Do we still need basic skills?

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These days, a prospective employee is more likely to be asked about his knowledge of computers than about how well he can produce a smooth surface with a hand plane.

The trades are changing and they are not changing slowly. Computer driven and robotic machines are commonplace, even in smaller shops.

Not too long ago, I needed to make a cut in a piece that had an unusual shape. I spent several hours trying to devise a jig. I thought about the table saw, router, band saw, and three or four other possibilities. But then I realized that I could easily do what was needed with a simple hand saw. And I realized too, that I have many hand saws and (still, I hope) the skill needed to use them. In far less time than it would have taken to make and set up a jig, the cut was made and the project was moving along again.

Basic skills? Yes, we still need them.

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In my junior high shop class, the instructor insisted that we begin by planing the edge of a board. The edge had to be straight and square. I spent most of the semester trying to accomplish this.