Just Thoughts, Mostly

I looked at works of art in made goods designed for work, work almost always by unknown makers yet often with maker’s names stamped on or print-applied in some way say by way of a tag, embossed plaque or then too in a casting of iron. Many of these so-called makers assembled components, blades from one independent maker of no-name, ferrules another and wood from another. this is of course more likely to happen to day with goods being mostly made on continents other than the famed name. How we come to accept disingenuous acts of collusion to deceive and feel so powerless to counter the culture of acquiescing acceptance I am not sure. When I started to write this blog though, I was thinking more about the genuineness of output from ages past, an era when some of the lone makers somewhere in England’s now lost backwaters worked in the quietness of a home workshop to support their families. These might today be one of those defiers to the industrialised processes lumped under the heading Luddites—men, women even children meticulously striving in their age to keep standards high by want for good reputation that by varying degrees stood protectively in the face of certain industrialisations.

So sitting on my shelves and in cupboards I feel that nudge of being humbled by the forethought expressed of lives in manmade goods when the makers remained in the anonymous realms of times past. In an age when authorship was unknown beyond the local level a person might better be known by their craft than by surname. I might confess that few people today could actually maker some of the things men and women made and took for granted even as little as a century ago. In an age when people make claims of authorship for something simply copied, I find it refreshing to know that we do have a history and archives of finely made, three dimensional works of art. Whereas plastic versions now cloud the seven seas to threaten the well being of all, it is good to know that we were left a testimony of by which we can reset the coordinates of change and perhaps embrace a future where wood once again becomes a right for all.

So the tree breathes, cleans our air, retains soil and distributes itself for the benefit of all generations. A salad server (top) as unique and beautiful tool exemplifies what groups of craftsmen and women have striven for throughout the ages. I would love to see a retuning age when what is was made is believed in and built to last through several lifetimes of daily use.

7 thoughts on “Just Thoughts, Mostly”

  1. I wish I could say everyone agrees with your philosophy. I do. Those same oceans full of plastic are only getting hit harder as the greed of people in the final drive to possess security will destroy their future, and security.

  2. Thanks Paul. I think it is completely possible for us to get back to this. Consumers just have to be willing to pay more. This is completely possible in the USA if folks would simply stop buying a lot of the stuff they don’t simply need. It doesn’t make them any happier and leads to the kinds of problems we see with inexpensive disposable mindsets.

    Speaking of ages past, I would get a real pleasure out of seeing one of your Master Class builds using only the tools available in say 1750 (I’m picking a random date). I love how you have stripped back the shop/set and are using a smaller subset of tools. It would be fun to have one series in which you went to even an older era of tools. I know many of the things still existed but they would be wooden planes, ax, firmer chisel, try squares, no pencils, hide glue, clamps of the appropriate era, etc.. It might even be fun if you started with a log. Just a thought. I will always look forward to Wednesday nights no matter what.

  3. I believe the prestige in owning a label or a name to impress our neighbors or coworkers goes much farther today than a quality made item. I am of the old school and the missus has always teased me because I usually want to look at the goods, new or used before laying down that hard earned money! This makes catalog and internet shopping much more difficult in this day and age when the local businesses are drying up left and right. I still want to be in control of my own purchases and the thought of another human picking out my groceries to be delivered to me or the automatic bill pay system makes me cringe. I am the master of my destiny now and look for the quality over quantity any day of the week.

  4. Hi paul. This doesn’t have anything to do with this post but I was thinking about your teaching today as I was browsing in an antique store. I found an old Stanley #5 that needs a little TLC. I picked it up, looked it over, and put us back down on the wooden table like I have for the past few years…. blade down. Then the old owner spent 20 mins explaining to me why that was the wrong thing to do. I let him go because he was very kind and you could tell that’s how he was taught. I think I’ll keep doing it my way….. well…. the way you do it.
    Ps…. I bought the plane…. and an old Diston saw with a beautiful handle. 🙂

  5. Ian Jefferson

    Personally I’m rather impressed with what I think of as the “miracle of manufacturing”. In our global economy it fuels development in places that really need it. What saddens me is not the machines that make our goods but our willingness to make and buy goods that really should not ought to have been made. I’m talking about “durable goods” that are so poorly made or have single flaws in them that their lifespan is reduced from a lifetime tool to perhaps only days of use. Such things are often created in such a way that they cannot even be practically recycled!

    At least working with our hands we can start to see these differences and make better choices because in the end it is we who drive the manufacturers to more efficiencies and either cheapness or durability when we vote with our bank book.

    I have a set of Aldi chisels, inexpensive not fine quality but good solid tools that I otherwise might not be able to afford. These are the result of the miracle of manufacturing at $USD 10 or less. At the same time I can see other goods that may as well go straight to the land fill.

    What a waste.


    I love your philosophy Paul. I am really engrossed and delighted when watching craftsmen at work and believe I have watched every one of your videos. There are thankfully many more like you that inspire, such as Dave Engel (YouTube EngelsCoachShop) who is a wheelwright coach/wagon builder/restorer. He has to work in wood, iron, leather, canvas and paint finish, bringing the whole together in its entirety.

  7. Couldn’t agree more. Plastic makes manufacture cheap, but at a cost that’s rarely accounted for, whether that’s oil (used for the manufacture of plastic), or the end product now threatening the existence of sea life. I found this movie about the albatross colony on Midway island (which is very well done, and free to watch) helped to cement any lingering doubts I had about the product. Everything we make eventually makes its way out into nature, whether through human carelessness, war, natural disaster, or the constraints of poverty. That fact tells me that we cannot continue to manufacture plastic and expect to keep the natural world intact. https://www.albatrossthefilm.com/watch-albatross/

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