Also, hand-made isn't fighting against capitalism, it's fighting against mass-production, sweat-shops and machine-people jobs like the ones portrayed on Chaplin's City Lights or even Discovery Channel's How It's Made.
Tim Harford wrote about this: http://timharford.com/2008/04/business-life-fair-trade-or-fo...
In some cases, he says, fair trade is 10X the margin!
Fair trade exists to segment the market and collect more consumer surplus (more than it exists to improve conditions).
Fair-trade coffees are also subject to adverse selection. The really good beans can be sold to coffee fanatics on their own merits, at a price above generic fair-trade costs, leaving the inferior beans to be branded fair-trade.
This isn't to say Fair Trade is evil, just that it's... limited and has a few issues, and it's probably better these were discussed rather than covered up in the name of promoting an abstract unspecified good which may or may not actually justify the price premium. You may get better results by buying normal and giving the savings away.
Kinda like beating people up and then paying their hospital bills? Nice.
... Sorry. Cause-and-effect doesn't actually work that way. A facile equation of non-fair-trade spending and employee abuse does not meaningfully contribute to understanding or remediation of the many and varied problems facing the many and varied nations of the developing world today.
Please. Can't you come up with a more meaningful, nuanced critique? The third world deserves it.
and stop being a prick
>coffee farms certified by the experts at Fair Trade, who always thoroughly research and monitor every operation and all sales of fair trade coffee //
Research it yourself; and that's the Fairtrade mark (I've not personally researched other fair trade certifying bodies). I did. What I found was a rigorous system of monitoring. Once a firm has been well established and proven to be providing the proper care to their employees, providing safety equipment for example, I think they only send a person to inspect every 3 years - but, like I said that's after a long history of passing the rigorous testing.
Never any abuse? Doubtful, there's abuse in countries with strict labour laws that obviates (or should) the need for fair trade certification.
So then we come back to my metaphor (you understand the term and function presumably, even though you used it as a direct statement). I don't see why buying a chocolate bar should have me being part of a supply chain that includes child/slave/below poverty labour and abuse of the workforce (like spraying crops with pesticides when workers are working on them). Nor do I feel that we're in such a state of poverty as a species that we need people to be worked hard without access to sufficient funds to cover basic health and education needs.
So, you feel Fairtrade fails? That we shouldn't support people working out of poverty by preventing multinationals working for us from offering below subsistence prices for crops? That we should exclude people from getting educated and staying healthy in the name of greater profits for wealthy capitalists?
You appear to be worked up about my metaphor being imperfect; I couldn't care less about the metaphor. From everything I've seen Fairtrade works.
I've seen it before, it amazes me really, that HN has railed so hard against those that are trying to outlaw exploitative labour practices. Perhaps there are too many people here making a profit off electronics put together in Asian factories by underage workers who eke out their existence living amongst toxic chemicals working hard every day to remain in poverty?
There is of course a benefit to the producer as well, in the form of a fair price.
I imagine most of the factory workers on "How It's Made" rather like their jobs. They all seem to take pride in what they produce.
And it's quite something to claim the sense of smugness some people feel is a bigger deal than higher prices for farmers!
Humans are instinctive, not as much as other animals, but still quite a bit. This is no way news. That we are driven by all kind of social trends, rather than pure reason is also damn old hat.
I think I sense of superiority was one of the main arguments behind buy fair trade. So f-ing what!??!? If it gets 3rd world farmers higher prices for the same or safer labor, then seriously so what?
Get off your astronomically high horse people.
> And it's quite something to claim the sense of smugness some people feel is a bigger deal than higher prices for farmers!
Whoa, please be calm. I didn't say either of those things.
I merely said the the main benefit to the consumer is X, and the main benefit to the producer is Y. I never said anything about the relative importance of X or Y. Of course, the key thing is that the farmers get a fair price.
The mapleoin post seemed to miss patio11's implicit point that there is a benefit to the consumer. That's all I was responding to. patio11 didn't get it backwards, he was just making a point from the consumer's point of view.
As a consumer of fairly traded goods this is the main benefit to me; that my purchases aren't forcing other people in to abject poverty, uneducation and poor health.
FWIW in the UK nearly all major supermarkets have own-brand Fairtrade marked coffee (for example) and there are Fairtrade coffees at a wide range of prices.
Yes bastard capitalists try to leverage people wanting to do right by their fellow man for profit but when fair trade becomes pervasive they are no more able to do this than with regular coffees now. That is when requiring that workers are fairly paid for their labour and protected from dangerous working conditions is considered part of the product (as it is for goods made in Europe say), as much as a packet is, then it becomes harder for middlemen to leverage this moral position to increase shelf prices.
Does Fair Trade really benefit all of the producers in the third-world? What are the side effects of Fair Trade? I think you could postulate that it drives down conventional coffee farmer's profits, since non-fair trade coffee will try and compete on price.
Wouldn't this lead to lower wages and higher poverty for the majority of the farmers?
I have no data to back this up. Anyone know any facts about this and care to share?
I think you mean "Modern Times".
I ask because saying that the suicide rate is lower at Foxconn than in China as a whole is a much more convincing argument and I would like to be able to use it confidently in the future!
Foxconn has ~1 million workers http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/ff_joelinchina/all/1 Although the company disputes some cases, evidence gathered from news reports and other sources indicates that 17 Foxconn workers have killed themselves in the past half decade. Or 17/5 = 3.4 per year per million people. You can play with the numbers several ways but it works out to less than 5% the suicide rate for China. Not that everyone is going to suicide at work, but having a job is probably cuts down the rate by a lot.
That's capitalism. To be more specific, those are inevitable effects of capitalism.
I'm not sure why people have this notion that we can only take the good parts of capitalism and leave out the bad parts. It seems this is what you're suggesting--but how would we do that? Because when you do, you're most likely making the economy _less_ capitalist, and more of a mixed market economy.
Seems that what you call a mixed market economy is exactly what I meant. It worked for a long time for quite a few countries here in Europe, until "free market" was suddenly considered a panacea for everything according to the ones in power. Before we got to the casino-economy of today...
That said, a free market is capitalism at its purest, and in a free market, we'll get sweatshops and the like (which are very sought-after jobs in developing countries).
I guess my point is: semantics matter. If we want to push back against these effects, I think it's important to realize we're actually pushing ourselves away from capitalism and more towards a mixed market economy, which is a good thing in my judgement. But we shouldn't see a mixed market economy and call it capitalism, because they're not the same thing--mixed market economies attempt to mitigate capitalism's negative effects.
I'm always wary whenever anyone says "That's the effect of capitalism", since Karl Marx thought that global socialism was the inevitable effects of capitalism. So which is it? Global socialism or expoiltative labour?
I haven't actually used this guy's knives. But I've used cheap knives and I've cut myself on cheap, dull knives that don't hold their edge. And I've used moderately expensive knives. It's night and day. Cheap knives just aren't functionally equivalent.
The same can be said about coffee, chocolate and other fair trade stuff. Ground Maxwell coffee that comes in a can might be functionally equivalent to Intelligentsia beans at the task of "deliver caffeine in a hot liquid form", but that doesn't mean the Intelligentsia is more expensive just because rich people want to feel superior to people who drink Maxwell. It's in part because the Intelligentsia is less efficiently produced that it tastes better. And as far as I understand it, the Maxwell coffee is being produced in such a way that the true cost (to the workers, to the land) is not actually incorporated.
But even allowing for that: there are extremely good mass-produced stamped "cheap" knives. Cooks Illustrated's favorite knife is a stamped Victorinox you can get for like $35.
Let's not pretend that there is really a crisis of mass-produced crappy knives that requires a hand-crafted antidote. There is real value to what this guy does --- I'm drooling over the idea of having a 10" chef's knife done to spec --- but really the western world pretty much has the problem of "how to make a good cost-effective chef's knife" licked.
That being said, I still think patio11's characterization is a bit unfair, and I stand by what I was saying about coffee.
I have a set of good German knives too, and I reach for them when a softer, less brittle edge is needed, such as when dealing with bones or partially frozen stuff. They're still very, very good, but it would be easy to tell blindfolded which is which.
My butcher uses a "crappy" mass produced stamped knife.
To a large extent I think these are fetish objects. Don't get me wrong: they are freaking cool and I want one.
You might consider picking up something like this <http://www.watanabeblade.com/english/standard/kuronakkiri.ht...; to see the difference without breaking the bank.
Home cooks don't need to be able to produce a perfect dice. Line cooks do. Line cooks don't tend to use $400 knives. That's telling.
They are incredibly sharp - you can cut a loaf of very soft bread without squishing it at all - and no crumbs either.
Ceramic knives have a bunch of downsides; they're even more high-maintenance than $500 custom steel knives.
I never did before - but now I do. It really does cut better than a serrated. It also gives the bread an interesting very smooth texture on the cut.
Ceramic knives don't need maintenance. I don't do anything at all to them, except you have to be very careful not to bang them on anything - a good cutting board is essential. And never drop them or pry with them - they are brittle. (So I wouldn't use them to separate frozen items, or on bones.)
Mine have some knick on the edge - it doesn't hurt the cutting ability, but I figure once I have too many of those I'd either have to resharpen, or just buy them again. A $15 knife every year or two is not that expensive.
If you haven't tried them you should.
Endless arguments have been had over Apple computers vs. "functionally equivalent" computers for far lower costs ... funny thing is, it's Apple that has achieved "most valuable company worldwide period" status, showing customers see something superior in addition to the standard simplistic comparison charts.
Ditto cars. For years I wondered "what is it about BMWs and other German cars? ok, they're built nice, but really - why?" Then I drove a Mercedes on the Autobahn. Sometimes you just can't quantify in simple charts the difference between "can do" vs. "excellent" - but customers demand and pay for it.
Coffee? Snob here. Haven't gone so far as roasting my own, but have gone thru endless varieties, roasts, and makers to settle on palatable superiority.
Beer? No, it's NOT an acquired taste. Bavarian brews bought & imbibed in Bavaria are 100x better than the canned swill here.
But of course, the cheap & premium stuff are considered "functionally equivalent" by the rabble. Let them be content in their ignorance.
But, Apple made most of their recent profit and revenue from sales of gadgets like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, so Apple as a "computer company" does not really support your point. (See http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/10/despite-record-mac... )
While German friends are proud of their beer, they love American microbrews and practically survive on the stuff whenever they visit the US.
I know Alton Brown thinks Bud is excellent with sushi
Budweiser has rice in it. So what? So do Asahi and Kirin of Japan, Bintang of Indonesia and Efes of Turkey, and nobody has such a hate on about them. Lots of the people who claim to hate Budweiser will out of the same mouth discourse long and pretentious about the merits of sake. Rice is a perfectly sensible bulk grain to make beer out of if you want a light lager, particularly in countries like America which grow a protein-rich strain of barley. Plenty of real ale types will maintain that Anheuser-Busch uses rice in its brewing in order to save money, which shows a worrying lack of curiosity, as anyone making this argument can’t possibly have looked at the price of rice and the price of barley. Adolphus Busch in 1876 was a German master brewer of exactly the sort that beer nuts go gooey over, he was trying to make a high quality beer (as proved by Budweiser’s use of expensive Saaz hops), and he decided that the best way to brew a lager was to use rice.
I'm not saying it makes the beer worse. I'm saying I can't imagine rice being used in 1800's Germany in beer.
Note: I buy organic food, but I try and verify it's a bettor product before it's a habit. Otherwise it's vary easy to spend more money on something you like less.
That's true, but when it comes to coffee, in my experience the two overlap a lot.
Or more generally beware of the hype cycle. It starts with people that believe in the product and add quality in areas that are important but less noticeable. Then get's taken over by people that find out they can increase their markup by ticking off some check boxes. Until, all those hidden values are lost and all your left with is the minimum required to pass the test.
Well with knives the trade off is sharpness vs how often you have to sharpen. Harder steel will "hold the edge" and require sharpening less often. But to get a truly sharp edge you have to use softer steel and be willing to hone and strop frequently.
The good soft steel in high quality knives is also not stainless. You get black and orange rust streaks. I'm sure this presents a marketing problem.
I suppose the easy way to buy from him and not feel like an asshole is to appreciate the passion and love that goes into the work he does.
Especially the way it's portrayed by the video, and especially with knives, there's this "this is a Hattori Hanzo sword" feeling attached to it.
If you're in the business of fighting other people with swords, a Hattori Hanzo is likely a good thing to have.
If you are a professional chef or butcher, or a passionate hobby cook, owning one of these knives may provide you with more value than a regular knife. Which side of your opposite judgements someone falls on, to me depends very much on what they use the knife for.
Nah, I think you're extrapolating to far. It's just a connoisseur mentality -- the same as for wine, scotch, guns, etc. It can be annoying, it's often untrue, but it taps into the same desire to be self-righteous that's buried in your post, and many of our day-to-day actions.
Please don't interpret the previous sentence / paragraph to mean "you're self righteous!" in the usual insulting conversational sense. I think it's a widespread human desire. I.e. I often bristle at someone's behaviour and am about to school them before I thoroughly understand the situation.
Actually guns are an outlier -- many arms manufacturers use the language of authenticity, but then mass-produce their products.
There may be a little touch of unconscious racism re: China, but that's a society-wide thing, not some defect / choice of these craftspeople. I.e. there was a time when goods manufactured in China were crap. Now they're not, but the bias remains.
I don't know any makers personally, but I do belong to the same blacksmithing club as a guy who deals in authentically custom guns and knives: http://www.hallowellco.com/
I'm not a collector, but I love to go look at the pictures.
Long guns are all over the map, with all manner of fancy inlaid double shotguns appealing to the Anglophiles, and a thriving cottage industry of long-range precision rifle smiths.
And then the whole cottage or even at-home industry of custom loaded ammunition for extreme range shooting. Using factory components (although sometimes custom turned bullets made out of solid alloys), but selected and assembled to spec.
I think it's much the same sort of mindset as the folks who who like to customize their vehicles. In some cases, it's the same people, but if my relatives are any indication the overlap between those two circles isn't that high.
TL;DR: I buy handmade saws because they are demonstrably superior.
Time was you could not buy a quality Western saw new for love or money. And by "time was" I mean "as recently as six to ten years ago". Independence Tools were the first people since the 40s, probably earlier, to make a dovetail saw worth using and that was in 1996 or so; if you wanted a full sized hand saw pretty much only the Lynx/Pax brands existed and as an owner of three of those let me tell you they do not come ready to use (think re-setting, resharpening, and making the handle comfortable to use).
Most people working in the western tradition used their grandfather's factory made saws, which despite being factory made required extensive hand work to e.g. get the taper grind right.
Relatively recently it has become possible to buy a very good mass produced dovetail/small carcasse saw from Lee Valley. But those saws aren't very old, and nearly everyone else in the industry (and it is an industry now, albeit a small one; I can't even remember all the small-factory superb saws made now. At least a dozen different marques) does it basically the way Disston and its competitors used to; skilled artisans.
It would not surprise me in the least to learn that cheap factory made knives have bad handles, bad balance, bad steel and a bad grind, and any one of those things can screw up a knife you are using all day every day.
There's a legitimate joy to take in using competently hand-crafted chef's knife, particularly if you can have it made to a specification.
But a lot of the "best" knives sold really are status symbols (like the "best" of everything sold). Real pro kitchens don't always reach for the "best" stuff, since pro kitchens abuse their kit. Bourdain's sous talked about treating his Global knives as disposable.
Also the definition of "sharp" relevant in a kitchen is very different from the definition of "sharp" used in, say, a woodworking context; using a woodworking chisel on a tomato will actually squash it because the edge isn't serrated enough to tear the skin. But for certain applications precision and balance really matter and professionals will, in my experience, gravitate toward "good but replaceable" tools for that application and use them to death. As an example I know a butcher's daughter who waxes rhapsodic on her father's insistence on keeping his (carbon steel and meticulously prepared and put away) knives razor sharp at all times but especially right before he was about to make even the simplest cut. Said knives looked like bananas by the end of their lifespan, having been sharpened to the maximal extent.
On the knife front, I use some cheap carbon steel French knives called Opinel. They're excellent, except for their penchant for rusting (not a huge issue, it wipes away, they just don't stay shiny). I would assume that they're factory made, given that they're less than $10. I think they use the same design they've been using for 100 years.
The definitive history of the decline and rise in tool manufacturing has yet to be written, but I certainly think the widespread adoption of modern stick framing practices in conjunction with portable power tools has led directly to a sharp decline in the skill of a modern carpenter. The looks I get when I sharpen a chisel acceptably are really surprising to me, and my grandfather worked as a finish carpenter after WWII and considered these skills important. For some reason hand skills in professional carpenters never seems to have experienced this sharp decline in Japan.
 A chisel is a bar of metal with a wedge at the tip and a handle. You'd think it would be pretty hard to screw up, but you underestimate the ingenuity of idiots. From using the wrong steel, to forging it wrong, to hardening it wrong, to grinding it wrong, to putting the handle on crooked, any and sometimes all of these have been spotted in the wild. I would no more use a department store chisel for woodworking than I would use a screwdriver as a drill.
The knife maker in the video actually stated that one reason he targeted the professional kitchen workers was that he wanted his products to be used and not just stuffed in a show case some where. You could add this in to "validation" but I think it misses the point here, given that he was equally encouraged that people loved his knives even if they bought them to be show pieces.
Making something that helps someone else to be productive is a great thing.
Happiness and liberty, for Marx, are about deliberately creating our material world. That is, every man is equally free to shape the conditions in which he lives (so far, presumably, as he is physically able). Capitalism, for Marx, undermines this by alienating the labourer from his product (the product is owned not by him, but by his employer) and through the continual growth of capital. To gloss over some important details to get to the point, this means: labourers are really and truly enslaved to their labour, which precludes the free use of that labour to shape their world, while the capitalists are enslaved to profit and so can only shape the world (or cause it to be shaped by their labourers) in so far as it grows their capital.
As a complementary result, Marx's ideal of communism has this desirable peculiarity about the relationship of labourer and labour: the product of labour becomes the true, free expression of the labourer's self.
I'd say Mr. Bukiewicz is doing his best, under the capitalist mode of production, to make his work an expression of himself: he even calls his knives art.
Read the about section of Made by Hand (http://thisismadebyhand.com/about/) and you'll see that they aim precisely to expose instances of production where the relationship between producer and product, and consumer and product, is personal and social—just like Marx always wanted.
(Attentive readers may note that the existence of purely creative work as a legitimate means of subsistence today, and the fact that Joel is able to make overpriced knives for a living, may seem to obviate this impetus for communism. I've heard it suggested that this change in society may be the very reason worldwide communism hasn't yet developed. Look elsewhere for that commentary, I haven't researched it yet. Interesting though, right?)
Not liking it doesn't make you a Marxist but just somebody who happens not to like this kind of stuff.
Sure there are trends clothing, knife brands, and almost every other good comes in and out fashion, but isn't that the nature of competition and capitalism? Is this because the wealthy don't want to be seen as using the same thing as the unwashed masses?
In some ways I want to believe you, but I find it unfathomable.
We both agree that certain goods produce a signaling effect. Where I am curious is do the wealthy not like it when the masses get access to good because:
A) They don't deserve them.
B) We have to find new signaling goods.
C) They drive the price of goods higher or lower depending on the supply/demand curve thus manipulating the market for THEIR goods.
That is, when mass produced items are cheap and ubiquitous, unique, authentic, custom, hand-made, etc items, even though they may not be objectively better, will still be more valuable. Their narrative is what imparts the value, since the actual object will have none above the mass-produced version.
You don't get to just stop using your time until you have something in particular you want to use it for. If making something by hand is rewarding to you, and someone else will pay you for it then it's probably a good use of your time.
The first rule of selling knives is: You have to convince people not to make do with the knives they already have. This person is performing that service not just for himself, and not just for his own customers, but indirectly for all knifemakers in the world and their customers.
There are always going to be a handful of folks whose tastes are so particular, or whose fashion is so keen, or who are sufficiently friendly with the owner of the local forge, that they insist on buying knives that are hand-made by local artisans that they've actually met. But all of those customers will show their knives to other people, and praise their awesome qualities. (Some of them will buy the knives to show them to other people.) Even more people, like me, will read about the knives in the media. And most of the people who hear about the awesome-quality knives won't be able to afford the local artisan. So they'll go shopping for not-quite-so-artisinal but still-kinda-awesome knives, and they'll find some at the local upscale kitchen store, perhaps with tasteful German names and a nearly invisible "made in China" sticker on the back. ;)
(Others of us will go to the restaurant supply store because we are "knowledgeable insiders" who hunt for "bargains", and will find somewhat cheaper high-quality knives with the "made in China" sticker on the front. And yet those probably have a decent profit margin, too. My lesson from briefly traveling in China and listening to my Chinese friends laugh at my hilarious bargaining skills is: I have no idea how big the margins are on the stuff I buy in the US.)
Sad as it is to recognize that so much of a Chinese factory's business – not to mention my own tastes – is driven by the convection caused by the movement of rich people who are rushing upscale to demonstrate their distinctive taste, that is the engine by which a lot of consumer marketing works, and I suspect that the Chinese manufacturers themselves know the nature of that game better than anyone.
In this case however, I think buying expensive hand-made knives is a pretty clear case of conspicuous consumption. They're not markedly better in any way over mass-manufactured knives that anyone can afford.
Even if the knife is not better than a mass produced one, as long as the consumer believes they are better off then the consumer gains from the transaction. Perhaps you, as a non-chef, are ignorant of the subtleties of knifes. I use a macbook, and there are sure to be people that wonder why I spend a big premium in price for computer with similar hardware. Why? well, I like quality tools.
It strikes me as attacking the very heart of capitalism by saying that its "an extravagantly wasteful alternative" to a mass produced knife - who are you to decide that? For one thing, this is competition, if mass produced knives are worse than hard crafted, let the market decide that and punish this (awesome) fella for his short production lines and 'inefficient' capital to knives ratio. The price for his knives will reflect how much better (or worse!) they are compared to the 'efficient' mass produced ones, and if he can't work fast enough to make a living, then he moves onto something else. It's sad, but life is about risks.
However, apologies if I have mistaken your point, though you claim that you're in Marxist mode so I'll counter it by being positively capitalistic.
(Not really contradicting you, just thought it was interesting on the "who doesn't want the very best tools?" side)
I love handcrafted goods. I purchase them when I can. I know smiths who make things by hand.
The problem with factories in China is that if China loans our economy money and then becomes the low-cost supplier, all we end up doing is eventually destroying both economies.
I will never be a Marxist. It seems to me that trying to solve the issues which come from corporations being too powerful by concentrating that power still further in the state is a bad idea. The only way it can work is if workers individually are in control of the means of production, not through the national government. A few quasi-Marxists got this point (Wilhelm Reich, for example), but usually it's the domain of third way folks like Belloc who favor free markets and small businesses.
I'd point out also that if we weren't so productive, maybe the government wouldn't eat up 30% of our GDP.....
If you mean free market, yes.
If you mean a system aimed at dividing those who own and run businesses from those who are merely employees, then no.
In other words, it fits some definitions of Capitalist, but it does not include the Capital/Labor divide which is usually a hallmark of Capitalism.
Don't be too down on him: there are many niches where mass production dares not tread (you know this well enough) or the mass produced products are clearly inferior to the handmade ones. Cottage industries have always existed, all that seems to have changed is that they're getting more positive press these days and are now a "Movement."
It's obviously not purely a function of utility. When I watch a professional artist at work, be it a musician or a painter or even a knife maker, it's an inspiring thing. I can't help but support them in whatever it is they're doing. For a brief moment, I remember that I could make literally anything of my life, and I'm inspired. It makes my work more meaningful, that I can use the fruits of my labor to support this other person's passion. The artifacts of that support, be it CDs, chalk drawings, or knives are memories of that inspiration. They are interesting stories.
The appeal for some will be the ability to signal to others that they are wealthy and powerful enough to convince another human to spend hours creating something for them. Perhaps you see this as a demonstration of "social superiority". When this transaction occurs in a voluntary, equal-information context, however, the result is purely virtuous capitalism. Bob can get fulfillment and riches by owning the machinery that mass-produces a good which makes the lives of the general population better. And then he can get additional good feelings by paying Alice 50x more than the cost of his goods for her to spend 20 hours of her time making that same good by hand. No one loses here. The world is 51 knives richer and society continues marching on.
It's easy to get tunnel vision and focus on things from our own world view. You've done amazing things with optimization and I appreciate everything you've given back to the community in the process. But the general goal of humanity is not to maximize efficiency. It is not an injustice when something is less efficient than it could be, in spite of everything our programming career has taught us. The truth is that there is no general goal. Kurt Vonnegut said it best when he said, "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different." I'll end this post with his thoughts:
[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.
Okay this may sound abstract.....when you buy an object which has been crafted to perfection by another artist....you dont just buy the object ....it feels like you almost bought some of that perfection...it feels like maybe it can breathe some perfection into your work!
On a cynical note maybe it makes it easier for you to justify the amount of hard work that you put in perfecting every infinitely minute detail in your work.
It is also comforting to know that there are people out there who value perfection and attention to detail like you.....and when you show them your work they'll see all the hard work you have put into it.
Regarding perfection: machines are much more capable of perfection re: manufacturing than humans. Where I think we get confused is that in the past only corporations had the capital to mass-produce, and they have an incentive to "race to the bottom" in terms of production cost. Although it's not the goal, usually quality suffers as a result. So, we associate mass production with poor quality.
I've been spending a lot of time studying historical armour manufacturing and also rocketry. It's clear to me that the goods manufactured by passionate, talented, (and largely under-capitalized) craftspeople are inferior to what could be made by automation. It's just that they're often superior to what is actually made by cost-cutting automation.
Note: I'm all for people "geeking out" about their interests. As we automate more work, people will need more hobbies.
What is to be the proper center of the economy, the individual human or social equivalent (say, household unit)? Or the machine or social equivalent (corporation, institution, government)?
Personally, I'd rather live in a place where humans and social equivalents were the center rather than where we were at best pieces of a social machine. So maybe there is something to the social superiority of supporting small businesses as much as we humanly can.
That is not true for all goods....I cannot forsee a computer making a better painting than a good human artist in the near future....In fact I cant even forsee a computer understanding what a good painting actually is in the near future...This holds true for music too....In general works of art are (and will be in the near future) better crafted by humans.
But can you please point to me some good books on this subject.I find this topic very interesting.
In the case of knives, a computer could make a copy so exacting that it would be indiscernible from any of the knives this guy produced if given the instruction and materials to do so. The only thing that would give the computer made knives away would be that they would be too perfect (if perfect is measured by how close it falls to the original), while the knives produced by hand will all have inconsistencies because they were made by something that isn't precise to a micrometer.
Speaking of which, that's part of what I think drives the hand-made movement: you're buying something unique. Even if that particular artist made a hundred of them, there are no two exactly alike.
Well there are heuristic approaches...so if a computer could actually determine what a good painting is.....it can keep rearranging the pixels (in a divide and conquer sort of way) to get to a good painting in a finite amount of time.
So I think the problem of making a good painting can be reduced to the problem of determining what a good painting actually is.Now I have read somewhere (dont exactly remeber how) that this is related to the halting problem.
Creating good paintings seems like it should be doable, but take a couple/few decades.
Music should be a lot easier, as music is a much simpler signal than images. I'll probably start with music.
Making maille: http://www.mailleartisans.org/articles/articledisplay.cgi?ke...
Rolling plate armour edges: http://www.ageofarmour.com/education/armour_rolled_edges1.ht...
Armour reading list:
Machine Learning: http://www.ml-class.org/
AI Composer: http://singularityhub.com/2009/10/09/music-created-by-learni...
Unless we manage strong AI, I expect this effort to get stuck in arguments over feature selection.
That's not art! Yes it is! ...
But I understand the appeal of seeing certain items as works of art in their own right, even if the item also has a functional value. Once it is a piece of art first and its function is secondary, I care very much how it was made and by whom.
Check out the other video in this series about a distiller: http://thisismadebyhand.com/film/the_distiller
All in all, this series is really beautiful and really well done. I'm looking forward to what's to come.
The guy in the Distiller doesn't seem to have the same passion as the knife maker. I got the impression that he wanted to do something and thought he could make money as a gin distiller because they didn't exist anymore in his area.
The knife maker, on the other hand, obviously enjoys his craft. I think he will be making knives forever, even if they don't sell as well as they do now.
Edit: it looks like he is using expression engine for the site.
Specifically, reminds me of a skit from Portlandia (IFC) about hand made light bulbs - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P85vZpYF3Yg .
This. I live in a 3rd world country (Brazil) and see a lot of truth in what you say. This film talks about art, not about consistent production of quality.
Take a man with passion, resources, intelligence and immense dedication and he will produce a work of high quality; doesn't matter if it is shoes, painting, engineering, suits or knives.
But it just doesn't scale. You won't find many more people with the same skills. You won't be able to produce as much as 15 robots in Germany. And you also need an extremely up-scale market for your product (NY food scene, in this case). And you also need very efficient marketing (in this case a photographer to introduce him to the chefs community).
Bottom line: this guy is like a panda living in a extremely rare and delicate niche environment. Once the NY food scene vanishes he is toast. Find someone in India or China willing to do the same for 1/10 th of the price and he is toast. Have smarter knife making robots in Germany and he is toast. Any tiny little perturbation can get him out of the market.
There's a reason why industrial revolution succeeded. There's a reason why families of hundreds of years of pottery makers in India are going extinct (lighter, cheaper and uglier plastic bowls). There's a reason why my wife's father gave up on beautiful handmade carpentry. The reason is that ugly but cheap and good enough is what almost everyone wants.
The key word was almost.
Some people are willing to pay much more for something that is hand-made by a craftsman, even when there is something that is as good (or even better!) made by a factory. Their willingness to pay goes up dramatically if the craftsman is well known and signs or stamps his work, and can also go up if the craftsman in some engages directly with the buyers and the buyers can get to know the craftsman. Many value the authenticity and the connection to the craftsman. Some, in the right context, value being able to show the object and say "This was hand-crafted by xxx".
That is why, even though swords hardly ever see practical use anymore and you could get a machine to manufacture a sword to high standards you still have a few skilled craftsmen making a living hand-forging swords. Similarly, you can get software to play Go for free, a cardboard Go-board that works well enough for $25, and a decent bamboo machine-made set for under $100. But there are still plenty of people paying substantially (sometimes very substantially) over $1000 for a hand-carved Goban made of kaya wood.
I do not think this trend will change any time soon.
This is definitely the case for high performance knives. The choice of steel and the geometry of the edge, bevels and belly can be easily customized to fit the specific purpose of the knife. The first couple of knives I have made don't look that great, but since I nailed the heat treat and grind they are the best cutting implements I've ever owned.
What's inspiring about this guy is that he's succeeding by serving a vibrant professional market. The chefs who drop a grand on a couple of his knives are using them in the kitchen to make money. They want the best tools for the job, and everyone wins. It's product/market fit.
So kudos to him.
But don't get so inspired you drop everything to build the most beautiful product in the world believing people will buy it _because_ of how hard you worked on it or how awesome it is.
Yes a mass produced watch (Rolex/Omega/etc) are "better" in the sense that there's no imperfections. And more expensive watches (PP/Lange/etc) than I can afford are also handmade but have no imperfections. At all. They are also massively expensive.
I love handmade stuff and the fact that it's not perfect. You know that there's a human being that with hard work and a lot of talent has produced a work of art.
Now s/watches/knives/ but I don't collect knives.
Also, these knives are quite expensive. I'm not so sure if they are really up there with the handmade japanese knives, seems like theres a bit more to it than just sharpening a piece of hardened stainless? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
I far prefer Global (http://www.global-knife.com/) for mass-produced knives, and Kramer (http://kramerknives.com/) for custom kitchen knives.
I would love to be able to work with my hands in a workshop, learning to make unique and masterful things from a master craftsmanship instead of sitting for 8 hours a day in the office dealing with things so abstract that they disappear when you switch off the electricity.
Yes that used to be the dominant form of production & employment up until ~ 200 years ago. You could bring it back. You might not get enough stuff though.
With that said, I used to go to some of the SCA meetings while I was in college. I met more than one excellent craftsmen that did their crafting on the weekend while maintaining a "normal" job during the week. Some made a decent second income off it.
You can do both.
I do have a long-term plan of starting a small workshop of some kind though.
While creating a piece of software - a functional machine out of pure thought - is somehow just grunt work?
Also, the immediate authenticity I felt by this man and this story is something amazing. Great way to start my day.
Shameless plug: I've tried to start a new stack exchange on blacksmithing here: http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/36172/blacksmithin...
I do a lot of different things with blacksmithing, but I've been really getting into kitchen knives, as well as spoons, ladle, forks, cleavers, etc... I like combining copper work with blacksmithing.
I can't tell you how much I enjoy it. Mostly because I like making functional and unique things. There is a great sense of satisfaction that I just don't get from writing code. Also, blacksmithing uses a wonderful combination of technical ability and visual/artistic skills. Also, it's hard to find good friends and a good community that you feel comfortable in.
That film did a good job of expressing the emotional side of making stuff. It really is just a huge amount of fun. Thanks for posting that.
I hope the handmade movement really takes off. Maybe people could consume less but unique artifacts that have a real story behind them rather than accumulating mountains of mass produced, generic stuff that ends up in a trash heap a couple of years later.
It's more likely that they don't see any reason to spend more than $15. Someone knows they can get a pot that looks OK for $15, whereas the $50 doesn't have any immediately obvious benefit.
I love tools, but I'm far from a tool snob. I have lots of cheap tools because I'm never going to wear out, e.g., a screwdriver. It's worth more to me to have five $3 screwdrivers than a single $15 one. But I just spent $200 on a wire crimping tool because I know that the $15 ones won't do the job right. But if they did, then there is no way I'd buy the more expensive one. Most people are just like that: they won't spend more than they have to unless there is a clear benefit.
That's a matter of perspective. If you cook often and have had an opportunity to use the two, you'll notice a stark contrast; just like you notice the difference with crimpers. The guy spending a weekend to redo his home theater wiring is probably going to opt for the $15 option.
How many people research purchases like pans and wire crimpers in order to gain a proper perspective of where the price vs. quality lines cross, and how many just go to the store and get the one with the prettier package? I think that's where you start to see the trend I mentioned.
I've got expensive pots, but the skillets that I use the most are a $5 teflon/aluminum skillet I got from Loblaws that I replace every 6 months, and a $15 cast iron skillet I got from a flea market that I properly seasoned and I expect to last 100 years.
As far as nonstick properties go, a hard anodized pan will be every bit as nonstick as a cheap Teflon pan, but with the added benefit of not leaching chemicals into your food when it gets scratched. Aluminum pans are also great, provided that you know what you're doing - be sure to get them up to proper heat before adding your oil and/or ingredients, and clean them properly.
The cast iron is a great choice.
On the other hand, cast iron is not a good heat conductor, so I experience much greater heat variation with it unless I let it warm up for quite a while first. The aluminum I can use the instant I put it on the stove. I love it for that.
For example, take toys. There's this store that sells hand made toys around the block from me: http://playing-mantis.com/wooden.htm. Does it make sense for a kid to have 3 plastic toys they'll use for a couple of months and throw away or to buy a handcrafted toy they could keep for life (and even pass on)?
When I talked to the store clerk at Playing Mantis, she said most of their toys don't come from the US but from Germany, Austria and Japan because the craftsmanship is good there.
It's not a pipe dream that this could change - companies like kickstarter and etsy are enabling this move towards story-driven, experiential consumption.
It's the same with most things that are continuously being improved: another poster made the point about cars. Most people don't want a daily driver that's a 30 year-old gas guzzler even if it still runs fine. New cars are more comfortable, cheaper and have lower operating costs.
It's not going to change: people want stuff. The cheaper it is, the more stuff they can have or the less they have to pay for the same amount of stuff.
“Mass produced” is just a bad heuristic for quality.
Besides, do we really want unsafe, gas wasting cars to last forever? Electricity wasting fridges or TVs? Isn't it better to recycle them?
Just for a reality check, let's say a top-quality, handmade, 8" chef's knife runs about $500. Most people consider an $80 mass-produced piece from Henckel or Wusthof to be rather extravagant...
That sounds intoxicating. I would love a dev environment like that with a small team. I have experienced this one time professionally in its truest rawest sense... A small team hacking on fun problems. It was phenomenal, literally hopping out of bed in the morning just to get to the office.
Anyone else experience this before? (not necessarily with dev if you have a good story)
When I was young (and had no money):
- Made origami
- Learned sailors knots
- 3d sculptures of science fiction aircraft from index cards
- Bow and arrows from q-tips and underwear rubber
- Sailboats from 2x4's, coat hangers, plastic garbage bags, and fishing line
- Skateboard ramps (usually bigger than I was capable of using and with
none of the right tools)
- A workbench
- Peg board (hand drilled from scrap wood)
- Dozens of hand drawn replicas of video game/anime art
- Repaired the broken fin of a surfboard purchased at a garage sale (never used)
- Replaced the rear differential on a 80's Mustang
- Removed a motor from an early 90's Camaro
- Built and installed a roll cage in an early 90's Camaro
- Taped and sprayed flames on a fiberglass replica 32 Ford hood
as a demonstration of a new paint line for local body shops
- Completely dismantled the engine of 87 honda civic
- Resurrected an 80's Volvo with 300k miles on it
- Made a functioning 6" cowl induction hood for my 89 SR5 Toyota Corolla
- Teardown of a 52 Chevy Bel Air
- Teardown, body work, and assembly of a split-window Corvette
- And countless others
- Built a marshmallow launcher
- Convinced a big angry muscle man with a knife to my throat not
to hurt me, and steal a keg from a party instead
- Pirated software
- Converted drawings to vector graphics
- Made techno songs
- Made 3d models
- Designed album covers
- Frankenstein'd countless scrap computers
- Documented everything I could about HTML/CSS
- Created custom MySpace themes (and never made a dollar for it)
- Built my profile in Flash to overcome MySpace's limitations
- Hid all of the generated MySpace content (minus comments)
and built my profile from scratch
- Built an engine lift
- Restored a 1987 19' Galaxy boat that I bought
for $200 on CL (engine had collapsed into the floor)
- Bootstrapped a prototype analytics app for the last year (not launched)
- Insulated, ran electrical, and drywalled my garage
- Built a workshop (bench, storage, etc) in the garage of my new house
- Buy/restore/sell furniture on CL
- Built strong/true cabinet from cheap construction grade lumber
- Carved, antiqued, and stained the cabinet to make it not
look like cheap construction grade lumber
- Built a slate sled for moving the 1" thick slate pieces up to the 3rd floor
Our culture has become extremely centered on mechanics, whether social mechanics and processes of businesses or automation of manufacturing, and to make humans again the center of society will take a lot of effort, but I believe it is a worthy task.
Amazing film, very well done.
There's actually one about this same guy from 2008:
Note: Youtube has been improving with respect to the first two.
Also, does it really lock up your whole system?
I can't view it through their website in IE8.
Two kinds of people we're all aware of: logical/rational vs. emotional/creative. That whole left vs. right brain stuff.
Remember, you need to think with both points of view to tackle the big consumer tech problems (where a looooot of the $$$ is) in the coming years... so
Even with bushcraft you start with a knife and axe which are likely manufactured, not handmade.
Here's a start to "Alone In the Wilderness": http://bit.ly/uAcBsD , documenting his work and time spent building a life in Alaska, very much "handmade".