Model Engineer magazine - The future

Mine arrived here on South Uist a couple of days ago together with something from the new owners.
Myself, I would prefer it to come out only once a month, A4 size, decent
thickness of paper and that which is now MEW be incorporated in the one magazine. Cover price say 3.25.
Given that in the Britain of today an "Engineer" is a thing of the past, present company excepted, the "Model Engineer magazine" faces an uncertain future. Well I think so.
On the couple or so bookshelves on this island magazines such as "Old Glory" and some others about old tractors and old lorries seem to appeal to both the older and young generations A number of those here are actively engaged in restoration projects. They come to myself, now aged 70+, to get things made, rebuilt or modified. Things they cannot do themselves.
Young people today have no direct access to the "Model Engineer", "MEW" or "Engineering in Miniature". None of these appear on the bookshelves. Where else are they to find information on what is available, what they might need and how to do seemingly impossible tasks with limited resources.
Is a New title needed.
Enough said, any ideas?
Donald Isle of South Uist
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Is there no inspiration from robots or from the teaching of CDT? Perhaps it is that CDT teachers are as unqualified to do their jobs as are the majority of maths teachers in Britland?
Perhaps it is that the children of today expect to buy everything off the shelf, even when it comes to fabrication from components?
Donald wrote:

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or
Where
The sad fact is that most people can't or won't do anything for themselves. If they have a hobby it's essentially exercise for the Credit Cards, see model (railway, aircraft, cars) magazines passim. If they don't, its sofa and satellite.
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Tim Christian wrote:

And usenet :-)
--
Boo

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wrote:

I think most of the problem stems from the recent changes with regard to access to information. I used to subscribe to MEW years ago, and a number of other hobby related mags ( Hi-Fi, aircraft, computers etc. ), but with the explosion of the internet it became increasingly difficult to justify the cost. Indeed, these days I only buy a computer magazine if there's a really decent program included on the cover disk...if there's something I think I ought to know, it's out there on a web page somewhere...or even just an email away.
When you add in forums such as ours, plus numerous others dotted about the web, it becomes even easier to source material - even to the point of other posters supplying raw materials and specific advice.
And it's not like kids these days are ambivalent about inspiration - witness how popular such TV programmes as Robot Wars and Scrap Heap Challenge have become to this generation.
If anything is needed at this point it's a 'champion'. Dear old Fred Dibnah held the throne for many years - but whilst he had undeniable appeal to a certain generation, he didn't quite have the 'wow' factor that kids need. No doubt there will be those quick to denounce such 'trivialities' - but that comes out of an inability to connect with kids on their level...and that's the very nub of the matter. Fred certainly inspired people, and was boundless in his enthusiasm and encouragement, but I rather feel his qualities worked better on people who already had 'the bug'. What's needed is a new champion, and the closest person we have to that at the moment is Adam Hart-Davis...a man who combines clarity of explanation alongside an exciting presentation. Kid's learn...and they don't even realise it. That takes skill, but in terms of getting down to the nitty-gritty of engineering even Adam doesn't quite go far enough.
It might sound a bit like a title for a Monty Python sketch, but the principle that has to be got across to kids is that 'engineering is fun' - and I really think that's beyond the scope of a magazine, especially these days when there are so many other things competing for a child's attention.
Whilst we all sit and wait for a shiny media boffin to come along, there are lots of things that can be done by those who already have the necessary skills in engineering. At the very least you can contact your local schools or education authority and declare an interest in how they go about teaching the subject to kids. If you hear about a local school having to shut down its engineering dept. - make a fuss about it, buttonhole the people who make the decisions and make your voice heard. Offer your services to schools. Plenty of schools run 'after school' clubs which are often run or supported by volunteers - but can only do so if there are enough people to supervise the club. As you might imagine, a poetry club can get by with just the one person taking the group, but an engineering shop's gonna need a few more pairs of hands.
Haven't got the time? No problem - there are lots of other ways in which you can make yourself useful. There's a guy lives in a nearby village who has a model railway set up in his back garden. Once a year he holds an open day for the benefit of the local primary school - and the kids love it. He took time out to accompany a group of schoolkids on a visit to Hollycombe Steam Collection last year...and really had the kids enthralled with tales of how all the 'old fashioned' technology was brand new and exciting to him when he was their age. It's about sharing the knowledge, passing on the enthusiasm.
You might also consider taking a few hours off to go do a talk at a school. I've done this a few times myself ( it's bloody scary though...kids can be merciless! ) and it's a great way to show kids what can be achieved with even a few skills.
It probably all sounds a bit piece-meal, but that doesn't mean it won't make a difference.
Regards,
--
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk
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Sorry to appear negative, but the above has no relevance to the current situation in schools (unfortunately). 1. Virtually all secondary schools no longer have traditional workshops. The lathes, millers etc. have long gone to be replaced with a small number of CNC machines mostly for demonstration purposes. 2. Decisions resulting in (1) above were the result of national policy and were not at the whim of individual schools. Blame the National Curriculum. 3. Nobody would be allowed to supervise pupils in a machine-tool (or hand-tool) environment without all the relevant Health and Safety qualifications etc. (I don't know what they might actually be), which would rule out most potential volunteers. 4. The same pressures operate on the primary school curriculum, with far less practical work reducing the skill level that pupils bring with them to secondary school.
As I say, sorry about all that, based on a long career in secondary schools, now over without regrets! Cheers Richard
--
Richard Evans

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wrote:

Points taken - but then that makes it all the more vital that those of us who have interests and skills take the chance to seek representation in these places.
From my own involvement in primary schools I know the situation varies depending on the policy of the school - or at least how adept they are at broadening the curriculum.
I'd agree it's an uphill struggle, largely due to the dearth of practical people in the decision-making process...it's a rare governing body that has someone with practical skills on it these days - and long gone are the days when craftsmen and women had any say with regard to central policy.
It's easy to blame the teachers, but as you yourself may well know it's not likely to be the teachers that set policy. Somewhere along the chain of command, someone has to stand up and make people realise that practical skills have for too long been given the cold shoulder in education.
As it happens I was going to write a letter to a local constituency MP about this very issue...but he got caught playing the Panzer commander and the milkmaid with a rent boy - so it's just as well I never started the letter ( under the circumstances, I think the phrase 'small tools skills' might have taken on a very different meaning ).
Regards,
--
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
www.shwoodwind.co.uk
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Couldn't agree more, and it's very frustrating for staff and pupils. Cheers Richard
--
Richard Evans
Northumbrian Pipes, Border Pipes
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It is a shame that these practical skills aren't being even introduced to young people at school these days. I remember spending most of my fifth and sixth form years whilst I was at the comprehensive in the "CDT" workshop, making bits and pieces. I even built a milling attachment for a unimat - which involved making aluminium castings as well! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and think it's a crying shame that I was probably amongst the last tranche of pupils to enjoy such things...
I'm pretty certain it was that period during my schooling which got me hooked on the engineering bug - I had previously only made small scale model railways. It was also very handy because, once we'd got to a certain level, I had to go out and find people who had the required skills to help me and show me what to do. One such person was the man from the LEA who used to come round and service the machines in the various workshops in the county - he spent a great deal of time in our school showing me the finer points of machining.
Whilst I accept it's better than nothing, just demonstrating the use of CNC machines to schoolkids is no substitute. I (and a lot of other engineers that I know) am certain that you can't easily teach someone to use CNC machines if they haven't got some idea of manual machining. Still, it's better than nothing, and I think initiatives like Denford's "F1 in Schools" model racing car project can only help.
Following apprentice-level training, and then a mechanical engineering degree, I've somehow ended up working in a University engineering department. There, the students get about 3 days of basic workshop training in their first year, followed by another few days doing a "Design Make and Test" exercise at the end of the first and second years. This is viewed by the academics as being enough practical training (too much, according to some of them!!). However, I mainly am involved with some final year students, on a project where they build a full sized, bike-engined racing car, which competes against similar cars from other universities. The students do a large proportion of the manufacturing work on the car, under guidance/supervision, so at the end of the project they've got a very good idea the various manufacturing methods, and hence of designing parts so that they can be made without too many problems, which are very important skills for design engineering. More importantly, they all agree it's the best bit of their project, and spend hours in the workshop (often into the small hours) lovingly building their car.
Unfortunately, not all our students are involved in the car project, and those that aren't leave for industry with very little idea of manufacturing, or design for manufacture. They can analyse something on computer till they're blue in the face, but can't tell you how (or if) it could be made! Without an element of practical training at some level in their education, it's our manufacturing base which is going to suffer (and already is).
Without making this too political, the government's push to get 50% of youngsters into university doesn't help at all - I see these students every day who struggle with their maths, and go on to get a poor degree, but who love getting their hands dirty and actually making stuff. It's just a shame that their aren't the apprenticeships about today, and so many people are pushed into universities.
Anyway, sermon over, I'm off to make some swarf....
cheers
Alastair
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writes

Governing bodies are staffed by a number of different "types" of governor - parent's, LEA, Community, Sponsor etc. It's a volunteer thing that consumes time and provides no cash reward.
If you have something to offer, then see the Head or chair of governors they are not usually overstocked with people to provide help and support!
Steve
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On Tue, 31 Jan 2006 08:46:24 +0000 (UTC), "Steve"

That's right - but, speaking as a governor, I know just how much time the role can consume...and it's not always easy for people to take time off work to make the meetings or to attend school for the purposes of inspection and review. It also means getting involved in other areas, which takes yet more time....a governor with a single interest isn't going to be much use to the body ( unless that body is particularly large...and that's extremely rare ).
That said, a good governing body will always welcome input from 'critical friends' and supportive businesses - so there will always be avenues of representation that won't require the sort of commitment it takes to be a governor.
Regards,
--
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
www.shwoodwind.co.uk
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Stephen,
I think you may have hit the nail on the head there. The common conception of a model engineer amongst the modern fraternity (if there is any conception at all) is a bunch of old blokes who build steam engines. Let's face it, there is more interest in these things by people who have experienced or at least remember these things than those who have no association whatever.
To come out of the closet here; as a mere 40 something, I can't remember the things either and whilst I spend many hours appreciating the local railway and steam rallies, I find the endless enthusiasm to record the minute detail of a locomotive in ME as tiring as your local disenfranchised teenager probably does. Even their father's have limited knowledge or enthusiasm of/for these things and therefore the inspiration is not likely to come from (probably) the most influential person in their lives. For the record, I'm old enough to have a father with engineering related skills and interests and have had an apprenticeship which introduced me to the machine shop. Most, even just a few years younger would have missed out on this.
Unless we can find a way to grip their enthusiasm by providing things they can associate with, we're stuffed, which is why Robot Wars and similarly dumbed down tripe is our only current hope.
Not wishing to depress myself and others further but kids today have the modern mindset that says if you want an engine to power that fabulously quick model car/boat or a hyper-efficient model aircraft (which they are still 'into'), you go and buy one, life is too short to spend hours in the workshop building such a thing, just for the fun of it and even if you had the machinery and wherewithal. Time is limited, money is (relatively) plentiful and therefore, why bother. Model engineering to them is possibly just a means to an end which is just not viable in terms of money or time. Who's interested in endless dull historical artefacts such as steam engines? - they're for the equally dull history books.
You only need to look at the Model Engineer's exhibitions to see what I'm talking about. I was probably the youngest person at the last one I went to and whilst I find the characters endlessly fascinating, knowledgeable and so on, I have to admit I believe that your local 'yoof would have tried to top him/herself after the first hour.
I sincerely apologise for having such a negative view but as you say, the inspiration out there is either totally lacking or dumbed down to the point where young people would not even consider that this black magic is something they would want to or could get involved in.
With no engineering related experience coming from schools, no apprenticeships, a limited manufacturing industry to fire the imagination and no memory of the glory days plus the ability to buy off the shelf items that are superior to those that can be made the inspiration for young people is dying away, despite what the enthusiasts amongst us may try to engender. P**s**g in the ocean springs to mind!
Again, I apologise for the desperately negative view. If anyone out there can educate me in the error of my opinions, I am more than happy to be corrected ......... please ....... but at the moment, as unpalatable as it may be, I consider that we may be the last remains of a dying breed. :(
Regards
Mark
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On Mon, 30 Jan 2006 20:59:24 -0000, "Mark_Howard"

I can't pick fault with anything you have mentioned above.
Maybe Dave Fenner has also seen the writing on the wall by allowing a fair amount of CNC related projects into the mag over his term, something the other editors didn't seems to take to.
I have grand children who wander into the workshop on visits but nothing attracts their attention as much as the CNC mill working away on it's own.
By writing his name on a piece of graph paper my grandson has grasped the basics of how G code works, just a list of point to point commands.
Whilst other countries have cheap labour, manufacturing is lost to us. Design and development of prototypes may be our only salvation in what was the manufacturing industry. I once tried to talk the MD of the CAD package I use to allow an older version to be released as a free cover disk. The idea being to teach the readers to use this package. D.A.G. Browns book on CAD drawing is so open ended, [ I won't use the term generic as that's the name of the old CAD system he uses ] as to be useless. You need to have hands on with A package or not bother.
For some reason or other they didn't seem willing to do this, why I don't know as that version is well dead but could have supplied an upgrade path to future sales.
It wouldn't be a lost cause as many of the drawing in MEW are that poorly drawn as to impossible to read. -- Regards,
John Stevenson Nottingham, England.
Visit the new Model Engineering adverts page at:- http://www.homeworkshop.org.uk /
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John Stevenson wrote:

John, I'm sure the reason is the youngster's familiarity these days with all things computer. Show them a manual lathe or milling machine and there is no link at all. The CNC however with its' logical process is something they can relate to after several years of game playing/internet surfing or picture/video/sound editing. How many youngsters reach the age of 10 without having used some sort of computer for many hours?
I'm not at all sure that this loss of practical interest with the young is restricted just to our interests either. For many years my children were interested in rc model car racing and I became involved in the organisation. When they started 12 years ago it was difficult to get an entry in a field of 140 drivers. When my son stopped 2 years ago to go to university we were lucky to see an entry of 35. Entry fees were much cheaper, cars both cheaper and more available. The kids just did not want to get cold and wet to race rc cars and there is just too much else to do these days. We lost many to the usual (girls, beer, full size cars etc) but also many to more energetic sports, football, mountain bikes, karting and more surprisingly perhaps, many dropped out because they needed to keep up with their studies - not as easy as the papers would have us believe these days. This vast range of activities available also affects the number of youngsters joining each year, at the start at least 20 would join just after Christmas and about 6 or so would stay, later we would be lucky to get 4 with maybe 1 staying.
So, time pressures on the young are much greater than we experienced in our day. By the time they have been to school, computer club, karate, football/netball, scouts/guides, music lessons, after school club (as well as breakfast club) and the hundreds of other activities they can be involved with there is not much of their day left. In 1963 we were given an extra 2 weeks holiday at Christmas because of the bad weather. We became so bored with sledging/snowballing etc that we cleared the road completely and played a 2 day cricket match to pass the time !
Perhaps we shouldn't worry too much about grabbing their attention when young but get them when they are 40 something and the house/family etc are sorted. With these typical lifestyles it is only the retired or truly passionate that has the time for our interest.

Sad to say I totally agree with you.
Ah well everything changes, just hope that when we are almost extinct that our "magic" capabilities doesn't get called "witchcraft". Perhaps we will all end up on the bonfire and I bet we won't burn as well as they used to !!
Regards
Keith
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On 30 Jan 2006 14:40:12 -0800, jontom snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:
<snip>

Possibly that last statement has a ring of truth to it, quite how you expose someone at 40 to something new will be interesting to see.
The hobby is going to change of that there is no doubt. Clubs fail due to lack of members, land and premises being sold etc. Shows could be one of the next to be affected. I Recently did the Ally Pally show and talking to some of the bigger players it became obvious that even though they have massive stocks at the show and seem really busy most actually loose money.
Take the stand prices which go up every year, transport hire, anything from Transit's to 38 ton artic's, fuel, 4 nights of hotel fees at top rates as they know the venue is on, staff wages for 3 or 4, meals, and there isn't much left, if anything. Most only go to show a presence and hand out catalogues and point to web sites where all the real business is done.
If the big 5 were to get together and say no then that show would fold and possibly not be repeated the next year.
Because of the absence of apprenticeship schemes and college training the entry into the hobby is also going to be different. Many start by making their own equipment or at least parts of it but this is where cheque book engineering is going to take over.
Years ago when I was looking for a milling machine, price came top of the list as being recently married and having a small family cash was tight, like most people. Looking around all I could find were Tom Seniors and large industrial machines, neither suitable by size or price. Then I saw the advert for MES's Dore Westbury in kit form and started off down that path. It turned out a nice machine and did me a lot of good. Even though I was lucky to have had a very good apprenticeship it gave me more practical experience.
I later went on to build their boring head and rotary table. Anyone coming into the hobby today can't or won't follow this route, either because the kits aren't available or it's not cost effective to go this way. You can buy a complete running machine, with a plug on, for less than a kit nowdays. In MEW #101 there was an article about making a 4" rotary table from castings. It makes me wonder if anyone does given they are available for about 70.00 complete.
Also looking though a recent copy of MEW one article is so badly drawn and described that it's impossible to build it from the plans. That in itself is enough to put people off. They will read this, see one has been built and assume it's their fault that they can't understand the drawings and not bother.
As I have said before I'm not a model engineer but do they still have beginners sections at the shows?
What about some or all of the big 5 exhibitors giving prizes in different classes as a beginners incentive?
Many of the fine models we see date back to the older days of model engineering where time was more freely available. Many are fathers models being exhibited by sons and don't give a clear indication on how healthy the hobby is today.
Really the whole rub of the matter though is that it's up to the present generation to do more to support the hobby. Attend shows, talk to people, buy from exhibitors, buy the mags etc. This may sound all commercial and cost money but it takes money to keep this moving. In some ways it will get better. Looking round the recent Ally Pally show and talking to people more and more are becoming computer and internet aware. Sorry to say but the old die hard's who have no time for new technology will be gone over the next 10 to 15 years. It's not just age but a frame of mind. I spoke to a guy 73 who's going to have a go at CNC'ing a small mill drill as his eyesight is getting really bad. I hope he gets there but he won't be alone in what he's doing. -- Regards,
John Stevenson Nottingham, England.
Visit the new Model Engineering adverts page at:- http://www.homeworkshop.org.uk /
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John Stevenson wrote:

I suspect that success will depend mainly on how we develop our use of the internet to introduce and display our interest to the interested but uninitiated. Not sure that models are the best intro to this age group, supporting other interests like cars, bikes etc might be more effective. A friend of mine has become interested in a home shop after realising that he is becoming too old and stiff to roar about in the mud on a bike every weekend.

I don't doubt that particularly as the public have become much more demanding. They want space and light to walk round in, they want to be served instantly when they finally make up their mind what to buy, they want to be fed and watered, they want to have a carpark just outside the door and they want to be safe and secure. Forgive my warped sense of hunour and read "want" as "deserve". Of course the organisers want to be rich as well.

I wonder if as people get more trusting of internet sites (if their initial experiences are good) if this will remain a need. At the moment most people want to see, touch and feel the goods before buying (engineers anyway). As we become virtual shoppers will this need reduce?

Not totally sure who the "big 5" are but I went to a local show at Taunton last year organised by the local club in a school, it was enjoyable if fairly quiet and seemed to be supported by a couple of the smaller but well know trade stands. Perhaps an increase of these smaller local shows would be helpful. Might even give local traders (if they still exist) a chance to show their wares without being overshadowed by the "big 5".

Fully agree, it has been the case in my many other interests. doesn't destroy the hobby though but certainly changes the "face" of many clubs. How many clubs and ME societies have used this change coupled with the "insurance issues" excuse to close (and sell of the equipment cheaply) their practical facilities.

This is where todays starter has a great advantage, working machines for the cost of a set of drawings/castings. Today however, he/she rarely has the advantage of taking the project to work for "Fred" to sort out if necessary.

A pity then that many clubs have closed their practical facilities because these with a suitable "mentor" were great places to improve confidence. Evening classes were also a good help here and will be a great loss if they go entirely.

Another issue here is that the standard of most exhibits these days is so high that many potential exhibitors believe that "mines not good enough, no one will want to see it". Perhaps a class for those in the first two years of the interest would encourage them. Prizes would certainly encourage entries but how about an "encouraging (and private) critique for the exhibitor from the judges.

Agreed but I would also say use the facilities like the one we are using now, have your say and join in the debate. The more views that are expressed the more accurate the picture of what is needed will become. The problem as always is that it is difficult to get the "silent majority" to speak. To much passion in modern life not enough common sense.

I certainly agree that it is a possibility and also agree that we should do everything possible to expose the generation replacing us (slowly I hope), to the enjoyment of owning and using a home workshop. Whatever they chose to make/repair in it.
Best regards
KEith
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On 30 Jan 2006 14:40:12 -0800, jontom snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Yet how often have you heard, 'We've nothing to do. That's why were vandalising these cars, terrorising old ladies, etc'?
Russell.
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Russell Eberhardt wrote:

Russell
Yes I agree that excuse is often given, what it actually translates to is "We've nothing to do THAT WE WANT TO DO". Maybe a bit unfair really as my "busy" lifestyle example needs parents who are supportive and encouraging, unfortunately not a "given" these days.
Regards
Keith
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wrote:

My son has a copy of "Pro Desktop" provided by the school to allow the design of a model dragster, from which they produce the actual desing on an CNC machine. The models are CO2 cylinder powered and there is a local schools tournament to find the fastest design. The track is a commercial piece of kit with electronic timing etc. So things are quite so bad, the school does have a Bridgeport type Mill a decent lathe and brazing hearth, though I don't think they have any casting facilities now.
From an electronics point of view, they are equipped (personally) with a circuit simulator from www.crocdilia.com with PCB design and manufacture capability in school. I checked out the rev counter design for my lathe with it - its pretty competent stuff.
There are some pretty good technology things in school going on folks!
Regards
Steve
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On Mon, 30 Jan 2006 20:59:24 -0000, "Mark_Howard"

<snip>
I would call it more of a realistic view rather than a negative one, ditto the comments from Robin and Alastair.
In some ways you can't blame the powers-that-be for shifting the focus away from practical skills - it's a throwaway society, and every new shipment from China brings ever more cheaper ( and better ) goods.
Expanding on the model boat analogy....as a kid I used to build go-carts. Nothing very flashy, just simple push-along jobbies...though I did manage to incorporate a ball race on my steering mech. Thing is, we'd have loved to have been able to bung small motors on these things...but as kids we simply couldn't afford them. Indeed, there weren't that many adults who owned powered lawnmowers - and you never saw scrap mowers at the local tip. These days I buy all my lawnmowers from the tip, and never pay more than a fiver for them. From an economic perspective I'd be mad to spend any sort of time faffing about with a dodgy Briggs & Stratton ( though I often succumb out of sheer bloody-mindedness ) when I could buy a perfectly adequate replacement for a fiver - and I guess that's how kids these days see such things. Why faff about making an engine for a model aircraft when you can buy a bloody good one for 'beer money'?
But then, as pointed out, what's the point in investing time and money in learning skills that have little or no commercial value?
If there's going to be a renaissance for young engineers it's clearly going to be based around the principle of a hobby, and 'hobby' is a word that's never carried that much clout.
But there might be hope. Back in the 80's the secondary schools were almost entirely purged of music tuition. Some soulless bod decided that it wasn't that important a subject and wiped out the infrastructure. Now though there's a general recognition that music ( and the arts ) is important - if only from a social perspective. Perhaps one day someone will come up with the idea that practical skills are just as important?
Regards,
--
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
http://www.shwoodwind.co.uk
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