Today was a nuts and bolts kind of day… literally. Jeff and the coal boiler installer, Matt, worked in the basement on the new boiler non-stop from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. The kind of work they did is just not the same kind of work you’d be doing in a modern house… Jeff had to chip away at the cement to change the opening from 4″ inches to 8″ inches to accomodate the exhaust pipe (I *think*). And, because a metal plate from the new (used) boiler was missing, Matt decided to cut a piece of sheet metal from the old boiler and fabricate it into a usable piece on the new boiler. This kind of work fascinates me and reminds me of times long gone by. I wonder what would happen if our country had to suddenly start manufacturing more of it’s own products again rather than outsourcing to other countries. Would our population know what to do? Would we be able to think mechanically or have the right tools? I realize there will always be a segment of the population that passes on knowledge or studies that sort of thing, but I tend to think that this type of knowledge was more commonplace a hundred years ago. Matt shared with us that he never imagined that he’d be getting calls from all up and down the east coast asking him questions about coal boiler installation and burning coal. I realize that coal is looked upon as “dirty” and damaging to the environment, but the truth, at least for residents of Pennsylvania and nearby states is that burning coal creates a smaller carbon footprint than oil when you factor in that it is local to PA and surrounding states and doesn’t have to be shipped from overseas or very far at all. I am looking forward to burning coal because it will also represent not being dependent on another country for my heating source. I will be paying a little more than 1/3 of what I was paying for oil equaling more money in my pocket and less in the pockets of foreigners. Oh, and I’ve been told that coal keeps houses warmer than oil or gas heat… but, I’ll give you the 411 on that fact once I have experienced it for myself.
This reminds me of a TV show I saw once that profoundly impacted me. It was one of those PBS Mythbusters-y type shows (but not funny). They were building one of Leonardo DaVinci’s designs to see if it could actually have been built and used in his time. It was an enormous crossbow, like catapult-sized. They assembled a team of the top experts in relevant fields to build it and study it. The part that got me was when one of these experts was doing an interview segment and was near tears as he confessed that there was knowledge of woodworking that people in DaVinci’s time had had that was now lost. They couldn’t get the suppleness of the wood right because they didn’t know which woods and glues to choose and how to treat and assemble them to make it flexible enough to bend like a crossbow over a 30′ span.
So many in our culture think of themselves as superior because of our technology, but there is so much we have lost and are losing. The show might have had better success if they had done like you did and found some humble carpenter in the back end of nowhere who’s grandpa had taught him rather than some elite college trained ‘expert.’
It makes me want to work with my hands ;p
Agreed, Kat. When my biological Dad died, I traveled back to the midwest. Stored in his little house was a small kit of at least 30 different wood samples that he had acquired over time since he was a shop teacher, as well as a hobby farmer and horse owner. At the time, I was too dumb to realize that little box was the treasure amidst all of the stuff and I left it behind. My Mom was the one who asked about it after I returned. I could kick myself for not picking it up because it would’ve fit in my bag on the plane. I have a hunch that my Dad would’ve known which wood to use in the DaVinci project. What’s funny is that this whole process has reminded me of my Dad because he was very good with his hands and loved to take engines apart and put them back together with success, according to my Mom.