So there I was, sitting in the passenger seat, following this 4 x 4 through Germany, flicking casually through my Instagram account.
And suddenly I did a double take. I noticed that an enterprising Dane had converted mud-covered ultra-utilitarian jerry cans just like the ones I was staring ahead at, into, of all things, an elegant, quirky cocktail cabinet. They’re extraordinary. They are weird, wacky and wonderful. Just the sort of entrepreneurial idea I look out for all the time to feature on Saucy Dressings.
I got in touch with René Sundahl, of Danish Fuel, the enterprising designer behind the concept – and he agreed to answer my questions:
RS: So, I entered the design business in 2012. Designing a very innovative wall rack for hanging shoes by their heels – Flash Up. But I’ve done all sorts of things really – from being a a blacksmith to running a night club, so I would say I’m more of an entrepreneur than a designer.
SD: How did you get the idea for reinventing WW II icons in this way?
RS: The idea for the Danish Fuel actually came to me in the summer in 2010. I was at a fleamarket and found an old jerry can. In fact the first design I had for it was the carry-on suitcase. It was my father who came up with the idea for making bar cabinets out of them, and it’s turned out to be one of the bestselling of all our designs. The next design is a cabinet for wrist watches.
But we haven’t yet finished improving the jerry can designs, we’re working on a host of detailed features, improving them all.
The design of the jerry can itself is unique. It’s still the same design that is in current service in multiple armies around the world. It’s incredible to think that this is a design that has not been changed in nearly 80 years.
SD: What part did the jerry can play in winning WW II?
RS: The can helped win World War II because Hitler knew his weakest point in the blitskreig was fuel supply. So he ordered the invention of a the small container that could hold water, diesel, petrol and so on. It was easy to transport and could be stacked efficiently. It has three handles so there are many ways to carry it. The cans have an internal air pocket so they can float. The cam-lock ensures that the lid does not close while fuel is being poured into the tanks.
Without the fuel the tanks couldn’t roll and without tanks the war would have been lost.
As we all know the Germans actually lost the war. And that was because the British and US armies duplicated the humble jerry can. And on D-DAY in 1944 there were more than 21 million of jerry cans spread all over Europe.
The can was named after the Germans – the British soldiers had nicknamed the Germans ‘Jerries’.
SD: What are the main skills involved in transforming a jerry can into a fabulous mobile bar?
RS: The bar cabinet takes about three weeks to make – it all happens here in Denmark. The craftmanship involved is unique. We cannot make them complete in-house – there is some machinery involved that you can only find in a big machine shop. The lasercutting is extremely expensive. And the powder painting is also. The shelves are made of thin veneers of plywood. We assemble the whole thing together in our workshop though.
SD: I expect that means they aren’t cheap! How much do they cost?
RS: You’re right. The prices is €672. But we are also currently testing a limited edition which will be half the price. This is a reproduction of the original German Wehrmacht Einheits-Kanister 8Jerry Can from 1939. The embossing on the front side of the cans bears witness to their origin. We are only going to make 99 of these and we are selling them on Kickstarter. It’s now in the ‘projects we love’ category – follow this link for more information.
The reason why we are doing this is that our workshop recently burned down and the insurance company didn’t want to cover the loss. So, as a small company we need to raise money for the next production.