I think one of the greatest attributes of wood is the inherent uniqueness of each piece.  I dont know why it’s not used more for mass-produced objects, since each one would then be a little bit different, just like people.   Uniqueness is also coming to mass-produced objects via mass customization.   I’m sure 3D printing will accelerate this trend, but I still think of wood as the original 3D medium.

But hey, let’s see what people are doing with lasers, shall we?

Exhibit A: Woodcut Maps

I’ve been watching this one for a while.  Google maps plus lasers plus wood, what’s not to like?  You can choose from a baffling array of options to make your wooden map from various kinds of wood in various shapes of any place you can find on Google maps.  The preview is oddly slow but so far as I can tell, the product is top-notch.

Exhibits B: Wooden “skins” for computers, phones, tablets, oh my.

Two companies – I Am Human and Karvt – with similar but very different offerings.  Both allow you to stick a thin slab of wood to your plastic or aluminum computing device.  I decided to take the plunge because there’s no sign of Apple forsaking aluminum any time soon. Applying wood veneer to your precious Mac is surely some kind of warranty-voiding fanboy-vexing heresy, but I got extra frisson from ordering the version that did not have a cutout for the Apple logo, striking a blow for individuality so 1984 won’t be, or something like that.

Ultimately it was the no-logo version offered by Karvt that swayed me, but both offer a nice selection of wood species and stains. It appears that Karvt take some pride in offering a thicker, stronger, and less removable product compared to I Am Human, which may in the long run turn out to be a poor choice for me, as I may have applied it a bit off-center.  In any case, I couldn’t be happier with the look of cedar – and lack of Apple logo – on the top cover of my Macbook.  You always take a bit of a chance ordering a wood product online because you can’t pick the exact slice, but I have no complaints at all.  The scent of cedar is reassuring and will protect me from Mac moths.  I could have done without the lasered-in KARVT wordmark, but it’s a whole lot subtler than a glowing white apple.

In defense of the Apple cutout, it certainly makes it easier to align and center your wooden “skin” on the back of your aluminum computer.

Exhibit C: a project for a long, uncaffeinated, OCD afternoon

The laser-cut wood thing may have reached or even exceeded its logical end with Lazerwood’s keyboards.  As if applying a single slab of wood to my computer’s cover wasn’t tricky enough, you can order a full set of keytops to stick on your keyboard.  I must say I think the feel of wood would be great, but I would miss the backlighting and I seriously doubt that I could successfully apply them with enough precision to keep me from going nuts every time I looked at them.

I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this trend, and I look forward to more warm organic looks on electronics, and finer technologies for custom cutting, laser-engraving, 3D printing, and whatever comes next.  Bring on the individuality, I say.