October 5, 2018
The sixth PROJECT:OBJECT volume is a 25-part series of true stories about fossils — which is to say, objects that bear witness to a vanished way of life.
When I was about 12 years old, I made a pair of nunchuks. I used a handsaw to cut two equal sections of an old broom handle, and I went to the neighborhood hardware store a few blocks from my house and got a short length of chain to connect them.
I asked the guy at the hardware store to attach eye-screws to the ends of the chain, because I couldn’t figure out how to bend the metal myself, and he agreed — never asking me what it was for. He seemed encouraged to see a solo 12-year-old working on a hardware project. I was surprised that the chain and eye-screws only cost a couple bucks.
I came back later to see if he would connect the screws to the broom handle pieces, and he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not making you nunchuks.” So I went and did that part myself.
My interest in nunchuks came, as most kids’ did probably, through the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and later a stack of magazines called, I think, American Ninja, at the local public library, in a bin on the “pre-teen” shelf. I read articles about how to sneak silently up creaky stars, and fantasized about buying the advertised swords and throwing stars.
I never actually ordered a weapon with a blade — which would come in the mail and I’d have to explain it to my parents — but the nunchuks were very real. They were light enough to whip around fast but heavy enough to hurt. It never occurred to me to try to put padding on them.
At some point my mom found them and I got in trouble, but they weren’t taken away. I had to promise not to “use them on anyone.” She also went down to the hardware store to complain, and I can easily imagine her conversation with the hardware store guy.
Of course it was not his job to question any kid who wanted a chain connected to eye screws. Though maybe I made him suspicious of hardware-seeking kids after that.
I remember thinking how easy it was to make a grown-up weapon, how permeable the membrane was between childhood and adulthood: a few bucks, hand tools and an afternoon. I taught myself to twirl the nunchuks fairly convincingly, I thought. There was skill involved, because once they get spinning it’s just as easy to thwack yourself in the head as someone else, or a lamp.
I’ve moved a dozen times since then, and they’ve always come with me. On one hand, I don’t really need nunchuks. But on the other hand, I’m proud that I made them myself, and you never know when they might come in handy.
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | Sarah Rich on WESTFEST EARRINGS | Cynthia Joyce on MELODICA | Kevin Brockmeier on SALADMOBILE | Adam Harrison Levy on PASSPORT HOLDER | Marissa Frayer on BABY BLANKET | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on RML BOOKEND | Jae Nichelle on SHEET MUSIC | Sean Patrick Walsh on TYPEWRITER | Andrew Innes on BUST OF DUCK | Carla Sinclair on FACTSHEET FIVE | Chapell Ellison on SLEIGH BELL | Malcolm Evans on “QUEEN MARY” FOB | Jason Gilbert on HAND CHAIR | Karl Taro Greenfeld on OPIUM KIT | Tony Leone on MODEL TANK | Dave Boerger on TEEN BIBLE | Chelsey Johnson on BREYER HORSES | Erin M. Routson on PAPER WALLET | Alissa Walker on JUKEBOX | Adrienne Crew on FISH SCALER.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Allison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.