In 2003 I was on the tail end of a trip around the world, having just purchased my first laptop whilst in the States: a beautifully small, well made and good looking 12” MacBook. Although as I was only travelling with a large rucksack, I need to find a way to protect my new beloved purchase so I could get it home safely. I was visiting friends in Upstate New York when this was happening, making some furniture for their newly built house, and they ended up having the right tools and enough material left over for me to make a simple sliding box out of Plywood and Pine to house my new MacBook. The box was incredibly strong and offered great protection, in the end even outlasting the laptop.
Some time passed and for the most part that was that, although I always liked the idea of a high tech piece of equipment sitting inside of a wooden box. Eventually I decided to develop a proper, lightweight, good looking and well functioning laptop case, which I did: a case made of Oak and Oak veneered Plywood, with Leather lining, Brass hinges and a magnet to keep it closed.
The making process was a challenge, and as with most simple things it was a lot harder to produce this ‘Wooden Box’ up to my standards than it looked in the end. I put pictures of it on my webpage, as one does, and people liked it. A lot. One night I came home from the studio to find 60 emails requesting information on the laptop case. Unknowingly to me, someone had shared the case on their blog, and it had taken off. The next morning, when there were another 200 emails, I got a bit nervous. What if all these people wanted to buy a case? I wasn’t ready to handle to many orders - a luxury problem, but still a problem. This went on for a few days; my computer guy said that if the number of clicks on my website continued as it was, I should put up advertising. Thankfully after a week or so things calmed down a bit and I was able to breathe normally again.
However, because of all this I realised the Case’s potential as a product. I got in touch with some German retailers, who didn’t really understand, and finally ended up at Apple in London to present my ‘Case’. It was very interesting to be in their headquarters, understanding how the ‘machine’ works, although I don’t think my product was mainstream enough at the time to make it into the final stages. Also, I didn’t particularly want to become a ‘Wooden Case’ manufacturer.
Still seeing value in the idea, I found a large cabinetmaker’s workshop back in Berlin that was happy to give manufacturing a go. We started with 40 cases and as soon as they were finished, Apple announced the launch of their new models. With different dimensions, of course. I managed to sell the 40 cases and made another batch in 3 different sizes. My friend designed some amazing cardboard packaging that was adjustable for the 3 sizes, making it super easy to shop the cases all over the world. I did exactly that, with orders coming in from every continent (except Antarctica). Then Apple changed the models again and I adjusted the sizes again, but my carpenter was no longer happy making them. For a while I made the cases myself, but as with most things, one has to stop while it’s still good and I decided end the production of the ‘Wooden Case’.
In 2011, one client who was a fan came to me and asked if I was interested in a collaboration. I decided to do one last round of 40 cases with Ucon Acrobatics: a special edition, in Oak, stained black with grey leather lining. We also made a movie about the story of the laptop case, which has served as a good reminder for everyone - I still get emails today.
Photos: Achim Hatzius