Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where am I and why am in the handbasket?

I'm going to bitch some about the piss-poor state of American manufacturing (But we're moving toward more of a "service economy"; double-speak for "a shit job for everyone.)
But first, this little jewel.

Yes, yes... that dumbfuck actually shot himself practicing his quick-draw. What a fucking moron.
Georgie the always opinionated but often wrong thought someone else had superior wisdom on the subject so, on behalf of the Ogre, he covered this today.
Now, if you don't want to bother reading the Og's take (the Og's friend's take) on it, I don't blame you.
I can tell you this one thing that the oracle spake: the dimbulb pictured posted the video as a "warning".
Could ya die!!!?
And... wait for it... he was "training"!
No... He was pretending.
Global stupidity on display because he not only shot himself but he posted the video!
But seriously, heed the warning kids:
Don't be a dumbass and shoot your stupid self in the leg. And if so - never, ever tell anyone.
What a fucking maroon.
Okay, the stupid will continue without our ridicule so let's get cracking.
To the left; isn't that just the prettiest thing? But it's not a Colt.
Colt, in their infinite wisdom, quit making their signature arm, the 1873 Single Action Army sometime during the forties.
Just wasn't relevant anymore, I guess.
But - in the mass-market entertainment world of the fifties, westerns became popular, first on radio ("Gunsmoke" started as a radio show - with "Floyd the barber" playing doc Adams) later on TV.
"Gunsmoke" was my Dad's favorite show - and mine too. I remember being way excited when they went to hour-long episodes.
Here's the introduction Marion Robert Morrison provided for the first episode:

Good evening. My name's Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before; I hope so. I've been kicking around Hollywood a long time. I've made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds, and some of them have been Westerns. And that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight: a Western—a new TV show called Gunsmoke. No, I'm not in it. I wish I were, though, because I think it's the best thing of its kind that's come along, and I hope you'll agree with me; it's honest, it's adult, it's realistic. When I first heard about the show Gunsmoke, I knew there was only one man to play in it: James Arness. He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you, but I've worked with him and I predict he'll be a big star. So you might as well get used to him, like you've had to get used to me! And now I'm proud to present my friend Jim Arness in Gunsmoke.


A brief aside, then I'll get to my rant:
James Arness died recently - just a few months ago.
He earned a Bronze Star and was wounded at Anzio. You'll find him here - second row down and kitty-corner from my Dad who would pee his pants if he knew that he and Marshal Dillon were that close - both on a web page and in Italy.

Now, Okay. Now, how boss is that?
And hey, guy in the video; that's how it's done.
Bad news: the pistol that the good Marshal uses to take out the bad guy isn't a Colt.
He's firing a Great Western (Now defunct -sadly).
Yes, Colt couldn't be bothered making such antiquated shite at the time.
Later, the task was taken up by those clever Italians.
Pietta (Maker of my 1851 Navy - they're supposed to be better on the black powder stuff.) and Uberti being the top two.
Uberti manufactured the top-pictured beauty - assembled by Beretta.
Now, my "spaghetti western" cost me a bit strong of the four-hundred mark.
But, for just that same amount - tripled (roughly) - I could have bought a genuine Colt.
Seriously, even though the modern Colt SAA's (They finally pulled their heads out and started making them again) seem to have serious functioning problems right out of the box, plus the fact that they cost well over a thousand, should be offset by the cachet gained by having an old, respected arms-maker's name on the piece. Don't ya think?
I mean, shouldn't it? Colt. What's more respectable than that?
Well shit. Mine only says Beretta, oldest gunmaker (1526) and oldest corporation in the world.
I think... I'll see your Colt and raise you a Beretta.
Okay. Now we're all going to take a deep breath, find our center, and move onto the topic at hand - and an even better example of that corporate American credo: Hey, there's my ass. I'll bet I can fit my head in there:
Hand planes.
Now, I've waxed tedious on this subject before so you'll have to... I don't know... handle it.In case you haven't met, this is my co-worker G. E. Reeve.
He's a Stanley, Bailey-pattern, #4 smoothing plane, made just about a-hundred-and-fifteen years ago.
He, along with his bigger/younger brother, a Stanley #26 (post 1902 - pre 1915), are working for me diligently - almost every day.

These tools were made during the time when America was an industrial giant - with good reason.
We couldn't match the fine craftsmanship that centuries of tradition and long apprenticeships in Europe provided.
That being the end product of centuries of guild-enforced apprenticeship rules,.
That system made everything expensive but of very high quality.
Case in point: the British, infill plane pictured to the left. These tools, manufactured by Spiers, Norris and others were the Cadillacs of hand planes - Rolls-Royces rather.
And, pricey.
Back in the day, circa 1900, a number four like Mr. Reeve went for around $2.50 - $65-ish - nowadays while the Brit planes sold for five to six times more.
They were better - in their way.They fit with the European way of doing things and, with their heavy irons and tiny mouths (I'll leave you non-woodworkers to puzzle that out) they could reliably plane the most ridiculously figured wood you could throw under them. Thus fitting the European aesthetic.
We brash Yanks, however; didn't have a vast cadre of hyper-skilled craftsmen producing super tools so we went with what we had.
And that was: A large labor-force, lots of raw-materials and incentive to innovate.
That alone was our strength.
We weren't smarter, stronger, better-looking - we just had a unique set of circumstances to start from.
Names that no one remembers anymore, like Elisha Root (Who,for my money made Colt) and Thomas Blanchard were the heros.
You partake of Blanchard's genius anytime you have a key duplicated and - no, that's not what he invented.
The principle used in the key machine is the same as that used by his revolutionary lathe.
There's one above.
1940's - more than a century after its invention - cranking out stocks for the M1 Garand at Springfield Armory.
What his lathe did was automate the tedious, skilled carving of rifle stocks. It could rough one out minutes rather than hours.

Above is his original (patent 1819), still at the Springfield Armory.
Other folks like John Hall, designer of America's first breech-loading rifle - and guy who actually did pull off the concept of interchangeable part (Fuck you, Eli Whitney) or Leonard Bailey, designer of the adjusting mechanism used in both my museum pieces pictured above - and, thanks to the sale of his patent to Stanley energized the company that is now most famous for garage-door openers.
The corporate fucks, in deference to their primary product, stockholder satisfaction, have made it so America produces nothing compared to what it used to - nothing of value anyway.
Stanley still produces the product that built the company, hand planes. It's just that they're crap.
Now, some modern folks are going against the America-made-means-it's-shit ethic.
Lie-Neilson for one. You can get their modern version of G. E, Reeve for just ... coupla Benjamins and change. Or you can go the long dollar and get it cast in silicon bronze!
Isn't that special. Here's the news: when this outfit started all their planes were silicon bronze.
Why? It's way easier to cast than iron - a bit more expensive - maybe five dollars a unit.
And for that you get to pay fifty more. it does sound cool though.
But that isn't the only place where you can overpay for a product that was run-on-the-mill less than a century ago. There's also Lee Valley Tools.
I'm not dissing on the boutique tool-makers. I'm sure that they make quality stuff. It just seems that they're/we're missing the point.
Quality can/should be a standard - not just the lowest common denominator to sell products and keep those shareholders happy.
But, fear not. Stanley, following the day-late-dollar-short lead of Colt, is making a "Premium line" of planes.
By all accounts they're shit as well - but expensive... therefore Premium.
And made in Mexico. Now that's how an American company behaves!
Okay, the hour draws late and I still have fun to be made of the Og but it will have to wait.
I will leave you with this:
For quality tools at reasonable prices, go to flea markets, pawn shops, this place.
And, if you're a woodworking geek - all you ever wanted to know about what Stanley manufactured before they went to shit can be found at Patrick Leach's site "Patricks's Blood and Gore".
He wrote the book on anorak.

2 comments:

Andy said...

Good post Dan. But you forgot to mention that it was the HOLSTER's fault. Stupid Serpa
When we get you up here to shoot, I'll have to show off my planes as well!
What happened to all the badass Bowie pics? You waxing humble?

Dan brock said...

"Waxing humble?"
Homie don't play that way.
Just say when. I love looking at old tools, guns and the like.
Just traded for a M/N 91/30 but haven't shot it yet.

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