Relaxing by watching other people work
February 17, 2019 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I really dig watching, and learning about, obscure handcrafts and industries from days of yore. In fact, I think I want to spend much of this lazy Sunday watching such things on YouTube. Got any to recommend? (Inspired by today's FPP about bell tuning.)

Examples of the kind of thing I mean:

Japanese Traditional Crafts

Primitive Technology

Some of the stuff in this great documentary about the Natufians and the Neolithic Revolution, or this other documentary about experimental archeologists who built and lived in an Iron Age settlement in the 70s

Pretty much everything that Ruth Goodman touches

This carillion player's dope-ass life

Basically, I want to watch the workaday lives of people from the past (and/or modern people who carry on obscure arts), and have it explained to me along the way.

posted by escape from the potato planet to Education (30 answers total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a paper marbler and I love this early-70s video about the Cockerell Studio in England.

(The young apprentice in the film recently retired and closed the shop because he has lost his sight, and his sister makes hand-stitched books with the remaining stock of their paper.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:06 AM on February 17, 2019 [8 favorites]

industries from days of yore

The BBC series Mastercrafts is a nice starter pack.
posted by klausman at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fun history - Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson doing the dirty work. From the Romans, through the dark ages, Medieval, Victorian, etc. On YouTube.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:34 AM on February 17, 2019

I wonder if you'd like Clickspring's project rebuilding the Antikythera mechanism?
posted by mdonley at 7:41 AM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

While Clickspring is definitely using modern tools, this might scratch your itch because he does a lot of speculating on why the original creator made some decisions. He also has a very soothing voice.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:49 AM on February 17, 2019

Nova had a documentary called “Petra: Lost City of Stone” where archeologists enlisted the help of a team of modern stonemasons and engineers to figure out how Petra’s ancient residents carved their stone buildings and managed their water system. It was especially neat to see the stonemasons physically carving similar rock faces at home in California to determine the ancient masons’ process.
posted by cnidaria at 8:01 AM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am the queen of this and what you want is the Pathé archives. Search for tags like factory, making, tradesman, etc. here is gold leaf and hand made chocolate liqueurs
posted by Iteki at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

I've always found this video about traditional Finnish log-home building to be both fascinating and soothing. It not only evokes a bygone era of home construction but also a bygone era of videography, lol. And if you've never watched Werner Herzog's Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, it's available on Netflix I believe. I'm not generally a huge Werner Herzog fan but this one is less Werner and more Werner's subjects for a change.
posted by drlith at 8:18 AM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am in the middle of watching Bernadette Banner making Some Frilly Victorian Underwear by hand despite having a period appropriate sewing machine for reasons she explains in the video.
posted by Botanizer at 8:50 AM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Barry Can't 'Arf Weld. Also some other videos posted in the FPP I did five years ago (!) about this video.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2019

Mine aren't necessarily "days of yore" but are definitely focused on skilled individuals making cool and/or beautiful things:

I recently discovered ISHITANI, a Youtube channel maintained by a Japanese woodworker who does custom furniture. He does use modern tools, but he also uses some very elegant fastenerless solutions, which aren't exactly old-timey but are very cool. It's mostly wordless, with some subtitles, but oh my goodness. If this guy wasn't booked with commissions until forever, and I had enough money to pay him and get it shipped here, I so would.

This Old Tony is a home machinist who tells really badgood dad jokes and explains the nuts and bolts of building stuff in a home metal shop. He uses both manual and CNC tools, which may be disqualifying for you, but a lot of the craftsmanship stuff goes back hundreds of years, at least to the industrial revolution.

The Woodwright's Shop is sort of the canonical ur-example of this for me (though I bet something else inspired it, I'm just too young to know about it). Woodworker uses hand tools for woodworking.
posted by Alterscape at 9:18 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Townsends is a YT channel about 18th century cooking. They do reenactments and also occasionally do episodes about other aspects of life in that time.
posted by ananci at 9:47 AM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's not quite Days of Yore but it is a dying art: The Making of Neon Signs, in Hong Kong (Cantonese w/ English sub-titles).
posted by Rash at 10:03 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

My favorite video for this is "Masters of the Fountain Pen: Harumi Tanaka"
posted by gauche at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2019

Oh, wait, no, my favorite video is "The Art of Making Noodles By Hand"
posted by gauche at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

LOFTY PURSUITS! It’s from a candy shop in Florida and Greg -the owner- does AMAZING voiceover about the history of candy and sweets and they make candy by hand often using pre-1900 equipment and it’s super soothing and super educational. And that was a run on sentence but I don’t care because it’s a fun channel.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:51 AM on February 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love this video on Glass Blowing with Dale Chihuly

I also get into wool/cotton spinning videos too: From the 1940s or a Scottish Weaver or Spinning from Viking ladies
posted by mulkey at 11:52 AM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can watch my friend Niels Provos and his instructional traditional blacksmithing videos. He has a calm, no-hype demeanor which I find very relaxing. He does some advanced pattern welding work and likes to play up the Viking heritage, but I also like his mundane videos like rebuilding a forge.

(Bonus fact; Niels is also one of the world's experts in Internet security. The blacksmithing is his violin d'Ingres.)
posted by Nelson at 11:57 AM on February 17, 2019

Oh oh oh and Baumgartner Restoration. He also has an Instagram. He often does both voice over and natural sounds of restoration. Very soothing and extremely interesting.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:16 PM on February 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Corning Museum of Glass YouTube channel has a bunch of awesome videos of glassblowing videos from simple to complex.
posted by spindrifter at 12:43 PM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

The YouTube channel my mechanics has several videos showing the meticulous restoration of all sorts of old metal tools. All you hear is ambient sound, but no narration or music. Onscreen text is good enough. I was absolutely hypnotized by this one (previously) (previouslier, with additional useful links in the comments).
posted by maudlin at 1:00 PM on February 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I posted this a few years back. I don’t know a much about violin making but I do a lot of woodworking and I've never seen a video that shows so well how the processes relate to the the properties of the's gorgeous.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:45 PM on February 17, 2019

A generation before we had billions of quartz crystals in billions of consumer electronic appliances, the production of quartz oscillators was a long and time consuming process.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:48 PM on February 17, 2019

I thoroughly enjoy A Craftsman’s Legacy, hosted by Eric Gorges. It’s quiet and thoughtful, and the host is inquisitive and respectful.
posted by ReginaHart at 3:22 PM on February 17, 2019

Awesome! Thanks to these answers, my slothful Sunday has been a resounding success (and is still going). I'm marking favorites as I work my way through them. Thanks! (And feel free to keep posting!)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:37 PM on February 17, 2019

Check out the /r/ArtisanVideos subreddit, it's chockful o' these!
posted by moons in june at 5:55 PM on February 17, 2019

We watched the Wallace Gusler gunsmithing film in 10th grade... many years ago. It's from the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and it was impressed into my brain.
posted by Marky at 1:39 AM on February 18, 2019

There was an Irish documentary series from the 70s/80s called Hands, that focused on disappearing crafts. As the title suggests, it has a lot of close ups of people working on crafts.

A lot of them are on YouTube.

The age of the series gives it a kind of a double obscurity, since they were made much slower paced than a modern documentary style.
posted by rollick at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Netflix import Japanese Style Originator has a bunch of episodes on YouTube. It's a panel show about Japanese traditions, foods and crafts, and near the end of most episodes they'll have a "Traditional Craftsman" segment where they show a few tools and components and the panel has to guess what's being made. Then they'll show a detailed video of the craftsman making tofu or a special kind of basket or whatever, in the traditional manner. Here's a direct link to the first episode's segment.
posted by Gortuk at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

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