3 Questions That Shouldn’t Need Answering

Every so often one will come across a question to which the answer is self-evident, but someone’s going to ask it anyway.  Here’s an example:

1. “When you find a rusted-out old kitchen knife, why not just toss it out and buy a shiny new one from Williams-Sonoma?”
— because nothing looks as fine as a well-restored blade, not just in appearance, but in its intrinsic history.  Need proof?  See here, where some guy with mad skillz goes after an old cleaver.

Here’s another one:

2. “Why would someone spend $170,000 on a replica of an old car?”
— because as long as the replica has been manufactured by engineers with all respect for quality as well as heritage, it’s worth it, and not the least because the originals require not just stupid money, but insanely-stupid money available only to Russian oligarchs, software company founders and parvenus like Jeff Bezos (also criminals, some overlap with the aforementioned).

(watch the second video at the link…)

Here’s another question of this ilk (but by no means the final one):

3. “Why is The Repair Shop such a popular TV show?  All they do is restore old junk.”
…it’s not “junk”, it’s heritage, history, treasured artifacts and sentimental objects.  To watch Steve Fletcher fixing an old clock, Will Kirk restoring an old piece of furniture or even those two old pink-haired biddies bringing wrecked toy dolls and teddy bears back to life is to see and feel the joy of a miniature triumph of life over death.  If you are not moved by that, you are a foul, crass and cynical human being.

The overall answer to all the above questions can be summed up in one word:


It’s a rare talent (and becoming rarer still when so many people are seduced by cheap, fragile and nasty knock-offs from China or Eastern Europe), and if we hold on to no other custom, craftsmanship is worth everything. To quote Oscar Wilde’s words from Lady Windermere’s Fan :

Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham: And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.

I know I’m always teetering dangerously close to the latter, but all I can say is:  guilty as charged.  Especially where beauty and craftsmanship are involved.


  1. That cleaver? I’d cherry it out with no questions asked, and would enjoy the endeavor greatly. Be fairly easy to do too.

    Right now I have an 1867 Millers Falls antique hand operated brace in pieces and spread out on a work bench. I purchased it on Etsy last year and I am restoring it to it’s former glory. Every part is inspected up close and using a variety of tools and chemicals it is slowly being brought back to life. I’m in no hurry.

    Truth be known, I am a life long fixer of all things – if they can be fixed at all. Most stuff built in the past 40 years is done with the idea of being thrown away, to the point that they simply cannot be repaired for any cost.

    In my workshop I have boxes and boxes of parts and hardware from hundreds of things I have torn apart over the years, waiting to be used in some future project. Motors, switches, fuses, bolts and screws of every type and size, etc. The enjoyment is the coordination between eyes, brain, and hands. My dad was the same way and I have plenty of childhood memories of “helping” him do the same thing. The older I get the smarter my dad becomes.

  2. With the tools he had he could have made a cleaver from scratch with a lot less work.

    1. and probably did.
      Most of those restauration channels are scams, they either artificially age a new item, and edit the film to show the ruined version as the original, the brand new one as the result of the “restauration”, or they just go out and buy or make a replacement from scratch.

  3. The Fridge at my mother’s house was probably bought in 1971 or perhaps came with the house. The stove too. They both lasted around 1990 or so. I doubt today’s appliance will last that long.

    Quite a few older items were made far better than today’s low priced junk.

    We bought a set of Wusthof knives on our honeymoon 21 years ago. We went to their warehouse sale last year and bought some new additions. The old ones looked almost identical to the brand new ones. There was hardly any wear on the older ones. Buy quality and it lasts if you take care of it.


  4. Unfortunately “The Repair Shop” doesn’t appear available for streaming

    Item #2: I knew an architect who had several MGs (the cars not the fun guns) in the 60s and 70s. As life progressed for him, the MGs went away. Now that he was older, kids raised and such, he was in the market for another fun car. He thought about the MGs but the repairs and maintenance put him off. Instead he got a Mazda Miata. Completely reliable and ready for a fun drive anytime he wanted. Less stylish? perhaps but it had far better reliability. I don’t see any reason why not buy a kit car or something that resembles the aesthetics of a classic car but underneath has all the modern improvements to function.


  5. Mad skills – sure along with $ 100,000 worth of shop equipment including all the common things like an annealing oven and a laser etching machine to go along with his CNC Router, Lath and drill press / milling macchine. and a dozen or so sanders.

    Everyone has that stuff in their basement shop.

  6. The cynic in me didn’t see a cleaver restored. I saw a piece of rutsy steel compared with pictures in a catalog to see what he could make with it. The warps in the blade and handle are what made it a unique piece. It’s a beautiful new cleaver.

    Or he could have carved it into small chunks and made a new cleaver from Damascus. I could have Buck replace the blade in my 110, worn from sharpening over 40+ years – but then it wouldn’t be my knife.

    When we got married my wife wanted Ginsu knives, so we got a set. A year later I bought her a Wusthof set, 10″ chef and meat slicer. The Ginsu set went away, and she’s never looked back. I always check the knives in thrift stores, looking for good knives at great prices.

    1. Eugene, Oregon.
      Second-hand shops around here have bins of discarded kitchen knives.
      I sort through these disposables with zero concern for getting cut… I see sharper axes and shovels.
      And, then, there is a treasure!
      I discovered an ancient thin long carbon-steel blade for displaying roasts and bread on special occasions.
      Heirloom quality, perfect condition, wooden handle like new, the edge with no indication it ever left its presentation case.
      In the olden days, it was probably most of a week’s salary.
      As the kosher rang me out, the college girls behind me wanted something similar to dig in the garden.
      I was tempted to share my version of its heritage:
      * an elderly widow received it at her 1930s wedding, now tired and forgetful, she was trucked off to a ‘care’ facility, the adult children dumping a lifetime of memories at the SVdP carport, minimum-wage sorters tossing most of it in the forty-yard Dumpsters…
      But, weeping inside for all we lost, I just nodded instead.

  7. Kim, go watch a few Paul Sellers videos on YouTube. Should tick a few boxes for you….Craftsman of fifty years, English geezer….

  8. I shad a delightful time watching this video while drinking my coffee this morning and what I loved most about it was no one was talking, action and no words. It was fun watching the step the guy went through taking off the old handle and then cleaning up the blade. I enjoyed watching him taking a hell of a lot of time with a lot of hand work cleaning up the blade and then putting a new edge on it and tempering the metal, it looked as if the way it was done was correct leaving the main part of the blade soft while bringing the edge to a hardened condition that would take and hold an edge. The use of various tools, both hand and expensive machines was fun seeing the process and finish of the product. No complaints and it was a treat to watch as I drank my two cups of coffee so it was a good morning for me.

    Thank you Kim for the interesting stuff you share with us. I don’t always agree and see things your way but I don’t give a shit, we don’t have to like the same crap all the time and I am neither the judge or the rule maker of the world so keep the stuff coming. Thank You once again.

  9. “Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.”
    ― Tom Stoppard, Artist Descending a Staircase

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