Sunday, January 16, 2011

Frugality In Quality

  Made a huge (to me) improvement in my quality of life yesterday.  I've been shaving with a straight razor on and off for the last seven years or so.  I bought the razor and strop in Stuttgart, Germany, thinking that it would eventually pay for itself.  Have you seen the price of razors lately?  It was pretty expensive but I've always believed in the fact that you get what you pay for.  There were some pretty dicey moments when I first started, especially since it took me a while to figure out how to sharpen it correctly.  There's nothing like dragging a semi-sharp razor across your Jugular!  I've been doing this for years now and my eyes have been getting worse and worse.  It's been a real challenge to see what I'm doing; so I finally broke down and bought an old accordion type shaving mirror off Ebay.  What a joy to see what I'm doing again!

  As I mentioned before, this razor was pretty expensive.  We're talking a "return on investment" measured in years.  I've always had a huge fascination with the way things were built prior to the 1970's and especially pre-WWII.  Somewhere along the line, some ingenious businessman figured out that if you build things to last, you won't get return customers and thus less profits.  Somehow, sadly, this grew into the industry standard.  They all had to do it or else the market would lean toward the quality item and make the whole thing come crashing down.  When it comes time to buy a hard consumer good, I always look for something old or at the very least, an old technology.  I scratch my head when I hear a couple of "gadget guys" bragging about their latest purchase, all the while knowing that they're probably going to replace it or get bored with it in just a couple of years (or sooner).  I read a book years ago called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair that made quite an impression on me.  The main character is a college professor that assigns his students to come up with a definition for "Quality" (try's not as easy as it sounds).  He becomes so consumed with this concept that it drives him to insanity and finally leads him to an understanding of what's important in his life.  It's an interesting read and really speaks to what we are willing to find acceptable when it comes to our money; or more importantly our lives.  So anyway, the straight razor is one of my little refusals to participate in the the philosophy of "Planned Obsolescence".
  I had a question asking what a railroad station platform cart was.  Here's a picture from when I brought it home.

You see them a lot in the background of train stations in old black and white movies.  This one was pretty much a basketcase but had awesome cast iron running gear and some of the old oak parts are refinishing beautifully.  It'll look really nice under our stationary motor.

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