It has been said that “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” This is an axiom and does not need demonstration to prove the truth of it, but we may go a little further and say, that when applied to shops and mills that it is necessary to prosperity, for wherever you may go, or whatever mill, or yard, or shop you may go into and find everything at loose ends, and tools laying around promiscuously and many of them hung up on the floor or shied away under the benches, or if you go through the lumber yard and find piles of boards or plank or nice timber uncovered, and piles of boards left with part of them thrown down where they ought to be piled up nicely and covered, I say that where these conditions exist, you can take your note book out and write down. “This concern will eventually go to the bad, unless it becomes converted to the gospel cleanliness and order.” “Order is Heaven’s first law ” and unless we obey that law to the letter, we shall surely have to suffer the penalty for disobedience to its demands. Order and cleanliness about any place of business, is just as necessary as sunlight to the growth of vegetation.
The loss of time spent in hunting for mislaid tools amounts in the course of a year to hundreds of dollars in shops where everything is left to take care of itself which somebody has got to pay for, and in lumber manufacturing places it comes on the owners because all the work is done at the owners expense unless you are sawing or turning or planing for your customer by the hour which happens only once in a while, and then if your bill amounts to more than he thinks it ought to, next time he will go some where else with his work and indirectly you are a loser because you do not have the work to do.
There should always be a well regulated system for keeping tools and appliances about a mill in their places. Have a place for everything and have everything in its proper place. When you are through using a wrench or hammer or file, or any other tool or thing, even to a broom, have a place for it, and return it to its place, immediately after you have done using it. Don’t lay it down and say, well, when I get things agoing I will put it where it belongs. Perhaps while you are getting agoing your tool has been going too, for any tool lying around loose offers a great temptation to those who are always ready to pick up tools and put them in any place, but your thousands of dollars worth of tools find themselves put up in some pawn broker’s shop, when, if the one using them had put them up in their proper place they would have been saved the journey to the P. B. S., even though it was a free ride. Saws are great tools to ride in that direction, while wrenches and hammers are invited home like the Frenchman’s pig, to stay a week, and never come back.
To a certain extent employees ought to be rigidly held responsible for tools of whatever kind in their care. If they were so held, I am sure there would be fewer tools lost. I know of one large mill that lost 30 cant dogs in much less than a year’s time, and no one knew which way they traveled or where they stopped. Now, had there been some one to look after and account for these tools, and put them in some place out of the way of those who make it a business to pick up everything, no matter whether it is a tool or a horse, they would have been saved, and the price paid for new ones would have gone to the profit account on the owner’s books. Had this company held the man in charge of this gang strictly responsible for those cant dogs, I very much doubt if a single one of them would have been lost.
The habit of going to a pile of any kind of lumber and taking some and throwing down some and leaving it, is a terrible source of loss to those who allow their men to get in the habit of doing it. Nice boards and planks are often ruined by being left helter skelter and pitch poled every which way, and left to warp and get out of shape so no person will buy them, and if you use them yourself to fill an order, you have to plane them down, and you must lose quite a large percentage on the thickness in order to make it of any value to you, or if you put it through a cylinder planer, ten to one you do not split it, and the trimming to make it salable, wastes a great deal.
Every owner is responsible for everything being at loose ends about the yard and mill. He should not only see to it himself, but hold the foreman of the yard responsible for stock broken up and wasted without sufficient cause. Tornadoes may come and scatter your lumber around, but careless and irresponsible foremen are worse than tornadoes for the waste is constant the whole year through.
Just as soon as you are through overhauling a pile or lot of lumber, it should be piled up at once and never left till a better opportunity comes, for it never will come, and every day a lot of lumber lies, that is thrown into a helter skelter pile, it will deteriorate in value, and you actually lose more by letting it lie, than the time you would use in piling it up properly would amount to. Every owner of lumber yard or mill, or more generally where both are connected, should have an eye out for these little leaks, for these little leaks cause many a staunch and able vessel to go to the bottom.
Every piece of board or plank or timber, should be made to count for something, for each piece has a value, and is worth, and will bring you something if you look out for it, and this little something saved, you will find helps you out a great deal when you get pinched a little, and a few hundred dollars would just even things up, and put you fair and square on your feet again. I wish I might specify some particular kind of business where this careful looking after these little bits of waste would not be needed. If we take the regular cabinet business, how many thousands of the little pieces can be put to a good use, and save cutting out of whole stock, what could be easily picked out of cuttings that come from jobs where we must cut from whole stock.
Each kind of cuttings should have its own place for waste pieces, so when we want a piece of black walnut we will not have to hunt long enough among a lot of oak, and ash, and maple, and mahogany, to pay for a good plank in the time spent in hunting. There are those who are sharp and clear headed enough to see where these little pennies saved in this way amount to dollars when they come to take account of stock, and foot up a year’s work. Cabinet making and house finishing, which, in the costlier style of houses is another branch of cabinet work use up in the aggregate an enormous number of small pieces of wood, especially the costlier kinds of wood and a sharp look out for the waste pieces around cutting up saws, not only keeps things in order, but also saves buying good high priced stock, And makes the dividends very much larger.
Now in common lumber yards, how common it is to see sticking pickets lying around just where the piles were taken down, and not the least care taken of them, everywhere you go around the yard you stumble over a lot of these pickets always in the way, and never taken care of. When lumber begins to come in for sticking, hurrah boys, we must have a big lot of pickets sawed. But where are the ones used last year? Lots of boys who make it a business to gather in just this kind of stock have had a watchful eye on these things, and thousands of them have taken a free ride, and will never come back to tell who gave them the ride. One man said to me a few days ago, I have seen more sticking pickets go by my house this winter than ten horses could draw at one time, and considering the hard times of the winter just past, no doubt but that he came very near the truth. These ten loads of pickets will have to be replaced and somebody or bodies will have to pay the cost of making new ones.
Boards and plank by the load, taken one by one from these helter skelter piles go to new homes, and, like the pickets, never come back to tell who carried them away. The only way to save and have all these things show in the time when you take account of stock, is to have order on the BRAIN. We know it is more comfortable to sit in the office in the cold winter days, but if your yard or mill is suffering for want of care it is for the owner’s interest that he makes a tour of inspection over his premises at least once a day, and see that everything is close reefed and snug.
Builder and Woodworker – May, 1885
– Jeff Burks
9 thoughts on “Workshop Cleanliness”
There was a company called Hartford Stage & Millwork years and years ago, that had strict rules about cleanliness and their rules were clean up before going to lunch and clean up before punching out. This company was huge, by that I mean a roughing room, a finish mill room, a glue room, a finishing room, a bench room, etc. A story was once told to me that there was a great young journeyman working and the shop master says make sure you clean up before lunch, and the young man says- “Yes, Yes I will. For I am almost done and ahead of schedule”. Well the young man forgot to clean up and when he came back from lunch there was a pink slip waiting for him. There is something to be said about cleanliness.
A clean shop? Why would you want a clean shop? All of that sawdust on the floor is soft on your feet, according to Scott Northcott of Northcott Wood Turning. In an episode of This Old House, Norm visited the shop to see how they make wooden pegs for timber framing. You can jump to the part of the episode where they visit the shop at approximately 12:40
And thus we see why Reader’s Digest was born.
I’m left with one burning question, though: what are the French doing to their pigs?
I understand a clean shop. But, to many people stop and clean their shop after every little operation. We have become a little to anal about the cleanliness of our shops. If you spend more than 10min at the end of your day putting tools away and cleaning your shop: either your shop is flippin’ huge or you have OCD.
This is not only for workshops. One place I worked at early in my career insisted that the desk be clean before leaving. The monitor, pencil cup, calendar, etc. were okay but all paper needed to be cleaned up, filed, trashed, etc. Later, that habit helped my career as I got the reputation for being well-organized.
Finally, those who have worked in a production environment may have been subject to a quality initiative called “5S”, where everything in the workplace had a location and was labeled. Studies showed an improvement in both quality and throughput when the workstation was clean and orderly.
So, what on earth is a cant dog? Would that be a bench dog? Please tell!
A cant dog is a type of timber handling tool used to roll logs. The author is either referring to the tool more commonly known as a cant hook, or the tool known as a ring dog. It is difficult to say which because of regional differences is naming, though both tools serve the same purpose. For more information see:
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