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Waste not, want not

There is another trend afoot. OK, go ahead and smack yourself in the head. But this trend is a byproduct of reality. The reality, in this case, is that we are realizing that we cannot sustain a throw away mentality much longer.

The last time this came around was in the 60's when the counter culture began to zero in on the inherent wastefulness of our obsession with convenience. The icon of this new awareness was the venerable Mason jar. You would see people walking around drinking their coffee out of Mason jars and that was their way of letting you know that they disapproved of your disposable Styrofoam coffee cup. It would seem that the Mason jar has once again taken its place as the embodiment of the rebellion against impermanence. A recent visit to my son who works for Apple confirmed this. At least half of the people drinking coffee in the cafeteria were drinking that coffee from mason jars.

OK, I can hear you. What the does this have to do with woodworking? Simply this: woodworking has been subject to some of the most egregious examples of the throw away mentality. I would be willing to bet that at least 90 percent of the work I have done over the last 40 years has ended up in the Dumpster as homes change hands and the new owners want to replace the existing with something else. The waste of resources this represents is appalling.

One of my favorite examples of convenience taking precedence over sustainability is insert tooling. The days when every maker had to know how to keep his tools sharp have all but disappeared. Now, when a blade gets dull, you just swap out the dull tips for new ones. And the old ones? Toss them in the trash. Makes perfect sense from a work flow point of view. But how long can we keep this up?


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