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It is what it is

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My first reaction to your comments on my last blog would be that you missed my point, but maybe not. Maybe you just took my point to the next level without realizing it.

When I opined last time that the U.S. manufacturers who provide crummy specs to foreign suppliers for the goods they sell here are the cause of crummy products, you took me to task as not understanding the real cause. You were wrong; I understand it perfectly.

In fact, the points a lot of you made in your comments this week I have already made many times in the years I’ve been doing this blog. The point being that the consumer, who willingly buys junk, is responsible for more junk being sold. When “they” realize that we, the consumers, will buy junk, they’ll give us more junk. I touched on this theme three times in the past year alone with the two-part “Origin of Species” (1/4/10 & 1/8/10), “Feeling Guilty” (5-25-10), and “Lettuce Alone” (6-11-10).

But one lowly woodworker living in Middle-of-nowhere West Virginia isn’t causing the glut of junk plywood in Big Box stores. This lowly woodworker knows there’s “better stuff” to be had. He just can’t afford it for shop cabinets right now – for the kitchen, maybe, but not for utility shop cabinets – and so he goes to a blue or orange Big Box store. But this single purchase isn’t why Big Boxes carry junk plywood almost exclusively. That’s the fault of hundreds of thousands of ordinary folk and weekend warriors who don’t know there’s better stuff to be had.

And believe me, I wasn’t surprised I was getting junk either, your erroneous comments to the contrary notwithstanding. Of course I knew, but I chose to accept it and work around its issues as required by my current economic circumstances. But here’s the key thing in all of this: The stuff is still junk, and I don’t have to like it.

Once upon a time I could go into any Big Box store – and, before them, into what we used to call “lumber stores” before Madison Avenue shoved the idea for “home centers” down our throats – and reasonably expect to get decent stuff. I still have things I made a few decades ago with off-the-shelf materials that would, today, be the high-priced stuff you drive miles out of your way to get.

My real point in the previous blog was that I miss those days. Oh, I understand all the reasons it is what it is today – I have no need to be enlightened on that, as my comments in numerous blogs over the last three years will attest – but knowing and understanding doesn’t make it less onerous, or less sad.

And the worst part is that those hundreds of thousands of ordinary folk and weekend warriors – most of who are younger than you and I – don’t know that better stuff exists today and that it was, at one time, the norm. These are the same people who never experienced the joy of a corner hardware store, ate a 5-cent candy bar twice the size as one you’d get today for $2, or even bought a radio that would last 30 years. As such it is they, not pro woodworkers like you and me, who are driving the glut of junk materials. They don’t mean to. They just don’t know any better.

And that’s the saddest part of all.

Till next time,


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