Any bokken will break eventually. Fortunately, this isn’t one I made. Unfortunately, it still snapped on its owner.

An ipe bokken that split about halfway up its length.

An ipe bokken that split about halfway up its length.

Once a bokken has split like this there’s not really much you can do to repair it.

In pieces.

In pieces.

So let’s cut it up into smaller pieces. Depending on where and how bokken break, you can generally get a shoto (short sword) or tanto (knife) out of it. In this case, I’m able to get one whole tanto by cutting below the crack, and then cutting some extra length off the tsuka. The balance isn’t right and the curve is off, but that’s simple enough.

Joining the end grain

Joining the end grain

That leaves us with enough for a too-short tsuka and a blade portion that’s too thin to join directly to the remaining tsuka. You can’t just glue end-grain to end-grain either – the joint is too weak. What to do? A half-lap dovetail joint. Basically, you cut away a portion of the thickness on each piece so they match up, with a dovetail to act as a key so it theoretically wouldn’t pull out.


Half-lap dovetail closeup.

Half-lap dovetail closeup.

I cut a test piece out of a scrap of eucalytus and it should work. I’m not sure if I’m going to the eucalyptus to join the last two pieces of ipe, or just make two tanto.

3 finished tanto

The finished tanto.

In the end, I was able to get all three tanto to work out. Interesting fact: Ipe dust turns red when it gets moist. On one hand, I’m glad that the little bit of dust I accidentally inhaled didn’t give me a massive nosebleed (gross, I know – my apologies). On the other hand, it’s still pretty nasty.

A few years ago, while working at Organic, I was asked to help manage a quarterly creative meeting. Each office would get together and have a few minutes to speak. The New York office, leading that particular meeting was expected to provide the bulk of the content.

One of my presentations was “what if there was no beta?”

As digital designers, we’ve gotten into the habit of saying a site/product is “always in beta.” I think that’s dangerous. Of course, we can always work to improve our products, but we also excuse incomplete content, missing features, and questionable decisions. Even in the print design world, people have gotten careless as digital printing has taken over (but you’ll still loathe having to explain that the business cards you labored over need to be reprinted because someone forgot to double-check the phone number.

None of that compares to building a physical structure, though.

A few years ago, my wife and I undertook a project to gut and refinish the second floor of our home. One half was unfinished, bare attic. The other half was finished, but with wood panelling and olive green carpet. Two years later, we had built up the unfinished half into a new bedroom/office space complete with brand-new electrical and build in networking jacks. The existing half ended up being completely re-wired, re-insulated, and needed a new closet and ceiling framing to boot.

We learned a few things in the process:

  • Sheetrock is heavy.
  • Finishing sheetrock is a terrible, tedious process.
  • Installing an entire room worth of sheetrock, in a single day, by yourself, with the wrong driver, is just asking for crippling tendonitis.
  • Closets are never too big.
  • If you already have the room down to bare studs, just make your changes then and there.
  • Your work can never be too flat, too level, or too square.

The one thing I took away from this was a sense of accomplishment – at the end of the process, I had build something that will last for decades, barring natural disaster or a complete demolition. It could conceivably outlast me! When is the last time you could say that for a website, banner ad, facebook page or app? You might be lucky to get a year out of it.

That led to the subject of my talk: What if there was no beta? How would we design and create if, once we hit the publish button, we couldn’t edit a blog entry when we see a stupid typo? What if we couldn’t fix that one bug that eluded us? What if any change was paid for in actual blood, sweat, and tears? What if, once you committed a code change or laid down a pixel, you couldn’t undo it? From a design perspective at least, it would make it an interesting experience to never be able to delete, move or tweak an existing layer.

Excuse the digression, please. It’s an idle thought.

But really, what if there was no such thing as beta? I bet we’d work much more thoughtfully.