I’ve confessed to you before: I’m a tool slut. But some are probably asking “How does this help Ure hedge against a chaotic future?
It’s a Value Play
Seriously, the marginally delusional (moi) can make the case that in a complex society – like the mess that’s trying to blow-up on us now – there’s always something of value.
True, having an eye for value is not something they teach in school. So is a companion set of skills which we can pile into the big lump “Making.”
Disgracefully (oh, and unlike China!) the U.S. has been p*ssified into the mindset that “shop tools are too dangerous to teach children” and other such foolishness. OK, too harsh a judgment on the ongoing feminization of America? Maybe…maybe not.
We would need to include lawyers in the cast of Blame Game here. Because outsized personal injury settlements drove our technical “making skills” decline, as well.
Putting aside shaming (on race) we have also seen a “shaming on tools” and “shaming on workshops.” Oh, and shaming on “manual labor.” Yet I can no more handle tile at a journey Mexican immigrant tile layer than the man on the moon. I hold schools accountable. That, fellow ‘Merican, just ain’t who we used to be. People used to put in the own Formica and knew what a trim router was.
Historical note: On the frontier, both sexes learned to shoot by age 8. Growing up – spending summers on a 10,000 acre ranch in Eastern Washington, I was a pretty good shot with a .22 long rifle by age 12. (Also got a D6 Cat stuck – in dry ground no less, at the same age.)
One old Ure family saying is “Give people responsibility and they will grow into it. ” Pappy was right. No responsibility and you might as well raise vegetables.
Granted, it only worked for 6-generations (maybe 7) of Ure’s in the U.S. but the point is – and we’re getting to it – is?
Most people don’t know jack-shit about making much of anything.
People don’t change their own oil, cut their own hair, mow their own lawns or even scratch-cook their own meals, likely. Well, except we have to figure the lock-down was a bonus for cooking magazine and TV…but that’s not the point.
The art of making things begins with hand tools. Pappy began to lay the ground work about age 7 or 8. He had an Arkansas stone and some light machine oil that lived on a hallowed shelf in the shop. “Learn to sharpen your knife well...” he instructed. Even now, 28 to 30 degree edges are my preference, not that anyone under 50 would have a clues, more’n likely. Knife sharpening can be done in minutes and mastered, well, maybe never.
As you grow up, hand tools give way to power tools…and little projects become roofing, plumbing, electrical, framing, drywalling, taping. There’s an almost Masonic order of “going through the chairs” on your way to skilled tool work.
I remember coming home from 8th grade – Mr. Wolford at Asa Mercer Junior High in Seattle – and proudly explaining to my dad the fine points of “ramming up green sand” and “clearing the sprues” in preparation for pouring my own – first – aluminum casting. Nothing complicated: Just my ham radio call sign in cast aluminum, but Pappy was impressed.
Yu see, they didn’t generally have that level of industrial arts training in the Great Depression. And he was delivering 150 to 200 papers a morning and everyone ate from the family garden. Times were hard, the people tougher, more inventive, more…useful.
Everyone knew tools. And it was that ahuge – vast, really – pool of skills that allowed America to overcome all challengers.
Then a funny thing happen. WW II.
We wont…but in ways we didn’t.
We were undone by an American president – a republican no less – Richard Nixon who brought the great thaw to America’s former shut-in of the Maoist Chinese Communists. Later, others like Bill Clinton, would oversee the ongoing sell-out – sending super computers to China. Did anything change?
Well, yes, now that I think about it: They managed their virus outbreak better and faster than we. Oh…and back on point…not ALL, but the VAST majority of our tools come from China.
Along with everything else.
American Tools Matter – More
We can look at any “modern” tool and by simply test-fitting some wrenches, conclude whether the tool was made before the “Great American Sell-Out.”
BTSO (Before The Sell-Out) Tools were constructed using SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) threading. As Globalism came along, we were forced by the “International Community” (whose asses we had totally just got done kicking in World War II) too make “the Change to Metric.”
Ex-squeeze me? Since when do the Victors have to roll the f**k over? The socialists (I’d include Roosevelt in that broad-brush, too) were set to build a United Nations that is still trying to take-down America (madness on bordering, Agenda-21, etc) and our melting pot philosophy and merit-based thinking and promotion, even now.
“Income equalizers man your battle-stations. Prepare to stomp out hard work, initiative, and innovation!” Makes me wanna puke.
I don’t know where I can buy an American-made battery for some of my ham radio gear…it’s not bad…it’s worse than bad. And if on Sunday you want too pray to God (whose name is being worked out of government and out of financial notes — it should be seen as a clue as to our generally Godless direction as a nation now). That’s somehow wrong.
Liberalista’s are determined to take us all down their authoritarian road with anyone but patriots in charge.
Which is why they are people like me: I collect (now and then) occasional Peak of America Tools. Things Made In the U.S.A. and proudly sold as such.
Once upon a time – back when we were still exceptional. With the “leveling of education” – under which everyone is equally stupid – and brainwashed – exceptionalism has been convicted without a jury or a congressional vote. If you notice? You are branded a conspiracy theorist (despite the data) or a racist (yet the profile of America has swung 25 percentage points due to unchecked immigration and performance anxiety has killed the urge to excel), or you are shamed as a [fill in the blanks]. (I’m a self-defined right-thinking super-generational reprobate, I think…)
Exceptionalism is Tools
You can’t “Make America Great Again” unless you actually make things. I am embarrassed to say our political leadership selling us out has resulted in the American-made Tool Desert.
I have had to haunt eBay to find the odd NIB (new in box) classic tools. Take one of my table saws, for example:
This is an old Craftsman and it was virtually new when it arrived here:
What joy to assemble. Even the instructions made sense back then!
As I may have advised a while back, to me real “wealth” is not having a bunch of zeroes sitting on their asses in banks and brokerages. Real wealth is being able to cut a cabinet side on one table saw and then do some dado cuts on another saw – which is already set-up. This saves time and time is what? (Money!)
Bang! You’ve just been sucked into “shaper school.”
What’s a “shaper” you’re wondering? Well, a 1978 vintage TookKraft – sold under a variety of brands like Darra James and Craftsman – looks like this:
I’ll fess-up to getting some sawdust on the machine before the pictures, but you can see by looking at the bed – and how shiny and pristine it is – that the unit really was in N.I.B. condition when acquired. Even have the box that says SHAPER on the outside…
How Shapers Work
Let’s begin by looking at a cutter head on the machine. Imagine this thing spinning up at several thousand RPM – with an aftermarket speed control.
The workpiece is held firmly against the wood fence on the right and cautiously (because it can eat your hand, so you use push-sticks and we never allow beer around power tools) moving the workpiece right to left.
If you go the other way, the workpiece is pulled into the tool and, oh yeah, that hand you didn’t want, with it!
The cutter head is adjusted up and down. (This is why we keep even modest sized scraps. Test victims.
There’s a half-inch shaft the cutter rests on so if you can imagine the reflection below giving you some idea of x-ray vision, that’s part of the set-up:
Under the table (down the shaft) there are two nuts which lower or raise the cutter (top nut) and lock the positioning nut in place (bottom nut). Then a nut on top secures the assembly.
The cutter heads come in a wide variety of shapes. Some, like the 1/4 straight cutter, are just-the-ticket for putting glass into a frame, or putting 1/4″ plywood panels in a door, for example.
Sure you can do the same operation with hand tools, but it will take all day. Screw that.
Life is about balance. For me, that’s a balance between 240 volt, 110 volt and 20 volt tools.
The two cutters above can be used for many applications including glue joints and drop leaf table joints, though there are a series of special cutters for that job. They can also be used to make trim and moldings. Run a board trough against the cutter, then slice off the cut piece with the table saw.
Most all of that trim you see at Lowes and Home Despots can be done with a shaper cutter and a rip fence on a table saw. Oh, and out of 2-by-4’s. So a $3 hunk of wood might yield 4 to 6 pieces of trim. At $12 bucks each retail…seeing the value play now?
Cutters and Money
Don’t get me wrong, I love IKEA.
There are two things wrong with IKEA, though. One: You can’t get cocktails with their Swedish meatballs at any of the stores I went to.
The other? A lot of their woodwork doesn’t have a lot of “soul” to it. Boxy and functional, sure.
The reason IKEA is successful, though, is the fewer “machine operations” in manufacturing, the lower the unit costs. If you can cut out plywood or plastic coasted MDF on a panel saw…almost no work. A CNC drill machine for the attach-points, and off to the Amazoid – or whoever’s – warehouse. Totally get it. (Holds up MBA and points.)
With a shaper, you can make your own moldings. And since I also have a (ahem…) Chinese-made Harbor Freight shaper which mounts 1/2″ router bits, there gets to be very little in the shop that can’t be managed.
The cutters, though – yee gads!!!
That green one cutter – a simple Grizzly 1/2 and 1/4 round, adjusted to run as a round-over here – is almost $35-bucks. EACH – PER!
Then I got lucky as hell.
Went searching and found an incredible website called http://toolkraft.com/index.htm. Yes, that’s right, no SSL.
I’ll be danged if they didn’t have really inexpensive shapers. I mean instead of 35-bucks a throw, try $6. A couple (carbide) were $8.
So after emailing me their list, I called back and told the guy who answered (another George – who was extremely helpful) that I wanted “a good assortment.” “Gimme about a hundred-bucks worth,” I told him.
Joy upon joy…guess what came in the mail Saturday?
Even old crummy ones on eBay run $16 plus shipping and this are BBRAND NEW. Glue joints, moldings, and that one with the stick-um on it? That’s a carbide cutter.
I wasn’t going to say anything, but if you know anyone who has a shaper and it takes 1/2″ bore bits, this is like the “deal of a lifetime.”
So yeah, I didn’t mean to go off sideways on America’s decline. But now you know why, and see our perspective a little clearer.
People used to come to America for opportunity, not for the hand-outs. And if those a$$holes in Washington – most of whom have never worked an honest job making a physical thing in their lives – have a lick of sense, they would have done something to improve our lot long before this.
No chance of that: Not a lick of sense in both bodies of Congress combined.
As crap hits the fan in coming weeks, Ure will be out in the shop.
We’ll may end up the people barricaded in our house out in the woods. You’ll recognize the place: Only trailer out here with spectacular woodwork detailing.
Say, need an inlaid foxhole cover?
Write when you get rich,