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Stub Mandrel14/01/2014 13:36:44
4311 forum posts
291 photos
1 articles

Hi Michael,

Just as common sense and wisdom don't correlate with intelligence

I'm sure there's some sort of 'mechanical' intelligence - a sympathy with materials that engineers, woodcarvers, surgeons and all sorts of craftspeople have that sets them apart from us mere mortals.


John Stevenson14/01/2014 14:12:51
5068 forum posts
3 photos

If it's any basis I went to Oxford University.

blowlamp14/01/2014 14:20:12
1473 forum posts
97 photos
Posted by John Stevenson on 14/01/2014 14:12:51:

If it's any basis I went to Oxford University...

...I was delivering the groceries.

richardandtracy14/01/2014 14:31:47
943 forum posts
10 photos

I agree about a lack of correlation between qualifications & ability.

I have met an engineering phd when I played at stressing aircraft interiors. The phd was so poor at practical engineering that in the end the only thing he was permitted to do was create artist's impressions of a new interior. He had a 2Cv (the only thing in his favour) but noticed a crack in a decorative panel between the front wing and the cabin bulkhead. As a result, he took the car to a garage to be looked at. Within 5 minutes the mechanic had grounded the car. The chassis had snapped just forward of the cabin, with the bottom flange of the chassis only being intact and acting as a hinge. The in-fill panel (held on with 2 M5 screws) was the only thing stopping the front of the car pivoting around the front wheels and digging in...

The best natural engineer I have met is a machinist at work. He has 5 O levels, but can feel intuitively how to make things right. OK, his abilities have been helped by the apprenticeship he took, but someone without the 'feel' would never be able to do what he can.

Unfortunately my 'abilities' put me closer to the phd than the natural machinist...



John Stevenson14/01/2014 14:43:41
5068 forum posts
3 photos
22 Tonnes of bricks, actually
Speedy Builder514/01/2014 14:52:07
2187 forum posts
152 photos

I loved that cartoon of the spotty academic PHD engineer with his DEEPLOMA sticking out of his top pocket. The caption read - "Six munce ago I couldn't spell Engonier, Now I are one"

Rang true for some of the 'Engineers' I have met.


Metalhacker14/01/2014 19:14:05
73 forum posts

Qualifications and ability are frequently far separated. I am a doctor and have met highly qualified colleagues whom I would not trust as far as they could throw me. Others with just basic qualifications have such natural ability and empathy you would trust them with your life. Skill is what we all need whatever our field, not paper qualifications which show you can pass exams but cannot necessarily perform when the chips are down.

vive l'experience


daveb14/01/2014 20:23:38
624 forum posts
10 photos

Some people will make a decent job of anything they do, others simply through the motions. I once asked an apprentice to sweep the floor, he waved the broom about for some time but appeared to be totally oblivious of what the business end of the broom was doing, in this case, it wasn't much. The boss was a bit like that too!

Oompa Lumpa14/01/2014 20:35:23
888 forum posts
36 photos

"Skill is what we all need whatever our field, not paper qualifications "

Throw a bit of common sense into the equation and you have someone who could really achieve something world class.


Stub Mandrel14/01/2014 20:43:31
4311 forum posts
291 photos
1 articles

> 22 Tonnes of bricks, actually

Dare I ask what you read...?


FMES14/01/2014 22:04:50
606 forum posts
2 photos

Never really seen the point in being able to calculate the square root of a jar of pickles if you can't get the lid off.


Carl Wilson 414/01/2014 23:26:34
671 forum posts
53 photos

What you assert is fairly common knowledge in the engineering world. A certain type of individual who is akin to a lighthouse in a desert.

Extremely bright, but f*** all use to anyone.

Bazyle14/01/2014 23:52:25
5703 forum posts
208 photos
Posted by John Stevenson on 14/01/2014 14:12:51:

If it's any basis I went to Oxford University.

I went to Oxford University too - on a school trip round the physics department. At the end we were left alone with a PhD with no teachers and staff who told us 'in confidence' the only useful thing he did in 4 years was a 1 week surveying course which enabled him to get a holiday job holding the stripey pole.

Steamcoalnz15/01/2014 00:31:30
32 forum posts

I studied Geography at University and have been manufacturing shotgun ammunition for the last 22 years!

Love machinery and how it works, beats office work. Just that I have to fix the machinery that so call engineers have designed!!

Geoff Rogers15/01/2014 09:44:14
30 forum posts
4 photos


what do you mean by 'engineering ability' ?


Pete Titan15/01/2014 10:41:47
7 forum posts
4 photos

Yeah, I'd agree with O.P.

My father works at a clay quarry and model engineering is his hobby. He has made some beautiful engines. Then, having said that, with ref to qualifications, he decided to go to open university to read a maths degree because he found his methods of machine set up used maths...

I grew up around old oil engines and steam models and with my feet planted at the foot of the lathe from an early age, began building and honing my 'engineering ability'. I chose to do a degree in engineering after my A levels, which was intended to help me secure a good engineering position - However, being a particularly firey individual I found taking orders from half wits in jobs I'd secured hard to do, so set up my own business in a field that I have interest and experience in. (A vehicle workshop)

The thing I always think about engineering is that 'Engineering' means different things to different people.

For instance, the workshops I went to after uni were all CAD/CAM orientated. Generally you simply pressed go on a machine or put a fresh bit of stock in the chuck, or on the table. If you had no actual practical ability, you would find it hard to come home from work and set about making something (My colleagues always admired engines I took in to show them but couldn't conceive how it could possibly be done with manual machines and files without CAD. But they would still consider themselves 'skilled engineers' Whereas I considered the quiet and usually forgotten chaps that were designing the parts, working out tolerances, UTS' centrifugal forces, failure probability with F.O.S and loading etc to give the CAD people something to draw the true talents.

I myself found university slightly bizarre as there was very little practical (mainly due to health and safety) and all you were required to do was prove you could make something. In our case a silly little 3 legged bearing puller, which ironically I never made because I took in a couple of my engines and they decided it was a waste of resources. Instead I turned out some rear wheel rims for a traction engine I was finishing for a friend.

Now I really do love maths, and physics and all things mathematically derived, but I do remember a moment at about 3am one morning when I was working on a piece of coursework due in the same day. (also knowing as last minute stupidity) I was writing out some polynomial division as part of a proof that 22/7 is greater than pi and I remember thinking to myself, I know what pi equals, why I am proving what pi DOESN'T equal when I could be making something constructive!!

To me, broadly, engineering is the series of solutions (machining / design calculations etc) that turn an idea into a practical item. But then I build models and I consider that engineering so who knows!!

I do largely agree though that daytime job versus hobby are often worlds apart. I once knew a concrete worker who would go home a build such dumpy fingers could even pick up half the components of it was beyond me!

Anyway, at present I and talking on the model engineering site when I really should be working!

Kind regards, Pete.

Bazyle15/01/2014 12:36:49
5703 forum posts
208 photos

Returning to the original post I think qualifications have so little to do with real world jobs (obviously exceptions like medicine) that it is a surprise to find correlation. I've rarely seen an electrical or mechanical engineer needing to use 'learning' gained post school. There are normally just a handful of people in a company of thousands who do all the advanced stuff.

Then hobbywise people with practical ability might be influenced by their parents, teachers, neighbours to focus on anything from sculpture, to woodwork to cooking to gardening to car maintenance depending often on chance encounters.

What one can say is they are very unlikely to take up model engineering if they never encounter it or their exposure presents it as a magical black art. In that vein my club had a stand at a model railway exhibition last weekend to show that there are scales bigger than they are used to.

colin hawes15/01/2014 13:49:36
522 forum posts
18 photos

I have known several engineering graduates fresh from the uni. going into CNC machine design who could do anything with a CAD/CAM program but had very poor knowledge of the tools used and toolsetting ;some of them had to get me to explain the use and performance of many commonly used tools for machines when asked to actually produce a machine set up for a specified component. I also knew a skilled general machinist who went on to uni. after an apprenticeship: he was brilliant as a CNC machine tool designer because he had lots of manual machine experience before learning CAD/CAM theory and the maths to use it .Theory and ability can be very far apart but a high paper qualification does demonstrate the intelligence to learn. One learns more every day throughout an engineering career. Then takes up modelmaking and learns lots of short cuts. Colin

John Shepherd15/01/2014 17:07:29
218 forum posts
7 photos

Several (many in fact) years ago I worked with someone whose son was an outstanding PHD in his chosen subject and was assistant to a very prominent scientist at the time, but when he came home from university they could not trust him with a key to the house, so they tied it on a piece of string accessible via the letterbox.

Despite giving detailed instructions to pull the sting up to get the key, they were awakened one night because he had got his arm stuck in the letterbox trying to reach down for the key!

Rick Kirkland 115/01/2014 17:48:01
175 forum posts

I used to work with a guy who, one afternoon got our large heavy old fashioned sack barrow out of the van, stood it down whilst he closed and locked the van, then picked it up and struggled to carry it across the car park and into the workshop! !.

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