Lost Craft, Lost Knowledge

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,929
Sometimes “the way we used to do things” is pure nostalgia, not something better, maybe as good, but often worse. However that’s not always the case. I’m sure many of you have experienced seeing a younger person working a job you have done and using a “new” tool to do something it’s just not right for because they don’t even know about the “old way”.

I’ve seen this many times, but a signal incident for me was watching a very competent crew of electricians rewIring one of my buildings for new network infrastructure. The building went up in the 30s and had bearing walls of hardened brick throughout. It was an academic building in the old style. The cable runs had to penetrate these walls in a few spots.

To do this, they were using $300 2” carbide drills (foolishly, not in a hammer drill, but that’s a separate issue). It took an hour or so total to drill a hole and destroyed a bit with each one. With a proper hammer drill it would have gone faster and preserved the bit but even that wasn’t needed. I asked them if they had a star drill and they look at me blankly. I pointed out that a few feet form these pretty hole was a jagged one that probably took about 10 minutes to make, using a star drill. A tool they’d never even heard of.

This is probably because they’d never had to make holes in hardened masonry before since building aren’t built that way. In this case the cosmetics didn’t matter, so the hole could be made and sleeved, in less time, without sacrificing tools.

Today I have a very nice hammer drill, a Bosch Bulldog with a 1” capacity, and lovely carbide bits for it, but I also have a star drill and a drilling hammer and know when to use them. As we lose senior people, the younger ones don’t get the transfer of craft and knowledge and so some things get much better while others get much worse or have to be re-“discovered”. Some percentage of Innovation is actually just a new wheel, and it’s not even as good as the old one since it doesn’t have the benefit of long evolution.

I would guess you can tell your own stories of lost craft. I’d like to hear them.

NOTE: the closest I can find today to the star chisel is a bullpoint. So I can’t even buy a new one if I want it.
 
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Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,929
Not sure only a guess, maybe used in mining or something?

kv
It's used with star drills. But my point is they are still called "drilling hammers" even though people don't know that you can drill with them.

You used to be able to buy "hog ring" pliers and rings in the hardware store, I don't think you can do that now.

Things that were useful were replaced by things that are less useful because they were more useful for something else. All east you can still get hog rings and pliers pretty easily.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
7,631
Or used to convert an ordinary drill into a hammer drill?
Star drills are closer to chisels than drills. They are not rotated at (relatively) high speeds to cut into material. They are struck with a light sledge hammer, like a chisel, into the material being “drilled”. The “driller” would slightly rotate the star drill by hand before the next strike of the drilling hammer.

The area just south of Boston, where I live, was known for its granite quarries. I believe granite for the Washington Monument was quarried here. That’s where I learned of star drills.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,929
Two birds with one stone.People are too busy learning the tricks of the trade they forget the trade!
I am hoping that we can get back to respecting the trades as a path for a serious person who doesn't want or need to attend university. We need good tradespeople. It is an honorable and fulfilling career, and shouldn't be treated as some sort of dumping ground for those who "can't make it".

We depend on tradespeople for our infrastructure and our homes. As someone who employs them, I can tell you that good ones, serious ones, are hard to find but are out there. We need apprentice programs and more high quality trade schools.

I am not in the UK, but I would hire Jordan of Artisan Electrics, or engage his company, in a heartbeat.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUYJhbsrC1bvVWzgUq83K4A
 
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Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,929
It is not only an honorable career, but also an essential one. The sad thing is that the general public perception of manual labor is undervalued, and so the earnings from this sort of craft tend to suffer.
The trades really shouldn't be classed as "manual labor". It is true that it requires working with your hands, but if we are contrasting to a "knowledge worker" then we have to account for all the knowledge necessary to succeed in the trades.

A person who carries things about a job site, or uses a pick and shovel all day might be classed as a "manual laborer" but even they deserve respect for what they add when they do their jobs well. In the case of anything properly called a "trade" there is art, craft, and even some science involved and it requires thinking, planning, and skill.

It is no less "knowledge work" than a programmer or an accountant, or many other jobs that are mistakenly held in higher esteem.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
22,858
Sometimes “the way we used to do things” is pure nostalgia, not something better, maybe as good, but often worse. However that’s not always the case. I’m sure many of you have experienced seeing a younger person working a job you have done and using a “new” tool to do something it’s just not right for because they don’t even know about the “old way”.

I would guess you can tell your own stories of lost craft. I’d like to hear them.
When I was in training we apprentices got the job of 'chasing' brick work etc for buried conduit runs etc, using hand tools, non-electric!
Also all fixing were done with Rawl-plugs hand drilled.
One craft an old plumber taught me was wiping a lead joint, now virtually extinct art.
,
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,929
When I was in training we apprentices got the job of 'chasing' brick work etc for buried conduit runs etc, using hand tools, non-electric!
Also all fixing were done with Rawl-plugs hand drilled.
One craft an old plumber taught me was wiping a lead joint, now virtually extinct art.
,
Some things are superseded but the techniques involved in the Rawls plugs are transferable to newer technology. The old ways brought forward and applied to new things make the new things better an avoid reinvention.

I recall watching microcomputer programmers reinvent all sorts of things like virtual memory which the big iron had for years primarily because the big iron snobs thought of the PC as a "toy", then as a threat, then as the future but they were far behind the curve even though they'd started way ahead of it and could have make a great and beneficial impact on the ability of PCs to be applied to the enterprise. So much knowledge had to be rediscovered, what a waste.
 
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