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Scott Hrouda

Location: Minnesota, USA
Joined: 17 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 6:45 am    Post subject: Bored with industrial soulless objects?         Reply with quote

New myArmoury forum member Bernard Delor mentioned a revival of the blacksmithing arts in France during his Introducing myself thread. He partially attributed this resurgence to “people starting being bored of industrial soul-less objects”.

This statement really got me thinking (dangerous, I know). I discovered I am tired of "industrial soulless objects". For example, my family prefers to purchase our fruits, vegetables and cheese at the local farmer’s market when in season, reverting to the big box supermarkets only after the farmer’s market closes for the winter. We prefer to purchase our beef from a family member when a steer is available for slaughter (load up the chest freezer!)

Moving away from consumables, I purchase my armour components from the likes of The Mercenaries Tailor, Windrose Armoury and other smaller makers. Although not local to Minnesota, they are small shops where you can actually talk to the armourer and develop a relationship. My weapon collection is squarely in the “industrial soulless” category. Saving up for a nice handmade dagger from a (very) local maker, Arms & Armor, is one of my goals for 2011.

A recent price shopping expedition for televisions really brought “soulless” to a new level for me.

Does Bernard’s statement apply to other myArmoury forum members as well? Are you tired of industrial soulless objects? Do you intentionally or unintentionally make daily purchasing decisions based upon the uniqueness of a product or the local production of said product, whether consumable or not?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped. - Sir Bedevere
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Nathaniel Jeffries

Location: STL
Joined: 30 Jun 2009

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes! But also no...

I can't stand an "off the shelf" item for very long. It tends to sit in the safe unhandled and forlorn until I get enough time and an idea of what to do with it. With my budget not all basket hilts can be custom made. But I can tinker around with the mass made commercial items I have and transform them into very unique things. In fact I don't think I have any swords that haven't been altered somehow.

Now dirks, knives and axes are a little harder to customize. But again I think all my axe shafts have been replaced by better quality wood. Most of them get a pretty good face lift the first time they get sharped too. The dirks have some little things done too.

So to sum all that up: I agree with you that some of the mass produced things could be soulless if they are left as they are.

One additional thought. None of what I said above means one must customize things to give them a bit more life. I have a friend that has an old MRL Culloden model that he used for years for all sorts of things. It's now scarred and a bit rusty (yes I too cringe at anything with rust on it) but he likes it. It reminds him off all the things it's seen. And anyone who sees it knows it has a story to tell.
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Dmitry Z~G

Location: USA
Joined: 22 Jun 2008

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The dissatisfaction with the 'industrial soulless objects' has been in effect since the mid-1800s, and a basis for the arts and crafts movement, perhaps the gothic revival as well.
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Eric W. Norenberg

Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 271

PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 7:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Scott,
I'll agree with Bernard in that I think some folks are becoming fed up (again) with industrially, mass-produced stuff. The move toward smaller, local models of production, here in the Pacific Northwest, seems to be fueled also in part by economic and ecological philosophies (support local jobs, smaller carbon "footprint" and such). The Farmers' Markets in the greater Seattle area are all very prosperous during the long "balmy" season we have here. The tough bit is, durable goods produced in this way are usually significantly more expensive, vs. something that is priced largely by virtue of being mass produced in a facility that can take advantage of bulk material purchases and inexpensive wage labor. My household won't stop buying locally-produced, free-range beef (yum) and veggies, but we won't buy (this time around, anyway) the bookcases made at the local bookcase/cabinet shop, even 'tho I know that the guy who sells them to me is the same guy who crafted them, and that they'll last five times as long as the ones I probably will get at the mall shop, for half the price - these we can afford without sacrificing any of our regular "necessities" to offset the cost.

The life and death of the Arts and Crafts movement (as an "industry") is a great example of this - those handcrafters often barely eke by, because the current overall production economy puts them at a competitive disadvantage. I would have loved to get on the phone to Tinker Pearce, a great swordmaker who is local to me, to have him create "The Sword" for me, but my pockets are too shallow. I ended up taking advantage of Kult of Athena's recent H/T line special pricing, which allowed me to buy two (!) Tinker-designed-but-made-in-China swords for about the MSRP of one. What does that tell us about my place in today's economy?

That said, a hobby like ours, coupled with a resource like this website (and the international, instant access the web offers us), going to the smaller, owner-operated shops is logical and natural, if we can dedicate the money to it. I hope that, as the economy slowly improves, anybody connected to a hobby like this one takes the lessons learned here, and applies them more widely to their lives: support that local craftsman, knowing that you're getting a superior product and knowing that you're getting something with some soul. Good luck finding that in a new flatscreen, though...

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R D Moore

Location: Portland Oregon
Joined: 09 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes. Eric touched on some great points that I agree with. However, I think it will take a lot of time for people to move back to local craftpeople for their goods. I, too, buy all I can from the local Farmer's markets and stock the freezer with Oregon raised grass-fed free range and organic beef, and pick my own fruits and berries from the fields and orchards. I also tend to buy bladed weapons from individual craftsmen because of the quality, detail, and attention you get from the process. I think more people are thinking this way as well. Once this economy gets rolling again, we'll see an even greater involvement in "home grown" products and services, IMHO. I also suspect this attitude is more prevalent among the more educated among us- those of us with college degrees and post high school education and training but that is just my own thought.

Here in the Portland, Oregon area, we're seeing an increase in the number of Farmer's Markets and grower participation in them. Other craftspeople are setting up booths and displaying their goods as well, woodworkers, jewelry makers, soaps, breads, I even held a Corn Snake from a local reptile store one Saturday. Anyway, I see more and more organic products being offered and an increase in buying locally

"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation" ...Gen. Douglas Macarthur
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Thomas R.

Location: Germany
Joined: 10 May 2010
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Scott,

I know this feeling very well. I won't say, that I hate mass production, but I appreciate unique items very much. As far as it comes to our hobby, I can give a simple example. I recently looked for a sallet and bevor. I visited many shops - US, GB, czech, polish, even ukrainian. But what I found there was not, what I sought. Most of the sallets looked not the way, I though they should look. Now I turned to a local armorer. If I'd like I could visit him in an under two hours drive. We had a lot of e-mails - we build a sort of relationship - and he works on _my_ sallet and bevor now, using a museum's piece as a template. I still have to pay a royal fee for his work, but I know, that he will make a sallet, which is unique. It's meant for my head. None other.

In everyday life I try to use objects made of stone, wood, metal, glass, wool. I avoid plastic. I can't stand the sight and feel of it. Some people I know have lots of plastic-objects, and are quite content with them (cups and spoons and whatever you can imagine). But for me those items lack authenticy. I also like to buy secondhand on fleamarkets. There can things be found, which already have a kind of history. Maybe I am influenced a little bit by japanese zen-spirit here. They have a word for that, they call it "wabi-sabi". It translates like "being alone and old". An object gets wabi-sabi if it's put to use, if it has got it's own history. A new tea bowl for example has no wabi-sabi, but an old one, already shattered and glued back together, has it.

Well... I lost track here a bit, I guess. But this concept means a lot to me. So I wanted to share it with you all.

Best regards,
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Paul Hansen

Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For me, it depends a lot on the subject.

Many objects (TV, refrigerator, furnace, printer, washing machine etc.) don't do much for me. I have them because I more or less need them and that's it. I still like them to be made in a Western country, because I don't really believe in outsourcing production to third world countries, but that's it.

Arms and armour is a hobby. I have all the swords that I *need* at present. I would still like to have more, but I have all the time in the world to get them. Personally I would rather buy one nice sword that I'm proud to own every four years, then two entry-level (Hanwei/Windlass) swords every year.
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J.D. Crawford

Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2010 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, as time goes by with this hobby, I find myself gravitating toward more personalized pieces. Fully custom is nice (but takes time and money). Only one project has made it to my doorstep so far. Partial customization - by DIY or commission - has been a good compromise. Still, I see myself going the full custom route more and more in the future.

However, I would not confuse mass production with industrial. Some mass production firms hand-forge their products, whereas some high-end production line pieces are made by CNC. The latter may be exceptional pieces in both function and finish (and I do own some of these). But to my mind, they are the worst offenders on the 'sterile industrial' scale. For that reason I don't value them as much as even some of my entry level swords. I know I'm wierd, but Its a matter of personal taste.

I would love to own swords made using traditional methods, but the really good ones are financially beyond my reach. So I draw the line at the point where a human being's hand and eye were required at each stage of the process. For example, A&A use power tools, but as far as I know, there's a human hand guiding them (or the metal against them) at every step of the process. This, to me, is the fine line between Art and manufacture.
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William F Cain III

Location: Apple Valley, CA
Joined: 26 Aug 2010

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2010 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I bought an off the shelf option in a Hanwei Tinker blunt longsword, and I don't regret it at all. It's a great training blade that I've had a lot of fun with. That said, a little customizing probably won't hurt. I have in mind to upgrade the grip ti something a bit more rugged and appropriate than the default one once I have a little money to spare.
Do right, there is nothing else.
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Isaac H.

Location: Northern California
Joined: 06 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2010 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am totally loving this thread!! Some of the things that have been mentioned really do take some time to reflect on.My family and I are very anti-soulless,self sufficient types.We raise goats for milk,chickens and turkeys, for eggs and meat,plus home fed pork and lots of gardening and salvaging.Like many of you,no weapon seems to remain in it's original form.I am honestly afraid to buy higher end pieces because i know they will just end up being canabalized, modified,and customized. Eek! Surprised Razz I read that some of you would prefer to purchase completely hand made pieces,but are simply not wanting to drain their castle treasury.Well,I am cetainly not a noble in the financial department either(more like a peasant,actually ) but I didn't let that stop me from owning hand made weapons.How? By making them myself ! Armed with research,my will,and my creativity,I have made three blades so far,each completely from scratch.Bladesmithing is really not so hard.I know many of you simply don't have the time or desire, but few things will give you as much of a sense of accomplishment as making something yourself. Big Grin
Wounds of flesh a surgeons skill may heal...

But wounded honor is only cured with steel.

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good ,to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2
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Harry J. Fletcher

Location: Lost in Texas
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2010 8:08 pm    Post subject: We impart value to the object         Reply with quote

While I agree in part with the thesis about soul less objects I would rather imagine that is because industrial man is rather utilitarian in his approach. If an object is used and, broken and easily replaced then it really has no value. But...if an object is necessary even an ordinary shovel and its loss would be a hardship until a replacement can be made then it has immense value. A serf working the land would pay dearly for metal shovel and take very good care of it I imagine when one thinks of the time and cost of its replacement. The frontier settlers in America only had whatever they could take with them and it had to last.

Even an object without much value can develop value and become irreplacable. It is the attachment for something one has that grows with its use. I had an old shaving mug given me by neighbors and to me it was priceless. It may have been an antique or not but it was the feeling I had for it since I used it to shave every day. When my wife accidentally broke it...well I won't go into that. Ask any fisherman about that old rod of his, or an old his hat. Ask a hunter about that worn looking shotgun and you will hear of years of use and feeling for that shotgun.

I enjoy certain swords to cut with more than others, and I take them down and handle them from time to time. For me they have value...intrinsic value. The swords develop soul thru our use of them and the enjoyment we get in using them. That is their soul. I have a couple of recently manufactured 1886 Winchester rifles which I reload ammunition for. While I have the latest modern rifles I prefer these guns because they bring me joy over the more modern rifles I own.


Harry J. Fletcher

To Study The Edge of History
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