Yeah I probably shouldn't make forum posts after a 9 hour shift.
The thing that set this off was moving a simple object in my model freely once, but then having it lock to an axis the next time I tried to move it. If I had known the arrow keys came into play here that would've made the positioning lot less frustrating.
Maybe I've been spoiled by modern game design that can explain contextual controls to an insulting degree, but I'd really like it if application developers took a few cues from them.
Don't like how this kind of software is still made with manuals and support contracts in mind. Annoying design cruft.