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Venice, Gondolas, and Black Magic

After suffering a year of twin terrors—historic floods and the Covid pandemic—the makers of Venice’s legendary gondolas are struggling to survive. To understand the unique design, history, and mystery behind this much-loved boat, our correspondent spent a year with Roberto Dei Rossi, one of the city’s last master gondola makers.

By ERLA ZWINGLE

2019 Craftsmanship Magazine Gift Guide

The word artisanal has become so shopworn that it’s almost devoid of meaning. (To wit: we once saw a pizza outlet on the outskirts of a small town in northern France that was fashioned in the style of an ATM-kiosk under the following sign: “Artisanal Pizza.”) In stark contrast to this sorry state of affairs, we would like to suggest a few items for holiday shopping made by some of the masters we profiled in 2019.

By EDITORS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP MAGAZINE

Do the Most Interesting Musical Pipes Come from Ireland?

While Scottish culture is branded by its famous Highland bagpipes, its neighbor across the water has long made a very different set of pipes that plays a much wider range of music. Our correspondent visits the indefatigable, obsessive masters of the uilleann pipes.

Story by LARRY GALLAGHER
Photography by RUTH CARDEN

High-Tech Help for a Low-Tech Craft

John Butler obviously appreciates the old-school handcrafting involved in the age-old trade of making Irish uilleann pipes — a style of bagpipes that are substantially more complex than their Scottish cousins — and he’s not shy about turning to high technology when the need arises. As but one example, in an attempt to streamline the…

From Guns to Bicycles

Customers at Thomas Crenshaw’s full-service bike shop, Frame Up Bikes in Pleasant Hill, California, know a lot more about Orbea bikes and its global competitors than they do about the legendary bike company’s cooperative business model. “We know Orbea is a co-operative and worker-owned, but most of our customers don’t,” says Crenshaw. “What they care…

Watch “How do you cut gold that’s 200 times finer than a human hair?”

One way Marino evaluates gold leaf is to look at it against the light. Pure gold transmits green rays; highly alloyed gold with silver transmits pale violet rays.

Watch “How does someone beat gold, every day, with a 17-pound hammer?”

The real secret to gold-beating the old way is in controlling the hammer’s rebound. One report from the 19th century stated that “a workmen can do it for days on end without complaint.”

The Life Story of Gold

In its purest form, gold is an element, with the designation Au on the periodic table and the atomic number of 79. Metals are the heaviest elements, and gold is the heaviest of all. Evidence from the Vredefort crater in South Africa indicates that much of the accessible gold supply came to Earth from a…

Gold as a Rejuvenator: Myths and Facts

Gold’s supposed health benefits fall into three categories: medicine, cosmetics, and cuisine. Let’s dissect them one by one: Gold Cosmetics Many excited claims and anecdotes about the cosmetic use of gold leaf gush from beauty websites, echoing the magic word “rejuvenation.” An aesthetician quoted in Harper’s Bazaar explains this phenomenon by saying that “The gold…

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