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Thread: The old guys were smarter than most give them credit!

  1. #1
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    The old guys were smarter than most give them credit!

    I am in the process of reading Mortise and Tenon, The Anarchist Design Book and By Hand and Eye. The three go together nicely. What continues to impress me is how the pre-industrial craftsmen and the ancients did what they did, with so little, and made a living doing it.

    I am actually coming to realize that they were probably smarter and more gifted than present day generations, who have come to rely on calculators, computers, CNC, and a whole host of measuring devises.

    Looking at various builds around the world, I have to ask, how was this done without the aid of electrons or power that we know today. It just amazes me.

    Maybe we are not as clever as we sometimes give ourselves credit for.
    Life's too short to use old sandpaper.

  2. #2
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    We recline on the shoulders of giants astride the mountains they made, and marvel at our achievements.

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    I'm always impressed with the craftsmanship of the "giants". They didn't even have diamond stuff, digital battery eaters, the ability to measure in sub-micron increments. How the h@!! did they every build anything?
    Bill
    On the other hand, I still have five fingers.

  4. #4
    The mindset was different back then. Cut wood with handsaw or axe. Not table saw.

    Anyway things have changed and I doubt they would want to cut plywood with an axe..

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Glenn View Post
    I am actually coming to realize that they were probably smarter and more gifted than present day generations, who have come to rely on calculators, computers, CNC, and a whole host of measuring devises.
    [groan] Oh, please, not a "these kids today" argument.

    Humanity hasn't changed much at all. One person can only learn and retain so much knowledge, and that has always been the case. In order to make any sort of living today (in any field) you have to spend a pretty significant fraction of those brain cells on modern tools/techniques. You will necessarily do worse than previous generations when measured based on knowledge and application of "the old ways", just as they would do worse if asked to use modern machine tools or develop software.

    Not better, not worse, just inevitably different.

    [EDIT] I would note that people who have the luxury of dedicating themselves to classic technique (for example somebody like George during his Williamsburg tenure) do darned good work. They're still at somewhat of a disadvantage due to the inevitable loss of collective knowledge though.
    Last edited by Patrick Chase; 05-11-2016 at 12:14 PM.

  6. #6
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    Williamsburg or not,we still had the luxury of books,Patrick. And,now we have the internet. Never the less,many secrets no doubt have been lost. That is why I always stuck around the old craftsmen that I was able to meet as a youngster. Learned quite a few tricks on how to get by with nearly nothing from them.

    Were the old guys smarter? I doubt it. But they learned how to do things with what they had.

    Learned gentlemen of old did not have our modern things to learn. Instead,at the time,they filled their heads with religion,social behavior knowledge,the classics,arts,how to decorate their houses(men did that back then,not women),things like those.
    Last edited by george wilson; 05-11-2016 at 12:22 PM.

  7. #7
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    I'm thinking that if we didn't spend soo much time sitting in traffic and standing in stupid lines,Sufing the internet.More people with good hand eye coordination would develop skills that would impress the future generation.
    What is see today most young adult cannot even drive a nail straight.
    I am impressed that people more than a hundered years ago lived long enough to develop the hand skills.
    This is not in anyway doging George and his craftsman ship I have great Respect for him.

  8. #8
    I like to point out to the younger people that no man has stood on the moon since the internet and cell phones were invented. But they were there before that.

  9. #9
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    What is see today most young adult cannot even drive a nail straight.
    This is one that eluded me until I picked up a four volume set of Audel's Carpenter's and Builder's Guide.

    One sentence changed my nail driving markedly. "When possible keep the elbow inline and in the same plane as the nail's head."

    I went from bending almost half of my nails to driving a couple gross while only bending one when a knot was in the way.

    If one wants to learn what the old timers knew, pick up a set of Audel's. They are also available for other trades.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 05-11-2016 at 1:35 PM. Reason: added " "
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    nordlandsbaat.jpg
    I'll give you a perfect example : The traditional boat in Northern Norway is the Northlander ( my translation), - a type of boat built in several sizes from appx 16' to 45' over a period of several hundred years. All models are in principle built over the same template, and varied by ratio. Of course dimensions had to suit the size at hand. Tools were mostly handtools, - a handful of planes ( partly to avoid changing the settings), axes, some specialized augers- and a measuring stick. The feel and eyeballing of the dimensions were crucial to the build. All strakes are scarf jointed somewhere around the middle, but the second strake has a twist of almost 80 deg from the vertical stem to the scarf. On older times they wedged the twist out of the log, but around 1800 or so they had developd a way of thinning the strake to make the twist. The correct shape of the hull is also critical to the performance of the finished boat. some families produced up to 100 boats in one season, and an estimate of around 10,000 boats per year is suggested. Production mostly halted during the early 1900s, but enthusiast still maintain the craft.
    I've shamelessly stolen a pic off the net, where also noted that the picture was "on loan"
    Last edited by Halgeir Wold; 05-11-2016 at 1:34 PM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Chase View Post
    [groan] Oh, please, not a "these kids today" argument.

    Humanity hasn't changed much at all. One person can only learn and retain so much knowledge, and that has always been the case. In order to make any sort of living today (in any field) you have to spend a pretty significant fraction of those brain cells on modern tools/techniques. You will necessarily do worse than previous generations when measured based on knowledge and application of "the old ways", just as they would do worse if asked to use modern machine tools or develop software.

    Not better, not worse, just inevitably different.

    [EDIT] I would note that people who have the luxury of dedicating themselves to classic technique (for example somebody like George during his Williamsburg tenure) do darned good work. They're still at somewhat of a disadvantage due to the inevitable loss of collective knowledge though.
    I agree in a narrow sense; people have been making the "these kids today" argument since Socrates, if not before, and it's never been right.

    However, I also agree with the spirit of Bob's post at the top; maybe if we substitute "they were equally smart" for "they were smarter" the point would be more valid.

    In the context of this forum, I rarely see people showing excessive reverence for the past. What I see all the time is dudes, usually engineers or software guys, who automatically think they are smarter than the 18th century woodworkers. These dudes always seem to think that they can sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and design a better plane/chisel/saw/whatever in a couple hours, even if they have very little practical experience using those tools. A huge percentage of people here would be better off if they stopped trying to invent their own techniques or methods or tools, and just focused on mastering the skills and tools developed in the 18th/early 19th C., when people actually had to make things by hand, expertly and efficiently.
    "For me, chairs and chairmaking are a means to an end. My real goal is to spend my days in a quiet, dustless shop doing hand work on an object that is beautiful, useful and fun to make." --Peter Galbert

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Voigt View Post
    A huge percentage of people here would be better off if they stopped trying to invent their own techniques or methods or tools, and just focused on mastering the skills and tools developed in the 18th/early 19th C., when people actually had to make things by hand, expertly and efficiently.
    Exactly. Who needs progress for gosh sakes. Keep things the way they are (meant to be).

  13. #13
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    I agree, more or less totally, but the problem today is that younger people today mostly don't have the very basic skills that we aquired in primary school, and very few references to how things were done or made.

  14. #14
    What I think I see in those much younger than me, is that critical thinking and analytical thinking are foreign concepts to them. Farm kids of my generation grew up watching people find ways to get something done and finding their own ways. We were taught the conventional ways and expected to find another way if conventional was impossible or impractical at the time.

    Schools no longer teach kids how to think--just what to think.

  15. #15
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    Schools no longer teach kids how to think--just what to think.
    They are being taught to take a test.

    They are not being taught how to handle the tests of life.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 05-11-2016 at 2:23 PM. Reason: wording
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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