The Big Hand is…

…near the one and the little hand is on the six. That’s how I learned how to tell time. My dad would ask me to go check the time and I would report back. He would then quiz me as to proper way to tell him the time. By the way, that was “it’s about five after six.” He didn’t need the extra 0-59 seconds’ worth of precision.

And neither do I.

I’ll pass, but I do like the time.

I don’t own a digital watch. I don’t use my smart phone as a watch. I, that is my editor, uses it as a timer, because I’m supposed to lay on that foam roll for three minutes and she doesn’t like me estimating. Still, she could do the job with a watch that has a second hand. I have a digital alarm clock, but that’s because it was the option with the least annoying lighted dial. The most annoying lighted dial would be the one they advertise in the airline magazines and sell at Bed Bath & Beyond that projects the time onto the ceiling of your bedroom. I can’t imagine sleeping under the image of a clock – taunting me all night.

This post isn’t about watches and clocks. It isn’t about the stunning degree to which today’s children lack simple skills like telling time and writing their name. It isn’t about sump pumps, but it was inspired by Almost Iowa’s post “My Sump Pump” which arrived in my digital mailbox the same day as a flier from my local woodworking supply store arrived in my analog mailbox – you know, the one on the post, next to the porch.

The woodworking store’s flier was advertising a “smart drill press” that costs about $1,000 more than my dumb drill press that is the same capacity. I took note of the warranty “2-Year Full Replacement for Motor and Controller and 5-Year Full Replacement for all other parts.” My dumb drill press is almost 25 years old and it works fine. I can just imagine spending $1,400 on a drill press and having to spend another $1,000 in three years to replace the controller – a.k.a. the part that doesn’t rotate, move up and down, hold a drill bit or otherwise put holes in things.

The digital drill press has “Digital Quill Depth Readout.” For those of you unfamiliar with the anatomy a drill press, the quill is the part of the drill press that lets the drill bit go up and down. If you want a more accurate and less helpful definition, see below:

All clear now?

The digital readout is designed to help you control the depth of the hole you are drilling. For example, if you’re drilling a hole in the seat of a stool, in which you will insert the legs, you want the holes to stop below the surface and you want all the holes to be the same depth.

Ever since forever, depth on a drill press has been controlled by a rotational limit thingie. You run the bit down to where you want it to stop, set the limit-thingie and you’re done. If the hole you’re drilling isn’t deep enough, you adjust the depth limit a bit; you scootch it up or down. You nudge it one way or the other a tad, a touch, a smidgen. I don’t know what the decimal equivalent of a smidgen is. I barely know the decimal equivalent of a 1/16″ and that’s way bigger than a smidgen. That’s measurable. That’s actually on the dial of the rotational limit thingie.

The digital drill press has a “Dial Knob for Precise Speed Adjustment” – My drill press has 12-speeds. Changing speeds is accomplished by moving two belts that connect with three pulleys in a first-this-then-that arrangement that makes you remember math and geometry and physics all at the same time. The 12 speeds are discrete, not variable. Still, I rarely have a need for 1,137 rpm. Usually, if 1,200 is too fast, I’m good with 1,000.

The digital drill press has “Intelligent Speed Selection” that “Offers the Correct Speed for the Application.” I have the memories of shop teachers Mr. Wells and Mr. Paulsen telling me to “slow that damn thing down, you’re going to burn the bit” and threatening me with “or I’ll give you ten and a half where it will do the most good.” 10 ½ was Mr. Paulsen’s shoe size. I haven’t picked the wrong speed since 10th grade.

Digital controls on human operated machines is a fallout from the robotic workforce. Robots understand that a 0.06253125” deep hole is 0.05% deeper than a 1/16” deep hole. Maybe that’s a smidgen, I wouldn’t know. Since manufacturers have gotten so good at building digitally controlled machines, they are now selling them to humans.

As we move ahead to a time when more and more things are being done by robots, watch for the disappearance of things that are designed to be operated by humans. Hopefully, my drill press will still be working.

About the gallery. In addition to the requisite drill press photos, there are a couple of Maddie and one of the bunnies. There are also two videos that I made. They aren’t very good, but fortunately they aren’t very long – they illustrate the depth gauge thing on my drill press.




  1. That is quite an impressive operation you have going. Nice work. We used smalldrill presses in the optical shop, for drilling out sheared off screws and the occasional “custom designed” eyeglass repair to get a customer through until their new glasses came in. I have a small one for drilling things I use in jewelry making. It collects dust from non use more than shavings due to all the ‘rules’ attached. Besides, each time I attemot to use it, the hubs ends up taking over so I can get a new lesson in how not to break the bit or drill my hand. Sigh….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Firstly, don’t knock the shine on the ceiling time. I have an Oregon Scientific one and, with my arthritis, I don’t have to turn over to see the time. Turning over in bed isn’t something that I do willingly!
    Secondly, whats this “five after six” malarky? Good old “English” English says five past and works. I do remember your double take when I told you that it was “five and twenty to six”. That, you had never heard. We also say “a quarter past” and “a quarter to”. Funnily, it is always “half past”, never “half to”. Still, it makes sense to an Englishman – please not a “Brit”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • OK, I’ll give you the fact that the projector clock has its uses. I will now refer to that as ‘David Time’. Actually, I have the clock on one side and a watch wit a lighted dial on the cat shelf under the window above the bed. I don’t like to roll over to see the time.

      I was going to mention ‘quarter past’ and quarter to’ but this was already running long. We do say ‘half past’ but “five and twenty to six???” yeah, that one still makes me shake my head.

      And, at least as of late, I have been trying to use England and Englishman, also in your honor.


  3. If you asked a group of kids between 6-12 today what time it is, how many would look for a clock and how many would look at their cell phone? And, if they looked at a clock with hands, how many could actually tell you the time? Hmm. Your drill press will still be working long after the others are tossed and replaced. Oldie but goodie and meant to last. :-) Happy Monday, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judy. At least one of my coworkers is teaching his 5-yr-old to read an analog clock. I think that means there’s hope for the future.

      I bought a digital radial arm saw back in the late 80s. I was thrilled with the capability to raise the blade “exactly 1/4” to cut the components of a joint. After taking all the time to calibrate the saw and re-calibrate it every time the battery died (it ate batteries like M&Ms), it actually worked. However, it stopped working within 2 years, but outside the warranty. Worse yet, it had digital controls for angle and bevel, but no analog markings. So, I had to buy adjustable angle gauges to setup for those cuts. I know the technology has improved, but I’ll never forget how bad it felt to have spend an extra 40% on a saw that was almost worthless in 18 months.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have a friend who is a ‘keeper of all stuff.’ I am just the opposite–I am a ‘throw it the heck out’ kinda gal. Anyway, she asked me to help her downsize. The first thing to go was her clock that projected time onto the ceiling. What the heck???? She won. The clock stayed. I love the ‘upper right corner–bunny’ photos. I know you know, but Maddie is such a pretty girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lois. I know, but Maddie always appreciates it when people notice.

      I caved and gave in to David’s earlier comment. I understand that the projector clock could be useful. I still don’t want one. I’m glad you like those bunny photos. Maddie just sat there. As the bunny kept getting closer, my wife was wrapping the leash around her like a life preserver. Maddie never so much as pulled, even when the bunny got within about 10′

      I looked at it at one point and said “you do realize that this is a dog,…right?”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your drill press definitely sounds smart, Dan — smarter than many people, in fact. Some day, we’ll all be slaves to our robot overlords. At least we can’t say our sci-fi writers didn’t warn us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many times, we’ve been warned Paul. I think about Mr. Whipple ultimately complaining to Mr. Hanley at the bar. Perhaps that’s our fate. At least I’ll still be able to drill holes in stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I learned to tell time in the exact same manner, Dan. We just said, “La petite aiguille et la grande aiguille” for the little and big hands :)
    It took me a while to learn but I managed. Many kids don’t because of the digital clocks and smart phones.
    It’s like counting coins to give back change. These basic skills seem so passé, right?
    Yours as a woodworker are pretty good! And Maddie is always a treat to watch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “La petite aiguille” sounds so cute (in the little girl voice I’m imagining). Maybe these things don’t matter and maybe I’m just getting old, but there’s something marvelous about the intricate mechanism of a mechanical clock that will always make me smile. I know that my watch isn’t driven by springs and gears, but I still have one that is (it was my father’s).



  7. I don’t know woodworking or how to use this equipment, but I understand smidgen and thingie. Smidgen call also be used in the kitchen by cooks who don’t utilize recipes…a smidgen of salt, a smidgen of black pepper, etc. And thingie is an all-purpose word that we can attach to any object that doesn’t have a name (or the name escapes us).

    What is the stool for?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mary, it’s good to know that smidgen is universal. I worry about smart phone recipes invading the kitchen and nothing tasting the way our grandmothers made it. Mine was illiterate. She just mixed what she had learned was the right amount of various stuff. No one could cook as well as that woman.

      Thingie is my go-to word. I’m glad it meets with approval.

      The stool was a Mother’s Day gift, but it’s used more like a table than a stool. Maddie likes to lay under it when it’s stormy, although it doesn’t cover much of her. If you want to read the stool’s story (from before we connected) it’s over here:

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m liking your 2013 post from here. WordPress wanted me to log in on my phone, even though I am liking and commenting on this post. Weird.

        I think I would have loved your grandma’s cooking. 😃

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you! Everybody loved my grandmother’s cooking. She made a pastry one time, shaped like a streusel. In answer to “what’s in it?” She said “two kind of apple” – it was apple and pineapple but it was really good. She tasted stuff, felt dough, squeezed veggies. She knew what was right.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dan – while you work … can I look after Maddie – then we can all wonder what the time is at some stage – though I suspect Maddie will know when supper time is … !! That’s some project – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember watching a show on TV set in a newsroom (Might have been Lou Grant, I dunno) where there was one guy who refused to use a word processor and insisted on using his manual typewriter. When there was a power outage and no one else could work, he was still pounding away at the typewriter by the light from a window. This story made me remember that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We lost power once for 10 straight days. I woke up to the smell of coffee that my wife was brewing on our wood stove. She also has a manual typewriter.

      I don’t know if it was on Lou Grant, but I love that show and his character in the MTM Show.


  10. I’m sure The Mister needs a drill press. I’ve asked just now and he said, “I don’t neeeeed one…but…”
    Anything under 1/4″ and I’m not the person to measure. Quilting is a lot of 1/4″ and is now a measurement my eyes can do without tools.
    I would lose my mind if the time was always on my ceiling. The anxiety would be horrendous.
    I think The Mister and I are clock people. We have clocks, real clocks, analog clocks in every room. I suppose we’re time-oriented. His parents seem to collect clocks and FIL has fixed many. I love their clocks, but I hate how so many of them chime — some play entire tunes! The cacophony of noon and midnight. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks John. We didn’t see power tools until 7th grade. I think if you’re too young, reaching up for the handle and being closer to the action, would be a problem. I think I was already 6′ in 7th grade.


  11. I was just complaining to my dad the other day about how there’s too much digital technology where digital technology should never be used. Just because you CAN hook up a computer in your car to electronically control a clutch (so your automatic transmission isn’t really an “automatic” at all…), doesn’t mean you should. Humans are fallible alright… but so are computers. And there are just some things that should never be left up to a machine that can’t think! Just because we have a certain kind of “advanced” technology doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for ALL applications.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. travel light. something I learned in Scouting ( as an adult ) that carries over to other things. Depending on the journey the projection clock can be traveling light. We are not all on the same pathway. And despite generally agreeing with your analog preference for time I have opted for the cell. Of course that might be because I really don’t care if the battery is dead ( an consequently I do not know what time it is). I think that is because most of the time i much prefer the large analog device in the sky. Travel light – no wristband or chain on that one. So I do really relate to your analog tool post. There is a binary answer to those digital tool merchandisers aiming for the home market. I will not scribe it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • However you tell time is fine with me, John. As long as you’re on time when Cheryl pours the first round. The digital tool makers can join the ones who keep inventing the latest and greatest (not to mention more expensive) tools we don’t need. They are trying to create more opportunity to separate me from my money. Charge four times more money for a tool that won’t have 1/10 the life time.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. For what it’s worth, Dan, I have been using a wind-up Russian-made watch for almost a year. The battery on my digital watch died and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it. I also use a double-edge Gillette razor made in 1954, for which it is surprisingly easy and cheap to find blades. It’s hard for me to relate to your drill press, which looks way too complicated for my skills. I was fascinated, though, by the bit you were using, which was not what I think of when I think of a drill bit. I totally agree with the overly precise measurements that digital instruments provide. It reminds me of a math class in which we had to memorize pi. I always thought that 3.14 was good enough, but could remember under duress that it was 3.14159. I had some friends who could go out to a whole lot more digits than that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mike. I still own a wind-up watch that I inherited from my dad. I don’t wear it often, but after the zombie apocalypse, it will be my go-to timepiece.

      The bit is a Forstner bit. It cuts on the outer-edge and scrapes out the waste. It cuts a flat-bottom hole, doesn’t wander, there’s no tear-out on the other side, and as you can see in the video, it can drill even when only partially over the surface. They can also be easily started at an angle without skating all over the place. They are a favorite of woodworkers.

      3.14159 was about as far as I could go. Besides, that would be pretty hard to approximate on my slide rule.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Kudos to my buddy Brad for noticing the egregious error in the original post. The face, as originally described, would be showing 4:30, not 6:04.

    I usually don’t fix typos, but this…


  15. My most difficult experience with reading time was knowing when to say “minutes to”. I couldn’t understand why you can’t say “50 minutes past nine”, for example. I had to ask one of my older cousins. He didn’t tell why, though; he only said that after the first 30 minutes of an hour, the rest of the minutes are read relative to the next hour.
    What a fine drill you have there, Dan. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t even wear a watch, but I do have a clock by the bed. Not only do I have to turn over to see it, but I have to press the switch on top of it to see the time. It is digital, though.

    I’m also fine with smidgeons. It’s a relative measurement, which is always useful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I’m in some hotels, the clocks are so bright that I cover them with a washcloth. Of course, then I have to move it to see the time. I started carrying one of my watches that has a lighted dial.

      I’m comforted by the general acceptance osf smidgens :)

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Digital is a “supposed-to-be” sign of progress in the world. It goes along with computers and all things plastic. Although all of these things have their uses, I, personally, think we have gone overboard with all of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Two things popped into my head reading this…..
    1. My wife works with twenty year olds taking care of foster babies. Whenever she says “quarter after whatever hour or quarter til whatever hour (10 til…20 till…you get the drift) her co-workers stare at her and don’t understand the time she is talking about…they have never been taught to tell time on a regular clock.
    2. Digitizing has gone too far….we had to replace a refrigerator this year that physically worked fine and physically nothing was wrong…it was the mother board and the cost to replace it didn’t make it worth keeping a 5 year old refrigerator. (Same thing happened to the new refrigerator within 6 mos…covered by warranty). The manually moving parts keep on ticking…the electronics not so much…just saying…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree, Kirt. I have a friend who had to replace 3 mother boards in her washer inside of two years. Only two were covered under warranty.

      The time thing is scary. I’m not sure these kids actually understand what an hour is.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Several have come out in favor of the projection clock. I guess it has its place. Old tools are still getting the job done in a lot of places. I fear new tools will have much shorter life spans.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. You have no idea how much this post made me smile. First of all, I can’t believe I read an entire post on a drill press, but I swear to god, you made it interesting with all your thingies and smidgens – and, oh yes, the analog mailbox :D I had real mail to my analog mailbox yesterday and I was so excited. The seasons tickets to our community theatre arrived! :)

    Anyway, I digress. The real reason it made me smile is because you too appreciate the approximate method of measurement. Husband, aka Mr Science, is an absolute stickler about precision and it drives him crazy if I say the time is 4’ish. I’m sorry, but that’s a real time. He still hasn’t embraced the concept of “10 to” yet :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so glad to read this comment, Joanne. Approximate measurements are so important. Even when I measure, I usually stop at the nearest easy-to-read mark. So I go to the saw, talking to myself, saying “a little bit more than 3/16s” or “just a little of 5 7/8ths” I’d be totally cool with “4-ish.” I tend to go with 5-25 after and 25-5 ‘of’ instead of ‘to’ but the concept is solid.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. This is a stunning example of your true artistic carpenter skills, Dan. I am in awe of the grain and shape of this “simple” three legged stool. Wow! Here is your award: 🏆 I would give this best of show at our county fair. Loved this post with all the details, too.
    I use a traditional watch at work in the warehouse. When the battery runs down, I purchase another. This usually is a black strapped Timex, only occasionally do I choose another kind. 🕰 I used to have an antique mantle clock. I probably should have kept it. I miss it just a bit. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Smidgen, tad, wee bit, a pinch all work for me, as does doo-hickey, thinga-ma-bob, thinga-ma-jig, or whatcha-ma-call-it. Why doesn’t spell check like these thinga words? They should be in the dictionary by now! Right! :)

    I taught my children how to read an analog clock b/c I love them. I’m beginning to teach #1 GS how to read an analog clock now. It’s slow going, but I know he’ll get there; we did! :)

    I’m not a fan of the Internet of All Things, and everything being digital and robotic. It drives me nuts when the stores, and gas stations have to close now if the power goes out b/c they can’t handle the money since the registers are all electric, and the gas won’t pump b/c they’re electronic. Thankfully it’s a rare occurrence, but still it bugs me, boggles the mind!

    There are several things He-Man can’t fix or work on in the cars anymore b/c they’re digital or something. So, now car tune ups, and repairs cost a lot more and there’s more that can go wrong. I don’t want a smart stove, or frig, or any other appliance. I have a Roomba, but I think she’s dumbed down…Lord I hope so anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you teaching #1 GS to tell time the old-fashioned way. There’s hope for expressions like “quarter past…”

      I remember when Starbucks stores all shut after a server failure in their home data center. The stores still had power and could still make coffee but that’s not nearly enough to meet the requirements of a modern day coffee shop.

      I recently had to pay cash for gas because the station lost its Internet connection. Fortunately I still carry cash. My daughter might have been in trouble.

      And, I totally agree with “thinga” words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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