By Graham K. Rogers
Even more than 50 years on, I still have vivid memories of the short path down to my grandfather's shed in north-west London. It looked chaotic inside, with lengths of wood leaning against the wall or on the bench; and there were mysterious pots, solid with old glue, along with his tools. The chaos gave way to a form of mastery as he cut and assembled the wood. I never forgot his care when handling the tools.
I have read also in his biography of how Steve Jobs was strongly influenced by watching his father build a fence, noting particularly the care with which the back of the construction - which no one would ever see - was finished to the same high standard. That is why the inside of Apple devices are as well-finished as the outside.
The developer of an app called Wood Joints, at Beijing Tag UX Network Technology Co. Ltd. - who may be Yong Sun (my Chinese is worthless) - also has fond memories of the way his father mastered carpentry, particularly the joints that are so expertly cut. As he notes, these are always shown in 2-dimensional drawings, which does not do justice to the full rendition.
A tenon and mortise joint, properly done, is a work of Art. There is clearly a limited appeal here, but as with the iPad app, Ampersands the app medium allows such limited focus for artistic purposes, making the subject more widely available.
Wood Joints uses the video capabilities of the iOS device to display a number of joints in a 3-dimensional rendering. A menu icon at top left gives access to:
- Struct - or structure of the joints - see below;
- Knowledge provides a multi-part background in three sections:
- Woods (17) - several pages, each richly illustrated (some with animations), describing the types of wood that are used Elm, Beech, Chinese walnut, Teakwood, Walnut, Camphorwood, Cupressus funebris, Door frame (including an explanation of its name), Lignumvitae, Rosewood, Burlwood, Nanmu, Boxwood, Santos rosewood, Ebony, Scented wood and Red sandalwood
- Tools, likewise has a wide selection of old-style implements that can be used, each being illustrated with one (or more) high quality image: Shovels, Chisel, Plane, Folding ruler, Gauging instrument, Drill, Axe, Saw, Hammer
- History, is also beautifully illustrated with a photograph of a painting and several line drawings within the text of many pages.
- Share brings up a number of (I guess) Chinese social networking links, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
- Rate opens the page for the app in the iTunes app store, so that users may make comments and rate the app.
- About, lists the developer team including those responsible for Design, Code, Editing, Video and 3D. There are also a number of references in Chinese, plus a mention of the Collins Complete Wood worker's Manual (sic)
- Sound played is like a hissing, crackling which reminded me of an open fire: tapping on the icon turns sound off
The joints themselves are displayed in a sort of 3D effect, with a blurred background emphasising the depth of the images. That background, which turns as each is selected, is comprised of the other joints, . The separated parts of any of the joints displayed rise and fall as each panel is viewed; but if one of the images is tapped, a display of the assembled joint is shown. Tapping the screen twice separates the parts; tapping again re-joins them. With the quality of the photography, each example is a delight to see.
While the app itself is free, there is a single in-app purchase for another 15 joints. While the iTunes app store shows the price of $2.99, the app itself shows a price of "3 dollars" and there is a button marked ¥18.
The description of the app on the iTunes page is worth taking time over with the way that this relationship with wood, nature and the personal development as a designer are linked.
This is an app that is informative, in terms of background, related technology and photographs of the main subject matter: wood joints. That in itself would appear severely to limit the target groups, but this app scores highly for its visual effects and - as in the final entry in the About section - Love.
As with Ampersands, and other such apps, this is simply nice to look at.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.