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166 7th St
Brooklyn, NY 11215
USA

Bomb lamps, artillery tables, and armored credenzas - Stockpile Designs adds impact to your decor with a line of furniture and lighting using obsolete military equipment.

Blog

Stockpile Design's blog covers upcoming designs and prototypes, shows and events, and the design community of Brooklyn, NY. Designer Jake Wright shares his creative process, decorating advice, and anecdotes about starting a business and trying to deliver antique bombs across state lines.

Spare No Effort: Using Reclaimed Bowling Alley Floor

Jake Wright

Recently a couple approached me with a commission request. They wanted a coffee table with hairpin legs, built for the limited dimensions of their Manhattan apartment. And though it wasn't mandatory, they really, really wanted something made with reclaimed wood.

I almost never use reclaimed wood. It's not that I don't care about the environment, but recycling wood is a lot more work than recycling bottles and cans. It involves pulling out ancient nails and screws, removing toxic old finishes, getting mystery rashes from dusty old beams. But no matter how much extra work was involved, I didn't want my mold allergies/laziness to keep my clients from their ideal design, so I set out looking for some ideal reclaimed hardwoods.

As luck would have it, my workshop is only a few blocks away from Build It Green!, a superstore for reclaimed building supplies. Nestled amongst the 1970s appliances and lopsided chandeliers were beautiful slabs of hard maple strips, taken from a demolished bowling alley. These, I could work with.

It turned out to be a bit more work than I expected; it turns out bowling alley floors are composed of about 40% nails. But the finished product was well worth the effort. Check out the gallery below to see how the project came together!

MindRider: A Psychic Helmet

Jake Wright

There are more than 50 other people working in the same space as Stockpile, in a semi-converted factory a few yards from the malodorous Gowanus Canal. Artists, designers and entrepreneurs inhabit a warren of open-roofed offices built up from the plywood floors, sharing three cavernous production shops and one severely over-taxed mini-fridge. In a studio just across from the wood shop, the two-person team of Arlene Ducao and Ilias Koen has invented something straight out of science fiction.

MindRider design prototypes

MindRider design prototypes

It's called the MindRider, a bicycle helmet with a tiny BCI (brain computer interface) which measures signals from your brain to calculate focus and stress. Befitting a device that reads your thoughts, the stylishly creased, angular outer shell brings to mind a tin-foil hat, as made by some exceedingly fashionable milliner. Something Daphne Guinness might commission, were she concerned with alien surveillance and cosmic rays.

The technology that allows the MindRider to "read" "thoughts" is called EEG (electroencephalography), the measurement of electrical signals across the scalp. It isn't new technology - the first human EEG was performed 90 years ago, and it's still used extensively in medical diagnosis and brain research. What makes MindRider so innovative is what it does with the EEG data it collects: it adds it to a map.

A map generated by a single ride, labeled with incidents that prompted specific readings

A map generated by a single ride, labeled with incidents that prompted specific readings

After only a few runs with prototype helmets, MindRider has produced a map of NYC's streets crowded with red and orange dots, representing problem spots like frequently-blocked bike lanes and crowded intersections. It's also mapped long green paths, showing those restful stretches free of double-parked taxis and jagged potholes. It's a useful tool for a bike commuter planning his or her route, but it has even bigger implications on a municipal level. A team of cyclists wearing MindRiders could help a city plan its entire bicycling infrastructure, and identify dangerous areas before an accident. Cities without bike lanes could use the mapping feature to determine where they're most critically needed, ultimately saving lives.

Thinking even bigger, why limit the MindRider to cycling? The computer system Ducao and Koen developed can help improve any high-traffic area, at any scale, from shoppers moving through malls to tractor trailers barreling along stretches of highway. Workers with hazardous, physically demanding jobs could integrate the device into their safety gear, receiving warnings when regular occupational stress reaches dangerous levels.

Making MindRider all the more impressive is its relatively humble origin. Nowadays, innovations with this kind of potential seem to come pre-packaged from major corporations, or well-funded teams at research universities. The archetypical Inventor, changing the world from a tiny office or shed, seems like another naive American fantasy, like the rags-to-riches tales of Horatio Alger. Ducao and Koen's MindRider prove that these capital-I Inventors are not only real, but they could be changing the world just across the hall.

MindRider is raising funding for the first production run on Kickstarter through July 10. Reserve yours and help bring an incredible idea to life!

Support Net Neutrality

Jake Wright

image ©savetheinternet.com

image ©savetheinternet.com

I rarely bring up social issues or politics on this blog. As a designer and fabricator, I'm most comfortable talking about design. And fabrication. But sometimes an issue arises that is so fundamentally important to both my business and my clients, addressing it is a matter of social responsibility. The preservation of Net Neutrality is one such issue.

In its short history, the internet has been one of mankind's most significant innovations, enabling both free speech and free markets. The doctrine of Net Neutrality is crucial to that freedom. In very basic terms, Net Neutrality is a requirement that internet service providers (ISPs) treat all the data their customers access equally. If you buy internet service from Comcast, anything you access online, whether it's streaming video from Netflix, music from Pandora, or plan and pricing information for one of Comcast's competitors, has to be handled and delivered the same way, at roughly the same speeds. (A more thorough description is available here.)

A recently proposed FCC rule change would eliminate this doctrine. Instead of a free and open internet, customers in the United States would be subjected to a pay-to-play version of the web, with the content they access determined by the highest bidder. The grand marketplace of the internet would become a toll plaza, with small businesses and startups essentially shut out. The only winners would be American ISPs, who already offer some of the slowest and most expensive internet access in the industrialized world.

Add your signature to the petition on whitehouse.gov. Send an email to your congressman or senator. Because without Net Neutrality, you might not be able to.

The Machine that Eats Fingers

Jake Wright

I'm typing awkwardly today. My left ring finger, wrapped in a fat wad of clean white gauze, keeps slipping off the keys. Every tap of that finger causes a numb, clumsy sensation, like there's a thick layer of rubber just underneath the skin.

I am so, so lucky.

It happened with shocking speed. I was brushing chips of wood off the smooth metal bed of a jointer, a tool that shaves rough pieces of lumber into even-faced boards. This one had given me trouble all morning. Parts were vibrating out of alignment. Thin shavings of oak were spraying into my face and across the machine, instead of being whisked away by the dust collector. With every pass, I had to switch the machine off, tweak the alignments, brush off the beds, then switch it on again. Off, tweak, brush, on. Off, tweak, brush, on. Off, tweak, brush -

My hand moved too close to the blade, still spinning from the last run. It caught on just the smallest edge of my finger tips, less than a papercut's worth of skin. But the force of the rotating knives smacked those fingers down, into the next turn of the razor-sharp edges.

I felt the machine grab my fingers and reflexively jerked my hand away, a chill blossoming through my chest. A panicked mantra began running through my mind in fast-forward, a mashup of cursewords and prayers and terror. I gripped my wrist and stared at my palm, like a fortune-teller on PCP, terrified to see how much the blades had taken. Everything was still there. There was a slice of skin missing on my middle finger next to another, shallow cut, but something on the ring finger seemed wrong. I was already twitchy from adrenaline, thinking too fast to understand what looked so strange. So I flipped my hand over, and felt the tip open...

My ring finger had been sliced at a diagonal, exposing pink flesh and layers of fat and a bright flash of bone, visible for a moment before being drowned under a red wash of blood. For a second I was frozen, struck by the nauseating sight of a part of my body (albeit a small part) laid open like an anatomical drawing. Ok, I thought, as calmly as possible, time to focus. Where's the hospital again?

I jogged from my shop in Gowanus to the hospital in Park Slope, holding my injured fingers up and squeezing them with my other fist, trying to keep my composure as my mind raced with unwelcome thoughts: That's an awful lot of blood. What if they can't do anything? Will you be able to work if you lose the end of your finger? How dumb are you to put your hand that close to the blade of a jointer, anyway? Why didn't you check if it was still spinning? You've only got yourself to blame if you can't work after this, stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The ER was oddly small for a big-city hospital, and felt like a sanctuary. A soap opera murmured quietly from cheap flatscreens on the columns, playing to a nearly empty waiting room. A triage nurse rinsed the gore off my hands, and concealed my injured fingers in fat cocoons of gauze. Moments later, they were unwrapped by a bubbly physician's assistant with a New York accent. I'd nicked an artery and cause a bit of nerve damage, but missed everything else: tendons, ligaments, bones, even the nail. Nine stitches and the wound was closed, neatly seamed like a tiny baseball.

Accidents happen, especially in a shop. When I was learning carpentry, it was sometimes all I thought about. I was surrounded by spinning blades and sharp points, machines that would cut through a careless person as easily as they sliced through heavy boards. I moved through the shop like a diver through a school of sharks, cautious, wide-eyed, and nervous. As I became more experienced, I became more comfortable. I worked faster, on more complicated designs, with more difficult and valuable materials. The fear of the machines, the threat reflected by the metal teeth all around me, became less and less intimidating, until it was barely on my mind at all.

In a few days the stitches will come out, leaving behind a curved row of pink dimples. The scars will fade, the damaged nerves will eventually bloom with new sensation. As I said at the start, I was lucky. Lucky the blade wasn't spinning faster, that I was walking distance from a hospital, lucky it was my ring finger instead of my thumb. And lucky to have my scar, a broad crescent across my fingertip reminding me to respect the machines, and work safe.

Stockpile on Instagram

Jake Wright

Far be it from me to aggressively self-promote on a promotional blog, but apart from the conventional Facebook page, Stockpile's got a pretty terrific Instagram as well. I post photos of new products and projects in progress, but also images of the surreal industrial scenery around Brooklyn and upstate New York, strange and spectacular artworks, and the weird old cars that are always parked in my neighborhood for some reason. Check out a sample of the feed below, and follow Stockpile Designs for more!

The Confidence Trap

Jake Wright

When I was a teenager, I kept a saltwater aquarium. It was a frustrating hobby, with seemingly-healthy animals dying overnight, infestations of weird aquatic pests, and a spate of disappearances traced to a small predatory fish with an oversized appetite. But over time I learned from my experiences, did as much research as I could in those Web 1.0 days, and got better. Notoriously tricky organisms flourished in my care. A sickly coral bought at discount grew enormous, colonizing half the tank with bright pink polyps. I wasn't exactly a marine biologist, but I wasn't an amateur anymore, either.

On a trip to pick up food, something I'd never seen for sale before caught my eye. A tiny, jewel-colored sea slug was gliding down the side of a display tank. It was almost alien, the kind of thing you'd see in National Geographic or on the Discovery Channel. I desperately wanted this strange creature in my collection.

I knew that sea slugs, or nudibranchs, were notoriously tough to keep - "experts only," warned my guidebook. Some only eat a single species of algae, others need water quality that perfectly matches their home reef. Almost all are extremely poisonous. But after all I had learned, I was confident in my abilities to keep anything in captivity, no matter how delicate.

After introducing it to my tank, I watched it peacefully graze among the rocks in its new habitat. It looked as beautiful as it had in the store, and seemed to take an immediate liking to its surroundings. After I fed its tank mates and shut the lights off, I wondered if the writers of the guidebook really knew what they were talking about.

The next morning, there was a film across the surface of the water. Almost everything in the aquarium was dead. Something had stressed the slug out - maybe the water wasn't the right temperature, maybe a hermit grab got curious and tried a little pinch - and it released a cloud of toxic mucous as its defense mechanism. In the wild, this would drive predators away and dissipate in the ocean, but in the tank, it was armageddon. The fish were drained of their color, lying stiffly on the sand; my rescued coral was shrunken and limp, like an overcooked vegetable.

I took a risk, and it went badly (even more so for the poor fish). But the risk-taking itself wasn't the mistake, it was the blind charge forward. I didn't proceed with caution, didn't plan for failure, didn't quarantine an animal I knew to be poisonous. I was so sure of my own abilities that I assumed I would be successful. When I failed, I was trapped.

This came to my mind after a recent project, making a bench based on a sculpture by the artist Richard Tuttle. Basic joinery, box-like construction; I figured I could make it start-to-finish in under a week. And I did, the second time.

Usually I stick with fine furniture hardwoods: oak, ash, cherry, walnut, mahogany. This used all softwoods, fir and pine. Good pine lumber is harder to get now than when the original was made, so I decided to use fir all around. The only thing I knew about fir was that it was like pine but stronger and more stable, the wood of choice to frame houses and build sets. On the east coast it's only available in rough construction grades, but I figured a day with the planer would bring these down to smooth, sharp-edged boards.

I didn't even consider what I would do if I was wrong. And I was.

The wood resisted every attempt to make it flat and straight, as though the tree were getting revenge for being cut down. The planer's razor-sharp blades pulled huge chunks out of the wood no matter how it was fed through the machine, forcing me to scrap multiple pieces. Simple cuts on the table saw tore roughly through the fibers like they were a bundle of hay. My scrap pile grew. The few useable pieces that came out of this process picked up dents so easily I had to pad my workbench.

After more than a week of frustration, I had to admit to myself that this project wasn't going to happen - at least, not like this. If I had to put padding down just to work on it, how the hell would my client be able to use it? Again, my mistake wasn't trying something new. My mistake was assuming this material would work, and buying the full project's worth instead of testing a sample piece first. I trapped myself in a situation where I'd have to labor endlessly over this inferior material, or abandon my progress and start over.

So start over I did, this time with furniture-grade pine from my specialty supplier. After the constant setbacks working with fir, it was almost ridiculously easy. The boards were straight and true, the joints clean and even, and my client was thrilled with the finished product. (Although proud of my work, I'll be happy if I never see the damn thing again for the rest of my life.) 

Taking these risks wasn't a mistake, even though both times they ended in failure. The real mistake was being so self-assured that I didn't plan for failure. Confidence needs to be balanced with just a little self-doubt. Not so much that I don't take chances, even reckless ones. Just an addendum to the inner monologue, a voice that says, "I can make this work, but just in case..."

Print Series Preview

Jake Wright

While I spent the last several years designing and building furniture for Stockpile Designs, I actually started out as a visual artist. I'd always planned to supplement the designs with artwork, and am thrilled to show the first image from my print series created for Stockpile Designs, Nom de Guerre.

Nom de Guerre appropriates imagery from war-themed children's books and military publications, addressing the literal objectification of soldiers within popular discourse. As methods of combat become more mechanized and sophisticated, fighting forces are referenced by their specialized roles, as tools in a kit. Complexity is lost even in depictions of individual soldiers. They are portrayed as heroes or villains, excised from those entanglements of personality that fail to advance the accepted narrative of the larger conflict. Homme de Guerre demonstrates the absurdity of this binary thinking, presenting soldiers as absurdist constructs, unified with the machinery of war.

Every Store Should Be Designed Like McMaster-Carr

Jake Wright

On the internet, a secret awaits. A wondrous website, virtually unknown in the buzzy halls of Facebook and Twitter, which hearkens back to a simplicity so profound it could nearly be called Zen. Behold the glory of McMaster-Carr, the universe's most convenient website!

At first glance, it doesn't look like much. Where are the splashy editorial product shots? Where are the how-to's, the special offers, the inspiration galleries? Wherefore art thou, social media buttons?

McMaster reduces its shopping experience to what you need, and nothing more. They don't have photos of their products - instead, they have black-and-white technical drawings, rendered from exactly the same perspective (you can even download the CAD files). If you're looking for screws and bolts at McMaster, a single click on the homepage brings you here:

mcmaster-bolts.png

It's clean, it's simple, and it's extremely easy to find what you're looking for, even if you can't remember what it's called. By comparison, this is what you get from Lowe's:

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 10.24.22 AM.png

It took me four clicks to bring up 117 pages of 32 bolts. And while you can narrow down the categories on the left, the hardware itself can only be sorted by price, brand, best sellers, or ratings. I guess if it takes 25 minutes to find the right bolt for a project, you can at least be assured that it's popular and the buyers enjoyed it.

To be fair, most of the people who go to McMaster-Carr are buying products for industrial use. Their washer and dryer department contains exactly one washer and one dryer, which look identical to the 1970's appliances my family had in the basement. The all-gray color scheme on their paint pages isn't very conducive to finding a color to liven up the kitchen, although they have several acid-resistant options if your living situation requires it. But the organization of the site is flawless. If you know exactly what you want, it's added to your order in a few clicks. If you need to browse, simple descriptions and a smart sorting interface help you narrow down your choices. Even the unicorn of the hardware store, the lost Ikea part, can turn up with just a cursory search.

If you don't go to the hardware store very often, this might all seem academic. You've never thought about what kind of abrasive goes on your sandpaper, and you're not about to get excited over a dozen different wire-stripper options. But think about how frustrating and messy big-box sites can be. Visiting Amazon is like being blasted in the face by a shotgun loaded with banner ads. Best Buy's front page is almost entirely taken up by special offers and social-media content. Even Apple, usually a paragon of clean, functional design, has a jumble of unrelated accessories and "trending" items on the front page of its store. Meanwhile, an industrial hardware supplier has one of the best-designed and most user-friendly sites on the web. On the other hand, Lowe's has almost 3 million likes on Facebook.

Advice to Ignore

Jake Wright

A few nights ago, someone gave me terrible business advice. Actually, calling it 'advice' is inaccurate. This was a passive-aggressively hostile diatribe, hidden within the candy shell of constructive criticism. It came from the owner of a chichi boutique in Soho, at an event hosted in her store for dozens of independent designers. The seminar had just ended, and she generously offered to make the rounds, look at our samples and give us advice on forming retail relationships. My minimalist, military-influenced pieces were at odds with the sumptuous store, filled with decorative pillows and ceramic objets, so I figured she wouldn't have a personal interest in carrying my line. But I was eager to hear suggestions from a successful designer-turned-storeowner; maybe she even knew of retailers that would be a better fit.

We shook hands and I offered her my phone, so she could scroll through my portfolio. "No need. I've already seen your Etsy store."

Ah.

"It seems like you've got a built-in market, so you should probably sell direct, and not really bother with retail."

...kay...

"Like, I would never carry your work in my store."

Sure. This is feeling kind of hostile, but maybe it's just me.

"As someone in the design community, I think the whole 'bomb' thing is kind of a turn-off. Maybe you should make the message more clear."

Yikes. If you're hearing messages from lamps, you need to change your dosage.

"You need to make sure high-end buyers know they're not endorsing war."

Do you think this is some sinister version of Tom's? For every lamp sold, I send a land mine to a child in a developing nation?

"Use a different name for your furniture - 'Stockpile' has such aggressive connotations, and high-end buyers won't want something with that association."

It sounds like these 'high-end' buyers might suffer from a stress disorder. Do lamps talk to them, too?

"Maybe those of us in the design community are a bit softer-"

No shit.

"But you should really rethink your aggressive imagery."

IT'S ME, UNDER THE SHADE. YOU WILL GIVE JAKE ALL THE EXTRA PROSECCO AND $20 FOR CAB FARE. THE LAMP HAS SPOKEN.


If you don't like my work, just say so. It's easy! I can handle it! I know my designs aren't for everyone! If they were, I'd be dictating this to my secretary from a golden throne instead of typing it in an unheated office in Brooklyn. But every art-school freshman knows that a negative critique has to come with a relevant explanation - it's what separates criticism from an attack. Speaking for the entirety of "high-end" buyers is as vague and useless as the term "high-end" itself. Lamborghini drivers don't seem to mind the stealth-bomber influence in their cars' design. The MacArthur Foundation awarded a genius grant to photographer An-My-Lé, whose work documents military training exercises. Peter Marino, one of the most successful interior designers in the world, has a silver dinosaur skull with bullets for teeth in his office. (Presumably it is covered with a sheet any time "high-end" clients stop by, lest they succumb to the vapors.)

I felt like I had personally offended my critiquer, and I'd done nothing more than show my work. My style probably wouldn't work in her store, and her customers might not care for such a military aesthetic. But her advice was to avoid approaching any retailers, her implication that my buyers are too unsophisticated to understand her supposedly principled objections to re-appropriating military design. She's wrong, of course. She doesn't understand my business, or my customers, and I don't think she knows as much about the broader design world as she thinks. And in a way, her comments were helpful. In the years I spent building the company and designing my line, I had never faced someone who had such intense disdain for me or my work. As Stockpile grows as a company and I grow as a designer, I'm sure to hear from people who think the same way. If I'm going to succeed, I can't let someone else's irrational opinions bother me, or sway me from my course. And for that lesson, she deserves my thanks.

Plus, her store was tacky as hell.

Lost Type: Characters with Character

Jake Wright

scotty_poster_first2_1024x1024.jpg

Choosing a font is a universal chore, something shared by high-schoolers laying out PowerPoint presentations and graphic designers working on multimillion-dollar ad campaigns. And at one point or another, everyone has been stuck. Our computers come with pre-installed typefaces that run the gamut from dull to heinous. Software like Adobe's Creative Suite improves the selection with some popular and versatile fonts, but they're the "safe" choices. No designer took a risk by using Helvetica Neue.

So where do you go if you want your characters to have, you know, character? Veer and MyFonts have great, extremely professional font libraries, but the prices add up fast. An individual or even a small business might have trouble justifying hundreds of dollars for a single font family. Sites like dafont and fontsquirrel offer lots of free typefaces, but with inconsistent quality. Some are missing key characters (such as punctuation, numbers, and lowercase letters), and many are only licensed for personal use. In other words, they're free for a reason.

The Lost Type Co-op bridges the gap between these two extremes with a simple, pay-what-you-want pricing structure. When you see a font you like, you enter a discretionary payment which is sent directly to that font's designer. No fees, no middleman. It's a great way to support independent artists, who have populated the collection with type from a huge range of stylistic inspirations, from the art-deco hotels of Miami Beach to men's haircuts of the 1950s. I particularly like Homestead, a display font that brings to mind a high-fashion Paul Bunyan with contemporary, plaid-like patterns.

Next time you find yourself stuck, unable to choose a font, spend a minute and browse Lost Type's growing collection. You might find the perfect display font for your letterpress wedding invitations, or just the right typeface for your facebook header banner. With unique, professionally-designed fonts and flexible pricing, Lost Type enables designers of all skill levels to create more adventurous work.

The Brooklyn Museum's WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY

Jake Wright

Can a massive, world-class museum feel like a secret? Maybe if it's the Brooklyn Museum. The huge neo-classical building (and tasteful modern addition) looms over the formal lawns and greenhouses of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and Prospect Park, capped by a marble dome that shines down at summer weddings, soccer games, and commuters on the Eastern Parkway. Ads for its exhibitions show up on subway cars, busses, and across billboards. Maybe it's only a "secret" in comparison to its more famous cousins across the river. Any day, the galleries of MoMa and the Met are packed with tourists, buzzing with the sounds of conversation in dozens of languages. In contrast, the Brooklyn Museum seems to draw most of its visitors from inside the city. It's quieter, less-crowded, even as it puts on some of the best exhibitions in New York.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is one such exhibit. It brings together books, magazines, camera equipment, and hundreds of photos from over 150 years of warfare, with the goal of revealing "the interrelationship between war and photography." But instead of showing the images sorted chronologically, or even categorized by the style of photography, the curators of WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY have sorted them across phases of conflict: Recruitment, Training, Embarkation, Daily Routine, Battle, Death and Destruction, Homecoming, and Remembrance.

It would be easy for an exhibition like this to take a well-worn, moralizing stand. The images of dozens of young men dead in a trench, or terrified children running from a napalm strike in Vietnam, provoke immediate emotional reactions. And while those (and many other) horrifying photos are present, removing them from their immediate context provokes deeper, more nuanced thought. Instead of singular atrocities, we see the tragic cycle of history, where events like these happen again and again, in different cultures, countries, and times.

But the most poignant images are not of the famous battles, or grisly casualties. They document the experiences of individual soldiers, and tell a more detailed story than the epic combat photography. We see their friendships and loved ones, their attempts to create a semblance of home in an achingly alien environment. A Polish mother kisses her teenage son on the face, knocking his helmet askew. An American soldier cuts grass from a tiny strip of green planted next to a tent in the Iraqi desert. In one series ("One Ride with Yankee Papa 13") we follow James Farley, a helicopter gunner with the looks and lanky build of a male model, over the course of a mission with his crew. In the first image his face is lit up with a crooked smile, two enormous guns swinging from his hands. The last has his features twisted as he sobs in a supply shack, alone, grieving for a lost comrade.

Too often, public conversation about war is reduced to abstractions. Our country becomes a single entity, "us," our opponents a monolithic force, "them," "the enemy." Any victory is "our" victory, "their" defeat. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY breaks down this psychological barrier, showing the human tragedies that get lost in the scale of larger conflicts. No matter how justified, how righteous, how worth-fighting a war may be, we must remember that suffering and heartbreak will inevitably follow. And while some wars are truly necessary, and mankind cannot and should not lay down its arms, perhaps that knowledge will make us more cautious in taking them up.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and its Aftermath runs through February 2, 2014 at the Brooklyn Museum. Entrance to the exhibition is included with general admission.

Betty Boom

Jake Wright

Earlier this month, I was contacted by the founder of Ball and Buck to create a special piece for display in his Boston store. Ball and Buck carries high-quality, American-made men's clothing and accessories, so Stockpile Designs was a natural fit. He wanted a polished 100-lb practice bomb (like the one used in the Megaton Floor lamp) with a hand-painted pinup girl inspired by Nose Art from WWII. I haven't done much painting since college, so an artist who shares my studio space added the pinup, affectionately dubbed Betty Boom.

Save Stars and Stripes!

Jake Wright

The first issue of Stars and Stripes, published November 9, 1861

The first issue of Stars and Stripes, published November 9, 1861

Stars and Stripes, the US Military's in-house newspaper, is at serious risk of being eliminated due to budget cuts. While the US Military has an acknowledged spending problem (due in no small part to unnecessary projects forced onto the Pentagon by the legislative branch), Stripes accounts for a tiny part of military spending, and is sometimes the only news source available to deployed service members. A substantial portion of its expenses are recouped through ad sales, further reducing the government's financial commitment. In addition, it has complete editorial independence from the Department of Defense, mandated by law. This independence serves its more than 350,000 readers with honest, critical appraisals of US Military policy, leadership, and strategies.

As Gawker's Adam Weinstein pointed out, Stripes could operate for three decades for the price of just one scandalously over-budget F-35. Or more than five decades for a single year's operating expenses on one of our nineteen aircraft carriers. Or nearly a century for the cost of a notoriously expensive Littoral combat ship.

It is important and appropriate for the government to eliminate wasteful spending, whether the plan is lowering the deficit or directing the savings to more effective programs. But Stars and Stripes provides a necessary service, one that can't be outsourced or replaced. The review is currently underway; use this link to find your representative, and urge them to preserve this important institution.

New Site, New sletter

Jake Wright

 If you are one of the literally several visitors to the Stockpile blog, you may have noticed some changes. Things look cleaner. More stark. Like the Museum of Modern Art, if MOMA were a small website exclusively devoted to presenting and selling my work.

WARNING: THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS CONTAIN NERD-TALK ABOUT WEB DESIGN. DO NOT READ WHILE OPERATING HEAVY MACHINERY OR STANDING AT THE TOP OF STAIRS.

The old site was based on Wordpress, an open-source website platform that works like a finely-tuned machine, if that machine was exploded, rebuilt with parts from several other machines, and then dumped at the bottom of a lake. That may be a little harsh, but the real problem is that Wordpress is, at its core, designed for blogging. You have to install dozens of plugins and extensions to get it to function as an online store, which transforms it from a simple, easy-to-use system into a Byzantine mess of conflicting code and weird bugs.

This new site is built in SquareSpace, which is sort of like the iMac of website platforms. It's simple, cheap, looks good, and is easy to use. My background is in web and graphic design, but I barely needed coding skills to tweak it to my specifications. There's a downside to all this simplicity - for example, there's no way to set a specific shipping price for a product, which is problematic when it's oversized or ships in multiple boxes - but it's worth it to have an online store that looks good and actually works.

Along with the site redesign is the first Stockpile Designs newsletter. These are going out about every four weeks, and feature the latest designs, developments, and show dates. Sign up here!

From the Sketchbook to the Living Room

Jake Wright

ironclad_cutout.jpg

Last week I delivered a large furniture commission, a steel-and-mahogany credenza, using my new design language called “Ironclad.” In Ironclad furniture, solid wood construction is sheathed and supported by sheet metal plating. Hardware is shared across multiple attachment points and components, simplifying assembly and improving durability.

I took photos documenting the design process, from the rough sketch and CAD renderings to the final construction. Check out the gallery below to see how the first Ironclad Credenza came together!

The Bomb Stands Alone

Jake Wright

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A couple months ago, I got a custom order request. The client wanted a Megaton lamp, as well as a Silo Table for it to stand on. I was conflicted. Don't get me wrong - I love getting requests and designing custom pieces. It's just that the Silo Table is discontinued, and for a very good reason: it's a huge pain-in-the-ass to make. The tabletop alone has something like 32 welds, not to mention the complexity of drilling evenly spaced holes along a brittle, antique oak shaft... plus, judging by the condition in which some were received, UPS transports the boxes by rolling them down flights of stairs.

So what if, instead of making a special table just for the lamp to stand on, I made the design into a floor lamp? I could use the entire bomb (instead of only the back fins) and support it from the same brackets that hold it in a bomber. My client liked the idea, and once the concept sketch was approved I got to work.

Even though it's the same bomb, it feels totally different from the table lamp. The minimalistic base suspends it just feet above the ground, as though freezing it in time right before it reaches its target. This gives it a delicate, even precarious appearance despite being significantly larger and heavier than the original Megaton. But before I add it to the store, it needs a name to go along with the design - "Megaton Floor Lamp" won't cut it for something I like this much.

First Shot - Blitz Lamp Repros

Jake Wright

Blitz Lamp Repro

The Blitz Lamp is far-and-away the most popular piece in the Stockpile Store. In a weird twist of fate, it's become a victim of its own success. I use a WWII practice bomb for the body of the lamp, but 70-year-old munitions aren't exactly falling from the sky (anymore). These aren't particularly rare, but it's getting harder to find a bunch of them in one place. My current suppliers are running low, and I've been on the hunt for a new stash.

So what do you do when you're almost out of bombs? You make more. (Note to NSA search engines - made you look!)

Over the last several months, I've been working with Hebert Foundry and Machine in NH on a top secret project: to make more bombs. Like the originals, these are sand-cast, for that awesome textured finish. And like the originals, these are made in the USA.

But why settle for a copy, when I had a chance to improve on the original design? The repros are cast from a zinc-aluminum alloy - brighter, shinier, eco-friendly and 100% rust-free. Their bases are flatter for added stability, and they're cast hollow to save resources. Finally, these new Blitzes will retail for less than half the price of the originals.

I'm teaming up with Uncommon Goods to offer these repros exclusively through their catalog and website, although I'll be able to link to their listing through the Stockpile Store. Until then, you can use my contact form for more info, or to reserve your part of the first production run.

Introducing the Brink

Jake Wright

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The design language from the Perimeter coffee table prototype has found its way into a new product: the Brink end table. TIG-welded, hand-blackened steel sits flush with rift-sawn white oak for a table that is aggressively angular and strikingly minimal.

I worked hard to make something straightforward to produce and simple to assemble (the wood is attached to the frame with only three bolts). The simplicity requires a lot of precision and concentration during construction, but confers a degree of flexibility. The Brink will be available in custom heights, and I've even drafted a nested version.

End Table Prototype: Rough Assembly

Jake Wright

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A few weeks ago, I  posted  some CAD drawings of an end-table prototype, based on the Perimeter coffee table. But I hesitated to start constructing the first physical copy. The design felt a little too… basic. Too symmetrical. Too TIDY. So I grabbed my sketchbook and brainstormed some more imaginative iterations.

After a few pages of designs ranging from the wild to the wildly impractical, I settled on a two-legged, cantilevered design. I wanted to contrast the stark minimalism of a floating tabletop with the heavy-duty functionality of its materials. While it’s less stable than a four-legged design (lean on the corner of the wood, and you’re both going down) end tables aren’t usually subjected to the same weights and stresses as desks or coffee tables. Plus, I’m a hypocrite – always against trading function for form, until I like the way it looks.

The Megaton Process

Jake Wright

The Megaton Lamp is the piece that started Stockpile Designs, and the one that gets the most attention in my home and in my workshop. I start with a 100-lb MK-15 practice bomb from the Korean War, and remove its tail fins on my metal shop’s horizontal bandsaw. Though these bombs are completely empty and inert, I’ve noticed that my shop-mates tend to work a bit further away for this part of the process.

Once the fins are separated, I drill a hole near the base for the power cord and start removing the paint with acetone. It’s a messy process, and I wear gloves, glasses, and a respirator to protect myself. Acetone isn’t the MOST dangerous chemical in the shop, but it dries out your skin and can be carcinogenic – and that’s before it mixes with 60-year-old industrial primer. While the acetone strips the paint, it leaves a gross, thin film of neutralized particles behind. This comes off easily during the sanding and polishing process. But before I start sanding, I TIG weld the steel pipe that holds the socket. TIG welding tends to leave heat marks on steel, so I can sand those off at the same time.

I do three rounds of sanding with 320-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpaper. The 320 is the most aggressive and the most time-intensive, since it is used to remove the paint film and any spots the acetone may have missed. Some paint remains in seams and deep-set areas, but I let it stay. It enhances the appearance of the original welds and keeps the finished piece from looking too sterile. The 400- and 600-grit papers even out the finish left by the first round, and eventually bring the metal up to a shine. (Sanding tip: always sand in a single direction. This minimizes the appearance of scratches, making it possible to create a high shine without using insanely high grits or fine steel wool.)

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Once the steel is sanded and polished, it’s time to seal it. Steel is very easy to seal, with hundreds of products that provide some measure of protection against moisture and rust. I use a heavy-duty lacquer on the underside of the lamp, and an oil-wax blend from Sculpt Nouveau on the exterior. The lacquer keeps the rusty interior of the bomb from oxidizing further, but tends to run and pool when applied, making it unsuitable for complex or curvy areas. The oil blend is less durable, but applies much more evenly than the lacquer. It’s also much simpler to repair. If new rust somehow forms on a lacquered steel, the entire finish has to be re-applied. With the oil, spots can be neutralized with WD-40 without compromising the finish. Even in the event of severe damage (e.g. an unnoticed spill, a window left open during a storm) the original finish can be reapplied to the damaged area, rather than the entire piece.