Turns out older stuff was better made. Like 20 times better.

In the matter of shovels, at least, there is a huge difference between cheap “weekend gardener” types and a professional model. Basically, the cheap ones are stamped & rolled out of sheet metal. The good ones are forged out of good quality steel. The good ones are from manufactures likes Ames and Tru-Temper. They cost $40-50 each, but last a lifetime. I own several, and if you’re doing really heavy work…digging hard clay, or rocky or root-laden soil there is no comparison.

And on the subject of older is better… I like to use the example of automobiles. When I began driving (early 1970’s), someone who owned a car with 100k miles had serious bragging rights (Studebakers were particularly noted for clocking up six-figure odometer readings, as were Mercedes-Benz). Today, it’s common to run a car for 300k or better, even with minimal maintenance.

My grandparent’s wooden gingerbread kitchen clock from before the turn of the last century is a winding clock with a timer and a chime. It still keeps good time if I keep it wound.

It’s not only functional but a thing of beauty and meaning in my home.

My in-law’s 1935 wedding gift kitchen clock still is running on the wall down at the farm. I can’t count the number of kitchen clocks my husband and I have gone through in forty-five years. Each one lasts a little less long than the one before it. Same with coffee makers.

In my kitchen I use a wooden-handled skinning knife of my uncle’s circa the thirties because I’ve never found a knife that will keep an edge like that.

My grandmother’s treadle sewing machine still works. I’ve sewed my way through three modern Singers.

If I tell this to someone in their thirties they usually say something about euphoric recall. I always wonder how younger people can accurately critique events and items from the past when they weren’t alive to experience them.

But! Every make and model had a very distinct style. Now most of the cars on the road look alike to me. Ugh.

I do miss the craftsmanship that was part of producing goods. And I think it has depersonalized the work of the American worker. So there’s a whole sociological factor of demoralization here, too.

When a man could maintain his own automobile it provided pride in ownership and an opportunity for neighborhood men to gather . . . Rats. I’m going into an old fart rant here.


I think you and Chronos have pretty much sewn it up.

You see it all over in kitchen stuff; my parents have some pretty bad-ass old cookware that they got in their wedding in the 1960s. It cost a colossal amount, but it’s lasted ever since. My wife’s ca 2001 Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is identical to her grandmother’s, which is still going strong in her daughter’s (my MIL) kitchen some 50 years later.

If you compare their kitchen ware to what is sold these days, it’s about on par with All-Clad, Demeyere or Mauviel, and I suspect that the All-Clad that my wife and I got for our wedding will last every bit as long. However, if we’d just gone and bought middle of the road consumer-level stuff at Target, I doubt it would last half as long.

Knives are similar- the cheap-ass garden-variety knives my in-laws have don’t hold an edge worth a flip, but my Wusthof and Mercer forged knives definitely will.

There was all sorts of cheap crap back in the day; we just don’t see it, and what we do see is the equivalent of the expensive and/or professional grade stuff today.

I agree. You can go out and buy a good quality shovel that will last for sixty years. But people don’t want to pay a high price. So they buy a cheap shovel and then complain that it’s not as good as the quality one.

In terms of performance, cars are much better now. But not in terms of lasting – the steel is much thinner, plastic gizmos stop working and are difficult/expensive to repair or replace for the at home mechanic.

I remember, back in the 80s, a discussion about how my aunt’s washing machine had to be replaced after just five years and they were comparing to her sister and mother’s machines, which were three times that age or more. “They don’t make things to last anymore”, they lamented.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I had my ten year old clothes dryer repaired. “Oh, it’s worth doing. They don’t make them like they did back then.” I was told. “You’d be disappointed with the quality if you bought a new one. They don’t make things to last anymore”.

So I call bullshit! Fifteen years before I bought my dryer people were claiming nothing was made to last; they’re still saying it today. If you’ve got an ancient such-and-such that has lasted decades, and it seems better quality than the cheap crap that’s available today, that probably means it cost a lot more, comparatively, to buy. Go and compare it to a modern product that’s not cheap and you’ll probably find similar quality.

For what it’s worth, I think my aunt’s next washing machine lasted like 20 years. Funny how the cheap machine they bought when they were just starting out didn’t last as long as the more expensive machine they bought when they were more established.

But board games are definitely more cheaply made than they were in my childhood. Thin, flimsy plastic, boxes too small to store them in after they’ve been assembled. I owned Guess Who in the 80s and it was far heavier duty than the version Santa gave my daughter for Christmas. Ditto Hungry Hippos and Mouse Trap.

One word: rust.

Tires are an exception to this. Today’s tires are far and away better than they used to be.

And good quaility professional equipment, like loppers, shovels, wheelbarrows (foam-filled tires!) and saws–although you’ll pay more at first, they are meant to last. Home Depot equipment is primarily for the home user–if you want good equipment, you have to go where the pros go and pay more.

There are zero things in my house which have lasted for the past 60 years. I don’t even know anyone who owns anything made in the 50’s.

My house was built in the 70s, and my water main just corroded through, causing a $2,500 repair. It happens. If your house was built earlier than the 90’s, it’ll happen to you too. My new water main line will still be in good shape when the aliens are examining our fossils.

They just don’t make things like they used to? I call bullshit!

My old Compaq running a 25 MHz processor and windows 3.1 is still running strong and they don’t make computers these days like they used to!

(Hint: It isn’t at all)

They last longer now too.

It is really a question of “how much do I want to pay”? I can tell you that yes, by and large, the low end stuff for sale today is made with cheaper materials. Take faucets-a good American made faucet 40 years ago was of cast brass or bronze, with a heavy chrome plate. Sch a faucet will last >50 years. The big box store low end facet today is made in China, and is of cast zinc, plated with chrome. Once the plating wears off, the zinc will corrode, and you throw it away and by a new one-the mfg.s say the service life is 8 years.

This is referring to the engine, which is not the limiting factor where I live. If you live anyplace that salts the roads, the body will deteriorate far faster.

“Anyplace that salts the roads” is large enough that cars overall wouldn’t be lasting longer and longer if they were actually falling apart sooner in places where the roads are salted.

It would be foolish to think that cars have not improved in many ways, such as higher performance and a longer lasting engine. Likewise, after comparing the thickness of the steel used on the frame and body of modern versus older cars, it would be foolish to think that the thinner frame would survive longer in a salted environment.

Maybe the body and frame actually aren’t surviving as long as they used to and bodies and frames just aren’t a huge component of car longevity, but cars overall last longer than they used to. As a whole they are better at lasting, which you said was not the case.

Not a physical product, but this is a bit like Norton/Symantec - became a household name because it was good, but the names were the only thing that survived a series of mergers and acquisitions.

I guess I need to figure out where the pros buy their stuff. Are they secret stores? I was looking for a lawn sprinkler, but all I could find was crappy Chinese-made junk. I selected what I thought was the least crappy, but after one use, it quit working. How can a simple sprinkler not last more than a couple of hours??

I do my best to avoid crappy Chinese-made products, but it isn’t easy. I don’t mind paying for quality, but finding it is the trick.

When we bought this house, it had an avocado-colored electric dryer, so that gives you an idea of its age. It died, and we thought we’d give a shot at repairing it, altho we did talk with the tech about replacing it. He said to avoid Maytag because they now make too many of their parts out of nylon and plastic, and they fail too easily. He said the name doesn’t mean anything today. Since the old dryer was beyond hope, we got a new one from Sears. Within 2 years, and outside of warranty, the control board failed and we were stuck with a multi-hundred dollar repair. That soured me on Kenmore. The washer we bought at the same time had a panel that’s just about rusted thru. Good stuff. :rolleyes: Quite different from the 30-y/o Kenmore a former roommate had.

Absolutely untrue. The metal may be thinner but the rustproofing is so much improved that all those aftermarket rustproofing places were driven out of existence long ago. I live in salt country (New England) and rust is for the most part a non-issue. I can’t believe you are seeing such dissimilar results.