Saturday, November 11, 2017

Natural Born

Every time I review one of this craftsman’s boxes, I feel “born again”.  It’s a great feeling so I’m always glad to get the chance.  Jesse Born is a talented young fellow from Rome, New York with the knack for making great puzzles, the skill for making beautiful woodwork, and the desire to perfectly merge the two together.  His prior puzzle boxes have all been gorgeous and enjoyable, and his skill simply keeps improving.  He is constantly driven to learn new methods in production, precision, and technique.   For his “Yosegi Pattern Box”, his primary goal was to produce a beautiful “standard” type of box, at least in shape and size, which he has certainly achieved. He was inspired by traditional Japanese boxes and the work of master Ninomiya.  Like all of his creations, Jesse poured his heart into this one.  Each box required over one hundred cuts with his table saw, and he went through numerous batches of yosegi while learning and perfecting his vision for the box. The secondary goal, according to Jesse, was to incorporate a unique puzzle element not seen on any other puzzle box.  He has achieved that goal as well, and the result is a delight to behold. 

Yosegi Pattern Box by Jesse Born

The box is a hefty square affair made from either shimmering light Maple or dark Mexican Ebony on the base, with the complimentary wood found in contrast on the lid.  The top is also adorned with strips of yosegi, the traditional Japanese marquetry technique which Jesse has experimented with in different wood types and patterns.  Along the sides of the box are abstract zig-zag like patterns which add another nice dimension and overall aesthetic touch to the piece.  Inside, the box has a chamber made from beautiful Purple Heart wood, but you won’t get to appreciate that for a while.  The lid is firmly fixed in place.  There’s a lot of rattling going on inside the box, and sometimes it even seems to be repeatable.  Perhaps there’s a method to this madness?  The box requires a few steps to open, and is immensely satisfying to solve.  I enjoy all sorts of puzzle boxes, but the ones that employ hidden movements which can’t be seen, requiring something inside to move here or there just right, often leave me feeling ambivalent.  I prefer to deduce the solution, or discover something which has been very cleverly hidden in plain sight.  Which is why I love this box.  It fooled me into thinking it was something else entirely, when in fact it’s completely logical, with a wonderfully surprising and unique mechanism.  Everything is waiting in plain sight for you to discover, if only you are as clever as the designer.  The box provides just the right amount of misdirection, is instantly understandable once the AHA moment hits, and rewards the solver with a beautiful interior to complement the beautiful exterior.  Like other Bornwood designs, once inside the mechanics and mystery are all revealed, which is a nice touch.  All of his boxes have been great, but this is his best yet.

Interesting yosegi inlay adorns the top

The patterns on the sides of the Yosegi Pattern Box made me think of the “Zig-Zag Café” in Seattle, former home of famed bartender Murray Stenson who in 2004 resurrected a pre-prohibition cocktail classic known as the Last Word.  The story of that cocktail dates back to the Detroit Athletic Club in 1915, where it was the drink of choice for a celebrated stand-up comic of the day who was known to always have one (the last word) – on stage and in the bar.  It’s incredibly versatile and easy to make, with equal parts gin, lime, chartreuse and maraschino liqueur, and it lit up the cocktail scene during the recent renaissance.  It’s been described as cocktail “lasagna” – meaning there are scores of different recipes which tweak the ingredients, but as long as the basic formula remains the same the drink is always good.  

Born Yesterday

Here’s a delicious variation apropos for the season which I call, “Born Yesterday”.  Ironically, it features apple brandy from America’s oldest distillery, Laird and Company.  Their classic Applejack is also fantastic this time of year.  In addition to swapping the gin for apple brandy, the maraschino is exchanged for another incredible seasonal treat from a newer American craft distillery, St. George Spirits Spiced Pear liqueur.  This magical fruit brandy liqueur tastes like a freshly pressed Bartlett pear sprinkled with cinnamon and clove.  The combination of fall flavors blends effortlessly and you might be fooled into thinking this is an inspired new creation when, in fact, it’s merely the latest word. But you weren’t born yesterday – cheers!

Treat yourself to some natural born delights

Born Yesterday

¾ oz Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
¾ oz lemon
¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse
¾ oz St. George Spirits Spiced Pear Liqueur

Stir together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with a twist.

For more about Jesse Born:

For prior Last Word variations:

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