Friday, April 29, 2005

An Ode to the Story of J-B Weld

Last week I saw a knock-off Eames Lounge on craigslist for $100. The upholstery was in pretty good condition, but for $100 I suspected something was really wrong with it. When I went and saw it, it felt like something was broken in the seat base. But for a hundred bucks I took the chance. Besides, I needed this piece to match my $15 yard-sale Wassily knockoff!

As I brought my new chair to the house, the seat base fell off. I poked around and found that the seat post was originally just cold-headed to hold it to the seat bracket. It had bellmouthed its way out of its hole in the bracket over the years. Besides that, the rest of the chair base was in pretty good shape.

So, how could I get these pieces back together? I thought of Chris L., who once told me his house was so full of various lounge chairs that he was forbidden from buying any more, else risk divorce. He had gotten me thinking of lounge chairs, and the eames in particular. He had also introduced me to an adhesive called J-B Weld during a prototyping session at work.

"I fixed our sub's nuclear reactor, thanks to J-B Weld!" Posted by Hello

A package of J-B Weld looks like it came off the shelf in 1962, including testimonials on the back like "better than bailing wire" or "I fixed my combine and saved $2000!" (When was the last time you saw a testimonial on a package?). I figured this stuff would be perfect for fixing up my knock-off mid-century chair! And it was.

For me, J-B Weld's allure is the intentionally retro feel of the packaging. It tells a story about how trusted this product has been over the years, how it has saved money for housewives, farmers, do-it-yourselfers, machinists. You know -good, deserving people. It evokes the old days when things were made of cast metal rather than molded plastic, made to last, and you didn't throw 'em away, you fixed 'em and they were good as new. It made me feel good to entrust my new chair to J-B. The true story of J-B weld is just as good, which makes me wonder why they don't tell it louder.

Recently, there's been a lot of interest in storytelling- at IDEO, in managment books and blogs, such as Seth Godin's All Marketers Are Liars. I'm more conscious of the power of these kinds of stories. I have no idea if J-B Weld is actually any better than modern epoxies which it shares shelf space with, but it sure tells a good tale.

And it made me feel like I got a bargain on a cool chair.


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