The Future of Metalworking?

The future of woodworking is in the past. I'm just telling you what I know. I was the architectural designer for a union store fixture manufacturer in 1967. I saw the first bunk
of particle board arrive. The men in the shop were outraged, and a rebellion nearly resulted in closing the shop. Plastic laminate only came in a few colors. The year before they were still sticking it down with wood glue and clamping it until it had dried. There were only a half-dozen bits for the router, made of brittle carbon steel; and they didn't put roller bearings on the bits until five years later. I was living on the threshold of technology. I've seen a lot of change. And as a manufacturer, I have been responsible for advocating the use of new methods and new materials, and not just to give the customers what they wanted. Even today, I advocate for new technology...but when the price of value-added products exceeds the cost of the real thing, I can see the writing on the wall. Value-added products are a bill of goods, and industry has become persuaded to accept materials and hardware that are untrue, even undesirable. Why would I want to pay $35 for a pair of drawer slides, when a two-dollar webframe will do? Why would I buy a sheet of plywood with a veneer so thin it cannot hide the substrate? And, why should I ruin my health working in a cloud of poly-resins when I can work real wood? Look at it from the bottom line. Two good men can produce $500,000 worth of product in a single year. With the cost of technology and the price of value-added materials, can they expect to clear twenty percent? But the same two men working with standard machines and a pile of sticks can produce $500,000 worth of boxes and clear up to fifty percent. I'm just telling you what I know. You never have to edge-band a piece of oak. Modern machines require modern materials, but the first principles of working wood-to cut, to shape, to fasten-are the same as they have always been... daclark
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On 19 Jul 2006 08:18:48 -0700, "daclark"

========= long response -- you hit a hot button ===========Still trolling for dissertation/thesis/essay topics are we? In any event some of the regulars may fine the following helpful or at least of interest....
While this thread is not directly related to metal working concerns in the sense of feeds and speeds, it does have direct application to the future of not only metalworking but all trades/crafts.
When computer programs and algorithms fail it is most often at a boundary condition. Operationally, socio-economic/political theories [isms] are simply programs and algorithms for human conduct/activity, so it is no surprise when these fail at their boundary conditions. Generally the programmer or theoretician was unaware of the boundaries, or assumed that these limits could never be approached let alone be reached. Additionally, there is the complication of "mission creep," and "screwdriver drift" where a computer program or socio-economic theory is applied to situations/conditions that were never intended, or the meaning of the input data has been changed such as converting from miles to kilometers without a corresponding revision to the program or algorithm.
One of the fundamental errors leading to a boundary condition problem in this instance appears to be the assumption that "free market" and "capitalism" are more-or-less synonymous and possibly one word [freemarketcapitalism?] However a review of the literature [always a good place to start] indicates that Adam Smith in "The Wealth of Nations" was aware of the dichotomy, and warned against the combinations of the few against the good of the many. The government of the United States has had to enact draconian legislation [now much ignored] against restraint of trade, for example the Sherman Antitrust act of 1890, Clayton antitrust act of 1914, and the Robinson-Patman Antitrust act of 1936. Both the US [Federal Trade Commission] and EEC governments maintain large bureaucracies dedicated largely to preserving the "free market" from the "capitalists."
A second fundamental error appears to be the assumption that "company" or "corporation" has a constant meaning. On even minimal consideration, this is clearly not the case. For a detailed discussion on this point see: http://www.mcduffee-associates.us/dissertation/corp.pdf
The changes detailed above, especially the changes in scale/size/complexity cause several long term assumptions about industry to be highly questionable, specifically "economy of scale." It is indeed possible to be "too big." Statistical data from the Fortune 1,000 list of biggest corporations indicates a clear trend to reducing, not increasing profits, above a certain dollar size, with expected "return on assets invested" or "profit as percent of sales" to be zero. Unlimited growth in humans is called cancer or "morbid obesity," and is fatal. I see no reason to assume that the same is not true for corporations. see: http://www.mcduffee-associates.us/dissertation/eos.pdf
The changes in the size/scale/complexity of the organizations also resulted in other less obvious modifications. For example, there is a greatly increased tendency to "externalize" legitmate costs from the business to the customers, employees, and community at large. Because of the greatly reduced tenure of the CEO and other senior management, "investment horizons," and life cycle costing" calculations have been drastically revised with much shorter time spans. Why be concerned with possible sources of next years supplies for your company, or the health of your employees next year, if you are not going to be there next year?
With the advent [imposition? of "the brave new world order," foundational and systemic socio-economic and political changes are occurring. Attempting to understand [and predict] changes in your industry, without understanding these foundational and systemic changes is hopeless. Note that the existing socio-economic systems are generally not replaced but are "overlaid" and gradually "squeezed out." In my dissertation I observe:
(FWIW "VOTE" is my acronym for vocational, occupational and technical education.)
LINEAR (STAGE) AND ACCRETION MODELS OF ECONOMIC EVOLUTION Models of development (for example social, personal, economic / political) have long been the intelectuals' stock in trade. Regardless of the correctness or validity, the power of models should never be underestimated. For example, the socio-political / economic models developed or popularized by Rousseau , Marx and Hitler , utterly destroyed long established governments and created others, caused wars to be waged between continents and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The model developed to organize and contextualize this study is not expected to have such dramatic effects. The "accretion" model developed in this study is an extension and elaboration of Rostow's economic stage theory. An in-depth discussion of this model is included in the appendix. The important points of the accretion model for VOTE are:     New economic, social, political and cultural developments or layers do not abruptly replace existing structures in most cases, but rather co-exist with them, generally for very long periods of time.     The relationship between these layers are benign, symbiotic, parasitic or antagonistic, either alone or in some combination. For example, the layer termed "cannibalistic" or 'value-extraction" capitalism, is parasitic in that it depends on the existence of susceptible and accessible organizations which have sufficient net worth to justify the time and expense of the liquidation process, and it generates little or nothing of value for society in general. An example of a symbiotic relationship is that between "value-extraction" capitalism and the current latest layer, that of trans- or multi- national corporations. By acting as scavengers on momentarily weakened and vulnerable economic sectors that may have been neglected, had a policy of dis-investment or suffered egregious mismanagement, "value-extraction" capitalism provides an opening for the trans-nationals by providing an immediate demand and market for goods and services which temporarily are no longer domestically produced in sufficient volumes or of sufficient quality to meet indigenous requirements.     It is entirely possible for individuals, groups and organizations, even nation-states, to repeatedly shift between layers which is specifically excluded under a linear stage theory.     The beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and social / cultural practices which are utile, perhaps vital to survival in one layer, may be useless or even counter-productive in another layer. This explicitly includes VOTE and "education."     VOTE was specifically developed for and is ideally suited to the "heavy industry - mass production" stage, however this has been overlaid by at least two later stages in the United States and as a result both this stage and VOTE are rapidly diminishing in both absolute and relative economic significance.
This was expanded in the appendix which is available as a monograph.
see: http://www.mcduffee-associates.us/dissertation/accrmod.pdf
Is anybody reading my BS?
Unka George (George McDuffee)
There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the "money touch," but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Letter, 15 Nov. 1913.
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And you are still downloading bags of gas... I gave up on ya, Doc. I wanted something honest from your heart, not that indefensible crap from ten years ago. After seeing you pictured in your shop with your toy boxes, I thought maybe you had changed your opinion. Guess not, you must be a tool collector, rather than a tool user. daclark
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On 19 Jul 2006 11:07:59 -0700, "daclark"

==================If you don't like the answers, don't ask the questions. As the facts have not changed, neither have my opinions -- what do you think I am? A politician? A lawyer?
For "from the heart" try alt.sobstories.ann-landers or alt.sobstories.al-gore.
Most rec.crafts.metalworking posters deal in facts and reproducible results.
It appears that what you are looking for is a ground swell of demand for "apprenticeships" as a new academic "buzzword" to replace "student portfolios," "outcomes based," "competency based," "phonics," "look-see," "block schedules," and all the other obsolete panaceas/fads.
The existing and rapidly deepening crisis in manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and finance were not caused by a lack of "apprenticeship" programs, nor will these be "cured" by the imposition of such a system, no matter how loud the tub is thumped.
The net problem is that we are increasingly teaching "things" of no interest or use to ever larger numbers of students who are staying away (mentally if not physically) in droves. Research and data back to Dewey and Comenious shows that the traditional "sage on a stage" lecture method of instruction is one of the *LEAST* effective, yet its use is continually expanded, while "hands on" contextual learning of items of interest (e.g. "shop" or "welding") is continually curtailed.
Somebody needs a swift kick in the a** alright, but its not the students, or in general the teachers.
Unka George (George McDuffee)
There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the "money touch," but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Letter, 15 Nov. 1913.
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On Wed, 19 Jul 2006 14:45:11 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm, F.

<g>
Some good thinkers accept change as normal, Unca George. In fact, this timely quote came in this morning's Motivational Quote of the Day:
You are young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters. -- Plato, Dialogues, Theatetus
========================================================= I drank WHAT? + http://www.diversify.com --Socrates + Web Application Programming
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Larry Jaques wrote:

Hello Larry, I admire you for the compassion you show your friend George. I saved the quote. daclark
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F. George McDuffee wrote:

Congratualtions George, you jumped the first hurdle. I knew you had empirical knowledge and were just holding back. If you know this, how can you not embrace the concept of apprenticeship? But, the problem is not what you know about apprenticeship, it's what you think you know. It must be reinvented in a cognitive approach, rather than as some employers agenda for meaningless labor...the apprenticeship centers on the material. Now do you get it?????
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daclark sez:
( snippage re. whole bunch of what he knows)
And your point is? Other than telling us what you know?
Bob Swinney

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Robert Swinney wrote:

Waiting for metalworkers who know and appreciate the apprenticeship they have served to make relative comparisons... Would you care to relate an experience?
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I dont see how working with real wood is somehow better or "the future" as opposed to working with modern materials. I know some woodworkers who do wonderful work, and make money, using old tools and real wood. I know others who have gone broke trying. It has to do with the skill and brains of the woodworker, the niche market they are trying to sell into, the area they live in, and current trends. A while ago, there were a lot of shops doing Oak, craftsman style stuff in one part of the country, and in another part of the country, you couldnt give it away. Same thing with colonial reproduction- it works in the northeast, its a surefire route to bankruptcy in Santa Fe.
Where I live, there are a couple of cabinet shops that have a backlog of a year or so, doing solid cherry kitchens, and other guys who cant get arrested trying to do the same thing. And there are a couple of guys who are world class craftsmen, who run cnc routers, panel saws, edge banders, and european 32mm machinery, and knock out a kitchen a month they sell for upwards of 50 grand. Then there are hacks with one router and a tablesaw, who cant figure out why they arent rich.
Same thing with metal- I know some guys with 100 year old lineshaft shops, who turn away work. And others who work 2 shifts at the plant, and cant make a dime in their garage shop. It aint the equipment. Its the brain of the human. I know a couple of guys with 2 or 3 cnc machines in their garages who do just fine, live a sensible, happy life, and are totally high tech. And I know blacksmiths who dont have a single tool in their shop made after World War 2.
The future of metalworking in this country is the smart guy who will use whatever tool is needed to do what he wants, whether its 100 years old, or not even invented yet.
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snipped-for-privacy@fidalgo.net wrote:

I'm not against technology; and I don't dispute the mental capacity factor. What I am getting at is, that technology and the necessary materials to use technology have got a strangle hold on the guy who is actually doing the work...and doing the job the old ways can be just as productive and potentially more profitable. Do you see a similar circumstance in metalworking?
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..and doing the job the old ways can be just as

Well, yeah. I see smart guys I know who combine old ways with new ways. More productive? Its tough to be more productive than a cnc mill, or a cnc lathe with a bar feeder. You can turn cranks all day and not come close. Same with things like a waterjet cutter- the old way, which I have done plenty of, is to use a jig saw to cut out that aluminum sheet, or maybe a router. I have run many a sheet of stock through a vertical bandsaw, as well. And compared to plasma cutters or waterjets, the old ways just dont make it.
On the other hand, I know a guy who uses a jewelers saw to make itty bitty stuff, and he swears its the best, fastest way to do it.
In general though, even the most die hard blacksmiths I know have come over to the dark side, and are using powerhammers. Of course, they have been around, in water powered helve hammer mode, since around 1400, so they are not exactly new tech- and most of the designs today are based on machines made at the height of the industrial revolution, around 1900. I know blacksmiths who use inverter power supply induction forges, and have a cnc milling machine to make tooling.
I would be able to make a living with just a hammer and a file, I am sure- something always needs fixing, and if you know how to forge, you can make tools yourself. Nonetheless, in my metalworking shop, I am very happy I have modern electronic technology, and it sure helps me make money.
I dont think I could make more money, or be just as productive, cutting all my metal with a hand hacksaw, or filing it rather than using a belt sander or a grinder. I make much of my work from "new materials"-- both stainless steel and aluminum are around 100 years old, and many other alloys are much newer. In fact, the recipes used to make steel are constantly changing- we dont get the same stuff today you would have gotten even 50 years ago.
I think the real crux of the issue is the old marxist "let the workers control the means of production". Not that he got it right, I am not advocating communism, believe me. I am just saying that if you are in a big shop, knocking out laminte/particle board drawer fronts all day for 8 bucks an hour, you are gonna be miserable. And if you are in your own shop, with your own particular mix of tools, whatever their age, making what you want to make, and love doing, your work is going to have more character, people are going to want it, hopefully, and you will be happier and more productive. As far as profitable- like I said before, I know people who insist on hand planing every piece of wood, who use bow saws to rip the lumber before the age it in the barn for ten years, and, with exception of a famous few, like Sam Maloof, most of them are broke. Wives with good jobs and health care benefits always help.
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Hello, this essay was originally posted on a number of sites, and attracted quite a bit of comment. It became too much to track the comments and remember what had been said where, so I've relocate to a central location I have established a new group for the discussion of the craft trades; woodworking, metalworking, sculpture, glassworks, pottery, etcetera; and the topic of apprenticeship in the inherent occupations of man. If you would like to join this group of professionals, as well as novices, in the discussion of the craft trades...use the link below. The site will be moderated to keep the junk out. No off topic postings, no sales gimmicks, and no trashing the other guy's opinion... daclark
http://groups.google.com/group/senior-apprentice
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