2020-10-12 5 min read


Notes, 2020-10-12.

It would appear that one of my favorite things to do is to take on long and involved restoration and organization projects - a tendency that has brought rewards which are ambiguous at best. Right now I’m working on a 1940s Walker Turner drill press - a nice heavy tool, and my first ever floor standing drill press. It’s also my first time repainting an old machine tool, which has forced me to wear a proper respirator right at the moments when I was finally free of the social need to do so.

Intellectually, I believe that an unused tool should be thought of as a talisman at best. A tool must directly exhibit utility; a thing can’t really be a drill press if it’s not making holes. In this sense, my incomplete restoration project must at the moment be seen as destructive, and it seems right to say that a repair should be assumed to be a liability until proven otherwise.

I suppose the question, then, is what we gain from liabilities like the drill press I’m now working on. My own excitement for them is admittedly romantic (I also recently spent some time gazing fondly at a Tektronix 453 that I’m planning on tearing down), but I have to believe that there are justifications that go beyond a desire to reduce my own consumption and increase my time spent elbow deep in degreaser.


Separately: Thanks to all the guest writers who gave me my longest break ever since starting this newsletter almost seven years ago! And I'm glad to be back with you all :)

-Spencer Wright

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~17% of opens) was on the science behind Nike Vaporflys. In the paid subscriber Slack this week, preparation for our reading group on Marc Levinson's The Box and a long thread on the contexts in which hardware products "need very high gross margin."

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


  • Pemmican is a mixture of tallow, dried meat and dried berries used as a nutritious food. Historically, it was an important part of indigenous cuisine in certain parts of North America, and is still prepared today.”
  • The Duck curve is a graph that ostensibly looks like a duck and describes “the timing imbalance between peak demand and renewable energy production.” Grid-scale and personal energy storage systems attempt, you could say, to flatten the duck curve.
  • Tim Wu on NYC’s commercial real estate market, and the forces that incentivize landlords *not* to reduce rents.

A detailed analysis of all of the handwritten notes in the cabin of the Apollo 11 crew module.

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