Do you ever have those moments when you think about some ordinary thing for too long, and it starts to seem really foreign or strange? Sometimes it happens to me with words – for some reason the other day I thought way too hard about the word “drain”, and after a few minutes it could have been Chinese, for all I knew. That may just go to show I have too much time on my hands.
Other times I’ll get lost thinking about the sheer amount of skill and work and specialization that must be behind the production of things we use everyday without giving it a second thought. Like, whose job is it to make pens? How does one finally decide to go into the pen-making business? The pen I’m using right now (well, not right now) says it was made in Japan; somewhere on the other side of the world, someone sits all day putting together Pilot G2 05’s, and another person’s day is spent making sure those pens make it onto the store shelf and then into my pocket. Maybe it’s just me, but the complexity behind the production of something as simple as my pen tends to go unappreciated.
So you can probably imagine what happened today when I began to ponder the more minute details of what I now know is “perforated metal.” I think I drove past a sign or building that was designed with that familiar grate-like pattern of diamond-shaped holes and wondered where in the world you would go to get something like that manufactured. Things like metal signs and building exteriors can’t really just be cookie-cutter designs; they’re almost certainly custom designed. And thus I consulted almighty Google to find an answer.
Well, it turns out that perforated metal can be used on just about anything imaginable. “Perforated” just means it has holes in it – think those trash cans in the park or the screens lining a stairway. I’d never really thought about how or why such a thing would be developed, but it seems pretty obvious – people want to be able to see through the fence or screen or grate or what have you while still retaining some privacy or protection or style, depending on what the metal is used for. And the demand for perforated metals is rampant among architects who value both its aesthetic appeal and strength. Perforated metals also weigh less than solid materials, and are more flexible, making for easier installation. I guess it’s a good thing people other than me have already sorted this out, because I certainly wouldn’t have.
Aside from the obvious uses like benches and fences, perforated metal can apparently also be used to cover existing material to enhance the acoustics of a space. It’s also used frequently by office complexes and workplaces as a shield against the sun, letting just enough light in to be comfortable but not so much as to cause people to burst into flames. Cladding is another use I learned about: this is when a slab of perforated metal is welded over an existing surface to shield from electrical interference or boost the acoustics. I might just line the inside of my car with big panels of perforated metal.
The next time you run across something seemingly ordinary, think about it some more, and you just might learn something.