Friday, December 28, 2012

Form Follows Function

A bit of construction know how first ....

Back in the day there was a thing called a window sill. The window sill was the part that you could lean your elbows on and stare out into the wide blue yonder on a lovely summer's day with the window open.
The sill spanned the depth of the wall, from the inside to the outside, sloping down and out at a slight angle, and overhanging the wall a small amount, often with a groove cut along it's length on the underside.
It was designed so that when wind blown rain struck the window panes and ran down onto whatever was below, the sill was there to catch it all, preventing water from running down into the wall, and because it sloped outwards, diverting the rain away from the house. The groove on the underside of the sill, also known as a drip edge, prevented the wind from blowing the water back up the underside of the sill towards the wall again. The groove forced the water to drip off.

Pretty smart really. Form follows function.

Fast forward to the modern day and the 'ready to install', single unit windows which come in a pack that inserts straight into a framed opening in a wall, they have weather strips and flashings to prevent water from seeping in, and sealant is inserted into any gaps to keep water out. They also usually have some kind of dam or plastic strip to keep water from getting in under the window.
No more need for a traditional window sill any more.
Thing is, we are used to seeing window sills on a house, and I guess people think walls look weird without them ..... so rather than leave them off, we now add them, purely as decoration.

I could rant a great deal about the decline of window design, the cheapness of the materials used and their short life span ..... but .... the point of this whole, long, story is that now instead of window sills we not only have this new method of sealants, dams and flashings to keep the water out of the building (which inevitably fail), we also have the ridiculous addition of fake, stick on, 'window sills' which are really just a piece of wood stuck on to the face of the building where the old style window sill used to be, so it will LOOK the same.

What's wrong with that? Well, now, not only does the piece have no real meaning any more, it in fact adds yet another weak joint on to the face of the wall where it is stuck on, and it will in all probability cause rot, trap damp and mold behind it and create all kinds of maintenance problems the window sill in it's earlier incarnation never did.

So, to Deer Horn Knives ....

Over the years I heard many explanations for what they are for and how they are used, but I could not agree with any of them. I came up with some ideas of my own, but it was only last year when I finally got confirmation. Now I'll admit, it's hard to truly understand historical stuff when you do not have the full picture ... but for the life of me I could not invent a reason to carry around blades shaped like this.
Surely, if there is any tool in the world that should be as practical as it can be, where form really does need to follow function ... it is a weapon that is meant to save your life? And these are hugely impractical.
If you don't believe me, try them - They are unstable to hold, don't take contact well, and none of the cut angles possible with the blades make any sense.
My initial thought was that they were just training weapons to accentuate a certain important parts of the Bagua forms .... and in some respects this is correct, but it turns out, they are actually based on a real weapon .. well actually 2 or 3, and are not just fantasy.

The original, real, weapon was just a dagger with brass knuckles, with a second, smaller, dagger also held in the hand held with the tip pointed backwards (also possibly a single, double ended blade).

Now that makes sense to me.

Why did they evolve into what they are today? Best guess - Aesthetic reasons (though one can never rule out the political, or the theatrical).
But look at what strange rationalizations about usage and method have resulted! I suggest it is much easier to understand form if you truly understand function ..... but perhaps not the other way around.

Who knows what future generations will make of fake, stick on, window sills ....

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