Be A Guy

Posts Tagged ‘Traditional Crafts’

How Do You Know How to Do What You Do?

In Be a Guy, Tool Kit on April 18, 2013 at 8:04 am

SpliceMy friend informs me that the most obnoxious phrase in my lexicon is ”Let me tell/show you how the big boys do it.”

There are acts we perform we cannot unattach from the memory of the man who taught us it and a certainty that we know how to do it correctly.

Hitting a golf ball, digging a hole, parking a car, loading a gun, planing a board and casting a lure are all activities that have me
channelling a mentor.

What do you do that is forever a tribute to a teacher?

In the course of my day I had the opportunity to discuss my concept of the “stick gene” which moved me a long way towards my belief that there is a very real difference between men and women and it is nature not nurture. The “stick gene” observation is based upon my Irish Twins. My daughter first emerged to walk the yard and picked up a few sticks and carried them or but them down with indifference, my son picked up a stick and wailed hell out of a bush the first chance he got, he jabbed the stick into the ground and found another and built a rudimentary something. My observations came about in discussing the emasculation of young men and their ultimate frustration arising from the dampening of the “stick gene” and that men cannot be fulfilled without expressing their innate “do” urge…..
You dudes are missing your stick genes- or something as prosaic as discussing what you do rather than expressing your deep thoughts and grand ideas is boring.
I mark a board for trimming by running a finger & pencil scribe and think of Ray Curry.
I put on a bandaid & think of Uncle Ed.
I sharpen and carry a pocket knife and think of my Dad who never carried a pocket knife but taught me to.
I load a revolver and think of Jim Keeling, born in a tent in a mining camp,where his father was the law.
I sight a rifle and think of Tom Kudrowski who learned the business in the SE Asia games.
I flick a zippo & think of a thug named Donnie.
I put a wrench on a bolt on a car & think about Cass Smith and breaking bolts.
I tie a knot and think of Frank Powdrell & Art Burbick- Scout Masters.
I trust a young guy and think about school disciplinarian Art Russo.
I coach wrestling and channel Marty Jacobsen, Lacrosse and think of Kal Wynot & Red Wylie, Soccer and that jerk I couldn’t stand.
I coached baseball and thought of that asshole in the mirrored aviators berating me.
I ease up on the clutch and think of John Evans as I do when I run any two or four stroke engine.
I plane a door & set the hinges and think of how much better at it I became than that smug Paul Bowles.
I foot a column of numbers on an AIA703 and think of Michelle Williams who taught me the term foot.
I love my dog without cutesy BS & baby talk and think of Victor Roggio.
I see a pitch fork and think of Victor’s Native American buddy who killed a red neck with one for trifling with his sister and then returned to the real world from prison to capture wild horses and build carriages.
if I ever nut another steer in this life I will think of Jack Stroh, similarly if I ever shoot another rattle snake I will thing of Jim keeling and if I ever roll a joint again I will think of Chuck Novack the Polish Pope.
If I ever pluck out a bartender’s eye I will think of long gone Jerry the Seal who I saw do that.
If I change a diaper again I will think of my Mother who taught me that chore and how to sew, iron, make stuffing & prepare a turkey dinner.
If I ever sing again in public I will think of Art O’Hanlon who wanted my early changed voice in choir and whose invitation fell on my deaf ears.
When I fold my shirt cuffs it is into my sleeves, more secure and safe from chalk dust as Bob Cressey taught me.
If I put my thoughts to paper, or keyboard, I think of the Real Ken Follett.

PS April 2013

I saw a man today who I met 50 years ago. He was the older brother of a classmate and I was terrified of him. Today he is a tiny Buddhist, who led chants, at his Father’s wake.
I had reason to think of him last month when I had use for an axe on a stump; Mark taught me and Paul to sharpen a Boy Scout hatchet which he probably threw at us like Ed Ames…..
He showed us the file & whet stone method, I used an angle grinder and a belt sander– but I still honored him…

This is taken from a poorly received piece I did at the GMP where 1/2 the readers think a set screw is choreographed sex.

Do it Yourself, America

In Be a Guy, Tool Kit on July 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm


This piece originally appeared in the good men project.

In a world where anyone can watch fifteen ways to sharpen a hand saw or to build a rail gun, is craftsmanship lost?

The New York Times reports that we are losing our craftsmanship skill set and spirit: the spirit that enabled GIs to modify tanks in Normandy to cut through hedgerows without needing Defense Contractor Consultants; the same spirit that had GIs up-armoring Humvees sixty years later on their own in what was essentially an act of mutiny.

We haven’t lost American ingenuity and capacity. We have stopped fostering it.

In a world of piano lessons and travel soccer starting at age 7, there Isn’t a lot of time to fix your bicycle.

With a helicopter mommy over your shoulder, one is unlikely to make a tennis ball cannon.

It’s hard to get excited by making thirty-five dollars an hour in a world of Money Guys making thirty-five bucks a minute. School districts have been only too happy to jettison Shop class as a sexist, dangerous, essentializing, vestigial skill set. We have gutted the trade unions and the apprentice system, and made it obvious that working for a living is tough to get excited about. As Jody Collier of welding tips and tricks points out, where the hell are the certified welders who can pass a drug test?

The intrigue of Norm Abrams is not that he is a master craftsman, it is that he’s a guy who does. Norm is no rocket scientist; he is a guy who for some reason decided to make a living that included sweat. Abrams was the most vilified and divisive subject in the annals of the magazine Fine Woodworking—which is sort of the Harvard Law Review for it’s own subject.

Myself, I disagree with how he does some things—but then I spent 20 years in a tool belt and the next 20 supervising construction. I greatly admire his growth as an artisan and his practicality. Not everyone chooses to bring furniture to the masses under the nose of The North Bennet Street School—the MIT of furniture-making.

There is a resurgence in interest in traditional trades that is part a rediscovery of Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and part a practical reaction to the concept “you can’t turn a wrench over

the Internet”. Additionally there is simple fact of the economy that the Money Guys are going to have to pay $135/hr for a plumber and the 99% will have to do it themselves. Without it being taught in schools, increasingly people are becoming aware that the 1% don’t create wealth: they play games with the wealth the rest of us forge from raw materials.

While we have disconnected from grandfathers and local shops that knew how to do things, the spirit of self-sufficiency and craftmanship is thriving in the virtual village. There are 10 million do it your-selfers wielding hand and battery driven tools, bragging about and sharing their prowess on YouTube. The only greater number of home-made videos belonging to such enthusiastic do it your-selfers are in various stages of undress as they also wield battery-powered tools with  confidence.

Home Depot is like the soft porn you can get on the restricted channels at name brand hotels. Not quite the real down and dirty, but it has made tools and materials accessible to the masses. Clean, fresh smelling and well-lit, it has seduced a generation into thinking they “can do it.” While Home Depot and Lowes have gutted the corner hardware stores and local lumber yards of this country for its helpful souls and crabby old

guys who bent more nails than you’ll ever pound, it has allowed a nation of people the opportunity to dream of capability. And led more than a few to the real thing—which as often as not is accessible via the internet.



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