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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.

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.)

megaton_pre-finish.jpg

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.

End Table Prototype Renderings

Jake Wright

When I posted the “Perimeter” coffee table prototype, I hinted at future projects incorporating some of the same design elements. In particular, I wanted to develop more products with the same style of leg: steel frames flush with the tabletop, attached with hidden hardware to create a minimalistic, floating appearance. I used Rhino (a CAD program) to render the first, and I’m planning on having this prototype ready within the next week.

Unlike most of my designs to date, this end table doesn’t incorporate any specific military components. Instead, the military influence is revealed with clean, functional lines and minimalist construction. And as a bonus, the relative simplicity should translate to a lower price point than my other furniture pieces.

Perimeter Prototype: Complete

Jake Wright

The prototype of my new coffee table, the Perimeter, is finally complete! About a month ago I posted some details of the design process, but afterwards I got sidetracked by a very big, very exciting, and (for now) completely top-secret project. As thrilling as it’s been to work on that project, I was itching to get this new design out the door.

The table’s name comes from its unique, reverse-fastened leg frames. Originally I wanted to use a matte black powder coat over the steel, but I the more organic appearance of the black patina goes better with the oak tabletop. The ammo cans started out as a darker, less saturated green, but I had to repaint them to get rid of some surface rust.

I’m extremely happy with the final product.  Apart from adding a coffee table to my line, I’ll definitely incorporate this floating leg design into a future pieces. Between the oak and the steel it is surprisingly heavy, but I’ll dress that up as “substantial” in the product copy.

Delivery Ordeal Featured in American Woodworker

Jake Wright

American Woodworker Blog Post

In a post titled "If You See Something...", I wrote about the hilarious security ordeal I went through to deliver a table via Amtrak. Now my friend and former instructor Yoav Liberman (who's been overdue for a shout-out here) blogged about it for American Woodworker! Yoav is not only a master woodworker, but an inventor with several patents for his innovative tools. See his work (which draws inspiration from, among other things, military camp furniture of the 19th century) at yoavliberman.com.

Coffee Table Prototype - Rough Assembly

Jake Wright

Rough Assembly 1

In the process of expanding the Stockpile product line, I make a lot of prototypes. Some are rickety failures initially unsuccessful, partially due to the difficulty of designing around pre-existing components. (And, perhaps, some overly-ambitious design elements on my part.) But every now and then, one comes together so well it feels like I've made it before. Every bolt falls in the right place, every angle comes out at 90°. Maybe I'm learning from my mistakes, or getting familiar with the materials. Whatever the reason, this coffee table was one of the smoothest projects I've ever designed. This is only the rough assembly, done to make sure the holes are in the right places and to make sure it won't collapse under its own weight. The wood isn't sanded or sealed, and most of the steel is unpainted. But this design is exciting for me, and not just because it's Stockpile's first coffee table. I took a cue from shared components in military design, and used one standard size of hardware. That way, this table can ship disassembled without forcing buyers through a fiendishly complicated set of instructions. Check out the gallery of steps in the prototyping process, with explanations of how the whole thing came together.

If You See Something...

Jake Wright

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A few months ago, I tried to board a train with a bomb.

Or that’s what some people at Penn Station thought. I was heading to Baltimore via Amtrak to deliver the last Silo table. After careful packing and a miserable, rush-hour car trip to Manhattan, the baggage counter informed me Amtrak would not check furniture. No matter how safely it was packed.

I was ready to panic. My customer had bought a (very expensive) train ticket to have his (very expensive) table delivered by hand. I begged the station manager to let me bring it on board. “It can sit in my lap! I’ll stand! I’ll ride between cars!” Anything to get there. Fortunately, the station manager was game. If I could carry it over my shoulder, and was really willing to keep it in my lap if the seats were full, it could ride. But I’d have to take it out of the box.

Apart from the annoyance of dismantling my carefully-constructed packaging with a set of keys in the middle of a crowded train station, I didn’t think there would be a problem. The table is TECHNICALLY made with a giant bullet, but between the wooden shaft and the table frame bolted to it, it’s pretty obviously furniture. On the other hand, people in NYC are justifiably paranoid about weapons in public, but surely nobody would be so jumpy as to –

“Excuse me sir, could you tell me what that is?” asked the police officer.

To her credit the officer was responding to a tip, and figured it was furniture before she even asked. Unfortunately, whenever someone reports a “suspicious package or activity,” there’s a mandatory procedure the NYPD has to follow before they’ll let you move along. So the cop and I were stuck making awkward small talk while we waited for her backup and a bomb-sniffing dog.

A small crowd of policemen formed nearby. I think a few weren’t actually backup, but taking advantage of a rare non-confrontational break in their routine. All were very polite and professional, and a few chatted about my work and the wisdom of travelling with such a threatening-looking design.

“They made me take it out of the box,” I offered weakly.

As the cops milled about, several travelers crept up and pointed at the table. They apparently assumed the officers were gathered for an unrelated reason. Maybe to discuss a collective loss of peripheral vision. None rolled their eyes, but I could tell they wanted to.

Finally the bomb dog breezed through, showing less interest in the table than the nearby trash can, and I was free to go. But before I headed to the line for my train, the responding officer had an idea. To minimize the superfluous tips about my “suspicious” table, she grabbed a large bag from a nearby shop and pulled it over the steel cap of the bullet.

“There,” she said, “now it looks safer. Just keep that on.”

“So… it’s kind of like a table condom, right?” I said cheerfully.

She gave me a stern look, and went back to work.

I made it to my train, and the customer was delighted with his table. But I learned a couple things from this ordeal. First, always get to the station early – you never know what might hold you up. And second, when the baggage check agent asks what’s in your box, just tell him “books.”

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Stockpile's Guide to Efficient Bulbs

Jake Wright

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Even if you’ve never bought one, you’ve probably heard some talk about energy-efficient bulbs. Fans point out that they use way less electricity than traditional (incandescent) bulbs, last longer, and can save money and help the environment. But a lot of people don’t like them – they say the bulbs are expensive to buy, look weird, and give off an ugly “cold” light. That can be true, but if you know what to look for you can get all the benefits without the downsides.

CFL or LED?

From left to right: CFL, A-shape CFL, and LED

From left to right: CFL, A-shape CFL, and LED

CFL stands for Compact-Fluorescent. These are the most common kind of energy-efficient bulbs, and they work like a miniature version of the fluorescent tubes you see in offices and big stores. A CFL can last 10 times as long as a regular incandescent, and uses less than 20% as much energy! But there’s a big downside: mercury. All fluorescent lightbulbs contain mercury vapor. The mercury can be dangerous if you break a bulb, especially if you cut yourself on the glass. In many areas, it’s illegal to throw the bulbs in the trash. Instead you have to bring them to a recycling center, or drop them off in a special bin at your hardware store. In addition, a lot of CFLs take a few seconds to “warm up” when switched on, and that’s annoying when you’re in a hurry.

LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode. LEDs are used as illumination in lots of electronics, from bicycle headlights to the screens of smartphones. LED bulbs are often more efficient than CFLs, and can last for decades. They’re difficult to break, don’t contain any dangerous chemicals, and can be thrown away in the regular garbage. They’re also much more expensive. Most incorporate a set of fins called a “heat sink” in the base. In the majority of lamps these aren’t visible, but they can look strange on an exposed bulb.

I like LEDs a lot more than CFLs, for the convenience, efficiency, and durability. (Plus I kinda dig the weird look.) But I’d still recommend CFLs, at least until LED bulbs become less expensive. To avoid the safety issues, look for “A-Shape” CFLs. These have a protective glass or plastic dome over the fluorescent coil, which makes them harder to break (and safer to clean up if they do). It also makes them shaped like traditional bulbs, so you can use clip-on lampshades or other old-fashioned accessories.

Check the Color Temperature

photo courtesy Wikipedia

photo courtesy Wikipedia

“Color Temperature” is a term physicists use to describe how cold or warm a light is. Ironically, the lower the number, the warmer the light. For example, candlelight has a color temperature of about 1850K, while a computer monitor has a temperature above 5000K. Incandescent lighting is usually around 2700K, the cozy yellowish glow sold as “soft white.”

Don’t let that trick you into thinking an efficient bulb labeled “soft white” will look the same. Since efficient bulbs are naturally cooler than incandescents, it’s easier for manufacturers to call one “soft white” than to get the color right. But all CFL and LED bulbs have their color temperature listed on the packaging. Ignore the marketing, and look for that number. My rule: if it’s over 3000K or under 2700k, don't buy it.

Find your Brand, then Find a Bargain

Efficient bulbs are supposed to save you money, but they won’t if you keep replacing ones you don’t like. Use the recommendations here to find one in your price range, then buy one (just one!) to take for a test drive. Use it for a few days, and even try it in a few different rooms. You want to make sure you like it – and if you don’t, you can always use it in the basement or garage.

Once you’ve found the bulb for you, Google to find the cheapest supplier. You’ll be shocked at how much cheaper most of these are online, even if you’re not buying in bulk. Stick to the same brand and model, since two bulbs that look the same on paper can be very different side-by-side.

Everyone has their own preferences, and these are only guidelines. Some people like a color temperature higher than 2700K; others would rather spend the money on LEDs than deal with recycling CFLs. But if you know what to look for, you can light your house and lighten your electrical bill.

Glam Bam

Jake Wright

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The gold-plated bomblets are finally here! My plater, Epner Technology, did a beautiful job – a thick layer of 24k gold, punctuated by a hand-applied black nickel stripe. Originally we’d planned to do a matte black stripe, using a technique derived for optical components. This turned out to be too difficult to accomplish on this scale, but in my opinion the black nickel looks even better. I might even use it as a base coat to improve upon the gold-striped pendant I made earlier this year. Order one while they last!

(Finally) Facebook

Jake Wright

Stockpile Designs is on Facebook, only two years after your grandparents! But unlike your grandparents, I won’t use facebook to post uncomfortable political rants or attach passive-aggressive notes to your party photos. Instead, I’ll be using the platform in the manner its idealistic founders intended: as a tool for connecting a business with its customers.

About time, right?

I love blogging about upcoming products and the Brooklyn vagabond/designer experience, and I’ll keep posting on this site. But Facebook is a much better venue for keeping people appraised of events and general product updates. Check out the facebook page here, and give me a “like” for future updates (plus motivational support).

Black Blitz

Jake Wright

Blitz - Black Prototype Closeup
Broken Iron Grate

The practice bombs I use in my Blitz lamps are cast iron. Something I didn't know about cast iron until I started using it, is it can shatter. Like pottery, except with fewer pieces.

A while ago, one of the practice bombs arrived with part of the fin snapped off. The missing piece wasn't in the box, and the rust along the broken edge told me this wasn't a recent occurrence. For all I knew, it could have happened when the Navy packed it up at the end of WWII. And it was conspicuous enough that I couldn't make it into a standard lamp and sell it. Not without a discount and disclaimer, anyway.

Instead, I used it to try some new finishes. There are dozens of patinas and treatments available for iron, from traditional blackening agents invented centuries ago, to unusual chemical blends that require electrical current or heat to apply. I found the perfect finish in the middle: Sculpt Nouveau's black magic, a traditional black patina made with a modern chemical formula. It brought a deep, rich black out of the iron, a color that reminded me of cannonballs and old ships with hand-forged nails.

While the burnished gunmetal finish of the original Blitz is clean and modern, the black version looks ancient and industrial and somehow more menacing. I've offered the prototype for sale (broken fin and all) (update:sold) and in 2013 I'll be offering Blitz lamps with both finishes.

Pyongyang Racer, a Communist Videogame

Jake Wright

I love American military design, but nothing can beat the combination of ambition, incompetence, and insanity seen in some Communist projects. For example there was the Lun-Class Ekranoplan, a Soviet hydrofoil that looked like a seaplane driven by the Road Warrior.

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Or what about the Trabant, a tiny car that produced as much pollution as a Western truck. The body underneath those cute curves wasn’t steel, or even fiberglass – it was made of pressed cotton! Which was sort of innovative, as long as you didn’t crash or get it wet.

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But the last true Communist dictatorship, North Korea, has kept the Soviet tradition alive. Earlier this year the DPRKreleased its own iPad, and now there’s a game for it! Assuming it supports decadent Western-style entertainment. Or the internet. Behold: Pyongyang Racer!

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Drive around the eerily clean and empty city of Pyongyang in what appears to be a 1999 Lincoln Towncar! Keep your car fueled by picking up barrels of oil! Drive over pixellated postcards to fill your screen with non-sequiturs about Pyongyang’s tourist attractions, which apparently exist! All while a modestly attired female police officer admonishes you to keep your eyes off of her, and on the road. Good advice, since the game is over if you strike three pedestrian vehicles. They don’t show the part where your little driver is dragged from his car, driven to a concrete cell, and shot in the back of the head. Probably because that would slow down the otherwise brisk and engaging gameplay.

Two Shows, One Day: December 15

Jake Wright

Saturday, December 15th, I’ll be selling in person at two (TWO!) holiday venues. The first is 3rd Ward’s Holiday Craft Fair, running from 12-6. For one day, our Brooklyn workspace becomes a marketplace with TONS of vendors, including dozens of my fellow 3rd-Wardians.

Later that night, I’ll be set up at Barb & Bear’s launch party at Freecandy in Prospect Heights. Barb & Bear is a new online marketplace showcasing the best of New York City artists, designers and craftsmen. It’s run by two supremely awesome entrepreneurs, Alana (Barb) and Gabe (Bear), who’ll keep the party going from 9pm-4am(!) Enjoy holiday shopping with a drink in your hand and give your ears a break from the Christmas Carols! And bring me a red bull, because by the end I’m going to be WIPED OUT.

3rd Ward Holiday Craft Fair | Dec. 15 12-6pm
195 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn NY 11237
 
Barb & Bear Launch Party | Dec. 15 9pm-4am
Freecandy – 905 Atlantic Ave, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn NY 11238

Benched

Jake Wright

bench_spot-welds

A pizzeria near my apartment in Bushwick needed indoor and outdoor bench seating for their clientele. Being a charitably-inclined guy, as well as a starving artist, I was happy to put something together in exchange for free pizza. Since the budget was so low, my materials were limited to steel and construction-grade lumber. The original plan was simple: a rectangular steel frame with an 8-foot-long seat made from wooden planks. Unfortunately, the lumber I wanted was unavailable because of Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, so I substituted sheet metal.

Original Bench in Rhino

The problem with steel sheets, especially in such large dimensions, is that they're sensitive to heat and warp easily during welding. The most common way to combat this is to make small spot welds instead of a continuous line, "stitching" the sheet to the frame.

bench_spot-welds

The first sheet looked great spot-welded to the frame, but I was worried about the sharp edges. There are a lot of families with small children in my neighborhood, and toddlers are very inventive at finding ways to hurt themselves. So after I made the spot welds, I seamed* the sheet metal around the frame on all sides, then ground the weld down to eliminate any sharp edges.

bench_seam

This DID cause the sheet metal to warp, but in lucky way. Since the welding heat was evenly and consistently applied, I got an even and consistent ripple in the sheet. Totally unintentionally, I had created seats! These benches weren't designed for ergonomics, but they were noticeably more comfortable after warping.

The final step was sealing the benches to prevent rust. I used a self-priming matte black paint from McMaster-Carr, supposedly very durable and water resistant. It didn't stick to the metal as well as I'd hoped (one of my shop buddies told me "no matter what it says on the can, use a primer"). On the other hand, even the bench that goes outside will be covered by an awning, and some slight surface rust will probably enhance the look of the pieces. Honestly, if I'd had the budget for the chemicals I would have pre-rusted the benches (similar to Brooklyn's new Barclays Center). Controlled surface rust can protect the underlying metal, and eliminates the need for other finishing and painting.

bench_spray-booth

I'm glad I had a chance to work with sheet metal in such large dimensions (even if I would have preferred wood). The total materials budget for each bench was under $100 - not bad considering the scale. And these benches are going to go through some heavy public use, so I'll be able to check on their durability during my year of free pizza!

*In basic terms, I melted the edges of the sheet metal into the steel of the frame, fusing it into one piece without adding any welding rod.

Gold Bomblet Coming Soon

Jake Wright

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A new version of the Bomblet pendant is coming in time for the holidays, plated in 24k gold! But that’s not all – thanks to the amazing folks at Epner Technology, I’ll be incorporating a unique design touch originally used for optical and weapons systems. Shown here are the original Vietnam-era “Lazy Dog” bombs, pre-glamification. Now imagine them in gold.

Awesome, right?

Blitz Lamp on VH1!

Jake Wright

Screen Shot 2012-11-26 at 8.30.02 PM

This morning, VH1 had a quick segment on Cyber Monday shopping. And what was that, front and center for SIX WHOLE MINUTES? The Blitz Lamp! Lauren Lumsden from dailycandy.com dropped in to share finds from online retailers, including my new partner Barb & Bear. After a relaxing Thanksgiving break, this put me right back in the mood for work.

Pics and Tips from the Brooklyn Flea

Jake Wright

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This last weekend I FINALLY got to show at the Brooklyn Flea! It was a beautiful day – the first really nice one since the hurricane and nor’easter. The market was held in East River State Park, home to some of the best views in New York, looking so lovely you’d never guess it was underwater two weeks prior.

Flea markets aren’t usually an ideal venue for designers like me. The clientele is mostly looking for antiques and/or bargains, so I’ll generate a lot more interest than sales. But the markets tend to have a low cost of entry, so I usethem as an opportunity to refine my presentation and displays. At this show, I tried out some modular display boxes and a power source I’d put together. The power source needs improvement. – the battery ran low very quickly, leading to an obnoxious high-pitched beeping from the outlets wired to it. On the plus side, the boxes looked great (although I might make them larger in the future.) A friend suggested painting them with a chalkboard coating, which was a brilliant idea. I can write and erase on them just as easily as a real chalkboard, and the rough gray finish goes really well with the designs.

I also used the market as a field trial for my new camera. It takes MUCH better photos than what I was using before. Once I get the hang of it, I might have to take new shots of the whole line!

11/4 Flea Moved to 11/11

Jake Wright

girls trick-or-treat after storm

Sadly, Stockpile's appearance at the Williamsburg Flea has been delayed again due to the recent storm. Chris Han, the fantastic woodworker who coordinates the event for us people at 3rd Ward, is stuck in Jersey City without gas or easy access to NYC. To take your mind off this depressing event, here is an image of two girls trick-or-treating in Staten Island after the flood.

Feel better? You're welcome. If you want to feel REALLY good, donate to the Red Cross's relief efforts.