Monday, May 22, 2017

the tempo of human labor

A while back I read an article about Marcin Jakubowski's Factor e farm in Bloomberg Business week. Jakubowski is working on  "open source" mechanical equipment that can be made from readily accessible junk. I am also remembering my summer visit with Bill Coperthwaite. Both Coperthwaite and Jakubowski were driven by a goal of regaining a necessary democratic distribution of human resources. Both were concerned with the tools of civilization.

If you were to have known Bill at an earlier time when his imagination had been captured by the huge power supply potential of his mill pond tidal basin, at Machiasport, Maine, it might have appeared that he and Jakubowski were speaking the same language. But that was before Coperthwaite who died in an auto accident in 2013 discovered the powers of his own hands. While Jakubowski is concerned with tractors, Bill was working on the crooked knife, a democratic axe, block knives and wheel barrows: things that can be handled through the energy of man. You can learn more about Coperthwaite, by using the search function on my blog:

Human beings these days seem to have become unfamiliar with the rhythmic potentials of our own bodies. Give a kid a chisel, and he wants to drive it straight into the wood in a single whack, not realizing that work is most easily accomplished through rhythmic (and thoughtful) application of force. By dividing work into smaller increments, human beings can have tremendous power. The illustration above is from Rudolfs J. Drillis' "Folk Norms and Biomechanics" and shows the optimum work tempo for man. Don't expect others these days to make such observations or to be interested in such things. We have reached the point of foolishness in which human labor and the productive capacities of our own bodies are things to be escaped rather than studied and cherished.

A poem from Two Hundred Poems for Teachers of Industrial Arts Education Compiled by William L. Hunter, 1933 tells a bit of the story

The Potter
The potter stood at his daily work,
One patient foot on the ground;
The other with never slackening speed
Turning his swift wheel around.

Silent we stood beside him there,
Watching the restless knee,
'Til my friend said low, in pitying voice,
"How tired his foot must be!"

The potter never paused in his work,
Shaping the wondrous thing;
'Twas only a common flower pot,
But perfect in fashioning.

Slowly he raised this patient eyes,
With homely truth inspired;
"No, Marm, it isn't the foot that works,
The one that stands gets tired!"
-- Author unknown
I am finishing my school year at the Clear Spring School and preparing for summer classes. I've a lot more to do to prepare the new ESSA wood shop for an opening celebration, June 4.

Make, fix, create and help others to learn likewise.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:15 AM

    Well, not a poetric masterpiece. But the one who struggles with English (might proably not read you blog or) and rather likes to read it in German: I've made a quick translation.



    Der Töpfer

    Der Töpfer, stehend bei seinem täglichen Werk,
    ein Fuß harrend auf dem Grund,
    der andere, mit nimmermüder Kraft,
    dreht die Töpferscheibe Rund’ um Rund’.

    Schweigend standen wir dort neben ihm,
    mit Blick auf das wippende Bein,
    bis mein Freund leise, mitleidig sprach:
    “Wie müde muss sein Fuß längst sein!”

    Der Töpfer unterbrach seine Arbeit nicht,
    beständig formte er die wundersame Pracht.
    Zwar war’s nur eine gewöhnliche Blumenvase,
    dafür aber makellos gemacht.

    Langsam hob er seine geduldigen Augen,
    jedes für sich die tiefe Weisheit verrät,
    “Nein, Meister, es ist nicht der Fuß, der schafft,
    Müde wird der, der steht!”

    -- Autor unbekannt