Schneller says that at Specimen, “We are teaching the vanishing art of hand tool use.” Using manual tools instead of electric gives the craftsman a closer connection with the material. They can gain much more tactile feedback when cutting into a material, for example. As a result of this promotion of man power over machine power, the shop, which has a half dozen staff in addition to several interns and apprentices, has a very low electric bill.
The inspiration for the speaker’s horn came to Schneller from his love of geometric form — although it may call up images of phonographs for some. “Those that think gramaphone or Victorla — it is a double sword, since it is a coincidence.” To create the horn shape, sections of newsprint are cut from patterns. These patterns are each made following 3D mock ups of the horn’s interior shape. The material is steam bent, similar to the process for guitar making.
The newsprint pieces are joined together at the edges and moistened dryer lint is used to form the seams together. Schneller describes the lint as “structurally profound when impregnated and cosmetically a home run.” Lint is sent to him from all over the country, but he says that a little goes a long way in the making of the horns.
Those building the speakers are highly trained. Specimen teaches their own classes and seminars and also involved with co-op programs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and other universities to where students receive college credit for participating in Specimen’s internship program.
The Specimen shop and school is located in the Humbolt Park neighborhood of Chicago. They love when music lovers, curiosity seekers, and sustainability gurus, like Inhabitat readers drop by, so they offer tours around the building any time during business hours.