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Orendao’s Wood Brands are Forged

Isolate the geometry of Orendao’s element symbols and much of their definition and meaning is lost.

Like good typography, the defining features lay, not just in the curves and lines, but in the stroke weights and the negative space.

We needed a solution that would capture the life of the symbols and was true to the way they were designed. CNC and Laser cutting the symbols was the common advice.

And for a while it looked like the only practical route. At least for the first run of decks. (With wood tiles sourced we were desperate to prove that we could produce the tiles at cost.)

We went so far as to get bids, but no matter how we looked at it, machining the symbols felt like a compromise we couldn’t make. The next option we investigated was machined wood-burners.

You send your designs, they laser cut the symbols and attach them to wood-burners. This would be done online, through a distant party. When we contacted them for info and bids it became clear that we wouldn’t have the amount of hands on contact to make sure the details of the symbols turned out properly.

The possibility for error was high, coupled any additional costs involved in troubleshooting made this a stressful solution. As usual finding our solution took a bit of luck, following our noses to see what was sitting right in front of them.

During a chance dinner with an old family friend, we had found our wood supplier. During that same dinner a couple of local blacksmiths had come up.

At the time, forged wood-brands felt heavy handed and felt too distant to pursue, but with wood tiles in hand we tracked them down. We reached out to Steve, unsure if he was willing or able to take on a such a small, specific project. orendao-mfg-woodbrands-steve.jpg

His work is intimidating. Master class. We expected either no”, or a price so high it wouldn’t be justifiable.

Steve’s initial response was to ask why we didn’t just CNC or laser cut, or ink them? We let him know our take and he agreed to review the project. Going into Steve’s shop is a special treat.

It’s tucked in the outskirts of Port Townsend, just off the Larry Scott trail, along with a few other craftsman’s shops: glassblowers, boat-builders, woodworkers and more.

Massive hunks of different metals draped, hammered, hanging, burning. Neat rows of tools hammers, pincers, clamps. Metal filings and oils gather in the corners of vices and anvils. orendao-mfg-woodbrands-josh.jpg We introduced them to orendao.

Going over the concept and history of the game and it’s development. Particularly the design development of the symbols.

Noting details of each element, pointing out mistakes that we had made along the way, and the defining features necessary for the symbol to hold it’s form.

Then we left them with diagrams and a deck to study. orendao-mfg-woodbrands-deck.jpg A few conversations and a month later the wood-brands were forged by Steve and Josh.

Extra special was being able to participate in the final steps of forging!

Huge thank you to Steve and Josh for their enthusiasm and attention to detail. And, of course, if your looking for an artisan blacksmith, you can learn more about Steve’s work and contact him through his site.

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