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Jim Rimmer
07-23-2012, 10:50 AM
Interesting Commentary on Skills - I introduced it this way because the authors refer to craftsmanship and to me there is a big difference between the skills to do some basic repairs and craftsmanship. Anyway, an interesting read. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/business/what-happened-to-the-craftsmanship-spirit-essay.html (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/business/what-happened-to-the-craftsmanship-spirit-essay.html)

Prashun Patel
07-23-2012, 11:20 AM
Funny, Jim. A friend emailed me that article this am.

I read a scary article in Technology Review a few months ago about how the loss of manufacturing also causes a decrease in a nation's ability to innovate eventually.

Stephen Tashiro
07-23-2012, 11:32 AM
When was this bygone age when craftsmanship was supposed to be a common trait? I don't remember the 50's that way - nor the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's.

David Weaver
07-23-2012, 11:48 AM
I don't think it was ever a common trait. There may have been a measure of making do with ill repaired stuff, or going without when there was less disposable income, but I don't think in ages long prior to that where craftsmanship was viewed as intellectual capital would've had the knowledge spread around, either.

A lot of the DIY craftsmanship around the house 50+ years ago was cobbed together stuff that was sometimes downright dangerous.

Brian Elfert
07-23-2012, 11:57 AM
Some people can do basic repairs okay, but they don't have the skills to do more advanced work. I looked at a house where the basement was obviously finished by a non-pro. The moldings on the doors had huge gaps at the corners. Whoever did the work also used nails that were way too big and they didn't use a nail set or any putty. I figured I would need to redo a lot of the basement if I bought that house. The first floor was fine. This house was moved and put on a new basement about 12 to 15 years ago so the basement is not all that old.

I'm no craftsman, but I would never leave huge gaps and not set the nails and putty them.

John Coloccia
07-23-2012, 11:59 AM
I've lived in New England most of my adult life. I've seen a tremendous amount of old furniture, houses, barns, antiques etc. Not once did it ever occur to me that people were generally handier back then. A lot of the older things are quite disastrous, actually, and far below any standard we would accept today.

Matt McColley
07-23-2012, 12:07 PM
Two words come to mind..... video games

There seems to be a mental disconnect between "actually being able to do something" and "pretending to do something in a virtual environment"

Here's a funny anecdote.... I have a draftsman working for me who just completed a 6 year hitch in the USMC reserves, where he received their highest award for marksmanship and was trained to be a marksmanship instructor. We had an intern last summer who is some kind of video game prodigy and competes at a very high level. This kid spends 20+ hours a week gaming.

During a break time conversation, our young intern set about correcting and instructing our marine about the finer points of the M16 rifle... (as gleened from Call of Duty video games)

O.K. ;^)

What's really remarkable is that our intern appeared to have abslolutely no clue how foolish he made himself look.

But I do give our marine kudos for shaking his head and walking away from the conversation... and not engaging in an argument.

Prashun Patel
07-23-2012, 12:38 PM
It's more than just a romantic notion of craftsmanship that's in danger. Not being able to 'do' things means yr beholden to others to do it, which means we become net consumers/importers not exporters/value providers. We have to hope people want to buy our 'information based' products, while we buy labor/construction/manufacturing/food/textiles from everywhere else.

This is gonna turn political...

Jerry Thompson
07-23-2012, 1:14 PM
The trend downward in craftmanship began when the offspring of Eur. immigrants were not encouraged to enter their father's field. They were directed toward collage. It did not take too long for glazers, stone masons, cabinet makes, etc., to become scarce.
As a nation we prefected mass production and less expensive products.
We now have few highschool shops. A lot of this is due to fear of liability.
I have often hear folks disdain people who work with there hands. How often have we all heard "Dumb Farmer?" Yet those who work with thier hands have to have the brains, skills and knowledge to make those hands work.

Kenneth Speed
07-23-2012, 1:27 PM
Prashun Patel wrote, "It's more than just a romantic notion of craftsmanship that's in danger. Not being able to 'do' things means yr beholden to others to do it...."


I think Prashun is correct but I think he's missing some important things too. The ability to do things in one area leads one to have confidence to do things in others. Even if you don't do the work yourself you need to have some knowledge of how things work to protect yourself from crooked repairmen and scams. Had I not been in the background to help a friend with a garage door replacement and a refrigerator repair she'd have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars unnecessarily. I doubt that I'd have been able to replace her garage door although I have replaced smaller garage doors myself and I KNOW I couldn't repair her refrigerator but I knew enough to keep her from being cheated by two companies who were ostensibly going to repair her refrigerator.

I don't entirely blame computers and computer games although they are keeping children from really DOING something rather than playing a game that is a fantasy of some sort. I also fault the education system which has so ruthlessly devalued work that doesn't encompass moving paper from pile to pile or, now, punching computer keys. I have never, for example, understood the idea of a graduate with a business degree who doesn't know any area of business. Buy low, sell high isn't enough when the wheels fall off and something has to be made to work.

Prashun Patel
07-23-2012, 2:09 PM
It's not education that's at fault. The problem is much deeper and more sinister than that: it's capitalism. Until we learn to value relationships and morality over money and consumption, we're doomed. Once we recalibrate, and start to value every part (I'm deliberately not saying 'level') of the supply chain as equally noble and to reward it justly, then it'll just continue on this downward spiral.

The problem is that this all smacks of socialism or communism, which have very bad connotations at this point in history.

I totally agree about majoring in 'business'.

Sean Hughto
07-23-2012, 2:40 PM
http://www.epi.org/m/?src=http://www.epi.org/files/2012/ib330-figureA.png&w=538

Eric DeSilva
07-23-2012, 2:53 PM
I'm guessing I can identify the trend that resulted in that split. I remember reading a book about the fast food industry, and their efforts to achieve "zero training" employees--employees that could be hired for minimum wage because the job skills needed were nonexistent. While this is theoretically great for fast food profits, it means that there is no on-the-job learning, no opportunity to ever advance beyond minimum wage, and no job security because there is virtually no cost to replacing an employee. I imagine that this zero training concept is replicated across a broad range of industries, and therefore that a lot of previously valuable technical and vocational training may no longer be "necessary." A sad state of affairs indeed for those trapped in that bottom tier of the economy. And, as Prashun points out, it is our actions--as consumers--that validate these decisions.

David Weaver
07-23-2012, 2:55 PM
Sean, is that a nominal chart, or is it normalized to a real wage number? It's hard to tell what it means if it's some sort of trade wages only without comparing it to general wages or other sectors. In a society without regard to taking on debt, the productivity determines the ultimate standard of living, and deviation for groups goes with their wages, obviously. But the productivity increase would certainly explain why we have so much time and money to use to for complaining and spending, respectively.

Sean Hughto
07-23-2012, 2:58 PM
Details here:
http://www.epi.org/publication/ib330-productivity-vs-compensation/

Prashun Patel
07-23-2012, 2:59 PM
Why is productivity so often cited as the big indicator of an economy's success? Productivity is more work with less effort (i.e., fewer people). If the population of the world is growing, then doesn't increased productivity mean fewer jobs? If the world were a little less 'productive' maybe everyone'd have a chance to work.

David Weaver
07-23-2012, 3:38 PM
That would be the case if we only ever spent money on things that we need. But that's not the case. If basics take no more time proportionally, the increased productivity along with corresponding discretionary consumption just means we have a much higher % of our income where we have a choice how we spend it. It's a good thing.

200 years ago, most people were working more and harder just to get the things necessary for life. The percentage of population with a measurable amount of discretionary income (at least an amount that they could spend without worry) was very small.

David Weaver
07-23-2012, 3:41 PM
I should say even 75 or 80 years ago that was the case. When my grandparents (who were pretty comfortable at their death) described their childhoods and their mid-life, they were basically living on a shoestring planning for the future. My grandfathers story of growing up included a whole lot of secondhand goods to wear, and not a lot of store-bought food. Meat wasn't consumed in huge amounts even though they owned a farm that employed several people, because they knew how valuable it was to sell.

When you talk to most people in their 80s or 90s now, you'll find they didn't have a lot of hobbies, and certainly not expensive ones. Some did, the well to do folks, have expensive hobbies and travel, etc, but the population in general didn't. that lifestyle left its mark on my grandfather and a lot of other people, where they were near afraid to spend money on anything that wasn't needed or couldn't later be resold for at least as much as was paid.

Bob Coleman
07-23-2012, 4:11 PM
I disagree with almost everything in that article. It looks to me as the New York Times version of "back in my day . . . uphill both ways . . . everything was better in the . . ."

I suspect that if someone actually did a scientific study on the subject, you would find that the skill level, when taking into account differing eras, technology available, etc, is the same as it was in the 1950's, 1850's, 1750's, etc. Everything in the article was opinion. Rose colored glasses are no way to do history.

I do think materials have changed, reducing cost, but also reducing useful life.

Sean Hughto
07-23-2012, 4:16 PM
I was trying to speak to your point, which I took to be about valuing labor right up there with capital.

Kenneth Speed
07-23-2012, 4:18 PM
Prashun commented, ".....It's not education that's at fault. The problem is much deeper and more sinister than that: it's capitalism. Until we learn to value relationships and morality over money and consumption, we're doomed. Once we recalibrate, and start to value every part (I'm deliberately not saying 'level') of the supply chain as equally noble and to reward it justly, then it'll just continue on this downward spiral. "

Well, sorta. I think there's capitalism and then there's capitalism. The way we're practicing capitalism right now is getting close to piracy and gangsterism. Our system seems to work on quarters of the year and every quarter has to turn a profit or heads will roll and stock value will fall. As a result we've developed a smash and grab style of capitalism that is as destructive as it is ugly and it's run by soulless creeps that want to get the money and rum like the bankers with the housing bubble. We don't build any more, we steal if we can, and hope our legal team can keep us out of jail.

That productivity model looks daunting until you realize that the productivity is providing shoddy goods coupled with nonexistent or dishonest service.

Entrepreneurs used to create businesses and make money based on producing a good product, now entrepreneurs make money on speculation and trading; a system that is so close to a pyramid scheme that only morons are shocked when it self destructs.

Belinda Williamson
07-23-2012, 5:06 PM
A different take on things. As a partner in a small business that produces a quality product, our biggest issue with meeting quality standards and deadlines is difficulty in finding qualified employees. There are eager young men out there ready and willing to work, but they can't grasp the concept of where we need to be on the quality scale, can't read a measuring tape, can't add and or substract fractions - much less understand 10th and 100th increments of inches for tolerances. I don't know what they are learning in the public school system, but whatever it is doesn't serve them very well in the work force. These same young men expect to start out at $18 to $20 per hour. We have a good group currently but need to hire more workers. I have one guy that is a craftsman. He is a stoneworker, and he's the best I've seen in a long time. He holds himself to a high standard and takes a great deal of pride in his work. He tells me if a part is unacceptable, I don't have to tell him.

Kevin Bourque
07-23-2012, 5:48 PM
100 years ago if you wanted a chicken sandwich you had to go find a chicken,
take off the feathers,
gut and clean the bird,
get some wood,
build a fire in your stove,
cook the bird,
grind some flour for the bread,
etc.etc.etc.....


Are we failing as a culture because all we have to do today is drive up to McDonalds and order one?

As a species, man has made the process of eating a chicken sandwich easier by
creating automated processes; refrigeration, shipping, warehouses, retail outlets...
We don't need to know how to pluck and dress chickens anymore.
It's not a lost art, it's an unnecessary one.

Chuck Wintle
07-23-2012, 7:33 PM
my take on skill or craftsmanship is that most clients don't or cannot appreciate the fine points of good quality furniture or anything else for that matter. This creates a backlash such that the worker may decide not to bother to even try to make something well as no one will know the difference. Until we decide that price is not the only factor in the equation then low quality will always be with us(and indifference too).

Shawn Pixley
07-23-2012, 9:20 PM
I think that there are historical misconceptions about general quality / craftsmanship in the past. One of my grandfathers could fix or build anything and everything. The other was dangerous with a screwdriver (though to be fair, he did refinish a victorian bed after he retired). I inherited my great grandfather's tools. Largely they were lousy (though there was a banged up stanley #5, type 13 that I have resusitated).

Repairing lots of antiques in my youth, I saw a very mixed bag of craftsmanship. Cabinets held together with bailing wire (literally). Then there were other pieces that showed very high craftsmanship. My skilled grandfather wired his parent's house for electricity when he was 13. He told me there was no way he would have let his father do it (good farmer, poor craftsman).

My view is that people develop a love of craftsmanship due to a desire to be self sufficient. I learned that at an early age repairing our family's cars. On the other hand I promised myself I would earn enough to avoid having to do this for the rest of my life. My brother learned craftsmanship as well. He builds racecars, repairs pianos, and builds banjos. My son learned something from me (though he hated when I would force him to help repair / rebuild something as he was growing up). He is now repairing his girlfriend's father's house.

I think my central point is this, everything begins at home for good or for ill. Be the change you want to see in the world. You never know who is watching and listening.

Sean Hughto
07-23-2012, 9:29 PM
I think there are people who literally "need" to make and create with their hands, just as surely as they need to breathe and eat. Making things gives them satisfaction like nothing else. There are also those who are driven to be self-sufficient; they learn crafts and skills in order to scratch that itch. There will be such people in every generation. It's in the genome. These desires will have outlet and cannot be erased by mere societal conventions, trends, or fads.

Fred Perreault
07-23-2012, 9:53 PM
There are a lot of skilled people, but they don't all take pride in their work. There are a lot of multi-skilled people, and some of them cannot reach a high level of excellence in most, or any of their skills. Then there are folks that have to hire someone to change a lightbulb, or replace the flapper valve in their toilet. Some of what we might be alluding to is a lack of apprenticeship, a lack of pride, and surely a lack of interest. American Exceptionalism (an arrogant phrase) is in steady decline

skill [skil]   Example Sentences (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skill?s=t#exsenttop) Origin (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skill?s=t#wordorgtop)
skill
1. the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well: Carpentry was one of his many skills.

2. competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity: The dancers performed with skill.

crafts·man
1. a person who practices or is highly skilled in a craft; artisan.


2. an artist.

Myk Rian
07-23-2012, 10:10 PM
I started my Apprenticeship in 1970. My Journeymen were craftsmen. I paid attention to them, and learned a lot.
When I retired in 2004, the company had made so many changes, and gotten rid of all the Tradesmen of my era, there was nobody left to do it the old way.

Joel Goodman
07-23-2012, 10:38 PM
Wood Shop has disappeared from many (most) high schools -- it wasn't offered at my son's school. They had the equipment stored here and there but no budget to keep it going. Fortunately he was able to learn woodworking at home. He tried to take auto mechanics but it was impossible to schedule. The school asked, "Why would a college bound kid, taking AP classes and in the orchestra want to take auto mechanics?" They couldn't see the point. One of the highlights of high school for me was the kayak I built in shop class -- I still have it! The project taught me a lot about many things, not only kayak building.

Pat Barry
07-23-2012, 10:40 PM
I couldn't read that drivel. Just a bunch of political nonsense.

Mike Henderson
07-24-2012, 12:59 AM
I encounter lots of people who are craftsmen - people who are in the trades (electrician, plumber, drywall, painting, etc.) and people who are hobbyist. They know how to do a good job and they strive to do so. I also see young people who want to learn how to do things themselves, primarily to save money. Not all of them do a good job, but most try very hard. The biggest problem for them is lack of education and experience.

Also, working in manufacturing can be a horrible experience - doing the same task over and over, day to day to day - month to month to years. I could never survive working on an assembly line.

Mike

Don Morris
07-24-2012, 3:34 AM
When we renovated our whole home about 7 years ago, it was the height of the building scene (before the building bust). The contractor couldn't find enough good sub people. So he hired some that "appeared" to be good workers. We have a list of about 147 screw ups that a quality crew just wouldn't have done. When a quality crew showed up it was obvious. My wife has a design degree, not hanging drapes type, a read blue prints, move walls, know about CMU's type degree so she managed the renovation. She was constantly stopping the workers and correcting problems. I should show you (took photos) some of the work that was done before we canned the guy. We showed the work to the contractor and then said, get him out of here and we don't want to see him again. Being a woodworker, I knew when he did a woodworking screwup. We also fired an electrical team when they didn't know how to measure 6' on center. My wife asked the electrician why a whole line of lights weren't 6' on center as called for in the blueprints and he didn't know what 6' on center meant. One group of electricians didn't know what Gimble lights were (swivel) that were specified in the blueprints. Windows were put into a brick wall not level with adjacent windows. My wife blew her gasget on that one. ETC. Talk about loss of quality workmanship. The plumber fortunately was a Master plumber and everything he did and told us to do or not to do was right on. The inspectors when they show up just gave him the papers. They looked at us and said: No need to look at Tom's work, he's the best there is. When I went to the local plumbing supply to get something for Tom when he was working and needed it, I just mentioned his name and they said, "The best". Good people are out there, you just have to find them. Unfortunately they're few and far between.

Brian Elfert
07-24-2012, 7:17 AM
I have no idea if the local high school still offers wood shop or not. I do know they converted the classroom used for the classroom portion of metal shop to an office for the athletic director at one point. The entire high school was completely remodeled and expanded within the past decade and who knows if they kept the wood and metal shops.

I loved wood shop. I took every wood shop class I could fit into my schedule. I even stayed after school to work in the wood shop as the teacher was usually working on paperwork and such for a while after school. I'm no master woodworker, but I can hold my own.

Rich Engelhardt
07-25-2012, 8:13 AM
When was this bygone age when craftsmanship was supposed to be a common trait?
When people took pride in what they did.......not what they could buy....

David Weaver
07-25-2012, 8:54 AM
The plumber fortunately was a Master plumber and everything he did and told us to do or not to do was right on. The inspectors when they show up just gave him the papers. They looked at us and said: No need to look at Tom's work, he's the best there is. When I went to the local plumbing supply to get something for Tom when he was working and needed it, I just mentioned his name and they said, "The best". Good people are out there, you just have to find them. Unfortunately they're few and far between.

Well, if you could only pick one thing to get dead right, it'd be plumbing. You lucked out there.

John Coloccia
07-25-2012, 8:58 AM
When people took pride in what they did.......not what they could buy....

Have you ever been in an old house or fixed old furniture? Old musical instruments? Old anything. I'm sorry, but the level of craftsmanship I see is far higher and more abundant today than any other time in the past I can think of. How many here had a dad that was a craftsman? By this thread, you would think that everyone's father was a woodworker or stone mason, or at least very handy around the house.

My dad tried to be handy. We could dig a hole, fill it with cement and put in a fence post or basketball hoop. My grand dad was a stone mason so if there's one thing my dad knew how to do it was mix cement. Beyond that, was he very handy? No, not really. Replace spark plugs, change tires...we even changed a belt in the dryer once. Maybe fix a little something here and there. Based on having gone to my friend's houses, that seems to be a pretty normal level of handiness. Maybe the golden age of craftsmanship never made it to New York? I just don't see it.

The response to this always looks at sloppy home construction as an example of declining craftsmanship, but that's not the craftsman's fault. I know people left and right that are masterful craftsman and they have no work because no one wants to pay for it. They're out there but you have to pay. We used to be more willing to pay for a quality job. That's all that's changed. People got cheap and don't appreciate quality anymore, but craftsman are far more abundant today, IMHO, and even hobbyists are FAR more sophisticated and abundant than we ever were.

David Weaver
07-25-2012, 9:00 AM
Also, working in manufacturing can be a horrible experience - doing the same task over and over, day to day to day - month to month to years. I could never survive working on an assembly line.

Mike

I worked in a cabinet factory on an assembly line (one of the big name builders supply cabinet lines) for 3 years between high school and college, until I was able to get an internship doing what I do now.

There were a lot of "lifers" there, people would tell you right away if they were a "lifer" or not, it was sort of conversation there. "Will I see you here next summer?" and the response would be "i don't know, i'm not a lifer" or "yeah, i'm a lifer".

It was a good lesson, I guess. The people there worked hard and fast and didn't get paid much in relative terms. It was a rural area and you could live on it, though, but it was pretty miserable just due to the speed and repetition, even though there wasn't anything unsafe about it. They shuttered the factory a few years ago because of the housing downturn, which is a shame for the folks who did like it there.

Rod Sheridan
07-25-2012, 9:55 AM
Have you ever been in an old house or fixed old furniture? Old musical instruments? Old anything. I'm sorry, but the level of craftsmanship I see is far higher and more abundant today than any other time in the past I can think of. How many here had a dad that was a craftsman? By this thread, you would think that everyone's father was a woodworker or stone mason, or at least very handy around the house.


.

Hi John, I agree.

I was talking to my FIL who is a retired cabinet maker, who served his apprenticeship in England. His comment was that hobby workers today produce far nicer work than most professional cabinet makers produced in the past, or present. There are exceptions of course, most of my FIL's work was commissioned by clients so the rsults were expected to be very good, however most cabinet makers produced goods to a price point, no point having your china cabinet much better than the competition if you couldn't get the money for it.

regards, Rod.

Rich Engelhardt
07-25-2012, 12:34 PM
Have you ever been in an old house or fixed old furniture? Old musical instruments? Old anything.
We own 5 house...4 of them were built, 1949, 1955, 1954, 1956 and the fifth one we had built for us in 1986.
I've spent the last 26 years doing and redoing our house.
The other 4 are rentals - which we spent a year each on doing rehabs.

When it comes to actually purchasing a house, we follow the theme of the axiom, "look at a thousand, make an offer on a hundred and buy one".

So yes - I've spent a lot of time in old houses...


I also remember back to the early days of hot rods and muscle cars.
The guys that built their own hot rods were true craftsman.

Then there were the rich punks that had daddys that bought them a Z28.... or a 427 Vette...or a 426 Hemi Charger....
Good thing self serve gas stations were a thing of the future since a lot of those guys had zilch idea of where the gas cap was.

Since I was neither, I got to look at it from the outside. Even as an outsider, I got a good chuckle over the guys that were proud of what any fool w/enough cash could have.

Matt McColley
07-25-2012, 1:15 PM
Belinda,

You must be getting the same batch of applicants I am. I had a very nice young guy right out of the Colorado School of Design with a bachelors degree in Industrial Design in my office last year for a CAD draftsmen/designer position. I did some snooping around to see what kind of a program he had completed b4 he came in, so I could gage what we might need to offer him. Program is only three years long ..... Hmmm, Only math class listed on the syllabus is Algebra..... Hmmm. When the guy came in I was initially impressed. Dressed appropriately... eye contact... spoke pretty well... had a portfolio of some pretty impressive looking work....

But I have this little problem, and that is, I want to see a demonstration of skills and aptitude to back up the claims on the resume. So I give my "little quiz" which consists of 1) some simple math 2) folding up some lego block type product samples and 3) sitting in the drivers seat and drafting a simple part.

Question #1.... we dimension all our prints fractionally... so please tell me what 3/4 + 1/8 equals. Long pause... :^O

O.K. I'm not completely devoid of understanding.... it's an interview, he's nervous, I'm intimidating.... Hey, relax and take your time, here's a pencil and paper. Long pause... then he starts drawing a tape measure... and after an embarassing 5 min. I say, Well let's move on to the next question.

The rest of the interview was pretty much a formality, so as to not make him feel bad.

That night at the dinner table, I ask my 4th grade daughter "what's 3/4 + 1/8 equal" .... and after about two seconds, she sounds off "7/8"

Darn it all.... I can't hire her, becuase she's not 18 years old yet. :^)

Jim Koepke
07-25-2012, 3:19 PM
I know people left and right that are masterful craftsman and they have no work because no one wants to pay for it. They're out there but you have to pay. We used to be more willing to pay for a quality job. That's all that's changed. People got cheap and don't appreciate quality anymore

Attitude has a lot to do with the disappearance of quality.

"Close enough for government work." Is one that I particularly dislike.

I have worked in groups where some of the people are true professionals (skilled craftspeople) and there are a lot of people just there to collect a pay check.

I have seen people buy tool shaped objects because they were so much cheaper to buy than the real tool.

It is not uncommon to see someone look at a hand made lawn chair and claim it is just like the molded plastic things down at the local Borg.

As long as people believe the cheap knock off made in China is as good as the higher priced quality item at the mom & pop retailer, the quality items will be driven from the market. Mom & pop will be long gone when people finally realize they have been taken for a bumpy ride.

jtk

Lee Ludden
07-25-2012, 4:41 PM
Your great-grandparents probably had several pieces of furniture. The piece that is still around was probably the best made, or most valuable of the lot. Most of what they had was probably thrown away or just wore out. It is easy to look at these solid, well-made antiques and think they were common, but they weren't. People bought what they could afford, made do with what they had, or did without. What has changed with modern mass production and cheap imports is that the bottom has gotten higher. Good quality is available to the people who can afford it, but those who can't afford it can still get something.

Even in my own lifetime, I can only think of two pieces of furniture that my parents had when I was a kid that is still around, both of which happen to have been made by my Dad. Looking at those pieces, it is easy to think "wow, what great stuff people had back then". Truth is, most of it was barely serviceable and not missed at all once it was replaced. The cheap stuff of today is much better than the cheap stuff of 40 years ago.

Brian Elfert
07-25-2012, 5:21 PM
A problem with new homes, especially now, is it costs more to build new than to buy an existing home. How many people would buy a house built by master craftsman if it cost $100,000 or $150,000 more than the same house built to lower standard of finish?

I looked at a lot of houses when I had mine built 11 years ago. Some of the models I looked at were a joke. The fit and finish was nice in the finished areas, but you went down into the basement and even I could tell they didn't do a very good job on the basic structure of the house. I choose a really good builder who is very picky about his houses. His bid was 10% more than the other guy, but he was also using a better grade of materials including Andersen Windows instead of cheap builder grade vinyl windows.

Jim Matthews
07-25-2012, 6:18 PM
It's not just the satisfaction of doing it myself; it was necessity.

I live in South Coastal Massachusetts and competence is rare.
It is self-defense to do things on my own, that way repairs are done once.

The real fallout of declining skillsets is that hacks now populate the skilled trades and charge the same rates as true professionals.

There are now two generations of middle-management types enslaved by their plumber/roofers/electricians.

We're paying way too much for the lessons we should have learned in shop class, had we just paid attention.

jim
wpt, ma

Rod Sheridan
07-26-2012, 9:50 AM
A different take on things. As a partner in a small business that produces a quality product, our biggest issue with meeting quality standards and deadlines is difficulty in finding qualified employees. There are eager young men out there ready and willing to work, but they can't grasp the concept of where we need to be on the quality scale, can't read a measuring tape, can't add and or substract fractions - much less understand 10th and 100th increments of inches for tolerances. I don't know what they are learning in the public school system, but whatever it is doesn't serve them very well in the work force. These same young men expect to start out at $18 to $20 per hour. We have a good group currently but need to hire more workers. I have one guy that is a craftsman. He is a stoneworker, and he's the best I've seen in a long time. He holds himself to a high standard and takes a great deal of pride in his work. He tells me if a part is unacceptable, I don't have to tell him.

Belinda, I'm not being critical of your business in any way, however it sounds like you're expecting people with no qualifications or training to be able to work as a craftsman.

If I was taking people in with zero skills I would expect to have to provide them with an apprenticeship type experience. (Perhaps you already do this).

Where I work we only hire Techs with a 3 year diploma, then the training starts on what we do in particular.

I do have to laugh at your comment about not being able to read a tape measure however, I've met many people like that. Simplest solution is to buy metric measuring tools so you don't need fractions, as I doubt you're going to influence the schools enough to teach more mathematics and science.......Rod.

Belinda Williamson
07-26-2012, 11:13 AM
Belinda, I'm not being critical of your business in any way, however it sounds like you're expecting people with no qualifications or training to be able to work as a craftsman.

If I was taking people in with zero skills I would expect to have to provide them with an apprenticeship type experience. (Perhaps you already do this).

Where I work we only hire Techs with a 3 year diploma, then the training starts on what we do in particular.

I do have to laugh at your comment about not being able to read a tape measure however, I've met many people like that. Simplest solution is to buy metric measuring tools so you don't need fractions, as I doubt you're going to influence the schools enough to teach more mathematics and science.......Rod.

Rod,

We have hired personnel with training to fabricate stone for residential applications, but few have been capable of going beyond that level. We now have a training program that is similar to an apprenticeship. The guy who is a craftsman wants abolutely nothing to do with being a supervisor or trainer, but he tries to train new people. He doesn't really have the patience to train.

I mentioned young men when I should have said young people. We did have one female stone fabricator for a while.

Go metric??? I'll never get them to understand that concept. I have people still working through the difference in 2 cm and 3 cm stone. :D

Rod Sheridan
07-26-2012, 2:17 PM
Thanks Belinda, I was pretty sure you would have some training plan in place.

It's good to see that you had a female fabricator, too many don't explore the trade career route.

Metric, that was funny. I've had people at work give me dimensions such as 32.7"...........What they measured of course was 32 inches plus 7 lines on the tape not realising that it's not decimal..........Regards, Rod.

Belinda Williamson
07-26-2012, 2:29 PM
Thanks Belinda, I was pretty sure you would have some training plan in place.

It's good to see that you had a female fabricator, too many don't explore the trade career route.

Metric, that was funny. I've had people at work give me dimensions such as 32.7"...........What they measured of course was 32 inches plus 7 lines on the tape not realising that it's not decimal..........Regards, Rod.

Back when we did residential countertops I lost count of the times a templater would get back to the office and not be able to remember if the countertop run was 60" or 6 feet based on their written notes.

At one point I almost put the female in place as the shop foreman because she really kept the guys jumping and our shop was the cleanest it had ever been.

Gospel truth, I did a shop walk through right before I went to lunch and overheard one of our newer employees point out that something that was supposed to be 3" wide was cut 2/16ths short. On the positive side, at least he knows what those little marks on the tape indicate.:rolleyes: