Scissors made by proper scissor-craftspeople for one half, and CNC prototyped on the other.

Both works of art in their own way… the crafts-person’s ones being superior… but kindof commonplace now I think. We’re kindof used to scissors looking that way… to the extent we don’t really see “finely crafted” any more. It takes 5 years of training to learn to make proper scissors.

More photos in their flicker department

They combine a disruptive technology with a hundreds-of-year-old process of incremental refinement into the one piece. Disruptive technologies always win of course… anything that de-skills people always wins. Bows and Arrows and Crossbows never went away completely… but they became backwaters… to the extent that when Wellington wanted to assemble a corps of longbowmen to use against Napoleon, he couldn’t because it takes a lifetime of practice, and nobody could draw the bows any more. Except the odd weirdo.

I’m quite interested in this concept->completion vs incremental-improvement divide. I’ve been making golden mean calipers…

…for about a year now, and am still learning how to do it. Every week or so I stumble across a new technique that massively improves the product/process. When I first started making these I had to really emphasise the fact that they were hand-made… because they looked it. Not any more… they’re pretty much identical now. There are a couple of things that I would like to improve… but… well, time will tell.

This is me making calipers about a year later – holding the punch in a way that allows me to cut out an entire sub-process. I only found out how to do that a week ago.

I come from a programming background where this sort of thing doesn’t really happen – you’re permanently on a learning-curve so steep it’s overhanging… and if something is “repeatable”, you automate it… so it’s rare to get that constant-tiny-increment-improvement that you get with… craft. Bruce Sterling recently went on about “Passion and Virtuosity”… and I think programming is antithetical to virtuosity. You never really get to practice things to the point where it becomes… music. Programmers sometimes go on about “code being art”, but that’s bullshit. It’s not, and not only is it not, it’s actually antithetical to a key component of what makes high-art, high. And I’ve been programming since the 1970s.

So it’s been quite strange seeing the incremental improvement in making golden mean calipers… and while part of the point of this post is (I think) about the virtues of actually doing stuff by hand, with your hands, over and over again… I will confess that one of the key innovations was to stop trying to make the rivets myself, but to get someone else to make them – with a machine.

So… can/will CNC manufacturing cut this out of the loop? (because it reduces the loop to tinkering in a CAD app)?

Rapid Fabbing essentially turns hardware problems into software problems… that’s what reprap is. It’s a process of codifying incremental improvements, so they all live in the brain of the machine that is created… passing on the knowledge of self-building from parents to children.

Well that’s the theory anyway. From the look of them there’s still a ways to go before “the unpracticed” can assemble a machine identical to one put together by the adepts that are creating the designs… but that is what the reprap process is designed to do.

Still… scissors:

1 Comment » for Epoch-Spanning-Scissors
  1. What a gorgeous wooden box with magnetic closure (?!) you’ve got there for the amazing calipers.

    There are a lot of strings in the bow of your talent, so to speak.