In 1980 I bought a traditional coconut grater – a steel grating leaf bolted to a wooden stool. As it lost many teeth, in June 2011 I bought a new leaf to replace the old one. I did not have to drill new holes on the stool; gap between the two holes on the leaf were exactly 2” like in the old one! This was a pleasant surprise to me.
I had bought the old one in Bombay and the new one in Bangalore. The simple tool handcrafted by humble blacksmiths in their humble workshops, separated by a generation and a distance of 850 km did not affect their standards!
Also, I am often amazed by the arithmetic skills and sense of proportion shown by many village carpenters, masons and such craftsmen who work with very simple tools and who have limited formal education.
Consider the machine-crafted, mass-produced, “quality controlled,” branded, packed and marketed products we buy.
When I buy a new electric plug, often it is too tight, cracking the contact while inserting; or too loose on the sockets, causing sparks and damaging the cable. Such sparks can damage sensitive equipment too. If you find a smell when you turn on equipment like electric iron or microwave oven that consumes heavier power, first check if the plug is taught and if the switch is cool. Before suspecting the equipment, ensure that the switch and socket are fine and well-fitting.
Different models of laptop PC power sockets are not similar. Different models of mobile phones, even of the same brand, have different standards of sockets for charging the battery and earphone sockets.
If I buy a pair of trousers of my known waist size, I am not sure about the fit unless I try it. Shirts of the same size hang loose sometimes and are a little tight other times.
Our craftsmen like village blacksmiths have concern for their trade, which are not shared by mass producers of commodity items – high as well low technology gadgets.
If we check wiring done by qualified electricians, often the line and neutral wires are interchanged, and the neutral instead of line is passed through the switch. We mostly do not find a problem because most of the equipments work correctly with these circuits. Problem shows up when we interconnect devices like PC and printer, powered from different sockets.
Rarely do we find fuse wires of correct rating being used; thick conductors are used instead. Purpose of having a fuse in the circuit is defeated.
A representative of a water purifier company visited home to install the gadget. He was to put four screws on the wall. He bore oversized holes and hammered-in wooden plugs making an ugly finish. Then, he hammered the screws! When I asked him to use a screw driver and not a hammer, he did not like the idea and argued. He attempted the screw driver and found it inconvenient and picked up the hammer again. It would be too much to expect such people to use a spirit-level to check even installation.
Many tradesmen making repair/maintenance calls do not use plugs to connect electric cables, but insert bare wires – even for welding machines that draw heavy current. At best, they would plug-in some match sticks with the wires to hold them in place!
The list can grow. Like neglect of standards, we do not take workmanship seriously either.
What can we do?
Understand general technical standards for the gadgets we use at home. If possible, keep minimal tool set and learn to repair these gadgets. Exchange non-standard ill-fitting gadgets with good ones; an incorrect part can damage the gadget and also can cause accidents. Demand for satisfactory workmanship from the people who attend to installation and maintenance of gadgets.
Do It Yourself – DIY – is a practice worth adopting at our homes too.
We will debate more about scientific temper in everyday life in the next post.