I remember the days when mom and dad would say, "Things aren't built like they used to be." That was more than 40 years ago. Now it's me telling my kids the same thing. I was too young to really appreciate the high level of build quality back then. But I have a small taste of quality from my experience with machine tools in my home machine shop. Unfortunately, I also have a shop full of poorly engineered and manufactured items from the current era.
I have several machines in my garage that are a testament to quality engineering. The 1965 J-Head Bridgeport milling machine, the 1960s Clausing Lathe, and the 1940s Southbend Lathe are just a few examples of machines that were designed to last. When a friend and I were looking for a good band saw, new units were passed over for a 1960s Doall band saw. There was no solid modeling, no computers, no modern tools. These machines were designed on paper by engineers who knew quality.
When I was growing up, lasting quality was evident inside the house, as well. I can remember my mom having only one iron. Being the fixer of the house, I replaced the cord a couple times. This was expected. Replacement cords were available at the local supermarket. But quality is not a word associated with the build of modern irons.
If price is a reflection of quality, we are now buying good irons. However, these are so poorly engineered that replacement is inevitable. In fact, we regularly save the receipts and boxes to return them as they fail. Sometimes the product lasts a month, and sometimes it lasts six months, but invariably they all fail. In an attempt to save money, my wife has tried buying cheap, basic irons (versus more expensive, feature-filled irons). But there is little difference in longevity or build quality.
I've replaced or repaired the cords on these new models a few times. But these are different from my mom's iron; these were not really intended to continue on after a cord replacement. Just opening these irons is a challenge. Once inside, you'll usually find the cord is crimp-connected to other components. My mom's iron had easy access to cord and screw terminals. Seems like design engineers back then realized that the cord might need to be replaced. What a concept.
Yet all this cord business is usually irrelevant -- the iron fails before the cord needs replacing. I'm always curious as to why the iron failed. So I take a look. I've seen failures in the heating controller, actual heater elements, as well as safety circuits. There doesn't seem to be a pattern in the failures. The pattern that is evident is that it's all junk.
This entry was submitted by Eric Chesak and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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