The Wandering Wood Butcher’s Advice on Chests

From WANDERING WOOD BUTCHER, Alexandria, La. In looking over the issue for December last, I noticed a plan of a tool chest furnished by “R. S. M.” of Dover,
Mass., which is only one of many plans that have appeared in the paper during the past 20 years. These have greatly interested me, but I observe that in nearly all cases one thing, which in my opinion leaves the chest incomplete, has been omitted, and that is an ample shoulder box or tray for carrying the tools to and from the place of work – a box 10 inches deep by 12 inches wide, which can be dropped into a chest as a tray or till when the day’s work is over, the key turned and the carpenter can go away at peace with himself and his fellow men. I dislike to see a carpenter come on a job in the morning with a hand full of tools and then make 10 to 15 trips during the day to the chest for more. Then when noon or night comes he is running all over the building, fussing with the other men about his tools being lost, stolen, or mislaid. If he is lucky enough to find them in the dark, or even the light, be has to drag them to his chest, possibly necessitating two trips in the operation. Such a chest is a poor excuse, no matter how nicely made and trimmed. In the box as above de­scribed a carpenter can take such tools as he usually requires, or the nature of the particular work demands, to any part of the building and have them always ready at hand. When the words “pick up” are given, he can do so in an instant and go home rejoicing, instead of feeling annoyed at the necessity of having been obliged to grope around in the rubbish for his tools. Another thing I might suggest in connection with tool chests is not to put such panel tops on them, but cover with galvanized iron so far as to make the chest sun proof and water proof, and baggage smasher proof, if good comer irons of the same material are put on with clout nails and clinched.

If one cannot have his chest arranged as above de­scribed, I would suggest at least having one of which he ­will not be ashamed to take it to a job or among strangers as an example of workmanship, skill and taste. Of late years it is not an uncommon sight to see men calling
themselves carpenters coming on a job with a gunny sack for a tool chest, or an old box picked up in the backyard of some store with the name of the manufacturer of snuff, tobacco, boots and shoes, or some other commodity printed all over it until it looks like a bill board or traveling advertisement. If for the latter purpose it is a great hit and a success, for it announces to every beholder that the owner is a hobo, tramp or fraud who­ travels for notoriety as a wandering wood butcher. Another thing I would suggest to the young chips is that if they cannot have many tools, make sure to have good ones and keep them in good order and looking clean. Do not be like two of those wandering wood butchers who by letter applied to me a few years ago for a job and described themselves “carpenters by profession.” I brought them 150 miles to work and found they had pieces of limbs of trees with the bark on for hammer handles and as soon as they landed took a saw in one hand and a file in another and went to nearly every man in the town, from the Section Boss to the Town Marshal, saying “Please, Mister, will you file me a saw?” Now the reader may not be able to understand the sort of an impression they made on the foreman, or what remarks the rest of the crew made about the foreman’s new hands, but I do. I did not hear the last of them for a year and even now I meet some one who refers to my “imported carpenters.” I would say to the young chip, though be he not a full-fledged carpenter, do not be ashamed or afraid to own up. Tell the boss the truth and nine times out of ten he will help you through, for he himself had to learn by having others show him. If you lie to him he will catch you in the course of time and then one may expect to hear some hard remarks. Right here is the reason some foremen are considered hard to work for and why they get a hard name. When you hear a man speaking hard of a foreman, you may safely assume there is something wrong with himself.

— Carpentry and Building, April 1903. Thanks to Jeff Burks for unearthing this gem.

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14 Responses to The Wandering Wood Butcher’s Advice on Chests

  1. Tom says:

    Certainly truth in just the last statement alone . . . “When you hear a man speaking hard of a foreman, you may safely assume there is something wrong with himself.”

  2. James says:

    Can’t wait to see your final draft on this particular item.

    (I say final draft, because it’s pretty clear by now that you usually build several of everything…)

  3. billlattpa says:

    Remember, the foreman is many times speaking as the voice of another. Times when the GC doesn’t feel like buying new saw blades or nobody wants to rent a lift the foreman has to take the BS if it’s his fault or not.

  4. Sam I Am says:

    I’ve worked with those guys too.

  5. sawdustmaker says:

    Guys like what was described in the article and here are found in all trades, and professions – believe me they are not exclusive to woodorkers/carpenters

  6. Jonas Jensen says:

    I especially agree on the advice that people should not be afraid to admit if they are not very experiencd. I prefer to assist and get a good result instead of discovering that something has been damaged due to lack of knowledge.

  7. Gavin says:

    My Dad used to carry one of these all the time when I was younger for rough carpentry/ framing jobs, still has it but full of junk he doesnt use. It was a common shop class project in our highschool shop class. Lots of them still floating around the school.

    I have seen some carpenters chests that are somewhere between this and a dutch tool chest. Hard to find much, but seems like a good framers box.

  8. John C says:

    Seems that this would be a great addition to an Anarchist’s box. A removable till that will keep the other tills from shifting around during transport. Could also prove handy to transport tools from the shop into the house when the “CFO” has a project she would like completed.

  9. Patrick says:

    I got hired for my first job out of school because my boss said i was the only person that didn’t try to BS him in the interview.

  10. Bruce L says:

    A lot of the advice sounds like the advice in The Joiner and the Cabinet Maker.

  11. George R. says:

    I see a new book in the offing, something like “Shavings of Wisdom” compiled and collected by Jeff Burks. What say you?

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