Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future


There is a new commercial airing that shows flashbacks of a young girl enjoying a family road trip from the rear facing seat in their Volvo station wagon. While a familiar perch to we Baby Boomers — probably not so much to our post-minivan generations. But my kids used to squabble over who got the “way-back” in our 1991 Mercury Sable station wagon, so I’d guess the rearward perspective popularity extends — and ends — to those in their late 20s.

While many of my blog posts celebrate the past, I resist becoming a full-time curmudgeon. Yes, history and my experiences in the gear trade are important to me, and I hope you enjoy reading about my reflections. But the future is even more interesting, as we are all going to be spending the rest of our lives there.

And what a future it can be as advances in metallurgy, heat treating, and machining enable designers to create power transmission products with greater precision, higher efficiency, and longer service life. And even now, commercial software puts NASA-level stress analysis in the hands of even the smallest company.

But none of this can be successful without an appreciation and understanding of where the gear trade has come from. You can buy all the woodworking books you want; surround yourself with top-quality cabinet making equipment and lay in a big supply of exotic hardwoods. But your projects will be only expensive firewood if you haven’t developed your mechanical skills and design sense.

As a hitter doesn’t blame his bat when he strikes out, a craftsman doesn’t blame his tools for botching a job. We have no excuses for making poorly designed or roughly machined products. Learn what worked or didn’t work from studying prior art. Understand and apply emerging technology to improve on classic designs. We loved our 1991 Mercury, but wouldn’t want to drive one today. The same can be said for a good many classic power transmission products.

About Charles D. Schultz 609 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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