Makita Phone Charger 
Tom Sachs

Since 2017, I've been extraordinarily fortunate to know the master sculptor, Tom Sachs. Our friendship manifests in many forms, including out of the blue requests that tap into my more esoteric skills.

Here’s one such instance that began with a stray text message: “Hey, I’ve got this friend, Kunichi Nomura. He’s the most famous guy in Japan. He wants to party for an entire week at Fuji Rock (it was a tad more illicit than that, but details redacted) without his phone dying. I think one of those huge Makita batteries would do the trick!”

I find these spontaneous challenges both exhilarating and intimidating. Exhilarating because every time I’ve collaborated with Tom, I’ve acquired countless invaluable skills. Intimidating because, to be honest, my electronics know-how is more 'junkyard wars' than 'technocrat’.

My first task was to suss out a suitable method to transfer power from the Makita battery to the phone. Tom had initially imagined a tether, symbolically connecting the two - America and Japan. It's been some time since we witnessed such an epic collaboration between two nations. The last one that comes to my mind was the heaven defying alliance between the Russians and Americans in space with Apollo and Soyuz.

*author's note: incredible feats occur when nerds of varied cultural backgrounds and political neutrality unite under the banner of science

While a tether could be an option, I believed there was a more suitable solution that wouldn't monopolize the phone's precious lightning port – the sole orifice for attaching headphone cables. I suggested using a wireless QI charging coil, which I carefully harvested from a budget-friendly magnetic battery pack from Best Buy, made in China. To my surprise, the donor charging board integrated painlessly with our Nippon-sourced power – Japan and China micro-politics nirvana.

With the electronics magic sorted, I shifted focus to physically fusing the two entities - iPhone and battery cleat. It needed to be more than just a slapped on battery; it had to withstand the rigors of “Tom-proof” usage. This meant creating a package durable enough to endure daily drops from at least hip height. The OtterBox is renowned the world around by the ‘dropper’ aristocracy, so that was our starting point. The cleat was a tweaked version of the one we’ve provided free to the community, enhanced with additional geometry to align the QI coil and accommodate the extra components. The two bonded together in unholy matrimony using #6 flanged machine screws.

Everything was humming along at a million miles per hour, with the first working prototype printed and assembled in under 48 hours. I thought, ‘welp, my work here is done…’.

… Then I received the following dreaded text message: “I’m sorry, I dropped it from no more than table height and it shattered into a billion pieces. Also, it doesn’t charge fast enough; it’s more tortoise than hare.”

So, I headed back to the drawing board. Silly me, I failed to acknowledge a lesson that's been drilled into my head time and time again: don't overly optimize for the minimal. Everything must be bombproof, because it's one thing to get feedback from Tom during testing, but it's an entirely different catastrophe if a patron has to knock on the door for tech support.

The first change we made was to the phone case, swapping it for a carbon fiber-reinforced Pelican, which provided a superior mounting surface. Next, we needed a hardier way to attach the cleat. Thankfully, the labyrinthine resources of the Tom Sachs studio - arguably the most resource-rich private hardware cache known to humankind - harbored the answer. Nestled within a drawer, a collection of unusually minute flanges offered an unexpected solution. Lastly, to increase the charging speed, I replaced the step-down regulator with a superior Pololu and donored a deluxe external battery pack from the depths of

Mission accomplished!

What you see in the attached photos are a showcase of weeks of refinement. Thankfully, there've been no more alarming messages from Tom. We've made four examples in total, with one being gifted to the Mayor of Megasaki - Kunichi Nomura. Do check out Kun’s Instagram feed; our unreasonably bulky phone case has become a staple of his daily carry.

PLA+ Filament
Pelican Carbon Case
Battery Protection Board
Makita Replacement Terminal
Pololu Step Down 5v/5a Reg
Makita Battery

Edition of 4


Dome Lamp 
Tom Sachs / ISETAN

Like most projects of this nature it begins with seeing others making a thing and then thinking, “That’s cool but I’d change blah blah and blah blah...”. At first the contemplation is a matter of modifying what already exists and at some point a flip occurs - this would all be much easier if I just started from scratch.

Around the tail end of 2020 we spied restaurants migrating their seating to outdoors (post pandemic lock downs). Set atop their spotless linens were battery operated lamps. What a perfect use for a Makita power source...

Early iterations were minimal in their approach but prone to tipping over which happened often. Resulting in many a broken part and the eventual shelving of the idea. Fortunately for me I was allowed to keep the prototypes but unfortunately for the public that meant no tangible product for their consumption.

Flash forward to a recent sidebar conversation Tom and I were having about products being offered at his upcoming Isetan show. He wanted something new that he hadn’t sold before. I put two and two together: now would be an ideal time to revive that cursed lamp project. 

This newer design has several improvements. We enlarged the base to make it less prone to tipping over. A tougher material was used for the printed components to ward off clumsy hands. Studio code conEdRails were added to the sides for better handling. Best of all, it’s SMUT* tray compatible!

*SMUT = Sachs Modularized Utility Tray (Smutshow Zine 2017)

What I love most about this lamp is that it wasn’t enough that it merely existed as a satisfying object. It had to establish its place in a broader ecosystem of ‘things’ in the Tom Sachs universe. Is it sculpture? Is it furniture? Is it disposable? Depending on where it resides on the spectrum there are numerous implications and many hours of healthy debate.

To me it sits somewhere in the middle. While it uses some new fangled rapid prototyping processes it’s consciously married to studio materials. Each lamp was laboriously assembled by hand in the sacred space known for birthing Sach’s acclaimed sculptures with strict adherance to the hallowed studio code.

A limited batch will be offered at Tom’s upcoming show at Isetan this September 2023.

PLA+ Filament
Battery Protection Board
Pololu Step Down 5v/600ma Reg
Apollo Era Switch Protector
Con-ed wooden rails
3/4” Plywood
Makita Battery

Edition of 20