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RMJ & Cognitive Dissonance

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RMJ Tactical and Cognitive Dissonance

By: Ryan M Johnson

We all suffer a little from Cognitive Dissonance, the state of believing two contradictory concepts at the same time. I suffer from it a little more than most. Why? Because I am having love affairs with two different mistresses: high tech precision knifemaking on one hand, the forged blade on the other. One requires a lot of time spent designing and planning, executing those plans on very expensive equipment. The other requires a lot of time spent learning the craft, sweating out each hammer blow all executed on tools that were already old when your grandparents were children. I love both, feel there is a need in the world for both. I need both.

So step into my thought process for a moment. Because there is no time like the present. Except for those who wait...good things come to them I guess.

The Case for Perfection

I believe that all schools should teach Intelligent Design and Evolution.

Wait, what?

I'm not talking about a religion course or science class. I'm not talking about how life came to be on our planet. I'm talking about teaching kids how good design happens and how it is manufactured.

Good designs involve intelligent design at first and then evolution (iteration) as the product is manufactured.

The classic design cycle looks something like this:

determine need – brainstorm possible solutions – pick solution and design it – implement and test design – manufacture the design – retire the design

But good designers and manufacturers use Iteration in the cycle to make the product continuously improve:

determine need – brainstorm possible solutions – pick solution and design it – implement and test design – manufacture small batch – determine flaws and possible improvements through testing – redesign part with new data – manufacture small batch determine flaws and possible improvements through testing – redesign part...etc.

Using the continuous improvement model ensures that each generation of the product is superior to the previous generation.

For many things this is only possible in the small batch way of manufacturing. Large scale manufacturing requires a lot of up front costs: investments in dies, fixtures, dedicated machinery, molds and etc. Even a small change in large scale manufacturing can result in thousands (or millions) of dollars lost in re-tooling. This is why so many products are “pretty good”. The design made it through one or two iterations, then lots of money was invested into getting the item manufactured. The last thing the Production engineer or the investors want to hear is that all of the tooling needs to be scrapped because someone figured out a way to make the product perform five percent better.

Enter the small batch “boutique” manufacturing. Companies like RMJ Tactical make small batches of items and continually tests those items to determine what can be improved. Because the parts are made using CNC equipment the tooling and fixture costs are much smaller than large scale manufacturing. We have tailored our equipment and processes so that we can afford to make changes on the fly and continuously improve the product.

This process also takes the emphasis off of the process and on to the design and final outcome. Once a product becomes design driven, customer input becomes integrated into the design and performance rules. The design is not an accident – it is the evolution of dozens of generations. Because the design and performance of that design is the most important thing, precision manufacturing through CNC equipment becomes the obvious choice – to execute the design as it should be: nothing more and nothing less.

The Case for Imperfection

There's nothing quite like watching James Hetfield get behind a guitar and laying it down. Hearing John Hammond play Preachin' Blues on an antique National Steel guitar.

While I'm not a fan of big crowds, I do love to see live music. I've seen everything from Motley Crue to the Indigo Girls, Turtle Island String Quartet to Leo Kottke. (he signed my guitar too...)

Live music has an excitement that no studio can capture. There are no multiple tracks, no editing, no do overs. Just the artist getting up on stage and making it happen, good, bad or ugly. It is not perfect – and that is what makes it interesting.

Many of the artists I've seen are known for improvising. Sometimes they don't know themselves where a song is headed or how it will end.

Sometimes the music is not meant to be perfect, Blues being a good example. Blues music is full of nuance. A guitarist can be technically proficient at playing blues but that is not the same as playing “with feeling”. The same difference exists between handmade items and factory made items. Be it soap, knives or scarves handmade items always have a certain soul.

Modern manufacturing technology is very impressive. I've seen parts made on multi-axis CNC machining centers that are amazingly accurate but have all the soul of a McDonald's inside a Wal Mart shopping center.

Because we rely more and more on technology driven precision parts we need high end computer controlled machinery.

Because we are human we need handmade things in our day to day lives to root us.

When I was a kid my dad took me to a martial arts store for my ninth birthday. I picked out a pair of nunchucks: made of Oak they had tapered octagonal handles connected by nylon cord. The pair I picked out didn't exactly match: there was a knot on one of the handles near the top and that knot had caused that section to be a little thinner than the other handle. My dad tried to talk me into another set pointing out the flaw. I told him the flaw was what I liked about the set. As I got older I purchased several other sets of nunchuck – Cocobolo with chain and swivels, a set that was ball bearing and made like the ones in Enter the Dragon – none of these pleased me like the flawed oak set.

Now that I make things I must admit that I prefer the knife with the random hammer mark over the perfect finish, the randomly textured pattern over the rigid pattern, the little tell tale signs that reveal the hands that made it.

The older I get the fewer personal items I want around. I have the liberty to choose what I carry on my person, what I see on my desk and what decor greets me in my shop. The fewer things I have the more I want those items to have purpose, meaning and soul.

I more often than not choose something made by hand.

This is why I love the concept of RMJ Tactical so much. We are a group of artists – craftsmen with centuries old tools and the skills to use them. We are engineers. State of the art CNC machinery and the design software to control the smallest details. We combine these concepts in each piece we make – be it a completely CNC machined knife or a hand forged tomahawk. Because each CNC piece is finished by hand, sharpened by hand and made with the eye of a craftsman. Each forged piece is done with good design and metallurgy principals in mind while it is crafted. We love what we do and it shows. We appreciate much you giving us the audience to do it.

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