Daily Archives: November 2, 2011

Rotting the bone marrow – Dependence on China for tool steel

I noticed several years ago a person can’t get good drill bits in the US anymore.  When you buy them they’ll barely cut into aluminum, afterward they’ll cut nothing and can’t be sharpened to hold an edge capable of cutting.

Today I walked up to Gale’s to look at some spectacular rocks he’s acquired [opalized petrified wood], and this drill bit thing was on my mind because I’d just attempted to drill through some aluminum.  I mentioned the Chinese steel drill bits and how we need to watch the thrift stores for US bits from a time when they’d hold an edge.

“I’m seeing the same thing in saw blades,” he mused.  Damned band saw blades won’t cut with any duration.

As we discussed it the light dawned.  Even Chinese screwdrivers bend instead of breaking.

“Do you suppose it’s the alloys they’re using, or the temper?”  Neither seemed to me to satisfy the symptoms.

“Might be a bit of both, but it doesn’t make sense.”  Gale’s done considerable tempering of steel, as I have.  “Tempering just isn’t that big a deal.”

But whether it’s intended or not, whether it’s the alloy, which it probably is [There’s a good possibility they’re sending us something nearer IRON than carbon steel] the fact is it creates a still greater dependence.  Nobody in the US is going to be able to operate any of a hundred metalworking businesses if they can’t get good tool steel bits, blades, tools.

I’ve got a pair of wire pincers out on the porch I thought about when I got back to the cabin.  I’d noticed just the gripping them enough to cut woven wire bends the handles to the center.  This was a more-or-less expensive pair of pliers.

If I believed in conspiracies, I’d be tempted by this.  But I’m at loss why we’re not getting high quality tool steel inadvertently.

How, I wonder, would it appear differently if it were a conspiracy?

Old Jules

Poking Around Canyon, Colorado for the Navajo Rug

Sometimes a song just happens to twang the heartstrings and worm its way into a lifetime, I suppose.  Navajo Rug’s been such a song for me.

I first heard the song in Austin, Texas, performed by Bill and Bonnie Hearne in some tiny, packed appearance of theirs in the mid-1980s.  I liked it so well I bought a tape.  Then, later I discovered the Tom Russell version and made a 90 minute tape with just that song on it, listening to it on road trips sometimes for several hours at a time until the tape wore out.

Almost a decade later I was headed through the Four Corners area toward Hovenweep and various ancient sites in southwestern Utah, but still in Colorado when a road-sign announced I was entering Canyon, Colorado.  I craned my neck watching for evidence of a burned down cafe in the weeds as I passed through.

But all the time I was in Utah over the next several days the Navajo Rug song and Canyon, Colorado were nagging at the back of my mind.  I didn’t even have the tape with me, so I sang it to myself and the truck.  Then, on the trip back I resolved to try to find out if the cafe ever existed, where it was, maybe even pick up some piece of broken melted glass or a spoon from the ruin.

I spent half a day in that village slowly driving back and forth along the grader ditch, getting out and trekking around possibilities, asking around among any residents I could approach without interrupting what they were doing.

I didn’t find it, didn’t find anyone in town who’d ever even heard the song.

But I did sit down in the only eating establishment open and order two eggs up on whiskey toast, home-fries on the side.

Sometimes that’s about the best a person can do. 

But it wasn’t the only time I’d found myself pursuing musical/lyrical craziness when location comspired with a song I remembered to distract me from a destination.  On more than one trip through Morenci and Clifton, AZ, I did a lot of asking trying to find someone who remembered who sang Open Pit Mine.


Not a soul even remembered ever hearing the song.

Old Jules

Occupy Someplace Warm and Cogitate

I’m not just any old dumb-ass.  I’m a dumb-ass with a lot of hats, cats and a few chickens.  But I’m also a dumb-ass who’s lived long enough to recognize tripwires and the sound of impending silence tromping around in the nether regions.

I’m a dumb-ass with a pair of ears I can hear with and eyes I can see with.

What I see and hear are the forces of ‘the other side’ are dragging out the heavy artillery and the Magnificent Seven.  The propagandist litany of dirty sexual organs, dirty clothes, dirty underwear and dirty Communism is already coming through the loudspeakers of surround-sound. 

You’re being demonized, but they’re also planting pamphlets they claim are circulating among you about what circumstances it’s okay to kill cops.  Claiming your promiscuity’s worse than that of a politician or vice cop.  Claiming you’re getting your funding from any organization they think anyone hates.

These tactics have always worked for them in the past.  They’re not too different from those used by the USSR against Polish Solidarity to keep it down almost a decade.  They’re not, for that matter, too different from those used once in Germany to acclimatize the population to some reason behind a segment of the population vanishing.

Meanwhile it’s going to get cold nights and those who have somewhere warm to go are going to find all manner of important reasons to go there.

Generally it makes better PR to go voluntarily than to be driven out by having been discredited so badly as to seem a justifiable target for physical abuse.  And it’s better to go voluntarily than just to fade from something that can be labelled ‘lack of support’, or ‘lack of interest’.

I’ve never quite been dumb-ass enough to think this OWS business is likely to bring about any positive change, but I have been dumb-ass enough to hope it doesn’t get steamrollered.  Enough to allow a microscopic hope that what’s being done could get the attention of some piece of the power structure enough to get them thinking.

But now the clock is running.  There’s more than a hint that both political parties have realized allowing all these folks to quietly sink back into the population when a national election’s looming on the horizon might be worse then having them out where they can be discredited and infiltrated by provocateurs, inflamed and accused.

I’m a dumb-ass who thinks the smart ones are filling up the address books with email addresses and phone numbers, packing their dirty sex, dirty underwear, and dirty Communism as carry-on luggage for a trip below the horizon, off the radar.

But I’m not dumb-ass enough to think anyone’s going to do it.

Old Jules