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AMERICA'S CRAFTSMEN

This country was founded by craftsmen. Craftsmen were a necessity. It wasn't a hobby or some stress-relieving pastime; it's how thing were made. You bought what you couldn't make yourself from craftsmen. Benjamin Franklin formed the Leather Apron Society in 1727, which included craftsmen who made things that were used every day. They attended the meetings that led to the founding of this great country with hands dirty and calloused from working their trades. Local craftsmen made the glass, furniture, tools, hinges, brooms, and other items used on a daily basis. They were tailors, blacksmiths, cobblers, coopers, bakers and tinkerers. Notice the different trades; do any look familiar as today's last names? You were often known for and named after your craft. Bob the tailor became Bob Taylor, Joe the blacksmith became Joe Smith, Sam the baker became Sam Baker.

In this time period, you bought something because you couldn't make it yourself. You bought it directly from the craftsman's shop, usually passed from his hand to yours. If necessary, the item was made to order to fit your specific needs. You could get it a little bigger, wider, or otherwise personalized to your desire. If you ever had a problem with the item, the craftsman took care of it for you one-on-one. There was not a complicated limited warranty or return policy!

Today, it seems like stuff magically appears on the shelves in local stores. We throw it away and buy a new one when it breaks or wears out too quickly, then complain, even though we bought the cheapest thing available! And, of course, we hate stuff not made in the USA, but for many items, there is no choice anymore.

We are talking about more than just, "Made in the USA;" what about things made in your own town by local craftsmen? Americans are getting back to an appreciation for locally grown produce that allows farmers to grow better quality food that is safer and tastes better. Some farmers can actually make a living selling their produce direct at Farmers Markets. You enjoy helping a neighbor make a living while eating healthier, fresher food. You have a connection with the food in a way you don't when you just grab a bunch of carrots that were raised and harvested as cheaply as possible and shipped from another country, handled by many faceless and nameless people who didn't give a hill of beans (no pun intended) about you or your health.

I'd like to see a similar movement happen with America's Craftsmen! My hope is that this book will give you a new perspective on the history of America's Craftsmen and create an appreciation for the relatively few modern craftsmen remaining. I'd like to see us be able to find and purchase more items to which we have a personal connection. Even if we all bought just a few top-quality items, to use or just to admire, things worthy of passing on to the next generation, I think our lives would be richer for the experience because we knew who made it and where it came from.

I have earned my living as a craftsman for over 40 years. My wife and I have traveled the country making knives and teaching our trade to others for 15 years now. The reactions are interesting. "You made that?! Do you use good steel!? You can make a living at that!?" I'm not sure how to answer the last question. The current lack of interest towards and knowledge about craftsmanship makes it very difficult to make a living as a craftsman in America today. Hopefully our adventures and experiences as modern-day nomads are funny and interesting as well as educational.

Enjoy the book, and then go do a little something to support a craftsman and see if you don't enjoy the experience as well as your new possession, a possession that may just have a little extra meaning to it. Maybe you can try your hand at making something yourself. The Japanese refer to their master craftsmen as "National Treasures." Let's not lose any more of America's Craftsmen, one of our country's great treasures!

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