Doing yourself a favor

One of those truths that I have had to repeatedly learn seems to extend universally through doings in life. Quite simply put it is this: do yourself a favor in learning something by using the proper product or tool. Oftentimes, products are marketed as for “beginners” and are usually just inexpensive versions of the proper product. There are shortcuts made in their construction or composition and in the long run they produce one or all of these outcomes: frustration and abandonment, poor outcomes, and never developing the needed skill to execute good quality work. There are so many examples of this I have had the misfortune of enduring myself or watching others endure, that I am going to have to restrict it to the few for now. I think that the anecdotes will sufficiently explain this truth, so, dear reader, you can understand it on your own terms.

First I will start with shotguns. The .410 shotgun is not a beginners gun. Yes it is smaller than the other gauges and has less recoil. And yes it is chambered in cheap break action single shot shotguns you can get a Wal-Mart for $100 bucks. So people think, and they are marketed this way too: “this is great for teaching a boy how to shoot a shotgun.” It isn’t. The .410 is for experts or special purposes. 12 gauge is the beginners gauge, or if the beginner is recoil adverse or small, 16 gauge or 20 gauge. This is because the 12 gauge can easily project 1 1/8 ounce of shot. Most .410s are ¾ of an ounce at most. This is a big difference, because the pattern of the 12 gauge will be 1/3rd (about) more dense. A full third more likely to strike the clay or bird IF A GOOD SHOT IS MADE. Nothing can help you if the shot was poor. But how discouraging! The boy who goes out with a .410 quickly learns that shotgun shooting isn’t fun because there isn’t much success. The shame is that there are many affordable and decent pump shotguns in 12, 16, or 20 gauge. New ones can be had for as little a $250, and they would get the beginner on a good start, that is as long as decent shot shells were purchased. The problem with those single shot 12 gauge shotguns is that they hurt, especially if they have Bakelite (or hard plastic or metal) buttplates. An old Iver-Johnson 12 gauge single-shot break action shotgun was the first firearm I purchased. It was also the first I sold.

Another example is most woodworking hand tools, especially ones with cutting edges. A cheap plane or cheap chisels are nearly impossible to use if you know what you are doing, they are a nightmare if you are a beginner. They make many people conclude that planing or chiseling is some kind of voodoo or takes too long or just “doesn’t get the job done.” They go and buy a router or a planer and never even learn how to use a chisel or a plane. This, of course, limits what they can build or repair, because, for example, old doors were let in with chisels. If you can’t use a chisel right, then you are forced to buy a whole new newly manufactured door (that is pre hung and has hinges installed so that people who can’t use chisels can install them) if the old door’s hinges need replacement. A shame here is quality woodworking hand tools, unless abused, last for generations, and are heirlooms that you can pass onto future generations. They are not inexpensive, and will often cost almost as much as their power tool equivalents, but the power tool will be worth almost nothing someday while many quality hand tools increase in value.

Sewing machines are another good example. It is very difficult to get by with a crumby third-world sewing machine. These machines can be used by experts surprisingly well, but they are very difficult if you don’t know what you are doing, and like the .410 shotgun, are almost guaranteed to make one cease pursuit of the activity because they are frustrating and make success difficult, practically killing motivation. If you want to sew, then save up enough money to buy a Pfaff (Germany or Czech Republic), Bernina (Switzerland), or Husqvarna (Sweden or Taiwan). Don’t get the thing made in China or Vietnam that is sold in Jo-Anns or Wal-Mart for your daughter to “learn how to sew.” Almost surely, she never will, because you crippled her with that cheap machine. If you aren’t willing to spend the $250 to 500 to purchase a good, perhaps used, simple, and well made sewing machine, then you probably wont apply yourself sufficiently to become proficient at sewing.

Yarn, in general, is this way. Cheap synthetic yarns are marketed as for “beginners.” In truth, they are the hard to learn how to knit with. If you are a beginner, then please get decent wool yarn. Also, the fact of the matter is with yarn, that if you use cheap yarn, no matter how well you knit, the garment will be a cheap garment made of cheap yarn. Even though your human talent and ability went into it, the cheap material will forever hobble it. If anything, buy yarn that is better than your abilities, so that whatever your abilities, are you can at least be proud in some measure of what you made. If you go cheap you will always be reminded of that fact.

Many home improvement products are this way. You can buy a small tub of pre-mixed plaster material in a coffee-can to patch a wall, or you can buy a bag of plaster and do it right. The stuff in the coffee-can will never work as well as fresh-mixed plaster, but it seems easier and is marketed that way (to newbie DIYers), and it costs 10x as much.

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