Atwood bike tool

2008-02-07

in Economics, Geek stuff, The outdoors

Atwood bike tool

The other week, I bit the bullet and ordered one of Peter Atwood‘s excellent handmade tools. In anticipation of the summer, I ordered his bike tool. It’s about three inches long and made from Crucible‘s CPM3V cutlery steel, with a bead blasted finish. It includes 4mm and 5mm hex bits and a 15mm axle wrench, as well as a prybar. I have long admired Atwood’s work as quite beautiful but, prior to seeing the bike tool, never saw something well suited enough to something I do to justify the expense.

The appeal of the tool lies largely in the mode of manufacture. Virtually everything I have ever owned has been mass produced: clothes, electronics, furniture, tools, etc. Having something that was individually forged by a human being is fairly rare. All the logic of economics resists a production process wherein a single being completes everything from design through manufacturing to product testing, and yet it is strangely satisfying to possess something that arose from such an effort. It is that knowledge, and the value derived from it, that justifies paying a relatively high price for such an object.

All in all, this is one more reason I can’t wait for the roads to clear, allowing me to bring my bike up from the basement.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

tristan February 7, 2008 at 11:42 am

It is one of my favorite and most hopeful things about you that you fetishize non mass-produced objects. It shows that you have not completely descended into the night of nihilism.

Incidentally, myself, mr. in love with German peasants, doesn’t own any non-mass produced objects (except perhaps for the painted box from Dubai you gave me, which can only dubiously be called “non mass produced”).

. February 7, 2008 at 11:45 am
Tom February 7, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Handmade luxury products do not contradict capitalism in any way – they are just another niche product that some people will pay a premium for. In a few cases, the added value from rarity is more important than the higher efficiency of mass production.

Tom February 7, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I’m going to be trying something new this winter. I’ve decided to make an enormous batch of maybe two or three items. I’m talking huge. Many hundreds, maybe a thousand if I can stand the monotony. I think this might finally allow me to keep just one or two things on the site.

Economic logic rears its head

Litty February 7, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Pick a bright dry day when the roads are clear and a bit of winter cycling should be no problem.

Emily Horn February 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

It is one of my favorite and most hopeful things about you that you fetishize non mass-produced objects. It shows that you have not completely descended into the night of nihilism.

Is it action against nihilism that defines whether or not you are a nihilist? Or is it just the theoretical action that you would take, had you the energy to prove you are not a nihilist.

If it is the former, it’s unclear how you yourself haven’t descended into the “night of nihilism”, and if it is the latter, it seems strangely contradictory to start shot-gunning the title ‘nihilist’ at people who don’t act against nihilism.

I’d like to learn how to whittle bird-houses. To fight nihilism.

Milan February 7, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Nihilism is one of those elusive words I never feel confident about the meaning of. Starting with the Wikipedia definition:

Nihilists generally assert some or all of the following:

* there is no reasonable proof of the existence of a higher ruler or creator,
* a “true morality” does not exist, and
* objective secular ethics are impossible; therefore, life has, in a sense, no truth, and no action is objectively preferable to any other.

I have no problems with the first bullet. We have no good reason to believe in gods or any other supernatural force.

The latter two points are complicated ones. It is very hard to believe that there is a real objective truth behind morality. That said, the scope of human experience is not so broad as to leave the scope of reasonable morality unconstrained.

Perhaps a more sensible way to respond to Tristan’s assertion of my nihilism is to say that I have never seen a problem with any of the beliefs he attributes to those who are ‘nihilists.’ In any case, I don’t think appreciation for rare objects made with skill provides evidence for or against this contention.

Milan February 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Also, Wikipedia defines fetishizing as “the attribution of religious or mystical qualities to inanimate objects as a primary stage in the development of a culture or civilization.”

That, I certainly do not do, because I think all religion and mysticism is wrong.

It’s just neat to have well made things, especially when relatively few other people have them. They are a source of both utility and interest.

tristan February 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I really have no interest in what dictionaries or wikipedia make of nihilism, these are written by amateurs. If you want to know what I mean by nihilism, you should rather look at the things I’ve said in my many films and interviews. Perhaps you could even edit them together to form an advert for Atwood tools.

tristan February 7, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Dreyfus (a very lucid although not terribly insightful philosopher at Berkley), wrote this paper on Heidegger/art/tech/poli. Section 3. on technology does a reasonable job at explaining what nihilism is with respect to technology.

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/%7Ehdreyfus/pdf/HdgerOnArtTechPoli.pdf

tlaing February 9, 2008 at 6:45 pm

At its most basic level, religion is just the belief of something beyond the self. Any scientist who thinks science shows up things beyond the self has Science as a religion. The fact that the things it shows up appear “useful” and “normal” is simply a scientist’s argument that science is a better religion, because it does a better job of showing up things outside ourselves.

And that’s fine, but to the extent that science fails to show us things outside ourselves (such as for example Freedom or Morality or Law), religious folk have an argument as to why Science should remain instrumentalist and the religion should remain their particular faith. *considered as instrumentalist, science is not a religion because it does not reveal things beyond the self, it is merely considered a ‘useful practice’ for the making of cell phones.

Milan February 9, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Any scientist who thinks science shows up things beyond the self has Science as a religion. The fact that the things it shows up appear “useful” and “normal” is simply a scientist’s argument that science is a better religion, because it does a better job of showing up things outside ourselves.

This is completely wrong. Science isn’t a set of beliefs, at the core, it is a set of processes. It is a means for evaluating hypotheses. The fact that hypotheses are never taken as absolutely proven is one of the important elements that distinguishes science from a religion. Religions all demand that people believe in things beyond the observable. Science says that things beyond the observable are irrelevant.

Milgram February 16, 2008 at 12:45 am

Not true. I’m a social scientist, and I realize that science is much more than a methodology. It’s an ideology. Science has its own set of secular gods, devils, beliefs, dogma. It’s wrong to say science doesn’t require belief. And like any other ideology, a great deal of ostracism is directed at apostates.

Milan February 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Milgram,

It is important to distinguish here between the scientific establishment and the scientific method. Like any group of people, the scientific establishment can be petty and stubborn. What differentiates science sharply from religion is the core method of evaluating theories on the basis of evidence. The stark absence of that critical tenet in religious belief sets it firmly and permanently outside the realm of science.

Milan March 1, 2008 at 11:57 am

“In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.”

-Stephen Jay Gould

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