Thursday, December 12, 2013

Taking a step backwards to make leaps going forwards

One of the things I've noticed in recent years is that I'm buying less and less into "modern convenience at the cost of lots of money".  Having taken this step backwards in time to drop the modern conveniences, I then find a lack of knowledge surrounding me to help me make this transition properly.

What started me down that path was razors;  I used to use the Gillette Mach 3 - which now costs a whopping $30+ dollars for 8 cartridges.  This means I was spending a lot of money annually on shaving before we take into account shaving cream.  
So I switched to using a straight razor. (actually, I started with a cheaper "shavette", before deciding I would stick with it long term and make the investment in a proper straight razor).  

If it wasn't for the fact I had one friend using them already, I would have been totally reliant on YouTube and straightrazorplace.com to learn something that at one point in time every guy learned from their father or peers and was common knowledge.  This was because my father and grandfather didn't use a straight - and we've become totally reliant on disposable blades.  Thus, the knowledge was lost.

When I finally made that switch, it cost me near $90 for a decent razor and another $80 for brush, strop and shave cup but in the years since this move has paid itself off over numerous times and continues to do so.

Another example is cast iron;  I'm now a huge fan of cast iron, but this started because I was buying a new Teflon frying pan every 18 months. Once it became a joke that our Christmas tradition was to have a frying pan wrapped up under the tree, I decided it was time to change.

Now, I collect and restore cast iron skillets as yet another hobby on the side, but the big issue initially was even this knowledge had been lost in my friends and family.  Again, this was despite it being such a common thing just 80 years ago.  As such, once I'd gotten myself up to speed through research, the biggest issue I quickly faced now was explaining how to use a cast iron pan to family so they didn't start wrecking my restoration efforts (no soap, acidic cleaners, etc) when cleaning it.

Now my oldest Teflon pan is approaching two years old, and yet my youngest cast iron pan (for cast iron aficionados, it's a Griswold #6 "big block" skillet) is at least 70 years old.  My oldest (a McClary #6 Spider) is between 92 and 142 years old.

Again, the money saved is quite big: If a $25 teflon frying pan lasts 2 years, that's a $12.50 a year cost of ownership.   A good antique cast iron skillet might cost $45, but should last another 200 years no problem if cared well for, so this is $0.22 per year when you look at the cost of ownership.  


Sometimes it does pay to go and take a step backwards.  The greatest thing you can do after making that leap is making sure you pass on the knowledge you gain to your kids and family.  That way, when they decide that certain modern conveniences are just a money-grab for disposable items, they are armed to make the switch.