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Slow and steady wins the race

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We are a youth and technology driven culture … fast and furious.

It’s the market strategy of the global economy to make and sell a continuous stream of low or relatively low cost products to attract the disposable income of the billions of energetic consumers worldwide.

Who would have thought 20 years ago, that there would be three billion cell phones in use planet-wide each day … at a cost to the consumer of $50.00 per month or 1.5 trillion dollars a year … possibly more?

It costs me 13 cents to make a cup of coffee at home and I buy fair trade organic. What does a large cup of Starbucks latte cost? More than 20 times as expensive as the socially responsible home-brew.

Where do the cups, caps, and obsolete phones go when we are done with them?

We have the choice of how we spend our hard-earned money.  Money is power.

Imagine a world in which the individual consumer spent just half of his/her disposable income on socially responsible, sustainable, renewable, fair trade, living wage, and non-polluting products? The wave of change in the global markets would be seismic. It would shake up business as usual big time.

“He’s slow, but he’s a good carpenter.”

My friend John at a local woodworking company invited me for a cup of (probably not fair trade) coffee. He had something he wanted to discuss.

In his employ was a 70-year-old cabinetmaker that was no longer fast enough to keep up with the demands of the mill work/cabinet shop floor.

“Nick, Tony is a great carpenter.” John said. “I hate to let him go, but he’s no longer making me money. Perhaps you could use him for the really fine stuff … hardware, built-ins. Oh, by the way, he doesn’t speak English.”

Done deal. At the time we were just starting a complicated high-end renovation with lots of cabinetry and molding reproduction. Tony’s talent would be a real asset to the project and he would provide a wonderful role model for the younger carpenters.

Tony emigrated from Italy in the 1930’s. As a young journeyman, he worked in the heyday of church construction in New York City. He carved the end pieces of the church pews at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a loving, painstaking, precision task. Eventually he moved on to cabinet making. Tony was master craftsman.

Renovation of North Greenwich Colonial, c. 1750-1800

We set Tony up in an outbuilding with a table saw, a miter saw, and his hand tools. I asked him to reproduce small runs of molding to match the existing profiles of the house. In his broken English he asked for some old block plane blades and a grinder to “cut” the profile into. He then proceeded to make moldings as needed, by hand.

Slow and steadyHaving this workshop on site raised the bar for everyone. Tony’s bench tools were kept well-organized and his materials were stacked and located by type, length, and need. His crafted pieces were spaced out to keep the air circulating to limit shrinking in the final product.

Each night his son would come to pick him up. Tony would leave with his lunchbox and his hand-tool box which contained his chisels, planes, sets, punches, screwdrivers – his personal, indispensable tools – that he needed everyday to get his work done.

When Tony finished a task, either a cabinet door or molding, it was paint/stain ready. He had sanded it smooth and neatly filled all the nail holes and made the surface dust free – a painter’s dream come true. Tony set the bar so high! Everyone – even the fast, the young, and the restless – played to Tony’s song.

Tony did not waste an inch of material; to him, down the road, that 6” piece of clear pine could be used for something. He hand-carved roses for the corner of the mantelpiece in the new master bedroom; and he made a clicking toy for my baby boy’s toy chest out of durable, resinous yellow pine (I wonder where it ended up?).

Tony’s pace fit perfectly into the rhythm of the project … slow and steady won that race.

When we take the time to care about the result of our actions, and when we are consistent and dependable, good things happen. The true power base of the planet – the creativity of the individual – is activated.

Activate your power!

Tony's skill and simple elegance was a pleasure to behold!