There are few mechanics who realize the importance of keeping their tools in perfect order; nevertheless, the experience of every one having to work with a set of tools ought to prove that he should love his tools and regard them with pride. We scarcely recollect a single instance of a really good workman who did not possess this affection for, and pride in, the implements which enabled him to turn out his work well.
If hammers are rusty and with faces covered with careless nicks, and fitted with ill-shaped and broken handles; if sharp-edged tools are badly ground and covered with rust; if cold chisels are made very much like old shanks taken at random from the scrap pile, and litter, dirt, tools and fragments are clustered together in a close conglomeration, it will convey about the same idea to the observer that a beggar in tattered habiliments would in the parlor of a prince. Every one would feel a great desire to either eject the intruder from the apartment or at once leave the place himself.
There are instances where this affection for, and pride in, implements have gone extremely far and become almost a monomania; so much so that the journeyman could scarcely bear to see you examining his chisels, files, etc., and seemed to have a fear, whilst you were looking at them, of some outward effect like that which the Indians attribute to an evil eye, but which merely arose from a species of selfish affection for these children of his handicraft.
Every tool should have a place and be kept there when not in use. The amount of time saved in a year by having everything in order is astonishing. It often happens that when a job is to be done in a hurry there is more time wasted looking for tools than would be required to do the job. This does not pay, and, besides, the customer goes away in an unpleasant condition of mind, and will not be apt to take another job to that shop if he can help it—but he will be almost glad of the opportunity of visiting the shop where work is done promptly and pleasantly. The people soon find out the best shop to deal at, and the best shop gets the cream of the trade, while the old fogies growl and grumble while the dust is settling on them, which they are too lazy to shake off.
I have known men starting in business in towns where there did not seem to be a ghost of a chance for them to succeed, yet, in a short time, they were doing a prosperous business. They would never have done so if they had not done their work well and paid proper attention to their business, or, in other words, they did everything in an orderly manner.
In some shops, cuttings of lumber are all mixed together in one pile, and much time is lost in looking for pieces of certain size—the result is that a whole board or piece is cut into just because they did not have time to look up pieces, when, if the pieces had been handy, they could have been used. In these days, when competition is sharp, it is very important to consider these things. There are many shops in this country that do not pay, just because every thing is done in such a disorderly manner.
Mechanics Vol X. No. 4 – April, 1888
– Jeff Burks