It does not follow that because most wood-work used about a building may be obtained at the mill, machine made, that the carpenter should not equip himself with the knowledge necessary to make by hand every piece of wood-work required to complete a building. There is a sameness about millwork that always impresses itself unfavorably on the artistic sense, and this quality is so well understood in high quarters, that many very rich men will not permit finished machine made work to be introduced in their residence.
While it may be true that machine made work is, in many cases, superior to hand-made work, yet it is characterless and inartistic, as it is the machine, not the workman, that leaves its impression on the finished product, and each piece is a facsimile of each other piece. For utilitarian purposes machine made work occupies a high rank, as it is generally well made, solidly put together, and costs much less than hand-made work, qualities that recommend it for general use.
By hand-made work I do not mean work that is sawn from the rough by hand, or manipulated at every stage by brute force with saw and plane. The circular saw, the planer, the mortiser and tenoner may and should be employed in preparing material for hand work, thus relieving the workman of the present from the drudgery that his forefathers were forced to undergo.
It is in the finishing process and the variety of form, shape and finish where hand-work has the artistic advantage over work produced and finished by machinery alone. It must be borne in mind, however, that machinery, well and skilfully manned, never turn out bad work. They are honest and work faithfully, and this is more than can be said of all workmen who essay to make good handwork.
But workmanship, in any form, can never be artistic; therefore, it behoves the workman, who aspires to excellence in hand-work, to make his work as solid and as good as machine work, and to give it a finish and variableness attainable by the best machines.
Excellence in any trade or profession is obtainable only by repeated effort, care, attention and study; and the carpenter or joiner who does not diligently apply himself to mastering all the ins and outs of his trade cannot hope to ever be more that a drudge to the man who has spent time and money without stint in finding out all that is possible concerning his trade, and fitting himself to overcome with ease any trade problem that may confront him.
This latter is the man who made foreman and who eventually enters the building business as a contractor with success. Hence the stirring up of knowledge regarding one’s trade is an investment that is sure to bring in a good return without fear of losing any part of the principal.
Fred T. Hodgson, Architect
Architect and Builder’s Magazine – February, 1900
– Jeff Burks