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    This is TMAP — story

    The new season at Filson

    The most attractive people are busy living their lives. Trend-setters are rarely members of the world of trends. They're the people who do what they do because it's what they need to do. Everyone sees them. People often mistake their brilliance and their intention for their looks. This is how everyone wound up wearing jeans and white t-shirts. This is why Che Guevara and Bob Marley are best known as logos.

    A professional can look past the outside and see the reason these people are the way they are. The people who have a conscience and can suss out that line usually wind up carrying the torch.

    It's similar for companies, except that the most successful ones live longer than people.

    And now, the world of trends is bending toward Filson because people are beginning to recognize the difference between consumption and legacy. The best quote I ever read in a Filson catalog was something along the lines of "You may have noticed that vests are in style right now. We never stopped making them. Here they are." I think that perfectly captures Filson's spot in the marketplace.


    The reason I'm writing this post is that I just met with my Filson representative, Jordan, at the 1st Ave factory in Seattle. We talked about the new products coming out for the upcoming season. Some of the changes are significant, and I was very pleasantly surprised at their acumen. They're expanding their selection into a new market, without watering down their mission.

    It would be madness to expect Filson to ignore their own popularity, and to ignore the fact that sales of their new line of "Seattle fit" products has flown off shelves. They've been working to identify what it is that has shone this light on them, and I think they figured it out. It's that their stuff is storied, and tough, and if it ever fails you, or if you destroy it, they'll repair it or give you a new one.

    They're adapting their focus on utility for an audience whose utility is as much style as it is ruggedness. If I spend 40 hours a week smashing metal, I wear a tin cruiser. If I spend 40 hours a week in meetings about international trade, I wear a dark gray suit with a simple tie. If I spend 8 hours a week smashing metal, and 50 in meetings about metalwork, then the coat I wear to both places is the Westlake. Recognizing what true utility means to you, and seeking it out is what professionals do.


    So, get ready. Starting in June I'll be posting some new products when Filson releases them to the public. I will, of course, keep selling the Tin Cloth gear, but I will also recognize that customers have bought three times more soy wax short cruisers from me than tin cruisers.

    I'll also be adding some shirts, a few new jackets, a pair of pants, and some new bags that will be made in their new Idaho factory.

    On fragility

    At first glance I believed the site The Philosophers' Mail to be a satire of some kind. I've been reading it every once in a while, and I still can't be sure. But it doesn't matter if it is. It's filled with insight, and it describe the unregistered connections we have in our brains. I love reading it. It's convenient to finally find an article that is on-topic for TMAP.

    This particular article extolls fragility. The way I write and the things I focus on can certainly give the impression that I hate fragile things. This is not at all true.

    In fact, the main thing I value is success. I describe it often as "doing its job well". In the case of a fine glass, it could do no better than to be delicate. The scene where that glass performs is the play of self-control. Its job is to give you the tactile reminder that you have to focus on what you're doing, or you will make a fool of yourself.


    A hori hori prototype

    About a year ago I discovered the magic of a tool called the hori hori. In Japanese it means "dig dig". By now you should be able to infer that it is an Ancient Canadian papyrus calligraphy tool.

    But it can also be used for gardening. It can tear up soil, slice through roots, and the concave side is great for scooping, like a spade. It's extremely versatile and remarkably simple.

    Soon after I discovered its existence, my friend Aaron told me how he had fallen in love with his, and we talked about it for a while. Because the design is so simple, I said I'd make one for him. I've seen several in stores, usually selling for around $35. Most appear to be pressed steel with a crude edge ground into them and a plain wooden handle. You really don't need much to make a good hori hori. But I want to make the perfect one.

    The one in the pictures, doing its job, is the prototype, and the hands belong to Aaron. The tool is made out of 1/8" stainless steel. I spent a while grinding out the backside and grinding down the blade edges. I was surprised to find that the heat generated by grinding was enough to dramatically warp the steel. I put it in the forge and knocked it flat, then let it air cool, believing that the stainless steel would remain hard through this process.

    I was wrong. In fact, this blade is now very soft. The handle is on it, and it's kind of too late to quench harden it. The tool is far from perfect here, but it's good enough to use. This is a huge success because I learned a lot of lessons. For my next attempt, I will:

    • Consider using a high carbon steel.
    • Deliberately harden and temper it according to the type of steel I use.
    • Use slightly deeper scallops.
    • Add 1" to the handle and remove the bumps on the end.
    • Subtract 1/2" from the blade, because an additional inch on this tool would be too much!
    • Use a thicker material for the handle.
    • Add a large lanyard/wall hanging hole.

    Prototyping is an invaluable process. So many things come up when you attempt to finalize a design. No amount of design speculation can make up for testing a finished prototype.

    And yes, once I perfect a hori hori, I will be selling it through TMAP. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll push it down the pipeline a little faster. Expect a price point in the $60 - $100 range, depending on the features I include, and how many steps I can streamline or remove from fabrication.


    How Bicycles Are Made

    More from the excellent internet series called There Is No Such Thing As Magic, this short film covers the manufacture of an English bicycle as done a few decades ago. Some of the technology is outdated - for example, no one uses cotter pin cranks anymore, except for cursing at, and very few wheels are made of steel anymore.