Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Year of the Cowboy

There is a wild west element in my life lately. That kind of shoot from the hip, caution to the wind, wild and free stuff is all around me.
When I am looking at a home made spinning wheel, I first look for something that had true, talented craftsmanship and an understanding of the actual use of the end product. Many of the old wheels don't have many available replacement parts or ways to fix stuff. The weirder they are, the less likely they will actually make yarn even under the most skilled hands. Just turning some wood and sticking the parts together doesn't make a good wheel. Or even a good display wheel. These thrown together cowboy wheels are about people just making something that looks close enough, but doesn't really get the job done.
Now, granted, real cowboys actually rounded up the cattle and drove them to market. They had a job to do and worked hard at it. But what most of us think about when we imagine a cowboy, is the Movie Cowboy- all for show, special wardrobe, fake gun, trained horse. Some of these actors could actually ride a real horse. They might even be able to shoot a real gun. But they probably would be lost around a real cow.
This issue of 'quality product that can really do the job' transfers from spinning wheels to other real aspects of life. I want a stove that really works, a car that really runs, and clothes that really fit. I want a house that is built to stand up in a storm with windows and roof that keep the rain out. Lately, I have been running into products that just don't do the job- dishwasher that doesn't clean dishes, vacuum that doesn't suck the stuff up, cleaning products that can't get the grease off, screw driver that destroys itself while removing a screw.
I think this is the reason we all want to have some "quality control" in the items we buy. We want consumer reports and feed back on the web. We want to let the junky, ineffective products languish while we only get the good, well built stuff. And this is especially true when we buy very expensive items. It is hard to pay good money for something of questionable quality. Even getting something free, when it might be dangerously built is not worth the risk. We want UL approval.
E's father tinkered in the garage and built many tools. He was a cowboy. He built stuff then used it, then left it and moved on to the next item. His garage is full of questionable, possibly dangerous, stuff. A rock tumbler, a spot welder (220v), a metal milling machine. Frankly, I am afraid to plug any of it in. The wall could catch on fire. The item might explode. I might explode. For those of us who question the safety and quality of the items, I can say, "there was no quality control testing here."
That brings us to the end destination of some items like these. What do you do with a garage full of unsafe, home built, old and dirty, most likely dangerous tools and machines? What do you do with old, poorly build, not actually functional spinning wheels? Well, the wheels go into the bonfire, but the old machinery gets to go to the scrap heap for metal recycling. It is a sad thing, but really, I am afraid to plug it in and turn it on. I value what is left of my life and now I don't heal all that well anymore.
Next week, the scrap metal truck comes. When it leaves it will be full. My job is to dismantle most of what is left in the garage so that it can get to the truck. Wish me luck. This is not a job for the faint of heart. With my tool belt strapped on, I will climb a ladder and start to undo 25 years of creative fantasy, one knob at a time until parts crash to the floor. And when the job it done, there will be a silent prayer of thanks that no one exploded.


Drakonis said...

PostScript - On the day this was blog posted, we received an e-mail from somebody on Craigslist who wanted to buy the Sears 220v table saw that was hanging precariously from the rafters of the garage, along with table guides and extra blades, for $30. The potential buyer innocently asked "does it work?" I had no idea, but was pretty sure it did, and thought, despite the past months of constant evidence to the contrary, that testing the saw in my dad's garage would be simple.

After work, I dropped by the house and spent 20 minutes wandering through the garage looking for a 220v outlet, and finally found an extension power cord that went up the wall and disappeared into one of dad's home-made metal cabinets that was bolted to the rafters in the garage (insert sound snippet here of Igor asking "shall I flip the switch, master?") I plugged the saw in, leaned back, and flipped the switch. GOOD NEWS, the saw started up! BAD NEWS, the lights and the saw went right back off again. Dang, popped the breakers. No problem, I'll just reset them.

I pushed the breaker in, and instead of resetting and popping out, it just STUCK in... the 45 year old bulldog pushmatic breaker finally broke.

To add to the suspense, the realtor had e-mailed me this morning saying the buyer had scheduled a house inspection, tomorrow morning.

My frantic calls to 5 different electricians were each rejected, nobody could come out Friday evening to fix that kind of breaker. Finally found a wonderful electrician who could come out at 7:30 the next morning and guaranteed he could find replacement breakers for me. And he showed up on time, replaced the breakers, and the power was restored... for a reasonable $125.

The inspectors came and the house was humming along better than before.

So, I sold the saw (+$30), and broke the house (-$125), you can do the math. Oy. Next time, despite my desire to recycle, the old stuff goes directly to the scrap guys... because paying them to scrap it is cheaper than selling it.


Eduard and Jeri -- I went through something similar with my dad's garage. Look, he got some enjoyment out of all his stuff but it's not my bag. Leave it at that. I don't think all that stuff from the prior generation needs to be passed on to the next generation. I'm so glad you were able to come to terms with all of it and call the scrap guys. It's time to pass the ball and move on with your own lives. Besides, it's just stuff. Believe me, you won't miss it, but you'll miss enjoying every valuable day of your own life. Once you unload all the stuff and sell the house, you will feel an amazing sense of relief and feel so light. Hope to see you at BSG. In the meantime, might see you, Jeri, at Maggie's next Saturday -- if I am all set to go for BSG. I'm working on it. Lori