Category: things we make

The Modern Skateboard

Tuesday 03.27.12

I read the obituaries in the NYT every day. And I know I’m not alone. I take heart when those, to whom tribute is paid, were at least over 90 when they died. And I find even deeper inspiration from those who were still working away at something they loved. One of the best obituaries I ever read was for a blacksmith by the name of Francis Whitaker. He worked almost right up to the end and, miraculously, grasped a hammer on his deathbed. Today’s obits required two full pages. Never good. Some names held meaning for me in a distant way. Others I had never heard of. Larry Stevenson is one of the latter. I learned that in the Southern California of the early 1960s, he went from lifeguard to successful and innovative skateboard designer in the most linear of careers. He began building surfboard-like skateboards, but by 1969 he introduced a new design that incorporated a “kicktail”: that singular modification to the standard surfboard shape that allowed skateboarders to embark on those crazy airborne tricks that demarcate the skateboarding style that we see today. To his credit, he patented both the single and double kicktail. RIP Mr. Stevenson. Photos courtesy of Lion City Skaters.

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A Little More Lego

Monday 03.12.12

Wow, there really is a cult of Lego. It’s fascinating to see what images and ideas tap into our collective memory. Lego is definitely one of them. Image via

I just noticed a fabulous comment, on Swissmiss‘ posting of this image, which is worth repeating. Joanne K. says: “I did some work with Lego some time ago at HQ in Billund Denmark. Did you know that the bounce properties and sound the bricks make when dropped are also copy right protected?”

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Cut, Fold, Assemble.

Tuesday 01.17.12

As an industrial designer, one of those skills in which one should have achieved a certain amount of fluency is the ability to create a three-dimensional object out of a series of two-dimensional shapes…and vice versa. This is something I have yet to master. So, is it any wonder that my attention is fixed on these drawings of disassembled objects? Just from looking at them, I can guess at what their final shapes are. But in order to be sure, I’d have to cut and fold. Of course, from Agence Eureka.

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Superconductivity and Magnetic Levitation

Wednesday 11.02.11

I never did that well at physics in school. But, in hindsight, I think I want to blame the teacher for making a subject that is so fascinating and poetic into something utterly prosaic. These videos are super cool. From the folks over at Wanken.

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Fishing Bobbers

Tuesday 11.01.11

The other day Swissmiss posted an item about Pantone Christmas ornaments. Someone commented that they thought the ornaments were fishing bobbers. I saw the rationale there, and then clicked on the wiki link provided by the commenter. This took me into the rabbit hole that is the internet. Within minutes, I knew considerably more about fishing lures than I ever thought necessary…although, I’ve always been interested in hand tied flies. Anyway, I found a  nice image of some old lures and one photograph which details the different stages of the making of a lure. Always a sucker for process. Photos courtesy of Fishing for History, Wikimedia (via commenter on Swissmiss), Learning How to Fish, Pehl Trading and Artist At Exit 0.

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Small Scale

Monday 10.10.11

As a kid, my fantasy was to live in an RV. I was fascinated with the idea that everything had a dedicated spot and that there was essentially no space for anything extra. Dining tables converted to beds in the evening, and there were built-ins galore. Like a lot of people, my dream house has since morphed into a series of small sheds: One for sleeping, one for cooking and eating and relaxing and definitely one for working. If need be, I could easily combine both of the “non-studio” structures into a single unit. When I came across the Just Sheds site I found myself plotting some teeny future compound.

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Balsa Wood Airplanes

Tuesday 07.26.11

I have a streak of nostalgia that runs especially deep when it comes to toys or children’s books. These balsa wood gliders, made since 1926 by Guillow’s, bring back a whole flood of emotion. Every summer my brother and I would end up with a couple of them. I remember my favorite one being the Sky Streak. The rubber band made the arc of flight longer and faster than any of the others. And the propeller added a third element into the design that made it feel not quite so bare bones. My only frustration was at how brittle the balsa wood was, and that if you were even the slightest bit impatient, there went your toy. The fact that these are still in production is good news.

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