On Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10:45:19 AM UTC-6, Swingman wrote:
Isn't that the goal? Seems every machine for the woodworker has that in mi
nd. Electric board planer instead of hand planes for surfacing, drill pres
ses for perfect 90 degree holes instead of brace and bit, electric routers
instead of molding planes, etc.
Again, I think these things are a natural evolution of the genre.
Couldn't agree more. I once received a shipment of cabinets to install tha
t had been assembled with out of square drawers with poor fitting dovetails
. (BTW, they were sold with the dovetails being a sign of craftsmanship!)
Bad enough that the supplier here ordered more and they paid me to take the
faces off and screw new ones on.
The thing a machine cannot find a clever solution on its own to accommodate
project design features, nor can it change anything on site to adapt to jo
b site conditions. Although there is a real WOW! factor with a fully autom
ated machine, they are best foot forward at demo time and work within the s
trict parameters of their design and program limitations.
But could Leon sustain his current level of craftsmanship, design, and arti
stry over a period of several years? We both know (as does anyone that che
cks out his WIP photos) that he is not only hard working and dedicated to h
is craft, but actually gifted as well. IME, skill only gets you so far. Le
on is beyond that.
But... in context of making a living for himself and his family, could he d
o that? It is an unfinished conversation between us. How much work could
he bring in that would be needed to pay rent on a small space ($2K a month?
), phones, wear and tear on machines, delivery vehicles, a helper/employee,
etc.? Would he have the time to lovingly select every board, fuss over ev
ery joint, shop hard for just the right hardware, cut/assemble/finish/deliv
er/install his work after hours of design? Would he have the time to chit c
hat with well heeled clients as needed, listen to their blather and ideas,
collect funds, maintain a set of books (OK... Kim could take that), manage
his employee, maintain all machines, promote his business (everyone runs ou
t sometime), and maintain quality control? And an added 5K a month to the
bottom line could make a real difference in his current business model. Be
fore retirement, could he have also made mortgage payments, personal expens
es, kid expenses, etc.? I dunno... maybe next bottle of bourbon we finish
up the discussion.
Leon is an exception to me, not a rule. His talent and workmanship make hi
m unique, and he is in the most enviable position any craftsman could ever
be in. Earlier in life he earned his way into this situation through his o
wn hard work in another field, and Kim did the same. Their hard work and c
ommitment /in other fields/ paid their bills when they needed steady cash a
nd enabled them to be where they are today. Leon doesn't need the work and
only takes the projects he wants. He told me he doesn't adhere to any stri
ct time schedules, and that his commissions are "done when they are done".
Those last two sentences separate him from the folks that do commissioned w
ood work as a sole means of support. You have a business and support yourse
lf with it. I have for over thirty years. My model used to be Leon's curr
ent model, but truck payments, paying my own college tuition, rent, utiliti
es, employees, slow paying clients, and the slew of things I found out I ha
d to address AFTER I was in full time removed my dream of being the prickly
old craftsman working in a messy shop that people came to visit like they
would a religious figure. I cherished that idea for years, but with one in
come, the unpredictable nature of business, and the need to sleep at night,
I had to change my personal model.
I think that Leon has the brass ring in his hand, knows it, and seems to be
enjoying every moment of it. He should, he earned it! But I hope he chim
es in somewhere and puts in his two cents. I would have hated to type out
this diatribe only find he feels I have it all wrong.
Although, that wouldn't be the first time that has happened...
On 03/02/2016 11:59 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Precisely...what this will do is produce replicas of a given design w/
minimal _additional_ investment in labor after the initial purchase. It
does have the flexibility a stock cabinet doesn't of being able to
adjust to fit any given opening which is an advantage and would work
reasonably well with the kind of precision you normally work to where
the layout is defined before Leon heads to the shop.
_IF_ (yes, the proverbial "big if" :) ) the preprogrammed profiles and
such are acceptable to the client, then all have to do is punch the
button once the material is loaded, assemble and finish (or vice versa
:) ). But, as you say, if there is a hiccup in a wall or there's a
specific design feature not in the current software base, it comes to a
There's room for a rare Sam Maloof here and there but even he followed
the model that virtually all that I know now do -- they teach either
classes on their own or in another cooperative or other arrangement
school, write, have other outside sources of income as well as simply
surviving on commission work.
I'm sure there are some in the country who can and do survive that way,
but I surely can't think of any I know of by name at the moment that
don't have something else going on as well. However many of them there
are, it is "a precious few"...
On Wed, 2 Mar 2016 09:59:45 -0800 (PST), " email@example.com"
There will always be a need for Leon, and men like him. As technology
takes over Profit and ROI will be the ruling factors. There will be
very little effort given to one offs since the profit margin will not
be suitable to do the job.
I already have experienced this type of production runs in my trade. I
have seem major improvements. I have also see the cost of operation go
up. Seen the loss of skilled tradesmen as they moved to other crafts
or retired. I gave one experience of needing a simple drain pan made
up, and where a "dinosaur type" Leon was very necessary.
I also see where even with reasonable QC and bad batch of manufactured
wood products affecting an entire production run requiring a call
back, or the sending of semi-trained people out to the various job
sites for repair or replacement. Wiping out the profit for the next
three or four jobs.
Plus, someone wanting an exact period piece matchup will not be able
to get it as something's will just not match up.
When every medium and large company has access to such engineering and
it becomes commonplace then the bean counters will institute forced
change for profits sake because of intense competition.
End result will be lots of plus' and minus' for the new technology and
an adaptable skilled craftsman will also be able to make a comfortable
living. There is always a niche' to fill.
In related news here, Carrier (furnaces and A/C) is closing it's factory
in Indianapolis soon
and opening one is Mexico where the workers will be paid "$3/hr + about
$3/hr in benefits", according to the CEO. I don't know what the workers
were paid here, but the loss to the local economy (and society) will
certainly be felt.
I just heard about this from Trump. Really very sad on many levels.
Over the years I have had to deal with parts that came from Mexico,
many is the time the parts failed soon after installation or
replacement, and no alternative other than buying another total system
component. It took a while for Japan to get their butts in gear, and a
few other Asian companies, but they did, and as a result took over the
small commercial equipment area while the Americans consolidated
companies. The UK is another area where their technology far exceed
are own in many areas.
Even so there are many ma n pa business installing the stuff in homes,
apt's, and small commercial business.
Many businesses went to Mexico over the years, only to return a few
years later. (In the HVAC and Controls arena's)
OH, BTW. Laughable but true. FORD sends their engines there for
"remanufacturing" I have heard from friends who were associated with
Ford engines that they would find some engines with welded rods (that
failed soon after running) I can't imagine how they balanced it so
that it would run, or run without hitting the heads. LOL
I'm going to ask a few questions here and hopefully you and or any one
else will not become offended.
Do you feel that closing the factory and moving it to Mexico is wrong?
Do you shop around for large purchases and try to get the best deal or
do you pick the place with the highest prices for specific items to make
Do you prefer that the government step in and protect businesses by
imposing import taxes on goods manufactured somewhere else?
Do you have a retirement plan or own stock?
Do you believe that trying to keep up with the Jones might be why our
economy is in the shape it is in?
Years ago today's necessities were a luxury which the common family
could not afford. I recall the days when air conditioning was not in
but a few homes, those were the Jones homes. Automobiles with AC, power
steering, power brakes, automatic transmissions, power door locks and
windows, and even FM radio were only in the vehicles that the Jones
drove. Homes with brick and over 1400 sq.ft. were the ones that the
Jones lived in. Sometimes Mrs. Jones worked, seldom did the other wives
work. Oddly enough we youngsters that grew up during that time seemed
to have done just fine in the long run even though our last name was not
Jones. We all ate at the dinner table before retiring for the evening
to watch B&W TV.
Then things changed. The "new" Jones families began to out number the
other families but this was because the moms began to work to help dad
afford the life styles and luxuries that the Jones enjoyed. Meals at
the dinner table were often provided by the producers of TV dinners or
the mom and pop hamburger stand and often the family discussions around
the diner table migrated to a TV tray to watch the new "color" TV. Kids
had less exposure to parenting with mom working at her new job. Often
the kids did not get the supervision that they needed and all too often
some one else's mom stepped in to do the parenting. And unfortunately
not all of the kids got the attention that they needed for a structured
upbringing. You see a lot of those kids in prison today and their kids
got even less attention. And today their kids often still live at home
with mom and dad, well into their adult years.
Not every one is equal and not every one deserves to have what the Jones
have. We live in a society that expects more with less production. We
want top dollar for what is quickly becoming an entry level skill. We
live in a society that believes we should have the best because we were
simply born in the United States. That was not the way it was 50+ years
ago. Back then we earned what we were worth much more so than today.
Unfortunately we still want the pay with out putting in the time and or
realizing that maybe we simply do not contribute enough to justify what
we are paid. Some one had to compensate for our pleasures, luxuries,
and wages that exceeded our grandparents privileges. That is where
cheaper manufactured goods from other countries began to fill the gap.
Are goods manufactured in Mexico and China inferior to USA products?
Sometimes, more often not, and their work forces are getting better at
it than we are. If we are going to survive we are going to have to
compete with the world. We are going to have to swallow the pill and
realize that what we expect to be paid is simply not worth 10 times that
of a person that delivers a product 95% as good.
Either we're going to teach people 'right' from 'wrong', or the crime
rate may continue to rise. A lot of people seem to like their smart
It was interesting to read what you wrote, because it was a little like
memory lane (family eating together at the dinner table.., until some
time in the early 70s or so). So no, I don't disagree with you. I
understand basic economics. OTOH, the "relative pay" of people in an
organization could probably use some balancing. Making a few people
"absurdly-rich" off the backs of the masses doesn't seem right. I would
even say that some of the organizations are stealing from their
shareholders (who are among the masses) in this way.
Some asian companies have a rule that the highest paid person in the
company can only make a certain multiple of the lowest paid person. I
think it's a multiple which is a lot lower than 1,000 --which is
probably not too far off for many large companies these days. This in
not unrelated to the current politics, where it seems many aren't in
favor of a political dynasty (be it Clinton (D) or Bush(R)).
On 03/03/2016 9:27 AM, Leon wrote:
...essay trimmed for brevity...
I shouldn't but will comment on a couple things...
Do I "feel" Carrier shouldn't move? Sure. Do I understand the
economics behind the decision to do so? Different question entirely and
of course I do.
On purchases...no, I obviously don't go out of my way to find the
highest-priced vendor but I _do_ search (with less and less success,
obviously) for USA-made or at least partially assembled product over
(particularly) Chinese import, yes. I _will_ pay a premium for that as
well as I still shop in local brick-'n-mortar businesses as much as can
as opposed to taking everything automagically to the internet. Some of
that is owing to being in a small market arena such that it's a real
concern that losing a vendor is a _major_ loss as, unlike large metro
areas, there isn't another or several others from which to choose.
There's only one of many types of businesses here already and none of
others as WalMart has driven quite a few out already.
Is "keeping up w/ the Jones" responsible for current economic
conditions? Clearly not...consumer spending drives 70% of economy, w/o
it it'd _really_ be in the doldrums or worse. What drives (and drove)
much more is the rising formerly undeveloped economies needing markets
for their own products to support their growing needs at home. Which
need began the price competition that forced US manufacturers to compete
on a global scale as opposed to having a closed US market. Started with
Japan and the automobile and electronics, has gradually escalated with
the rise of Korea, then the other SE Asia, E Europe after Glasnot and
now in spades with China and India. Mexico and NAFTA were on the way in
there, too, of course.
The breakdown of societal norms is a topic too big to even begin to touch...
I totally understand. There are many many things I am sure that went
into the decision to move that facility.
What I was thinking when I asked that question is the company, Carrier,
probably did the same thing. Again I'm sure there are many factors,
unknown to the general public, that went into the decision to relocate
in Mexico vs. some where else in the USA, Canada or China. I'm sure
their decision was an economic one to please stock holders. Being a
public company they have to operate under a different kind circumstances.
On an other note, one which I find a bit humorous is Buick and China.
Buick has been a big hit in China for many years. What I find a bit
strange is that China is going to build a specific Buick, for Buick, to
be sold here and not there.
I thought this post was interesting enough to discuss and thereafter
send to a family member!
I'm sure lots of folks here have seen it all for themselves, but it's
nice to have some of the details laid out, such as they are, in Leon's post.
My employer sent all of the production jobs from our site to Mexico in
'08. It's been a bumpy ride but less so than China or Malaysia. The
odd thing is that there are more jobs (doubled in size, twice, since I
started four years ago) now than there were then, and all engineering
and management jobs (though a good percentage are H1s). All of the
production area is now engineering office space. Note that this is a
Japanese company that's investing in engineering, here. Globalization
is a two way street.
Imagine the shop that relies on a machine, when a client calls and says
I have ten of these 50 year old chairs, but I want/need/must have two
more that are identical to this one, and they are nowhere to be found:
Basically well-to-do will pay heavily to assuage their must haves ...
this guy traveled from Austin to Houston twice, plus paid handsomely for
this very simple job:
Couldn't find a "craftsman" locally with the tools or know how to do the
precision necessary ... and OMG, he just had to have the latest
millennial rage - his old desk magically turned into a standup desk.
Bingo, Hell yes, and Yeppers again. The man nailed the elephant in the
And, as I have said here a few hundred times:
"There's riches in niches"
And the corollary that has never been truer, as evidenced in the links
The more machines that do the work, the more valuable the ability to
fill the resulting voids/niches becomes.
IOW, bring on all those machines, eh Leon? LOL
LOL, and what I have said under my breath, sales are great to those
where money is no object.
Exactly! Machines often speed up production and precision in areas that
you will never see. Take my lap joint double floating tenon joints for
instance. ;~) How many man hours and $$$ do you suppose my Domino has
saved considering that it has cut 10K mortises, even at just $2 per
hour? LOL I would buy another in a heart beat should it poop out.
Building slower does not make for better quality.
You say that and then and oddly I just got turned down to build a
display frame for an antique stained glass window still in the original
window casing/frame. This is a customer that I did some work for about
8~9 years ago. He and his partner had lot's of antiques in their home
and one of them worked in an antique store. Obviously the stained glass
and wood frame were well built, as they were in pretty good shape for
their age. He did not want to make any repairs so much as knock off the
peeling paint and paint over the old paint. The window would have to be
brought back to my shop and I would build the display frame around it,
it would stand about 83" tall and 42" wide. Being a repeat customer I
quoted him a price below my comfort range and apparently that was too
much. Having access to those type antiques I'm sure he got a deal and
expected an even better deal from me. I don't really think he
appreciated the fact that I was going to build something worthy of
holding an antique of this size.
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