Pack frames are nearly universal historically as most cultures encounter the drudgery of carrying heavy loads over long distances. I am always searching for historic images to delve into to look for inspiration. Here is a nifty pack frame from the early 20th century of a charcoal maker from Japan. The frame looks like simple through-tenons in a rectangle. The pack basket appears to be fairly simple twined straw and I think the shoulder straps are woven fiber. He is also sporting some nifty looking waraji sandals.
This is what I could find out about the image:
RUSTIC OLD JAPAN — The Charcoal Carrier
From a Sample Set of Classic Meiji and Taisho-era Japan Stereoview images by Japanese Photographer T. ENAMI (1859-1929).
Photo by T. Enami, ca.1898-1905. View number S-392 from Enami’s 3-D Catalog.
Here’s a detailed photo of the naked frame with an initial coat of oil & pine-tar coating. This will weatherproof the whole thing and make the rawhide less appealing to critters (I caught my dog licking one of the lashings this morning). This mixture is about 60% boiled linseed oil and 40% Stockholm pine-tar, an ancient coating used on just about everything in pre-industrial northern Europe. It should dry in a day or two and be ready for a second thin coat later in the week.
Learning from the past is important and I sometimes think about this from a design perspective. Can we learn from old traditional designs, or techniques and apply them to modern design? Is all primitive design and technology inferior?
I believe that at the very least learning about old ways can provide us with food for thought, a comparison to our new directions and if necessary can inform any necessary adjustments to our course and design thinking.
External frame backpacks are interesting not only of their more versatile modularity, but also because the structural component of the pack is clearly visible and offers a great opportunity to any designer wanting to explore structural innovation. Designing compelling structural elements from diverse materials such as wood, aluminium, or even carbon fiber is something I think most designers live to do.
Every designer and their creativity draws from all forms of knowledge and inspiration…
One of many projects happening around here this yule-tide season. A new classic-style rucksack is being sewn, much leatherwork is occurring, and this pack frame is being finished. The wood is shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) made from a bowstave section and some other scrap from the pile. All was split before finishing so the grain is perfectly aligned with the lumber. This made for easy steam bending. As I was working from many examples but no actual plan, there was a lot of mock-up and tweaking of the design to fit my size and intended needs. There’s no metal in the construction. The freight bar and cross members are half-lapped and lashed with rawhide. The bar is also pegged to prevent slipping under load. More to come as it gets finished and field tested.
Here’s a few older frames I could find around the ‘net: