The skills of our fathers.

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"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -Robert A. Heinlein
todd

Nicely put by mr. Heinlein. The renaissance guys called this kind of human being "homo universalis".

Speaking for myself, i'll probably never equal Leonardo Da Vinci, but i'll never give up trying either. And i'm sure i'll keep enjoying it...
 
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I love that thought Jackknife. I live in the country and we have to fix stuff. Now we go and get parts from the hardware store but sometimes you just have a piece of wire and a stick to fix the hole in the fence to stop the sheep getting out before you can find a star picket. I love the idea of being self reliant. Thankyou for the thought.
 

jone

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This is certainly an interesting thread. Before I had my kids I taught 8th grade. I was always amazed at what types of things the kids I taught didn't know how to do for themselves. Skills that seemed second nature to me were foreign to them. In this day and age I do believe technology has been a blessing and a curse. We can certainly accomplish so many things today that we couldn't just five years ago through technology, but it saddens me that many kids don't know proper grammar or how to have a face to face conversation. And improvising - that seems next to impossible. Don't get me wrong - I taught some really amazing kids with great skill sets, but they were the minority. And many kids had little drive or desire to know more and/or do more. A sign of the times? Maybe so.

It's something very foreign to me. I grew up with a Dad who just fixed things and figured out how without googling it. He had tools, knew how to use them and when the right tool wasn't there, he made one with the stuff he had. That's what I thought everyone did. I grew up thinking everyone could change a tire, mow a yard, roof a house, grow and maintain a garden, change a spark plug, paint a house, build a house, use a tape measure, and on and on. Never once did I see my Dad pay someone to do what he could. Never once did I see him stare in frustration because he needed a screwdriver while we were out and he didn't have one - he found another way, or grabbed the toolbox in the trunk. :) My Dad is notorious for rigging stuff in the moment to get through until he could find a more permanent solution. I'll never forget him asking me to move his truck one day. I got it, cranked it up and got ready to roll - only to notice the handle to put it in gear wasn't putting the truck in "Drive". So, coming in through the window was a string. The string had been attached so my Dad could put the truck in gear. Still scratching my head over that one… Later on he fixed it, but that was all he had at the time so he used what he had and made it work. I am glad he passed along some of those skills to me and just hope I can do the same to my kids. We may not be as good at it as he is, but at least we will know how to give it a good try!
 
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My Grandpa grew up in the great depression and he told me "if you could not fix it or build it yourself it never got fixed or built" I took that to heart and learned as many skills as I could. I love being able to fix something instead of having to throw it out and buy a new one.
 
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As was said, every generation complains about the one before it. We do sound like a bunch of old farts here. At almost 59 I got my old fart card years ago. There is something to be said, however, about the values, myths, and culture being lost at such a rapid rate as technology's torrid love affair with capitalism becomes a juggernaut. Our new generation of Borg will bring wonderful things to the table while losing much in the process. It'll be interesting. I'd accept a sci-fi scenario putting my conciousness in a jar just to watch it unfold.

One thing that worries me though, is losing old ways and processes which are the base of all this. Some years back we had the remnants of one of our super hurricanes go through my area and we had widespread power outages lasting about a week. Supermarkets had a lot of spoiled food, there was a run on canned goods and people were on the news freaking out cooking in their back yard on scavenged wood. This was hardly the end of the world as we know it, it was barely a poop hits the fan situation. (no, I'm not a survivalist, yes, I do read) It's a good thing it was not winter.

The point here is that our wonderful technological construct is extremely fragile. The statue we have built has feet of clay.

I'm a machinist myself so that's my perspective. I run a CNC machine now which uses programs and computers and holds tight tolerances just by going there. Years ago, folks built things like steamboats using rudimentary technology. A lathe operator in those days had a cutting tool attached to a big log swinging on hinged steel pieces or even chain. He had to be a big guy to lean on the log and cut steel. He knew tricks and fenagling which enabled him to hold fairly tight tolerances and make machine parts. Mill operators used water power and mills with slop in the table movement and held tenth of a thousanth tolerances. You get the point.

Not only do few people know how to do this anymore. Much of it is not written or recorded anywhere.

In the event of a big (or not so big) breakdown in our society we might not slide back to the early machine age, we might slide back much further.
 
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A man who owned a foreign car repair shop in my hometown wrote an
Editorial to the paper. It told how in our edu. System if you don't do
well in algebra or college prep classes, you are left out
and destined to fail. It went on to say how the same people who
pigeon- hole these "slow" kids take their Volvo to his shop and
These "slow" kids are able to repair it. Sometimes using a computer.
Guys like this make the world go 'round.
 

db

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All generations have their bums and resourceful ones. I’ll admit some generations have a bigger ratio than others but don’t discount this young generation coming up. I’m amazed at the creativeness of my 12 year old and his friends.
 

JustinR

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My mom's dad was born in 1928 and was raised by his mother and older sister on a tobacco farm in Eastern NC during the depression. His father died when he was just a few months old so he had to be the man of the house at a very young age. Served during two wars and was a jack of all trades guy. Mainly a finish carpenter and locksmith after he retired from the military.

Everything I know was mainly due to him. Spent my summers with him traveling to my great grandfather's farm and fixing stuff around the house or assisting him build cabinets for someone or re-key their house or business.


He told me stories that as a young man in his 30's with a couple of kids his uncles and older cousins would give him a hard time about his truck with a/c and an automatic transmission and couldnt understand how a truck would need such amenities. They preferred to use their hand saws and drills .

I think the older generation is consistently disappointed with the youngins running around and changing everything.

There are plenty of kids these days who know their way around a circular saw and can swing a hammer. Here in rural SC more males have a pocket knife clipped in their front pocket or on their belt than dont. It is still a rite of passage for a boy to get his first rifle and I see a lot of kids with cane poles at the local fishing holes.

That is not to say they do not also have a Nintendo 3DS and iphone in their backpack....but they still know how to fish.
 
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Thanks deeply, jackknife....

(mine did the graphite trick too...also Ivory soap on wood screws...)

Your list of lubricants sounds like those I used while a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa. Third World mechanics ("engineers"), carpenters and plumbers often know these special tricks because they do not have access to well-stocked hardware stores or the money to purchase special items. In fact, I sometimes think the USA could use a reverse foreign aid system where Africans, Asians and other people who have been forced to do more with less can come to our country and teach Americans some of the scavenging and repair skills that Jackknife discusses but that are becoming less common today. :D
 
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Some recent exchanges between my self and fellow formumite marcinek, caused me to have some reflective thoughts today. We were talking about our fathers, and it struck me that in many ways they had been very much alike. I think they must have been from about the same or close, in generation, as they had a similar outlook on simple tooks.

I look back at my fathers generation, and I marval at how little they had in the way of techno gear they would carry on an edc basis. So much of what we consider normal, if not manditory, personel gear had not even been invented yet for them. Yet this was the generation that did so much. No cell phones, computers, multitools, jet airliners across whole oceans in just hours. Instead they used slide rules, wrote letters, and had the nesseary patentence to wait for a return letter.

It was interesting that in a day with no multitools, marcinek's dad and mine both carried one of those round keychhain screwdrivers with the four different size bits around the circufrence. I remember watching my dad fix a gummed up reel on a fishing trip once, using his. the reel was old, dirty, and dad took off the side of the reel with his keychain screwdriver and whittled a very pointy probe with his little peanut. Using the point of his stick he scraped out the gunk that was gumming up the gears. But he was not stopping there. He always had a little stub of a pencil in his pocket, as pens in those days leaked and were unreliable, and he scraped the pencil point with his pocket knife till he had a little pile of graphite and lead dust on the cover to the reel. He then used the point of his peanut to pick up and drop the dust on the moving parts of the internals of the reel. It worked very smooth with his make do dry lub on the gears. His round pocket screwdriver put the side plate screws back in, and we fished away. No mirracle spray super lubes from a can, or pocket tool kit. Just some graphite dust and a keychain screw driver, and some inventivness. I was at Sears today, and they still have them for .99 cents. They seem just like my dads, and get this- they still have "Made in U.S.A" on them!

Marcinek's dad had a nail clipper on his keyring with his pocket screwdriver. His dad being a machinist, I strongly suspect that he found it very usefull as a light duty wire cutter, and the nail file on it would handle small phillips screws as easy as the nailfile blade on a sak cadet.

I wonder in these days of super gadjets and techno approach to almost everything, if we are not loosing something in our nature, to atrophy. The ability to improvise and overcome problems and obsticles using just our wits and common sense. I wonder how the next generation is going to handle things if for some reason their cell phone goes dead, the computer crashes, and they have to do something in an emergency?

They called our fathers generation "The Greatest Generation" because of outstanding human achievment. Victory in WW2, harness of the atom, mans venture into space, and much more. But they seemed to do all this with a common sense aproach to things. When I read the book "Yeager.", I recall General Yeager making the point that alot of his best fellow test pilots were guys who grew up working on things. He himself grew up learning to work on the pumps at the natural gas fields his dad worked at. If a washing machine broke, they had to fix it because they could'nt afford a new one too often.

Like marcinek, my dads been gone many, many years now. He was a better man than me. If he had his pocket knife, a keychain screwdriver, and a little something from the stuff in his pockets, it seemed like he could fix darn near anything.

I don't know about this next generation. I hate to think we're living in the time of Romulus Augustus.

And old folks have been saying this about the younger generations for, what, 10,00 years?
 
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Our new generation of Borg will bring wonderful things to the table while losing much in the process.



What you say about old folks and the younger generation is true. However, the fragility of technology unable to repair itself from scratch aside, technology is advancing at a geometrically growing rate. Things which have been memes, cultures, ideas, for years are being lost like never before. Things which have stood the test of those 10,00 years. At the same time, much will be gained as well as lost. I wonder if I will be around to see the singularity if it does in fact shake out that way.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
 
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This thread makes me think of my grandfather. He built his own house and it still stands. I expect it will be passed on to one of my siblings. My maternal grandfather is more of a man in his grave than I am today. He died when I was only twelve years old. I remember very little of what he said except maybe save every penny you get. Something I am woefully neglectful to do. My father has a basic understanding of plumbing, wiring and carpentry. But these is not what he enjoys doing and since I had little interest in anything but a video game, when I was a child, I learned very little of what he knows. This all changed a couple of years ago. A couple of VERY strange events and I became interested in getting a sharp pocket knife. But that won't happen yet. Then I had a lark to get an Ontario machete but it came pitifully dull. I had no idea how to sharpen or even what to use. An neighbor of mine, a former firefighter, got me started with a bastard file. After I got the machete "sharp to me" I wondered if maybe I could get that sharp pocket knife. I gained an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of basic things, things that I didn't know. My has it been an interesting ride since then. I have rebuilt the carb on a weedeater, reground damaged traditional blades, sharpened several machetes/garden tools with a file, began trying to do some very basic woodwork, and most importantly, discovered what a joy it is to do things with your hands. Someday, I want to get into a trade. IDK what yet but carpentry is high on my list. But I am not anything like the man I thought I would be. I don't completely reject tech. I have some of the highest tech knowledge in my current job, probably because my brother is a computer whiz. Yet I don't find myself attracted to it. I use it to answer most of my questions because I usually don't know anyone who can answer my questions. So, I can say I would not be the man I am today without technology and Bladeforums both. And my parents who taught me RESPECT your elders. I finally know why too. My elders are SMARTER than me.
 
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All generations have their bums and resourceful ones. I’ll admit some generations have a bigger ratio than others but don’t discount this young generation coming up. I’m amazed at the creativeness of my 12 year old and his friends.

I respectfully disagree with those that think it is a parents place to teach all those fixin' things to their children. Many parents do not have the skills to pass on.

I feel "the fixer" has been and remains more a personality trait than anything else.

My father and mother were excellent parents and taught me a lot of things, including the differences in right and wrong. Neither of them were good at fixin' things. Neither was my grandfather, but, he was a heck of a telephone repair linesman. My Uncle Joe was a farmer and he was always fixin' things - maybe that was the connection between us and why I respected him so much.

I am sixty years old this year and in my area, I have quite a few men that live nearby, my age and older. Very few of them fix things - they ask me how a lot of times or they call someone.

I was always interested in how to fix things and read books, bought books like "How to fix most anything" before the computer age. If I could see a diagram of how it was made, I could usually fix it. Later on, I could fix most things without a book and used my "experience".

I rebuilt my first car engine at age 19. I have always fixed stuff and even embraced computers when they came to be affordable. I soon learned how to take computers apart and build them and repair them.

I have always done my own home repairs, built on rooms, re-modeled rooms, built outdoor buildings, etc. I rarely ever call anyone to help me fix anything. It has saved me a whole lot of money, as well. It also became a "pride" thing where I was determined to fix it and not call for help.

Today it is fixed much faster because I will google the problem and read for a bit. I will then go to the manufacturer website and get an exploded parts drawing or Service Manual and download it.

I could sit here the rest of the night and give you examples, but, I will spare each and every one of you. :D:D

I see youngin's today that seem like they are headed down the same path that I went down and others that might be on the path my father went down, and some that don't seem to have a clue. :D

Nearly all, if not all generations used the most current tools and information available to construct and repair.

While I am a bit concerned about the numbers of youngster's with "common sense", I think they most likely will be fine.

I think as long as things need fixin', there will continue to be the personalities that are the tinkerers, the fixers, and such.

Nice thread! ;):)

P.S. - I guess what I wonder about the most often, concerning the younger generation, is how many of them will buy and use what we call traditional pocket knives!

:):confused::eek:
 
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knarfeng

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This thread is from 2007. It has no knife content and it is not one of Carl's stories.

CLOSED
 
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