that wet finish is on my project. Because of this I usually finish several projects at once. I guess kicking back on the couch with a frosty beverage should be a nice reward for completing a project, and in most situations I think that would be fine. 

My problem now is I took two days off work to dedicate to finishing up some outstanding projects and to begin my shop renovation. Two whole days with the house to myself and unrestricted shop time…that is now restricted by drying times of my oil/varnish blend. I suppose I could finish the project out in the driveway. Though the yellow coating of pollen on my car and the flowering Dogwood that overhangs the driveway makes me hesitant to do that. Sigh, guess I should have put off finishing these projects too.

So my question to you is, what do you do in between coats of finish, and/or what solutions have you come up with to keep on working while the finish is drying?


This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.

What Happens When You Intentionally Crash a Work Van?

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Hidden within the specs of many products are the performance standards they are required to meet. It's easy enough to ignore these things until you see what happens when something goes awry—as in the crash of a work or delivery van.

In the video above, a European manufacturer of vehicle racking systems shows what happens when a van outfitted with homemade plywood shelving crashes into a wall at the French test standard of 50 km/hr (33 mph).

It's impossible to tell how well (or poorly) the storage units were constructed. I suspect they could have been attached to the vehicle in many more locations. Still, the shearing through of the end panels suggests plywood was perhaps not the best choice of material for this application.

To illustrate the performance of its metal racking system, the company posted this video of their storage units undergoing the same test. The use of extreme slow motion cameras makes it possible to visualize the incredible force generated by the rapid deceleration of a crash. Tool boxes slide forward in a wave-like motion and the shelving units bend without breaking.

The possibility of the load shifting during a crash or hard braking is why many work vans are equipped with aftermarket bulkheads designed to separate passengers from cargo.

As you can see in the video above, you don't have to be driving at highway speed for the results of flying cargo to be dire.

Sex Toy Storage Beyond the Nightstand

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

There are plenty of ways to store sex toys without using products specifically designed for that purpose. But there are a number of interesting design features on the products that are designed for organizing sex toys. The Joyboxx has a removable tray which can serve as a "bedside coaster for your sex toys," as Babeland puts it.

View the full content here

Reader Submitted: EXEO Modular Gaming Controllers Allow You to Design Your Own Controller for Each Game

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

EXEO is a range of modular gaming controllers focused on providing ultimate realism to the gamers of today by recreating in-game interactions in real life. This means that if you are playing a medieval game, you should feel like you're holding a sword, and if you are playing a racing game, you should feel like you're holding a steering wheel.

With its modules, EXEO builds a new relationship with the gamers, where they have the complete freedom to craft their controller and use it creatively to solve problems and have unique experiences.

True gaming experiences can not be created by making advancements only in the visual and audio technologies. In a world where everybody looks toward VR as the future, EXEO brings back the importance of the feeling of touch. The opportunities are endless but as a concept EXEO aims to inspire the gamers of tomorrow to unlock different ways of interacting with their games.

View the full project here

This Animation Perfectly Sums Up What's Wrong with Social Media Users

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Instagrammer Coolman_coffeedan has been taking the piss out of the Internet. By posting (self-aware) photos of him in yoga poses, contrived partying shots and a purposely-badly-Photoshopped image of him with attractive models, he's making a sly commentary on the banality and artifice of social media—though it's not clear if all of his followers get it.

Making his point more explicit are the animations he's recently released (which contain NSFW language):

Coolman_coffeedan is no Instagram monster, with just 4,808 followers. Hopefully that number will soon grow to 5,500; after hitting that number, he says, he'll release another animation.

"Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy"

Core 77 - Sat, 2017-06-24 11:58

Every single day, 600 tons of particle board go into a factory, and out the other end comes a product so ubiquitous that there is one for every 100 people on Earth. It was designed in 1978. Can you guess what it is?

It's Ikea's Billy bookcase, which should go down in the history books as one of the farthest-reaching designs in the world, and a model of hyper-efficient production. Compared to the 1980s, Ikea is currently producing 37 times as many Billys as back then—yet the requisite workforce has only doubled!

I learned these facts and plenty more from a fantastic podcast that will be of interest to industrial designers, and which is also being turned into a book. The podcast is called "50 Things That Made the Modern Economy" and the book is called "Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy." The former is hosted on the BBC World Service; the latter is coming out in August. Both are by Tim Harford, the journalist better known as The Financial Times' Undercover Economist. Writes Harford of the book,

I've tried to paint a picture of economic change by telling the stories of the ideas, people, and tools that had far-reaching and unexpected consequences for all of us. Drawing from the hugely popular BBC radio program and podcast "50 Things That Made The Modern Economy ," I discuss the inventions that have transformed the ways we work, play and live. From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette's disposable razor to Ikea's Billy bookcase, I recount each invention's own memorable story and introduce you to the characters who developed them, profited from them, and were ruined by them.

The podcast is free and the sub-10-minute episodes are very listenable, well-researched and attributed. The book will be $15 to $20 for e-book or print versions, respectively. I highly recommend that you check both of them out.

Via Kottke

British Architects Come Up with Sweet NYC Skyline Chess Set

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-06-23 11:10

Dagnabbit! Once again architects have something cool for which there is no industrial design analog, inspiring jealousy. London-based architects Ian Flood and Chris Prosser founded Skyline Chess, a company that produces chess sets where the pieces are iconic London buildings. Now they've just Kickstarted an NYC edition:

As a native New Yorker, I have to say that Britons though they may be, Flood and Prosser have totally nailed which building should be which piece:

The New York sets start at USD $91 and will be ready by September. At press time the campaign had been successfully funded with $14,445 pledged on a $12,632 goal.

Design Job: Do You Even Lax, Bro? STX is Seeking a Sports Equipment Designer in Baltimore, MD

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-06-23 11:10

Seeking full time sports equipment designer for hard and soft goods. Our product team is looking for a motivated, self – starting designer with a keen sense for performance through design. The ideal candidate possesses an innovation-driven entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to empower the athlete. This position will work closely with engineers and developers in a high accountability team environment to tackle design and manufacturing challenges with a solution oriented mindset.

View the full design job here

Tom Sachs Discusses Failure, Selecting Materials and Collaborating with Nike for the Mars Yard Shoe 2.0 

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-06-23 11:10

The history of the Tom Sachs x NIKEcraft Mars Yard Shoe is, without a doubt, one for the books. Releasing 5 years ago, the first Mars Yard Shoe took both the sneaker and design worlds by storm. Promising to deliver superior stability in rough terrains, the shoe featured premium technical materials, including the soles of the Nike Special Forces Boot and ridiculously strong Vectran fabric from the Mars Excursion Rover airbags. 

The only issue? For many owners, the Vectran creased and tore after just a few wears, proving failure can reveal itself even after vigorous testing. Instead of going into hiding, Sachs and Nike got to work designing The Mars Yard Shoe 2.0—an updated version of the sneaker that incorporates thick mesh in place of the Vectran. 

The Mars Yard Shoe 2.0Foam detail on the tongueAll the goods brought back from the Space Camp pilgrimage

For the release of the sneakers, Sachs also held Space Camp, an obstacle course located on Governors Island, which was meant to make purchasing the sneakers more challenging for resellers and to spark a conversation around failure in the design process. The course included a series of 10 obstacles, ranging from landing a miniature helicopter to climbing and sliding down the hood of a pick-up truck. All proving to be somewhat challenging, the obstacles quickly reminded you that success is no walk in the park.

After spending the day at at Space Camp, Sachs walked us through his NASA studio space in Soho, as well as his views on sneaker culture, what it means to fail as a designer, selecting the right materials and how to handle working with massive companies like Nike:

C77: The packaging of the Mars Yard Shoe 2.0 (the zine, the type on the box, etc.) is about more than just a sneaker. It's a testament to the meaning of possession—what it means to possess and what people decide to do with their possessions...

TS: It seems that, like every great civilization, we're at this phase which is very close to the end, and it's called decadence. In this time where dogs have private jets taking them around to meet us in different destinations on one end, and people are struggling for food on the other, that we've not been able to coordinate our resources so that things are more even is a pretty big indication that we're at or past some peak.

"These shoes are only valid if worn by you. Posers need not apply."A page in the zine on cost and possession

With this great decadence and this sort of impending doom also comes some good thinking and some amazing analysis. There's always an opportunity to become self-aware. I'm not saying that you can stop the tides, because total destruction is the only solution. But, if you can kind of come to terms with the things in your life, that's one way of understanding your mortality and making the most of your life.

We're always looking to find more meaning in the things that we're attached to. Repair your things before you replace them. Use them until their end or yours. Pass them on when they don't work for you anymore instead of having your possessions control you. Sneakers have always been a coveted thing for me. I remember mowing the lawn all summer to get my first pair of Nikes when I was 15—when there were something like three available models—because they were lighter, I played soccer, and it was a fantastic fun little performance tweak to obsess over. 

Sachs' studio space in Soho

Things have gone so far that I think there's an opportunity with this shoe to embrace experience. These aren't meant to be put on a shelf, but to be worn and worn to death. The transparent nature of the materials—that they don't hide stains but show them, that they're the natural materials of polyurethane and rubber and pigskin and nylon and polyester—tells a story of how they're made. I think that makes them unlike any other shoe. They are self-aware or something.

We're really beginning to have sort of an accelerated detachment from the hand that has been able to provide us unbelievable quality at lower costs and incredible consumer choice with possibly endless variations. This is echoed in all things from food to pornography, where every possible whim and desire and culture and option is presented before us.

How do you feel about all the Mars Yard Shoe 2.0 reselling that's already been cycling through eBay? At one point, they were reselling for around $1400.

If you go first, you should expect it to hurt. I think it's fine they cost $2,000. They'll cost 200 next month, and if you want them now, pay, and if you want them in a month, pay something different then. There's a benefit to getting them now—you're first, and there's a cost.

The "Nike Test Lab"Mars Yard Shoes put through the ringerA neat ceiling footwear storage solution.

I think reselling is embarrassing for the people who do it. It's kind of shameful. I don't understand businesses that are just about generating money. I don't understand trading as something that helps us. Banking makes the world go 'round and creates more money, but it's not really doing anything—it's shuffling. And that's true whether you're trading sneakers or trading stocks or options or futures or whatever. I have a hard time explaining to myself how trading works because money itself is such an abstract concept, and it takes us away from, again, the most important thing in life, which is experience.

Keeping your most expensive sneakers in storage due to rarity is kind of this backwards notion. We feel like we need to preserve things that are inevitably going to deteriorate...

It seems that the majority values money over experience, and those people are simply representing the majority. It's very easy, because money does control us and we have to do so many things for money, to get confused for a second and think that because something is expensive, you should take extra care of it. You should take care of everything equally, whether that shoe is $10 or $1,000. Because then you get the best experience out of it, and the best things in life are free.

Cord eye candy

Your experience with the Mars Yard Shoe exposes the design process as a trial-and-error, failing to then succeed eventually type of cycle. By exposing these truths, what do you hope to show people, especially those that aren't involved in design?

I hope that we can come to terms and accept that things fail. Not on purpose, like planned obsolescence. This is my attempt to make something that didn't fail so you could buy another one. I was wrong, I made a mistake. I feel very honored that I was allowed to correct that mistake. Some people and systems and things are not as forgiving. I was very lucky that we didn't make enough of them last time, and it was good that we didn't make enough because they fell apart. But that people loved it so much despite its failure that we were allowed to make another one so more people could have it... people seem really happy about that.

Did Nike think you were crazy for wanting to make the Mars Yard Shoe 2.0 about how you guys failed the first time around?

No, because Nike is a company populated by championship athletes, and all athletes know that in order to fail, you must succeed. I think they're a company that embraces failure. If you look at their public relations profile, they, like everyone else, fuck things up constantly but have used failure as a lever. I think that's one of the things that makes them shine—that they embrace what's wrong. I mean, there are plenty of reasons to hate any big company. In order to be that big, they have to do things that smaller companies wouldn't dare do. But embracing failure is the core of growth. Once you can really go for something, you're not afraid of failing.

If you're trying to get to new places, you will always fail. Even if you break that record, there's always that record to be broken. So, you're never really succeeding; you're just trying as hard as you can, leveraging your assets and doing what you can to grow. But failure is sort of the name of the game. I can't remember what it is in baseball, but if you hit the ball half the time as a batter, you're like the greatest player that's ever lived. If you hit it just a little bit less, you're still pretty good. But if you only hit it two out of five times, you're in the minor leagues. So basically, even the best people are failing more than they're succeeding; they're just failing a little bit less. Babe Ruth was still mostly a loser.

There isn't a lot of language for failure. We're in this horrible world of Barry's Boot Camp, push harder, "Is that all you got?" "Well, no. But it's a long road, and I gave all I got, and that's why my elbow hurts three months later."

And failure is such a harsh word—people are afraid of it simply because of how it's used.

Guess what? It's coming to a life near you. Death: The ultimate failure of your life. It's unavoidable. No one can escape it.

Prototypes in the worksChandelierThe basement workroom

Space camp itself was kind of designed to make you fail over and over, but somehow you go through it and still felt encouraged to finish. How do you approach that line of knowing that people are going to fail but then also wanting to encourage them at the same time?

Well, we don't want you to fail—we want you to succeed. But we also want you to push to the limit of failure, and fail, and go beyond it. That's what happens in the studio in practice here, but when we do an art show, we don't want the work to fail. We don't want the work to be incomplete. We want to show our best. But sort of like in basketball—you practice the moves that you've mastered, and you use the moves that you've mastered in the game, but you don't really practice moves that you haven't mastered in the game. You could try, but you're putting yourself at a lot of risk, and that can be embarrassing. 

Real champions practice and rehearse and practice and rehearse and fail on their own time. In the studio, we make a lot of sculptures that no one ever sees; sculptures that are not successful. Behind every one sculpture that's out there, there are ten sculptures in this room that are not complete. 

Hopefully we succeed by doing our failures on our own time. Because if you only do what you know, what you're good at, you kind of are a prostitute. You're just doing it for the money. You're not doing it for the love of it.

Do you have any advice for designers collaborating with a massive company like Nike?

Know your strengths and weaknesses. You're small, you care more. You're willing to stay up all night. Your number one job is doing the job. You don't have money, they do. Understand their strengths and weaknesses, that they have money and machines and capabilities, that their number one job is keeping their machine going, which is different from yours.

Understand where your worlds intersect and expand on those. Develop on those. Make something that's 50% you and 50% Nike. Don't just decorate one of their things. Push the limits. Demand more of them. Demand the impossible. Be realistic and demand the impossible. They are slow, you are fast.

Make your important decisions early because you won't be able to change them later. They're like a big ship that can go much farther than you can, but is harder to steer. So, if you make your steering moves early, you have a better chance of them getting to the end. Don't let it fail because of you. Take extra time to plan those moves, and think about them early. Once you have to get going, you have to make decisions very, very quickly. And then you have to wait. And then you have to make more decisions very quickly. So, plan ahead.

Was it challenging to adjust to not being able to fix things on your own right away?

Yeah, it continues to be a challenge, but that's part of the exchange. We were able to find something that was 50/50, and this kind of a collaboration has been much better. The first time I was learning. I have a great relationship with the designers at Nike, but the first time around was difficult. And I said "Never again" after last time, but of course, five years later, I'm doing it. I don't have any regrets because I knew how to handle myself better—I knew what things to fight for, what things to let go. They have different strengths than I do, and I think it was very hard for me to accept that—to accept their weaknesses and to accept my own.

Cord/tool eye candy all over the place

How attached were you to using the Vectran?

The Vectran was something really exciting because I got it from NASA, and it was this abrasion-proof stronger than steel miracle material. I even had this idea that the Vectran would last forever, and then the sole would wear out and you just replace the sole. I have a pair of re-soled ones. Besides what went wrong, the idea of Vectran was really exciting. I thought I had discovered something that no one had discovered. I think that you could use Vectran in a different way—in fact, Nike Flywire is Vectran. So, if you keep it in tension as it's intended to, it'll do its thing. I think there was too much folding fatigue, and I didn't plan for that. But I loved it, and I loved the storytelling in that it worked with the whole Mars thing. 

A page of the zine showing what went wrong with the first Mars Yard Shoe

It's important to note that in engineering you always want to use the least exotic material. You don't want to use Vectran or Technora or Dyneema when you could use nylon or polyester or polypropylene for a rope or something. Those really exotic things have problems. Like Technora, which is the strongest possible rope. Technora is not UV-tolerant, so you need to keep it in a black sheath or in a bag, and then it comes out of the bag when you need it. They use that at NASA. But if the guys at NASA can use nylon or polyester, they will first. There's got to be a reason, like a serious weight-saving or performance reason.

Do you think you still would've designed the Mars Yard 2.0 if you had been completely satisfied the first time around?

I think there's always something to do. I don't think there'll be a third Mars Yard, but there may be a related product someday that has different applications. There are other planets to conquer.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tools & Craft #52: Decorative Japanese Chisels

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-06-23 11:10

In the European tradition, the steel parts of tools have usually been made, for the last couple of centuries anyway, in large factories. The metalwork is usually straightforward, forged by nameless smiths, and any decorative differentiation is in the handle material and maybe some brass trim. In Japan where the manufacture of edge tools is still concentrated in the hands of masters who sign their work, most chisel makers have one or two decorative versions of their tools where the steel itself is the focus of the decorations.

In Japanese practice a thin high carbon steel cutting edge is forge welded onto a soft steel body. It's the body where the decorative moves take place. As all the tools by a specific maker have the same cutting edge layer there is no functional reason to use a decorative chisel. But they look cool, are eminently collectible, and in many cases inspire one to do better work.

I don't actually collect decorative chisels so the pieces I have in my collection date from the early days of this company when we imported samples of Japanese tools.

From the left (in the top picture and the first detail shot) three suminagashi style chisels, starting from the left, by Tasai. Then comes an maker I don't recall, followed by a chisel by Iyoroi. The suminagashi style is made by welding two different kinds of iron and other metals together, then flattening,folding and rewelding the resultant billet. The English term for suminagashi is "Damascus steel". Finally the steel is etched to bring out the dissimilar layers in a visible pattern. By varying the folds, layers, and materials you can get different patterns. Tasai is considered the modern master of this technique and you can see how elegant and reserved his chisels can be. The chisel by Iyoroi is fairly recent. The father of the current Iyori did spectacular suminagashi work but on his retirement the skill was not passed on and this new interpretation, while interesting, doesn't really excite me. I don't know much about the maker in the middle, the over the top character of the layers suggests that some of the decoration might have been formed not by folding but by welding already punched steel into layer. I just don't know enough to be sure.

In the second detail picture (and on the right of the main picture) we have a plain chisel in the middle surrounded by two chisels made from kamaji iron. The chisel on the right is by Nishiki and has a twisted shank—an old style which Nishiki reintroduced. (As far as we know Nishiki is retired and we only have a limited amount of his non-decorative chisels available) This style is make by using kamaji iron—which is very old wrought iron from before 1850, before sulfurous coals were used in the refinement, for the body of the chisel. After welding the body to the bottom steel layer the kamaji iron is etched. Wrought iron has lots of impurities, and is also was originally formed formed by forging, so after etching the impurities away you get a tree bark like texture which is very elegant.

One important characteristic of Japanese chisels is that they have hollow backs. The hollow is usually ground in, but it also can get decorative treatment. Nishiki chemically accentuates the grind texture, some other makers try for a smooth dead matte surface.

While I plan an additional blog entry on decorative handles and hoops in the near future here are a few more pictures, showing some of the decorative details of the suminagashi chisels and a closeup of the twisted neck chisel by Nishiki.


This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.