Sunday, 6 February 2011
Observations on the Manual Arts
While this week has been an entirely progress free one as far as the BMW is concerned, that's only because I've been slaving over a hot frame in an effort to render it fit for powder coating. Basically, the frame has been the subject of a degree of attention, and had a few brackets modified here and there. Since the thing is due to be powder coated ivory through the good offices of Reality Motorworks and it had, and indeed still has, a few places that would let the side down badly, I've spent most of the week shaping metal.
Mostly that's consisted of making welds that are in places that aren't supposed to look welded sit flush with the surrounding material, and removing the last part of some of the headstock bracing that needed replacing. Since the yokes are also due to visit Reality, I also gave the lower one a bit of a seeing to, smoothing out the casting marks and relieving the welds on the head light mounting bracket. I was struck by the thought that the first time I'd done something like that, I was probably 14 years old and I, and indeed quite a lot of the rest of the world, had yet to make the acquaintance of the 4" angle grinder.
All of that sort of work used to be done with files and emery cloth. Unlike some of the people I know, I possess a reasonable selection of files and don't mind using them, but I still came to realisation that I was struggling to do some areas of the job with a grinder, that would be much easier to do with the more traditional manually operated tools. Somewhere down the line, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that power tools are only there to make some aspects of the job easier. There is a tendency to assume that a simple hand tool is simple to operate effectively, but that's a lot like assuming that a simple baseball bat must be simple to operate properly. It's fairly obvious that despite the simplicity of the tools the job requires, being a competent baseball player is a lot more complex than just buying those simple tools.
If there was such a thing as a power operated base ball bat, it wouldn't make us all into Joe DiMaggio over night, as all "power operated" means is that it takes the effort out, the operator is still required to judge the path of the ball and position the bat accordingly. In other words provide the talent and skill.
Without wanting to go and wade through several dictionaries to check, I've always rather assumed that a talent was something you were born with, but that a skill was something you learnt. We speak of people being "naturally talented" and if you serve an apprenticeship and learn a trade, you become a skilled workman, so in this context the assumption is at least logical. The reason for labouring that particular point is that there is a distinction between being talented and being skilled, and something like using a file or a hacksaw is a skill and not a talent.