Handcrafted

May 9, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

We can excuse some minor irregularities in a piece of homemade furniture by accepting the idea the work was handcrafted—unique and acceptable in its lack of perfection.

On the other hand, we could be marveling over the opposite like the perfection of a handcrafted puzzle box or the exacting precision of a handcrafted Swiss watch.

Both approaches have their value. To some, the minor flaws are a sought after signal of individuality. To others, the perfection gained from individual hands is irreplaceable.

When I venture out onto our production floor I am in awe of the craftspeople assembling our products, hand-fitting chassis and circuit boards together. Theirs is a skill earned over years of perfecting their craft.

Or watching our engineers wind their way through complex problems to a handcrafted one-of-a-kind solution.

What I appreciate most about handcrafting is that each product, solution, drawing, or phone call answered is unique. One of a kind.

I suppose it’s the humanness I am attracted to.

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31 comments on “Handcrafted”

  1. Many home-audio manufacturers have a hands-on production line, especially the high-end gear.
    I can guarantee that my Marantz – ‘SA12 SE’, my Musical Fidelity – ‘M6si500’ & my DeVore Fidelity – ‘O/93’ loudspeakers were all hand-built at some stage in their manufacture…some more than others.
    The finish on my American hand-made Orangutan O/93’s is faultless, as I’ve checked every square inch of both.

  2. We spent most of last year building and had a “master cabinetmaker” make most of the new fittings, including the kitchen, a bedroom suite, and various other units. We’ve known and worked with him for many years. Everything is unique, time consuming and involved, from design, selecting veneers, colours and other finishings. When it comes to products like cabinetry, the level of perfection that can be achieved is significantly higher than anything factory made, and there is no lack of perfection – quite the opposite – the attention to detail is extraordinary. The second main thing is that the stuff is built to last more than a lifetime. The rear wall to my music room is a set of four bifold doors that he made for us 20 years ago, which we relocated, not easy as they hang from a steel beam in the ceiling. We destroyed most of the house, but they are good for ever.

    My experience of audio is different. One attaction of Devialet is that it is built by robots with the highest levels of quality control so that it has a close to 0% failure rate. In 7 years I’ve only ever heard of one unit failing, thanks to a third party component, a faulty IEC socket. Built by robots, but should last a very long time. My most recent purchase, an RCM Sensor2 phono amp, is entirely hand assembled at RCM in Poland with no printed circuity. They have a reputation for extreme reliability.

    I’m not convinced it matters how, because you can automate most processes these days, but in my experience what matters is attention to detail and quality control. You often then end up with a product that will last you a very long time and ultimately provide good value.

    Beside me is a hand-carved piece we recently bought from a young artist (he’s about 30) that exemplifies artisan skill and natural imperfection. I found a picture online. The walls are only a few millimetres thick. I get scared touching it. It’s a lovely thing, but I wouldn’t want him making my hifi. https://www.artsy.net/artwork/max-bainbridge-worn-crucible

    1. Turning wood bowls to such thin dimensions is extremely difficult. I met an expert bowl-turner on the Eastern Shore of Virginia once, who was in that category. In fact, he traveled to the UK on occasion to give workshops. A true artisan. I hope you have your piece anchored down somehow, Steven.

        1. Very lovely room, Steven. It’s nice to see a room from someone who cares as much about decor as they do about their audio. So many people think they are at odds with each other, or focus solely on the audio.

          And I trust your exquisite vase is not positioned in a bass node. 😎

          1. Thanks. The bass rattles the glass on a little coffee table, but everything else is safe. It takes an awful lot of time to get a room to look like that, all the furniture and cabinets were handmade, the ceramic and glass sculptures were all purchased from the artists and the two etchings are by associated artists (Lynn Chadwick was considered the successor to Henry Moore as Britain’s artistic ambassador). We bought antique reclaimed oak in France and had it milled to make the floor. There is a piece of glass we bought from a young sculptor 10 or 12 years ago called Laura McKinley that took so long to polish, about 200 hours, she couldn’t make a living and gave up. She’d only graduated a few years earlier. People are more interested in artisan works now and willing to pay and she’s back at it. I think Covid caused a lot of people to look to buy locally and they had more disposable income. Frankly, what we did would be quite normal in Belgium, France or Italy, and my wife did most of it, but people have different priorities and tastes. Her main influence was a designer called Axel Vervoordt, from her home town of Antwerp, who seems to have become a celebrity designer.

            1. Thanks for all the back story, Steven. I had noticed the floor in particular. It’s nice to be in a position in life to be able to support the arts in some way. You might try a dab of BluTack (or the cream-colored version) on the contact points of the rattling glass table top. Or Silly Putty? lol
              And kudos to your wife for contributing her expertise.

  3. To put things in another perspective. Are the feelings you get while walking around and marveling over the PSA facility a deep down sense of self pride?

    Nothing wrong with that…. That part of humanness when tempered by a little humility is very admirable.

    Pride in workmanship is also a desirable trait, by both the worker bee and the management.

  4. I was going to take the comment about world dominance, in put it in my container with the “ Jewish space lasers “ and the videos of all the people in Dallas waiting for JFK to return from the dead. Someone beat me to it.

      1. Back to Audio
        I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this album I stumbled on over the weekend . ( Saxnbass) by Markusphillips. 2012. It is what the name implies. Saxophone and Upright bass covering old standards. It’s so relaxing, it almost put me to sleep. I can’t imagine how beautiful it would sound on your FR30,S. Have a great day!

      2. For once I would like to see a liberal view point that offends me deleted in here because this is no place for it. Where’s Elon when he’s needed….lol. As a conservative I dont cry or complain of free speech of another person. The whole idea of free speech is hearing something you may not agree with or like to hear but allow it to be said.

  5. Then there’s the idea of robots in the operating room. Having had a knee replacement, I’m not sure how I feel about a robot working on me. (And I’m not even sure whether there was one in my case.) But I suppose precision is most important.

    1. Tele-medicine and OR-robots are a huge progress as far as the diagnostics are correct. No human errors or contaminations by the surgeons anymore. Same for autonomous cars – perfect as far as the detection of traffic signs and road users as well of road surface conditions are perfect. But we still wait for perfection concerning AI-systems for automobiles. Better to focus first on autonomous trams, trains and airplanes. Autonomous cars will be a never ending story as nuclear fusion power plants – unless there will be strictly separated tracks for busses, cars, motor-cycles, bicycles and pedestrians.

    2. I plan to have knee surgery in July, most knee surgery is done by robots today. I am told they do a better job than humans do. 😮

  6. I like the idea of something being handcrafted, the fact that an individual gave it their personal touch. I’d imagine one of the best examples in the use of handcrafting would be in the art world, especially paintings. The thing that concerns me is when I look around, there’s some bloomin’ awful paintings out there.

    1. Yes, if you can paint a scene that is nearly indistinguishable from a photo, it’s worth a couple hundred, but a red circle and a freehand blue swoop on a white canvas is worth millions.
      If I were to duct tape a banana to a canvas it’s worthless but if an ‘artist’ does it…. I guess Yoko places rocks on a floor better than I do.
      Now a 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT – now THAT’S art.
      Clearly I’m a art heathen.

      1. “Modern art is whatever you can get away with.” — me

        Not to say that I don’t like quite a bit of it. And I heartily agree about the 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT.

  7. “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcuseable.” — Ludwig van Beethoven

    There are more than a few ‘artificial intelligent’ music analysis and composition programs out there. I will have to consult with my computer science PhD son-in-law, but I do not think that there is an algorithm for passion.
    _____________________________________

    “You can tell the station that there are people on those ships,” he said. “You can ask it to help them.”

    “I can tell a rock that it ought to be secretary-general. Doesn’t mean it’s gonna listen. All this?” Miller waved his hands at the dark walls. “It’s dumb. Utilitarian. No creativity or complex analysis,”

    “Really?” Holden said, his curiosity peaking through the panic and anger and fear. “Why not?”

    “Some things, it’s better if they’re predictable. No one wants the station coming up with its own bad ideas. We should hurry.”

    — James S. A. Corey* (2013): ABADDON’S GATE, Chapter Twenty-Five: Holden

    *Nom de plume for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck

  8. Even precision can sometimes require handcrafting. Take a telescope mirror, for example. Machines can grind to great precision, but the most precise final surfacing requires hand finishing.

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