Tagged: wood

You may know it as Kallax, but it’ll always be Expedit to me

Somehow I missed this one when the news broke. IKEA decided to make some changes to the iconic, omnipresent (and often immovable) Expedit line of shelving. Specifically, they narrowed the outer walls (perhaps to save wood), softened the corners a bit, and renamed the whole thing Kallax. Rabid fans the world over lost their cool as word got out that the beloved vinyl-accommodating storage range was to be “discontinued.”

Expedits in action - check out those thick outer slabs!Design geeks geeked out on it. Environmentalists doled out praise, after all, even a millimeter less wood over zillions of IKEA units comes to something. LP lovers finally took a chill pill when it became clear that the interior dimensions of Kallax would be identical to those of Expedit. And one reporter noted that both Expedit and Kallax sound a bit like remedies for constipation.  I’m not wild about the design change, I have to say. I think you either have the outer walls the same thickness as the inner ones (as in IKEA’s equally omnipresent Billy bookcases) or you make a statement with much thicker ones. And boxiness is so much of the identity of Expedit, why would you want to round any of the corners, even a little?

But enough about design. What’s really interesting to me here is the name change. After all, if they hadn’t called it something else, nobody would have freaked out about it being discontinued. Lots of products bear the same name through generational changes much more drastic than this. Look at Apple iPods over the years, or Ford Mustangs for that matter.

Well-read monochrome modernists love Expedit tooHere’s what I think happened: I think somebody in marketing decided that Expedit was old and boring and that the brand needed freshening. What they missed was that “old and boring” aka “standardized and reliable” was part of the appeal, perhaps a huge part of it. At least they didn’t turn their back on the range of add-ons already perfectly sized to the cubbies by changing the interior dimension that, by the way, is also so popular with record fans.

A few years ago I wrote about the perils of changing your brand or even just your logo or web theme because you are bored with it or think it needs a change. The question to be asking is really, is the market bored with it? Can you really change it for the better and not lose something along the way? I doubt that IKEA has lost much by this, but they certainly didn’t gain, and the cost of doing the name change and dealing with the blowback wasn’t zero, either.

Wine unboxing

At one of the frequent tastings a Ball Square Fine Wine, I noticed that they now stock Chat en Ouef and I also tasted a nice Bordeaux for a wooden box. Well, most likely from a plastic bag inside that box. But anyway, at $39 for 3 liters (that’s four regulation 750ml bottles) it seemed like a good buy. Here’s the unboxing – and reboxing as it were.

It’s got a convenient carrying handle and sure looks nice with my Vanshnookenraggen MTA subway map posters. I’m sure you know by now that I think wood is the new white.

Chateau Lhorens 2011 Bordeaux

Unless you’re already drunk you can probably manage these directions.


I was a bit unnerved by the prolapsed wine sack, but everything got neatly tucked back into place.


Here’s the spout, ready to serve.


I think putting box wine in a nicer box – with a nice spout – was a great marketing move by the Lhorens team. I’m not really sure you should age wine in a plastic bag, but if you’re not up to drinking three liters at a sit-down, I bet it’ll keep better in there than in a glass bottle with lots of extra air.

In which the TSA is impressed with my wood

en MacBook cover, that is.  Last month, I treated myself and my new MacBook to a spiffy cedar plank of a cover from Karvt. This month, I did some flying, and that included everybody’s favorite drill, take out your computer and put it in a bin all by itself.  I did not lose my ‘stache scissors or my cool, but in both Denver and Phoenix, I was quizzed by neighbors in the security line and by TSA screeners. “What kind of cover is that?” “Is that real wood?” “Did you make it yourself?”  Consensus was that it was pretty darn cool.

In case there’s any doubt that I’m turning into some kind of 21st-Century Margaret Lanterman, here are some other forest products I’ve been coveting or enjoying recently:

Levenger’s Bamboo Note Card Box with Index Cards
You know I’ve got a thing about index cards, especially ones with a grid on them.  After lusting after Levernger’s superb example of the genre for some time, I finally pulled the trigger, convincing myself that the package deal with this sweet bamboo box justified the expense. As it turns out, I had to go to the retail location and beg the staff to substitute gridded cards for the ones with plain old lines on them, but it was wheedling well spent.

Vintage Cork Desk Caddy (also with index cards)
Having decided to put the Levenger box on my work desk, I still needed something to hold my index cards and pencils at home. After some searching, I came upon this beauty, variously described as vintage, mid-century and 70s, on Etsy. I’m not sure if the cork body is really meant to take pushpins or not, but it holds pencils and index cards admirably, and I prefer the bare cork surface anyway.

Vers 1E Walnut Sound Isolation Earphones
Somewhere along the line, I misplaced or discarded the crappy earbuds that came with my ipod and my phone. Despite my complex relationship with their 1.5R radio, I’m still enamored with Vers Audio, so I decided to give their earphones a try. I’m no audiophile and I couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a bucket, but I find the sound quality excellent and the little rubber thingies on the ear end both comfortable and sound-insulating.  Plus, the walnut wood matches my bedside radio. It’s the little things that matter.  Also, Vers plants 100 trees for every one they use in their products.

Wooden Lego-Like Building Blocks (HT @gizmodo)
OMFG.  Even if Giz is confused on the issue, I know these are not actually Lego, and I’m a little worried that they may be trampling on some patent by the estimable Danish toymaker. But, OMFG, I really want these.  That is all.

Well, almost all.  If you’ve got walnut in your ears, cork and bamboo on your desk, and cedar on your mac, you certainly can’t be caught dead with unsharp pencils, so I purchased the wood pulp edition of David Rees’ singular manual, How to Sharpen Pencils. Honestly, the fact that it even comes in ebook format is a little unsettling, don’t you think?

This week in wood: lasers!

I think one of the greatest attributes of wood is the inherent uniqueness of each piece.  I dont know why it’s not used more for mass-produced objects, since each one would then be a little bit different, just like people.   Uniqueness is also coming to mass-produced objects via mass customization.   I’m sure 3D printing will accelerate this trend, but I still think of wood as the original 3D medium.

But hey, let’s see what people are doing with lasers, shall we?

Exhibit A: Woodcut Maps

I’ve been watching this one for a while.  Google maps plus lasers plus wood, what’s not to like?  You can choose from a baffling array of options to make your wooden map from various kinds of wood in various shapes of any place you can find on Google maps.  The preview is oddly slow but so far as I can tell, the product is top-notch.

Exhibits B: Wooden “skins” for computers, phones, tablets, oh my.

Two companies – I Am Human and Karvt – with similar but very different offerings.  Both allow you to stick a thin slab of wood to your plastic or aluminum computing device.  I decided to take the plunge because there’s no sign of Apple forsaking aluminum any time soon. Applying wood veneer to your precious Mac is surely some kind of warranty-voiding fanboy-vexing heresy, but I got extra frisson from ordering the version that did not have a cutout for the Apple logo, striking a blow for individuality so 1984 won’t be, or something like that.

Ultimately it was the no-logo version offered by Karvt that swayed me, but both offer a nice selection of wood species and stains. It appears that Karvt take some pride in offering a thicker, stronger, and less removable product compared to I Am Human, which may in the long run turn out to be a poor choice for me, as I may have applied it a bit off-center.  In any case, I couldn’t be happier with the look of cedar – and lack of Apple logo – on the top cover of my Macbook.  You always take a bit of a chance ordering a wood product online because you can’t pick the exact slice, but I have no complaints at all.  The scent of cedar is reassuring and will protect me from Mac moths.  I could have done without the lasered-in KARVT wordmark, but it’s a whole lot subtler than a glowing white apple.

In defense of the Apple cutout, it certainly makes it easier to align and center your wooden “skin” on the back of your aluminum computer.

Exhibit C: a project for a long, uncaffeinated, OCD afternoon

The laser-cut wood thing may have reached or even exceeded its logical end with Lazerwood’s keyboards.  As if applying a single slab of wood to my computer’s cover wasn’t tricky enough, you can order a full set of keytops to stick on your keyboard.  I must say I think the feel of wood would be great, but I would miss the backlighting and I seriously doubt that I could successfully apply them with enough precision to keep me from going nuts every time I looked at them.

I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this trend, and I look forward to more warm organic looks on electronics, and finer technologies for custom cutting, laser-engraving, 3D printing, and whatever comes next.  Bring on the individuality, I say.