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Quality of products sure has changed!

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  • Quality of products sure has changed!

    I was installing brakes on an elderly neighbor's car and it was rather hot so I was sweating, noticing this he asked if I would like a fan? He then left to return with a box fan that immediately caught my eye, this thing must have weighed twenty pounds and looked kind of crude by today's standards but it was built like a tank! There was a metal GE tag riveted to the motor and not a piece of plastic in sight except for the switch knob which appeared to be well worn Bakelite (Spl ?), it ran flawlessly without any noticeable vibration and was very quite compared to the plastic POS sitting in my shop. I had to ask about this thing and found he and his wife bought it in 1959 at a local hardware store but he only laughed when I asked what it cost, he said he had no idea what the price was in dollars but it was probably rather expensive for the time. Anyway this thing has been used in their home every summer for 56 years and he said all they have done is to replace the cotton covered power cord and he had to, as he put it "oil the motor a few years ago"!

    Sometimes there is a lot of truth to "they just don't make'm like that anymore"!

  • #2
    How would businesses survive if they only sold 1 fan/car/computer every 56 years? They don't WANT to make them like that anymore!

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    • #3
      Well that's certainly true and if you're lucky maybe the neighbor will leave the fan to you when he passes. But just think about this: If that fan cost $25 in 1959 - a rather large but believable sum- it would cost $205 today. Would you pay that for a box fan? I certainly wouldn't. It's not just the greed of the manufacturers that have produced crap products, although it is a large contributor, but the fact that people just won't pay for quality products in our "don't fix it, toss it and buy new and better" society. Your neighbor hasn't had to replace that fan in 56 years. Imagine if cars were like that.

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      • #4
        I didn't intend to start a debate or to even say that things should not have changed, I just thought it interesting that quality was once expected but not any more. No need to educate me on why things are so different now as I am well aware of that and that was not the point, I just thought it nice to see quality built into even a common item that we just take for granted as disposable today, if you look at what I said I even mentioned that he said it was "rather expensive for the day".

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Frank K View Post
          ....It's not just the greed of the manufacturers that have produced crap products, although it is a large contributor, but the fact that people just won't pay for quality products in our "don't fix it, toss it and buy new and better" society. ...
          And how did that come about?

          Simple... Products became cheaper, partly because they were not MADE to be fixed.

          Box fans of a past era had oilite journal bearings with a big oil-soaked pad, AND AN OIL HOLE. Later the exact same fan was made with NO OIL HOLE. Guess why.....? People USED the oil hole, and the fan lasted longer. No oil hole, fan fails faster, and only folks like me/us fix them by taking bolted-together motor apart, cleaning and re-oiling.

          Later still, motor is pressed together, no screws, foiling even us fixit types...... If you CAN'T fix it, you have to scrap it.
          1601

          Keep eye on ball.
          Hashim Khan

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          • #6
            Guess I unintentionally opened up the proverbial "can-of-worms" but that could not be farther from my intent. I just thought someone might find this delightful old antique interesting and to remember how it once was done. There is no point in bashing anything or anyone as I think we all know why things are done differently today'

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            • #7
              I think to an extent it's not quality but an example of cherry picking data. (Regardless of intentional or not intentional)
              How many of those same fans shorted out when the cloth cord disintegrated? How many fell over and bent the blades and got tossed out? How many were deemed too dangerous for use around kids and were throw out? What you've got is a fan that sat around for decades in a residential environment and likely saw light, non-abusive use. You can do the same to many goods produced now.
              Gary


              Appearance is Everything...

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              • #8
                Yup, I have a mid 50's fridge in my shop that a friend was throwing out about 30 years ago.
                It has been running faithfully every day since.
                People tell me that such an old fridge can't be very efficient, I ask them how efficient is it bringing a 10 year old fridge to the dump.
                The way I look at it this old thing has already saved me me 3 trips to the dump and to the store for a new one.
                Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

                Location: British Columbia

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                • #9
                  I hate this "throw away society". Too bad the quality & pride era is about gone. Good dervice is on the way out too. Thanks for posting, I have a couple old GE desk fans still running well. Also have a 1928 GE fridge with the open coil on top, working great. Why was great quality bad?
                  Last edited by flylo; 08-15-2015, 03:24 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Oh, I think there actually IS a point.......

                    Who WOULD fix something today? Well, WE would..... Most people would not, because they do not know how. And of course because they are not "allowed to".

                    A product like the fan was made at a time when it was still considered good to make things last. Folks made an investment in a product, and they wanted it to last. They could replace the motor on many big box fans, because it was a standard motor with a pulley to drive the fan.

                    And, here's a point..... That fan, despite its clunky use of heavy materials, was a "green product".... made once, and has outlasted probably between 5 and 10 cheapo fans, which in total would weigh up to more steel etc than the old fan, clunky as it likely is. The materials did not need to be mined, converted, and put together in the last 56 years.... and when it DOES finally get past repair, it will probably be a lot more recyclable than the new fans which would otherwise have been bought and then junked when they stopped working.

                    The energy used to mine, convert etc the old fan is probably still more than what it used in energy over and above what the "newer, better" would have used. And they also needed energy to mine and convert etc materials into a fan, many more times.

                    Despite it's possible (but not certain) inefficiency vs new fans, it may well have saved energy overall vs the several cheap fans that would have replaced it.

                    I do agree, though about people and fixing.... I know of folks who sink 2 or 3 grand into a car, get it nearly fixed, and then balk at a minor couple hundred buck repair, as "the last straw'.... junking it and taking on more car payments for a new or newer car instead of paying a couple hundred to fix it.... When it was just about the last thing that was going to need fixed.
                    Last edited by J Tiers; 08-15-2015, 03:26 PM.
                    1601

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      When I was in a machinist program 40 years ago, one of the videos they showed the class talked about modern manufacturing. It contrasted a local blacksmith in Africa making hoes with a progressive die and press making hundreds or thousands of parts an hour. The blacksmith could make maybe 20 or 30 a day. The speed of manufacturing allowed low cost products that people could afford which gave us the standard of living we happen to enjoy. If we had the same manufacturing of 56 years ago, with the attendant costs of those products in today's dollars, we simply wouldn't be able to afford and have all the STUFF we're surrounded with now.

                      Yes there's a trade-off. If we like the life we live, we accept that the products are made as low cost as possible. If our productivity were like that of the blacksmith, we couldn't afford more than what the blacksmith's house probably had in it - not much. A bed of lashed sticks, some straw mats, a couple blankets and several cloths, half a dozen cooking pots, a kerosene lantern and a flashlight that you saved the batteries on etc. We could actually live like that since millions around the world still do, but we probably wouldn't like it. That blacksmith probably wanted to move to a city, try to earn more money and live in a house with a tin roof, glass in the windows, electric lights in every room and a radio.
                      .
                      "People will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time they will pick themselves up and carry on" : Winston Churchill

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                      • #12
                        I guess I am one of those who sees potential where a lot of others see trash, I guess I could be considered a "connoisseur of fine junk", but I have perfectly good examples I use everyday. Some of my farm equipment I actually bought from the scrap metal dealer but before anyone laughs I have gotten some very flattering comments on my fine old recycled junk! Sure I have a lot of time, sweat and effort under that fresh paint BUT this is time I enjoyed and it beats the dickens out of wasting one's life staring at an idiotic TV show!


                        BTW, I am old enough to well remember the era when that fan was sold new but at the time I had the same things on my mind as other 12 and 14 year old school kids, product quality was not one of them.

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                        • #13
                          I don't know about you all, but one of the reasons why I have a home machine shop is so I can build and fix things to the quality level I desire. Man, any of us could build a box fan, with tapered roller bearings, a 3 phase motor driving it, speed control via a VFD, make it visible on the internet, and control it via our smart phone. Just saying...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TGTool View Post
                            When I was in a machinist program 40 years ago, one of the videos they showed the class talked about modern manufacturing. It contrasted a local blacksmith in Africa making hoes with a progressive die and press making hundreds or thousands of parts an hour. The blacksmith could make maybe 20 or 30 a day. The speed of manufacturing allowed low cost products that people could afford which gave us the standard of living we happen to enjoy. If we had the same manufacturing of 56 years ago, with the attendant costs of those products in today's dollars, we simply wouldn't be able to afford and have all the STUFF we're surrounded with now.

                            Yes there's a trade-off. If we like the life we live, we accept that the products are made as low cost as possible. If our productivity were like that of the blacksmith, we couldn't afford more than what the blacksmith's house probably had in it - not much. A bed of lashed sticks, some straw mats, a couple blankets and several cloths, half a dozen cooking pots, a kerosene lantern and a flashlight that you saved the batteries on etc. We could actually live like that since millions around the world still do, but we probably wouldn't like it. That blacksmith probably wanted to move to a city, try to earn more money and live in a house with a tin roof, glass in the windows, electric lights in every room and a radio.
                            Nor did anyone suggest differently, as I attempted to explain later the post was about a nostalgic old antique and was not an attempt to say methods were better back then nor that things should still be the same today!

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                            • #15
                              Lots of reasons for change.
                              Planned obsolescence is a real thing, but is not necessarily bad or a fault !
                              Lets look at that Fan that the OP mentioned as an example
                              Say the fan sold for 200 dollars ( in today's dollars)
                              The manufacturer is concerned about competition's fan which sells for 179.99 ( foreign ?) which has cheaper labor and also maybe raw material.
                              His motors were superb, but the foundry was shut down by the EPA, so he has to use a lighter weight motor without castings
                              The motor must also meet the " new" energy guidelines of the Energy Department and that means a redesign.
                              So for no fault or desire of his own, the newer fans must be lower in raw material costs and alternative design .
                              Then his design engineer tells him the future energy designs ill require even more change, so the manufacturer decides to
                              lessen the life, since the fan would not meet future energy guidelines anyway and would be replaced by the consumer.
                              For example, here is a US Government quote for AC units:
                              " Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model."

                              So the manufacturer has to be concerned about (1) Sales -too high and no business (2) Competition, foreign and domestic (3)Government regulations, present and future(4) Labor Costs , (5) Raw Material cost and availability (6) General product improvement and change.

                              So if you "assume" that new products are not as good as old products, do yourself a favor and realize or at least appreciate all the factors that are involved with the evolution of goods. They are not all number 6 , and do not mean that the maker wants to screw the customer.

                              There is a economic theory that the cheaper a product is, the greater the sales potential, and more can share
                              If you applied it to houses for example, its the reason we have wood frame homes.
                              If everyone had to live in a Brick/stone house, home sales would diminish and perhaps 60 % of us could not own a home.
                              I stayed at a stone house when i visited England that was built in 1300. I doubt the average person could have afforded this back then.

                              Rich
                              Green Bay, WI

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