Let any farmer or person of moderate means look round his house and make a careful minute of all the odd jobs he will find which require to be done. Let him take paper or a memorandum book and note them down. He will find at least twenty little matters requiring repair or amendment. The plank-way to the well or yard; the fence round the garden; a garden gate that will open easily and close itself; repairs to the box protecting the well or cistern; mending tools, harness—and in short almost innumerable small matters all wanting to be done, either on wet days or at some leisure time.
Every one who is not a natural sloven is fully aware of the necessity of attending to these matters, but the great difficulty is he has no tools. His experience goes to show that the last time he tried to do anything of the kind he had to go to a neighbor and borrow some tools to work with. The saw was too close, and very much otherwise than sharp; the chisels were all too large or too small; the bit-stock had lost its spring and would not hold the bits in their place, so that he could not withdraw them, and perhaps broke some and had to buy new ones to replace them. Nothing was fit to use, and hence what he did was wretchedly done.
There being no proper awl or gimlet, he tried to drive nails without the holes being bored; splits followed just when the most of the work was done, and the look of the job was spoiled, and our poor man of odd jobs was heartily discouraged, and excused himself by determining in his own mind that he never was intended for a mechanic, and never having learned the trade could do nothing at it but make a botch, which was almost worse than leaving the job undone.
His underrating his ability was a mistake. Almost every man has a certain amount of mechanical ability, but the great drawback is bad tools. No good workman has bad tools. All the tools of a good workman are clean, free from rust, with good handles, and sharp as a razor. The saw is well set, for green or dry wood, or he has one for each kind of work—ripping, cross-cutting or fine work. How then is it possible for an inexperienced person to do work with bad tools or tools in bad order, when a mechanic, with all his experience, requires tools the best that can be had?
The first step which any farmer can make towards renovating or repairing his homestead is to get a set of tools—some of each kind for working in iron or wood, not forgetting a soldering-iron for mending kitchen and other tin matters, and small patching. The whole can be got for forty dollars, and will save their value and cost in one year, besides the satisfaction of feeling independent and of helping yourself, instead of living in a mess or having interminable bills to pay.
When the tools are got, a convenient, comfortable work-shop must be provided, isolated from the farm building and house as there is always more or less danger from fire. Put up a good solid bench with an iron vice at one end and a wooden one at the other, a block for an anvil, or some substitute for one, and a good grind-stone in one corner, with a foot crank to turn it with; and then the first wet or stormy day, referring to your memorandum book for the list of jobs that require to be done, select the first that your wife and family require as necessary to lighten their heavy cares and continuous work, and all experience goes to show that the outlay for tools will not be regretted.
Again. When your sons require employment in bad weather, there is always some little mechanical job to do in which they will soon take the greatest delight. Nothing reconciles a boy or young man more to what he has to do than to be able to do it better than others similarly circumstanced; and if there is any mechanical talent, it will develop itself wonderfully in the amateur work-shop. Then in busy times, when plows, harrows or wagons break, the loss of time in going to the tradesman is often much greater than in doing the work.
We once knew a gentleman who did all this in England for a few years before the family emigrated. On the arrival of the family in the adopted land, there was not one of the sons who could not do any ordinary job, and no part of their education was found more useful and advantageous than the knowledge of the use of tools. Losses took place. Fire destroyed their buildings in more than one instance, but their mechanical knowledge enabled them to build again, when otherwise they must have given up hope, and turned their exertions into a far lower sphere of action.
The Genesee Farmer – July, 1864