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Watch: “The Tools of an Uilleann Pipe-Maker”

Craftsman and musician John Butler demonstrates some of the tools he uses to build Irish uilleann pipes—a notoriously difficult instrument to make, and to play.

View “The Master Watchmaker”

As our timepieces have become increasingly digital (and their functions increasingly invisible), we’ve almost forgotten that these devices were once handmade masterpieces—with miniature gears, chains, springs, and balance wheels that kept time with amazing precision. Today, most watchmakers don’t even know how to repair these old mechanical wonders. Jean-Pierre Bourroux is a notable exception. A…

The Intricate World of Mechanical Watches: a Resource List

As with most pursuits that draw devoted hobbyists (including plenty of obsessive ones), fine mechanical watches have spawned a large and passionate subculture. A little Googling will lead you to myriad websites, magazines, conferences, and other gathering grounds for those who want to follow—and, when they can afford it, purchase—timepieces that represent the height of…

Cuba’s Madres (y Padres) of Invention

Since the communist revolution of 1959, Cuba has been on an economic rollercoaster. The country has lurched from dependency to self-sufficiency, in a bubble of isolation where technological time stopped. Our correspondent, who in 2016 visited the artists and self-taught engineers who have kept Cuba running throughout its bizarre ride, updates us on Cuba’s declining fortunes in the years since.

Written and photographed by ROB WATERS

Occupy Your Bathroom

Every few years, some new razor system hits the market pledging to save your face and your pocketbook. Virtually all of them miss the boat, because the golden age of shaving occurred 50 years ago. The good news is that all that vintage gear is still available, and a few entrepreneurs are now making beautiful, modern versions that are built to last.

Written and photographed by TODD OPPENHEIMER

Throwaway Nation

The practice of deliberately making goods not meant to last, or be repaired—a concept called “planned obsolescence”—was invented in America, perfected in America, and can now claim victory in leaving the U.S. with the world’s largest waste stream. Why are we so addicted to buying stuff that will soon be worthless? And what can we do to get off this destructive treadmill?


The Return of the Harmonica

In the 1970s, Hohner, the world’s largest harmonica manufacturer, changed its flagship model, and in the process its signature sound. A few musicians and harp customizers waged a quiet rebellion. And they won.

Written by BEN MARKS

The American Folk School Movement and ‘Slow Economics’

Rather than looking to big corporate employers like Walmart for economic stability, could more rural communities in the U.S. welcome a slower growing, more sustainable economic partner?

The Apprenticeship Ambivalence

Amidst political discussion about expanding apprenticeships in the U.S., two contradictory realities persist. One is a changing landscape, in both school and work, that increasingly needs a sound apprenticeship system; the other is the refusal by many parents to understand why a formal apprenticeship might make more sense for their children—and their finances—than four years of college.


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