I love to build small steam engines and the key piece of kit in the steam engine builder’s armory is a metal working lathe. Industry would describe this as a machine tool. The West’s machine tool industry has been decimated for pretty obvious reasons. An American or European small lathe may cost ten thousand pounds, but a Chinese copy can be bought for a thousand. They don’t work that well and some of the metal they are made from is a bit like cheese, but they are getting better. When you type ‘Model making lathe’ into the internet, up pops the Wan-kee Lathe company, probably re-named and marketed by a Western importer under the Truprecise brand or some such thing.
Lurking in the center of England is a factory of elves that still make a slightly old fashioned traditional lathe. They are very expensive even though the elves don’t make much money but I have acquired a second hand one, oh what joy, what bliss! It is like the difference between supermarket chocolate yogurt and Raymond Blanc’s hand folded Belgium chocolate mousse. The old sales people used to say, “You only cry once when you buy quality!” The problem is that we, as customers, don’t buy quality anymore because no one knows how to sell it.
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