Monday, July 21, 2008

Solid Craftsmanship

I have remarked before about things not being built as they used to be built. The 1949-51 era Crosley Shelvador refrigerator in my sister's basement that has in been in service continually since at least 1950. The vintage 1950's (est. 1956) Filter Queen vacuum that still runs, the 21 year old Lincoln (my dear Queen Mary) that starts day after day and has rescued more than one person driving a much newer auto. I think in the quality minded and not "stakeholder" minded days, people who built things still had pride in their work. They had loyalty to their company and actually were rewarded for doing a good job, not just cutting costs to the bone to make some investor rich.

I was reminded of this today when the elevator service people visited the Towers. This was this company's first work with us, replacing the corporate assholes with a local owned company with some class. Anyway, the tech was in the elevator shaft and was inspecting the bottom of the cab.

"Come look at this!", he exclaimed. I bent down to his level; he was in the pit and the stopped elevator cab was a couple feet above him.

What he noticed even amazed me. The bottom of the cab, something no one ever sees unless you are in the hoistway pit, was covered in a panel of beautifully varnished walnut wood. It looked like the same gorgeous walnut that covers the interior of the cab. Where the walnut met the cast iron frame, the seams were covered by walnut trim, matching the trim in the cab. Since the cab is original, built in 1914, this wood has to be original too. Now, today, who would cover the unseen bottom of an object with fine wood and trim it as well?? You'd be lucky to find a sheet of cardboard.

Our front door is original 1914 too. When I had a locksmith out to fix the lock, he had me notice that the original hole for the lock had been hand chiseled out of the 6in solid oak door, (the door weighs an estimated 350 lbs). "Someone", he said, "had to have taken and hammer and chisel and perfectly cut this round hole to fit a solid brass lock and key".

Today, it would have been plastic and lasted a week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boy, you got this right. Seems the Chinese can't make anything worth owning. We don't even make iron pipe in this country anymore! (Mexico)

Tools are especially expensive and while they don't have a built-in shelf life, they're so poorly assembled that sooner than later they stop working. Not even Sears Craftsman tools are made in the US now. What's left? We make lots of greenhouse gas through all the belching and farting as a result of eating big mac & fries.

My rule is this: if you find something that's good, that fits, that works -- buy two! Because they won't make them next season or next year. And if you really want to cry, check out the networks' Wednesday night lineup. We don't even make TV anymore!