Part 1 – scale of craftsmanship

I call it the scale of craftsmanship.  This is a discussion about the risks and benefits regarding the scale of manufacturing, building, creating or Craftsmanship.

You might call it power tools versus hand tools, but another way to look at it is scaleable vs small-batch, manufacturing vs one-off.  It’s the range of the types of tools we use and how many pieces we make.

Risk vs Certainty, Freedom vs Complexity

Freedom creates risk.  Certainty requires complexity.  This is a scale from ‘high risk’ to ‘high certainty’ when the build method changes between big batch and small batch methods.  Which is better?  It depends what details we consider to be better.

Example 1: Manufacturing

Big scale manufacturing is a high-certainty and high-complexity method.  Hours are spent configuring expensive machines to do exactly what they are meant to do.  Each one makes a single precise cut in short time, and the piece moves to the next machine for the next step. 

With a well designed setup and well-tuned machines, you can be sure each piece will come out looking exactly as expected (High-Certainty) with a very low chance of wasting time & money on mistakes (Low-Risk).

This also applies to freedom vs complexity.  Small hand tools have the freedom to make many different types of cuts without any trouble (Freedom) which comes at the cost of Risk & Uncertainty.  Risk is managed by user skill, while in large-scale manufacturing Risk and Certainty is managed by the machine, since much time and energy is spent setting up a machine for one perfect cut (Complexity).

Freedom vs Complexity; Risk vs Certainty.

Example 2: Handmade

A chisel is the perfect example of handmade.

The chisel is nothing but a sharp edge and a handle.  It has freedom to make almost any cut.  The chisel could build the furniture if we wanted it to (though that would be a ridiculous waste of time).  The chisel has the ultimate Freedom and Simplicity, but with this freedom comes a high risk of making a mistake and ruining the piece.  One bad cut and all the work is wasted.

More about Skill in part 2.

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