Present Duties Well Performed


Many boys in the machine shop lose their opportunities of becoming skilled mechanics through waiting for a better job, just as men die waiting for something to turn up. There is no job to begin to do good work on like the one in hand, and no mistake greater than supposing that the very best mechanical skill cannot be shown on what would be called a very ordinary piece of work.

Nothing is more common than to hear complaints from apprentices that they don’t get an opportunity to learn the trade at which they are working, but generally speaking no one gets the opportunity; he makes it. There is no conspiracy to keep any one out of the position he ought to fill, but he must get into that position by his own exertions.

If a boy demonstrates that he is capable of doing a simple job of work better than anyone else, he is morally certain to get tried on a better one, if there is a better one. If he fails to do the present job right because there isn’t scope enough for his ambition, he makes it appear that it would be unsafe to trust him with better work. There is no other sure road to advancement than through present duties well performed.

American Machinist – November 10, 1883

—Jeff Burks

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The Perils of Furniture Delivery


A motor furniture delivery truck, belonging to R. J. Horner & Co., New York, caught fire as it was being driven out to Hastings-on-the-Hudson last Saturday morning. The driver was apprized of the fire by people looking and pointing at the truck, till he realized something must be wrong. He was driving at about 12 miles per hour at the time.

The entire body back of the driver’s seat, and the contents, consisting of about $1,100 worth of furniture, were consumed, but the chassis was practically uninjured and was driven back to New York under its own power.

It is supposed that the driver or the helper was smoking, and that the sparks from the cigar ignited the inflammable material with which the furniture was packed, but the driver denies this, and says he has no idea how the fire originated. The fact that the gasoline tank was intact and the chassis uninjured would seem to prove that the fire was in no way due to gasoline or anything about the mechanism of the truck.

The Horseless Age – August 25, 1909

—Jeff Burks

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The Skill in Saw-Making


An Industry That Requires Intelligent Labor and Many Delicate Processes.

How the Large Steel Plates Are Taken And Made to Suit the Uses of Man—Saws of All Sizes and Descriptions.

The complexity of the industries to-day found in this city will, in a very few years, cause it to rank with the greatest manufacturing centers of this country. They are as varied as opportunity and science can suggest or capital establish. In any one of them there is a lesson that few, except those engaged in the work, know anything about, but it cannot be without interest even to those whose fancies or likings tend very little to mechanicism.
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Common Woodworking Tools—Saws


It often occurs that an amateur, with a taste for mechanics, determines to go in for a small set of tools, and after having laid out four or five pounds at an ironmonger’s, finds by-and-by, to his sorrow, that his judgment has been at fault in two respects—first, in not selecting the tools most suitable for his purpose; and next, in selecting tools of inferior quality.

A few practical hints on these matters may therefore be of use to such as are not trained artisans, but who simply seek, in their workroom, the means of recreation from the real occupation of their lives. Yet even among that former class, of which I am proud to acknowledge myself a member, I trust there will be many who will derive both pleasure and profit from the perusal of the following papers.
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This is Not Your 15th-century Ancestor’s Table


Though it might seem like it, I’m not writing a book about medieval furniture. I’m leaving that task to the capable hands of Derek Olson at the Oldwolf Workshop. Check it out here, it’s going to be cool.

The stuff in my book, the “Furniture of Necessity,” has its roots planted in the past, but the leaves are new. The writing, which is about halfway done, is more in the vein of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.” Yes, the book is about one thing, but also another thing. Which means the Lumberjocks will hate it.


I am drawing inspiration from early furniture because the rules for what was acceptable – “Indeed, Burlington Cockletit, that’s a table and that’s a chair” – were much looser than they are today. And they would use joints in ways that proper furniture makers today do not.

As to the aesthetics of the individual pieces, I want them to look comfortable in an artisan’s home. Simple. Sturdy. And not trying to be a social steppingstone.

More later. I have to pack my truck for Handworks.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity | 26 Comments

The Tiniest Tool Chest at Handworks (Natch)


This photo is kind of difficult to interpret. The big chest is 1:4 scale (about 9” long). The small one is 1:10. It is Marco Terenzi’s work, of course.

Both will be at Handworks this weekend, along with so much other cool stuff that I won’t be able to see it all.

By the way, Marco makes micro tools for sale, so follow him on Instagram. You never know when you might be zapped by a shrink ray and need a 1:4 scale hammer to fight rabid chipmunks.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites, The Anarchist's Tool Chest | 4 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 54


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