I gotta go on record with a thumbs up for the Dunnage Show at Inheritance last weekend. I know, it’s a little “patting ourselves on the back,” but I thought the
show went swimmingly. To clarify, “dunnage” refers to material used to pad, prop up, balance, shim, and otherwise support massive interstate and international shipping. It’s basically building blocks for moving huge stuff. I think these days dunnage is mostly composed of some kind of plastic. but at some point in the past, dunnage was wooden. The wood came from super lowgrade wood that was maybe a step or two above firewood – at a point when grading had everything to do with wacky grain, checks, knots, and other “imperfections.” This system of grading still applies, I guess, in an aesthetic world where wood is most prized for not looking like wood. That is, consumers and makers are always looking for perfect, flat, knot-free material that won’t move or in some other way be rambunctious. I like to think that BoxCo type people, while appreciating “high grade” lumber, has as much or more appreciation for “low grade,” “useless,” “trashy,” cast off undesirable type wood as well.
OK, speaking just for me, in that case, I find something intensely interesting in using these materials that stubbornly remain what they are – living things. Wood, after all, is an organic material that continues to act that way: it absorbs and gives off moisture – breathes, in effect – and when it does that, depending on the make up the wood, it moves, cracks, bends, warps, and may do so differently at different places based on its grain. It’s a real pain in the ass. But actually, that’s part of what
makes what we do remarkable. We are not masters of wood, we are collaborators. We do our best to shape and bend the material to our design, our idea, and then hope for the best. We do what we can to anticipate where this material will go, how it will try to spring its joinery, and then give it room to do its thing, while hopefully helping it to continue to do our thing. On our best days, we’re collaborating with nature. On our worst, we’re fibbing our way into temporary dominance, only to be reminded by time, humidity, and sun that our days are numbered, and what we make, if it stands up, won’t stand up for long.
Wow, OK, slight digression there. Thanks for humoring me. That’s all to say why we appreciated our dunnage so much, and what’s special enough about it to have a show. Dunnage represents the best of the worst, the most perfectly imperfect of
materials, in which we recognize ourselves, our own stubborn imperfections our own stubborn imperfections which make us exactly and precisely unique, perfect, children of God. A tall order, no doubt, high flown prose, definitely, but not entirely overstated.
I found this stack of dunnage shopping for old tools on Craigslist. In addition to being a furniture maker, I’ve got a romantic and practical appreciation for old machinery, of the type that gets obsessed over at vintagemachiney.org. It’s aesthetic, but also functional. At least in this realm, there’s real truth to the statement, “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I found an ad from Bud on Craigslist, and went to check it out. When we first met Bud, who’s since moved to Florida, Andy and I were checking out his amazing Oliver jointer (which I eventually bought), his huge planer (I already had one of those), his Tannewitz bandsaw (I couldn’t justify that one), his crazy drill press (I bought this even though I already had a great old one) his enormous collection of R&B and other records (I couldn’t afford them), his very completely and partially restored collection of vintage bicycles (likewise, I didn’t get any of these – a man can have only so many collections, after all!). Anyway, in the process of checking all that out, we stumbled on the dunnage, and had to have it.
The culmination of all this was our show last weekend at Inheritance. I’m so proud of the BoxCo. Inheritance looked amazing. So did the work. Only downside is that Bud couldn’t be there. Florida is a little far to commute.