A Toast to Crappy Craftsmanship


It isn’t often that I’m enthused about poor craftsmanship, but when I’m trying to demolish something, drywall screws and questionable joinery are most welcome.

I spent yesterday at our new building with a wrecking bar and a sledge hammer – trying to prep the place for a big Dec. 12 demolition party. We’re going to remove the 1980s-era bar (leaving the 1890s one intact) and haul out all the layers of crap that have been applied to the interior during the last 60 years.

There are a lot of false walls and odd black-light lighting fixtures that I wanted to remove, and I thought I’d get a good start on the project yesterday.

But thanks to the ridiculous way everything was assembled, it all came down with little effort. In some cases it was the paint that was holding everything intact.

Hooray for poor workmanship.

So with that part done, I began the demolition of the ceramic floor. While the cement board below came up easily I then encountered a layer of good craftsmanship. The person who laid the floor below the cement board did a good job. It’s a circa 1950s (or earlier) composite material that is still stuck down and still seamless (so far).


— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to A Toast to Crappy Craftsmanship

  1. Wait a minute…..you’re not going to leave the black lights up? I would think that they would leave a warm, mellow, freakish 60’s aura of nostalgia to your shop.
    Might want to reconsider; just sayin’.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Yup! My 1906 house has made me a fan of crappie craftsmanship too.

  3. jmwagle86 says:

    I agree it’s easier to “take down”, but no less dirty!

  4. Arwen Cruse says:

    Good ventilation and a respirator?
    There is a lot of Asbestos in building materials manufactured before 1982.
    Good luck, Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Jim Eckman says:

    Hopefully some of it can be recycled.

  6. waltamb says:

    “poor workmanship” seems to be relative if you actually have to “demolish” it.

    Really poor workmanship demolishes itself over time.

  7. Eric R says:

    Replace it with something someone will be cursing you for in a hundred years…..

  8. Rachael Boyd says:

    when I first started working on rentals ( apartments & houses) I did a everything the way it should be done. after a couples years I had to come back and redo it ( renters are hard on places) I told myself, make it look good but remember you will need to come back in a couple years to redo it. so I started cutting corners so next time it would be a little easier to demo and redo. I used two standers remodel as a custom job were it was all done to last a long time and Its just a rental you will be back in a couples years

  9. potomacker says:

    I am less quick to attribute this demolition ease to poor craftsmanship. The laborers were compelled to deliver services according to market forces. The stack of materials on their way to the local landfill informs us that the workmanship can hardly be expected to be of a higher caliber than it. I am not trying to simply be a contrarian but I look upon that waste of resources and I conclude that we ought to bemoan not crappy craftsmanship, but shitty property ownership.

    • I get asked to do crap work at times – build this at this price.

      I say no.

      We all have a choice as to the quality of the work we do. I won’t do poor work – not in my furniture, my writing, the books we make or my editing of other people’s work.

      You can blame the marketplace, but it ultimately is up to the woman or man swinging the hammer as to what sort of job gets done.

      • All I could do to this point, is read what others are thinking…I agree with some of it…

        Nevertheless, as a traditionalist (perhaps subjectively an “extreme one” on some topics) I can’t agree completely with some views thus far shared…

        I too (way to often!!!) get asked to cut corners, or “ignore” what is “best practice” and do what will make someone “profit” and/or “just get it done.” These two very simple “bad requests/mandates” speaks to the underly (and unhealthy) normative culture of “throwaway consumerism,” “inherent greed/impatience” and rampant indolence that has take a deep root in the marrow of our current culture’s psyche collectively and individually among too many…

        Justifying this and making excuses “why one should” has zero merit, in my view. I can design (and have) “Rental Space” that is “modular” in nature to facilitate ease of servicing, replacement and/or modification. If…”DONE WELL”…it is extremely durable and serviceable both…The entire IR (industrial revolution) concept of “make fast and cheap” so it can be thrown away and bought again is never going to be healthy for use, this planet, or the “Art/Craft” of the many things are minds, and hands create…It is simply sloth most profound.

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