Thoughts for the Future

I have always liked knives and weapons. I don’t know, just something about them catches my interest. Maybe it is because I was raised around them? I remember that my dad always had a traditional pocketknife on him (and still does). He gave me my first knife when I was very young, and I have tried to have one on me ever since.

I remember as a kid always looking through cheap knife magazines and eyeing all the superb quality knives that I could buy for JUST $19.95!!! I admit some of them did look kinda cool. I then started to dive deeper into the world of cutlery. I turned to brands like Cold Steel, SOG, and others. Keep in mind, tomahawks, spears, and swords are cool, especially the historical ones, but my interest was in the pocket knives and fixed blades. The more utilitarian pieces. The ones that you could have on you and use them when you needed to. I never was a big multitool guy. My reason: because my lifestyle never demanded it. My dad is a fan though, but I myself have never needed one.

Fast forward to the early college years. I had my sights set on a SOG zoom. This was only a budget knife, but oh boy did it check all of my boxes. The blade has a cool recurve to it, and the scales were machined, and coated aluminum. This bad boy had a SUPER deep pocket clip, which means that none of the knife stuck out the top of your pocket. Totally had a discrete factor. The feature that sold me was the assisted opening. This means that when you start to deploy the knife blade, you push the thumb stud with your thumb, and spring flings it the rest of the way. This feature is very popular in the knife community because it is like a legal switch blade. A knife designer by the name of Ken Onion created this because he found a loophole in the knife laws regarding the fast, spring deployment of a knife.

After I bought this knife, I thought I was set. I had the coolest knife. But then my addiction was just getting started. Of course, I dove right back into my “research” for the next great buy for my collection. Then one day I found one, the Gerber Flatiron Although this knife was half the price of the SOG (this was $30), it was a folding cleaver!! I had it stock for a while but then I ran across this guy off of Instagram who made custom scales. I had never had brass on my knives, and oh boy did it look good. So for $30 shipped, he put copper scales on my flatiron. I then found a special bead and some leather and made a cool lanyard on it. I still have this one and it still looks cool. The copper patina looks better and better every day.

Of course, I gave in to the temptation to buy another piece of cutlery. By now I am in deep on the Instagram and youtube videos learning everything that I can about the makes and models of different knives. I wanted t know it all. I watched so many knife videos on all channels and followed so many people on Instagram that I created a separate account for my interests: @edc_what_i_mean. This turned not only into a knife hobby but an everyday carry obsession. All the gear that people carry like knives, pens, flashlights, pry bars, multitools., etc. After a while, I got bored with the knives I already owned and bought another one. One of the greatest knives ever invented for everyday carry was the Spyderco Para 3. This quality of the knife was upgraded, as well as the steel. I didn’t like the pocket clip because I was used to how my SOG carried in the pocket, so I had to buy an aftermarket deep carry clip. This setup is a total of $170. I want to say that this was my most recent purchase, but that would be a lie. I am always on the hunt for the next best thing.

I tell you my past in order to tell share my plans for the future. I have an interest and a passion for all things knives and the gear that gets people throughout their day. Although it can be an expensive hobby, I love everything about it and hope to contribute one day. This is my plan for the future: to design and make knives for people to enjoy, use, and collect just as I have. Everything typically begins small, and that’s where I plan to start. For my final in my keyshot rendering class, I put my passion into play. I was able to design 3 unique knives in CAD and digitally rendered them. I hope to use the CNC plasma cutter and actually cut out the metal and hopefully make my design into reality someday!

The Locomotive

Before we dive into the steam-powered locomotive, we need to precursor it with the technology that inspired it. It is called the steam-powered locomotive because that is how this massive compilation of iron and wood rolls along the track. Steam power is one of the most iconic technologies that the industrial revolution gave birth to. The problem back on that day was that most of the technology of that day relied on water to power the factory/machines. The problem with that is all the businesses and factories required to be near a water source in order to operate. Then a man named Thomas Savery patented the technology for his steam engine in 1698. This allowed the steam to pump the water, therefore keeping the water out from inside the mines. Later, engineers like Thomas Newcomen and James Watt made their own contributions to the steam engine technology.

            What did people do before the steam-powered locomotives and trains? Besides walking, there were some other forms of transportation that were faster. Some common modes of transportation were horse-drawn carriage, wagon, cart, or stagecoach. The thing to remember here is that not a lot of people had the money to buy these modes of transportation. There were other animals besides horses too. There were donkeys, camels, cows, and a slew of other animals that people used. There were attachments that people made that were similar to sleds. For instance, there was a device called a “travois” which was an assembly of sticks to make a cage-like ball that helped with the transport of babies, personal belongings, and possibly the sick and disabled.

            Now the steam engine did not originate in America. The first full-scale locomotive was created overseas in England by the British Engineer Richard Trevithick in 1804. I was surprised to find out that this first rendition of the steam-powered locomotive was not that well received. The people took to liking the locomotive made by another British named George Stephenson. He named his model BlÜcher. This model had the capability to “…haul up to 30 tons of coal at 4 mph going uphill.” The first public railway for these steam engines was also invented by George Stephenson.

            Now the steam locomotive makes its way overseas into the states. The first one was shipped over from Britain because they needed help with the transport of coal. There was a problem, though. The tracks in the states were rated for only four tons, and the locomotive weighed in at seven and a half tons. Then, an American engineer named Peter Cooper built the first steam locomotive in the States. His model, famously known as Tom Thumb, had its first run in 1830. This vessel of transportation upped the speed of Stephenson’s model by 14 mph. Not only was it faster, but it could also haul 36 passengers. This is just a summary of the early days of the steam-powered locomotive, and we have made great improvements to this technology and the train is still used today to haul both materials, supplies, and passengers.

How does the steam engine work? Well, in order to get steam, we need water and fire. Various forms of fuel would help generate the fire. The most common were wood and coal, but oil was often used as well. The main goal here is to get fire, which then produces the steam that makes the wheels turn. This process occurred in the Fire tube boilers, which were mostly built horizontally. The way that the boiler worked was that there was a firebox at the rear. This is where the fuel would be loaded, and the fire would be made. This fire heated the water. The gases from that heat make their way into pipes. These pipes are submerged into water. Heated gas warms the pipes, which then heat the water, leading to steam. If the steam was too much and caused too much pressure, it could be released manually. Another option is that that steam could “…be released into the steam pipes into a cylinder where it moves the pistons.” The pistons were connected to the wheels. Therefore, this whole process is to generate steam, run it through pipes, and move the pistons, or release the extra pressure.

Once again these are the early days of the train. Nowadays, the steam engine locomotive isn’t really used for daily transport anymore like it used to. There are still some around though. These full-sized beasts are still functioning but are primarily used for educational purposes. A functioning replica of the famous Tom Thumb locomotive resides at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Although the technology of the steam engine is a bit outdated, we definitely use the train today and the technology of the steam-powered locomotive had improved in leaps and bounds since its inception. The steam locomotive technology has been improved and replaced with bigger and better motors capable of hauling way more than a couple of tons like the old locomotives. One of the early problems that the trains had, believe it or not, were cows. Cows would wander onto the tracks and block the path of the train. So, a device was created to better navigate the turns and knock the cows off of the track: the cowcatcher. This device was triangular in nature and was mounted to the front of the train. The original purpose of the train was to help with the transport of materials such as coal and wood, but passenger transportation became significantly popular. These even had dining and sleeping cars for the extra flair of luxury. Trains continued to get large and more powerful. The two-cylinder motor eventually upgraded to a four-cylinder. Then, the addition of more gears aided in the power and torque. Trains were then used more in the industrial field for help in mining, logging, and quarry.

Diesel and electric motors began to replace the old motor technology in the 1930’s-1950’s and that is what the world has today. Japan is famous for its wicked fast electric trains, and if you make your way across America, then you will see all kinds of railyards and railways connecting the country. Whether transporting people or materials, trains are still used today and it all came from a brilliant idea from the industrial revolution movement.

Sir James Dyson Research

Sir James Dyson

            For my design theory class, I was assigned to research a twentieth-century designer. Wanting to make it easier on myself, I chose one of the more famous and most recognizable designers: Sir James Dyson. Now I admit that not many people may think of the man himself, but just about everyone knows a Dyson product when they see one. Although he and his company has made great waves in the engineering industry, Sir James Dyson is not an engineer, he is a designer.

            Sir James Dyson, who was born on May 2, 1947, is a British industrial designer, inventor, and entrepreneur. First, he went to one of the most prestigious schools in North Norfolk. After that, he went to the Byam Shaw School of Art in London from 1965-66 before heading to study furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art from 1966-70. While still a student, he took up a job working for Rotork, which is a British manufacturing company. Dyson invented the sea truck at the young age of 23. The vessel was made of fiberglass with a load capacity of up to three tons. This boat was then used by military and oil/construction companies alike. The classic Dyson invention before vacuums and other household appliances was the BallBarrow made in 1974. The product itself is simple and ingenious. James Dyson saw the struggles of traditional wheelbarrows constantly getting stuck in the mud. What he did was put a wide plastic hopper on a frame with a wide plastic ball for a wheel. This made improvements with both weight and stabilization. One of the iconic things about this invention is the ball, which is clearly seen as an inspiration for a lot of his vacuums.

            Dyson, as a company, has a simple motto: to question the things that already exist and how can we improve them? Dyson says in an interview with Plastics Magazine that “Dyson is first and foremost an engineering company. Our main concern is developing and commercializing products that are most effective than those that are already on the market…Our desire to create beautiful objects is in no way essential. We are guided by practicality and not appearance.” The main focus of the man and the company is efficiency and how they can attribute better things to improve our society.

            I couldn’t find anything that officially ties James Dyson to any specific times and movements, but I definitely see a strong influence of the Bauhaus movement in his designs. Bauhaus (or Staatliches Bauhaus) was a school in Germany with the main goal of “…uniting all branches of the arts under one roof.” I see clear parallels between the works of Dyson and Bauhaus because “the style of Bauhaus is commonly characterized as a combination as a combination of the Arts and Crafts movement with modernism…” I clearly see this concept in the works of Dyson and his company. For instance, the Dyson Fan is a very modern take on the traditional fan that we are all used to. Not only does it have a very abstract and artistic look, but it is also very geometric in shape. The base is a clear circle and cylindrical, while the top fan portion is more of an oval, square shape. Very unique and different, but clean and very basic looking. That is one of the fundamentals that I got from a designer who learned from Bauhaus like Dieter Rams. To him, some of the things that make good design are friendly to the environment and honest. What he means by honest is that the product shouldn’t seem more powerful nor valuable than it is. It is transparent to the user. James Dyson admits that he is “…a firm believer in function over form.” That, I believe is a clear example of how Bauhaus is reflected in his work.

            Everyone seems to know James Dyson for his vacuum. Sir James Dyson got the inspiration for his groundbreaking vacuum technology by noticing that the sawdust in a local sawmill was being removed by a large, industrial cyclone. Dyson got to thinking, “Could that cyclone concept be made to work on a smaller scale?” So, he got to work. He started his ideation process to find a new alternative to the bag-using vacuums. In a five year period, Dyson made 5,127 prototypes before he got his final concept that worked. At his time in Dyson’s life, he was very much in debt and needed an avenue for his bagless vacuum to get to market. The Japanese company Apex lent a helping hand, and James Dyson’s G-Force vacuum started production in 1986. Twenty-Two months later they launched the DC0, which was the first Dyson vacuum which proved to be a bestseller.

Design Manifesto

These are the things that I aim to work on in order to better myself as a designer. Every designer cannot be the best at everything, in my opinion. The best thing is to pick some things and absolutely dominate those. Be the best in that one thing and leave the other fields alone. Become a master of one, then try another. This is a manifesto that I did my first year of design. Our professor wanted us to do a self-analysis and create a manifesto for ourselves. To set goals for ourselves and bring out our weak areas.

  1. Take CAD Tolerances more Seriously

Since your career is directed towards the market of knives and tools, then step up your game to take CAD softwares more seriously. CAD isn’t your favorite field, but it is a skill set that is required and you’ll just have to deal with it. Pay closer attention to your model and take the time to be as detailed as possible. These extra steps will help you in the later steps of 3-D modeling.

  • Stick to Your Plan

It may seem okay now to come up with an idea then diverge to a different one in the process but break that habit right now! Clients will want what you originally show them. Work more on the ideation process until you find the best possible option, then STICK TO IT!!

  • Study your Peers

This may sound a little creepy but take the time to notice the other designers that surround you. Learn from them. Ask them questions (ESPECIALLY the upperclassmen). Take their comments/ suggestions seriously, then work on successfully applying them. Do not just notice their work and move on, take the time to ask them about their process.

  • Sketch More!!

You have really been slacking on the sketching side, and that is probably your worst area!! This is also where you can apply #3. Ask other designers how they draw, what their own styles are. Observe them. Ask them questions. Watch them. Another challenge that you should be doing is aiming to sketch something every day. This does not have to be a fully rendered sketch daily, but at least something. Remember ABS, Always Be Sketching

  • Push Your Boundaries/ Stretch Your Comfort Zone

Currently, you have been a very tame designer, and just casually seeing what works and what the teachers will accept. Break some rules, ask other people, and utilize the people around you. Break a rule here and there in order to stand out among the rest. Make your mark.