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Five Wooden Gadgets

by Doug Black
on 13 August 2008

As technology continues on its upward trajectory, designers occasionally grow nostalgic for simpler forms. Consumers also want the basic aesthetics of yesterday, without sacrificing the technological advances of today. One way to get the best of both worlds is wood-based electronics. Whether for the eco-minded, who prefer it to non-biodegradable plastic, or for pure classicists who are charmed by its timelessness, the wooden form is at once visually striking and practical. Here are some of the better examples we've come across recently.

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Magno Wooden Radio
The Magno radio is the brainchild of Indonesian entrepreneur Singgih Kartono. Handmade by local carpenters from sustainably-harvested wood, it comes in two sizes (pictured above). In addition to AM and FM frequencies, Kartono satisfies the true retro-philes with two bands of shortwave radio. He also bows to modern conventions by including MP3 compatibility. It's currently available from Areaware, with the small version costing $200 and the larger $250.

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Maple Phone
The Maple Phone was designed by Hyun Jin Yoon and Eun Hak Lee, who won the silver at this year's International Design Excellence Awards. It's comprised of two slender pieces of maple that function as a slider, revealing the LCD display stored inside. A sensor on the back turns the block of wood into a fully functional, touch-sensitive phone with MP3 compatibility and a digital camera. Though still in prototype form, the creators expect to manufacture the phone at an affordable rate so that it's available on a large scale. Keep an eye on the designers' blog for production updates.

Swedx
Since 2002, this Swedish company has been producing electronics embedded in polished wood. They claim to bring a "more human" feeling by using warm, natural materials on their computer monitors, television screens and accessories. But despite the unconventional material, they didn't skimp on technology. Their engineers designed one of the world's thinnest TFT-LCD monitors and didn't sacrifice on usability. Swedx products cost are close to the industry standard, and you can buy them from their website.

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David Burel Plywood Headphones
These distinctive headphones are as elegant as they are simplistic. Dissatisfied with wood used as a marketing device for environmentalists, David Burel made sure his phones made wood an integral feature of the design. The "wood arch" is made from Finnish birch plywood and uses the same molding technique employed by furniture and skateboard designers. The resulting arch has a width of 1.2mm, so it's lightweight and flexible, while providing the precise, resonant sound that only wood can produce. They're being launched under the title The Perfect Unison, where you can preorder one of 100 units currently in production. Since they're made from one continuous piece, you'll have to measure your head for proper sizing. While it ensures a perfect fit, it's also a built-in excuse to reject your friends' request borrow them.

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Wooden LED Clock
This clever timepiece looks like an ordinary block of wood when it's deactivated. Once operational, thought, an interior light lets the numbers glow from behind its surface. It can be run like a normal clock with a constant display, with the digits flashing every 2.5 seconds or in "slide mode," where the numbers scroll one digit at a time every minute. It doesn't have an alarm or any advanced features, but what it lacks in function, it makes up for with eye-catching fashion. You can buy one for $150 at ThinkGeek.

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