Thursday, May 3, 2012

Machine Shop

This picture shows a machine shop class in 1899. The children are being taught metal fabrication.

I really believe that most four year college degrees are becoming fairly worthless. If you are not going to go into medicine, engineering, law, or accounting, you might very well be wasting your time at a university. More and more I am suggesting that students consider vocational school. The solid high paying jobs these days are for diesel mechanics, metal fabricators, welders and instrumentation technicians. I even read a report that the most straightforward path to a $100,000 a year job was to be a plumber. I think there is still a stigma associated with trade school, as if it is "beneath" people, but I think that as more and more college graduates move home because they can not find a job, people will eventually catch on that the cool thing to do is to work with your hands.


  1. See the overhead belts that drive everthing. They are being driven by things like Tuesday's Corless engine.
    It is kind of neat that you have one main power source and it is distributated though out the plant by a series of leather belts

  2. 100K a year is optimistic although plumbers are among the best paid construction workers. One of my sons, who is studying to be a minister, said he needed an occupation. He cites St. Paul who was a tentmaker. He studied to be a CNC operator and just landed his first job. His new job is the modern day version of what is in today's picture. A CNC operator writes the computer specifications, sets up, and supplies materials for computer operated routers. It is both mental and physical work, as befits the modern trades person.

    As a person of the "old school" I've noticed that modern tastes are rather two dimensional. All that matters to many people is appearances, not solid construction, not real wood, not a fine finish. My most loyal customers have some sort of link with the past - a grandfather, aunt or uncle, who worked with his (or her) hands - somebody who inspired because of the respect they gave to their materials.

    This respect has not disappeared but seems to be falling from our consciousness as a culture. More and more of my customers are older folks who remember and are willing to pay for woodworking that is a bit anachronistic, like Colonial or Victorian or Arts and Crafts style woodworking.

  3. If I may I'd like to add something to my commentary above. Here is a link to a very fine video that says everything you'd want to know about the transition from old woodworking to new.

    The thing I'd like to point out is probably typical of all the creative crafts, not just woodworking. In the last century and before, there were always crafts people who had mastered the knowledge of wood - how it is grown, how it is prepared and cut, the best use of grain, etc. These people designed furniture in a very creative way. Most of their projects, are one of a kind. This is a very special thing to do.

    Our creative ancesters were closer to the earth than we are, I think.

    Anyway, enjoy the video. It's very good.

  4. I watched the video from the commenter above, and although the machines used are amazing, I think hand crafted like that of Sam Maloof is still of the highest quality.
    You can see the skill and craftsmanship of the workers finishing the piece beautifully.

    I had machine shop in school, along with woodworking and they were both fun and informative.

    My kids had the opportunity to go to college and decided to enter the working world right out of high school instead.
    I am proud to point out that they are all doing good and advancing themselves nicely.

    Recent news articles have shown the trades are coming back to America from overseas slowly but surely. I hope our younger generation is rteady.

    Thank you for your blog. I enjoy the pictures and comments very much.

  5. I used to work on an old belt driven lathe only we took the belts off and attached an electric motor to it. These lathes were built to last forever. I wonder how many kids caught shards of metal in the eye. Did they have safety glasses back then? There were probably a lot of 1 eyed, 8 fingered machinists back in the day.

  6. PJM,your comment about the worth of a college degree is certainly on point. I just read a study of college graduates from the year 2011. The claim is that 1 out of 2 2011 graduates are either unemployed, or underemployed. "Underemplyed" is defined as working at such jobs as waiters or waitresses, bar tenders, receptionists, or store sales clerks. They used to say that if you want to get ahead you need a college degree. That's far from the truth in these times.

  7. "They" can't outsource jobs like "Plumbers" and "Car Mechanics". Those sort of folks actually have to "be here."

  8. Can I keep the OLD interface??? I really like it better!!!

  9. I just remembered when I started working in 1971-73,the wage was $2.35!!! Thank you.

  10. PJM:

    You hit the nail right on the head (no pun intended). Despite what the crooks who publish the SATs will tell you, not everyone needs to go a traditional 4-year college. And we are experiencing a lack of skilled tradesmen in this country.

    There is only one career category that you forgot to include those that DO require a college degree- teaching. Other than that, I agree.

    Hopefully the stigma associated with trade schools will slowly fade. Some of the wealthiest and most successful people I know are involved in trades and did not receive (or pursue) a traditional college degree.

    Re plumbers, the average hourly rate for a licensed master plumber in my area is $150 to $250 an hour, so do the math. Also, I graduated from college in the 1970s with an absolutely useless degree (Engish Lit with no teaching endorsement); and ended up working in a grocery store for years before going back to school twice before becoming qualified to do something productive.

    Therefore, I e refused to allow my daughter to make the same mistake - I told her that we would only pay or college if she chose a specific career that required a license - such as teacher, doctor, lawyer, PT, OT, nurse, or even being a hairdresser would have been OK.

    But . . . I refused to pay for any useless degrees such as History, Women's Studies, Art History, Holocaust Studes, Theater Arts, Philosphy, Historical Preservation, etc. etc.

    If she wanted to do any of that, she was on her own.