The fourth box, with mahogany liners glued in place to provide a gluing surface for the bottom panel. This box, and the others, represents an essay in energy conservation. All the wood used has been laboriously salvaged from furniture pallets (to, hopefully, make better designed, more durable furniture). The boxes are intended to receive Matt Ross’s collection of Japanese woodworking tools. And so, energy…and intent.
Embodied energy…I first encountered the concept in the 80’s, after the first major embargo on Middle-Eastern oil by OPEC. The context at that time was historic preservation, a backlash to the excesses of “urban renewal”. It takes a certain amount of BTU energy to make a brick, or a board, or a piece of re-bar…and that energy is forever embedded in that piece of material.
Sort of…back in high school, we were taught the law of conservation of matter and energy: matter can be neither created nor destroyed, but only changed in form. So, now we know that the energy that fired those bricks was not really recoverable (it mostly became CO2) and that the brick is just a brick after all. There was something fine, in a Ruskin and Morris sense, about the embodied energy argument, though. The human element.
Now, we have LEED, a rather clever marketing scheme used by architects to convince clients that they are oh-so-savvy about energy and environment; glibly ignoring the real costs of cement processed in China without a thought to worker or environment; using concrete, welded steel and plate glass as though those materials could somehow be rendered “organic”. The calculus of energy efficiency begins later, after the final punch list, metering the utility bills.
The energy that I’m concerned with is the concentrated intent of the blade smiths who forged those Japanese tools; to subdue and employ that energy in a most ambitious undertaking. I have been searching for a place in which to teach and practice woodworking. This is a beginning. There’s an acre of ground, an ideal building site in the back yard, and the property backs on a public park. The house, with a bit of sweat equity, will be a workshop (isn’t every house a workshop, somewhere along the way).
2650 North Old Wire Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas, US 72701.
Everything to the left of the entry door is a black hole. Literally. The rest of the house sustained smoke and water damage. I intend to use that source of positive energy embodied in the tools, in the boxes, to balance the negative energy in the charred and smoky mess waiting to be cleared away. Moving excited electrons along a copper wire, or believing that money exists as a flash of light along a glass fiber, that’s all commonplace and pedestrian today. Time to move along…there are other forms of energy.