Industrial Art

Industrial art is tools or devices that not only work well, but are beautiful in themselves.  An item that is well-designed for its task often is a thing of beauty besides.  My Guru, Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, teaches that anything that is the best it can be, at the task for which it is designed, is, by definition, beautiful.

I am always on the lookout for things in my environment that work well, and look beautiful too.  Take this bridge, on the Washington State Highway leading up to Mount St. Helens.  It spans a very deep canyon, so it had to be built very sturdily.  The designers also made it beautiful, and it is a joy to behold from a rest area close to it. The description of how the bridge was built is quite remarkable, too.



From something very large, to something very small.  This tiny tool is a torque-wrench, used to screw down a dental crown, atop its dental implant deep in my jaw.  I was entranced with it the moment I saw it.


The company where I am working now makes aircraft parts, and many of them are very beautiful.  Even the scrap metal from the machining process can be art, if viewed correctly.  The first picture is the steel shavings left over from the machining process.


It looks like abstract art, doesn’t it?  All that metal is ultimately recycled, melted down into new sheets or other shapes.  The company also makes parts out of aluminum and titanium.  This is what those shavings look like.

Ti-Al Shavings

Those metals are shinier than the steel, and look like tiny sheets rather than the spikes of steel.

There are many different kinds of metal shaping and cutting machines used to make the aircraft parts.  One day, I was waiting outside the tool crib, where they store all the small tools used on the big machines, and there was a box of what I discovered were used-up cutting tools from the CNC machines. I just had to take a picture, because the scrap tools looked almost like jewelry to me.  What do you think?


I was allowed to photograph some of the finished, or partly-finished end products.  These are scrap parts that have been defaced so they cannot be reused, but they are still quite beautiful.



The bottom picture is a steering rack, and you should see it before it’s painted!  They shine brightly before being painted.  Whenever I walk around the factory doing my job, I always stop and admire the parts that are waiting for the next operation.  They cut these toothed parts out of solid blocks of metal, and what is left over afterward is almost as cool-looking as the part itself.

So, in your daily life, keep your eyes open for ordinary things that are industrial art.  You might be surprised by what you find around you every day.

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