When thinking of the modern wood-working establishment, with its finely-drawn divisions and subdivisions of all the different operations in the hands of experts and specialists, it is with a feeling of regret that we see the old-fashioned all-round mechanic being gradually crowded into the background, with the prospect that sooner or later his type will become extinct.
Not so many years ago the skilled workman was an indispensable factor in every wood-working shop. He was a combination of cabinetmaker, carpenter and machineman who could make a complete door or window or a piece of furniture from the raw material, with no other assistance but his own skill. He could lay out his work, match, joint and lay his own veneer, knew all about the properties of glue, the nature of the various kinds of wood and their adaptability for different purposes, besides a thousand other shop kinks, acquired by years of practical experience.
It used to be a source of real pleasure to watch such workman handle his tools when building up, piece by piece, some intricate design of artistic woodwork, and the evident satisfaction he derived from viewing the work of his own hands, showed the earmarks of the artist. On account of his ability and wide range of usefulness, he was looked up to by his shopmates, and his work called forth the admiration of everybody.
But notwithstanding all these rare qualities, the real craftsman is becoming less necessary, and therefore less appreciated from year to year. He is gradually being relegated to the small shop, or some remote corner of the big establishment, patching and repairing defective machine work or doing some occasional job beyond the range of the less skillful machine operator.
With the designing, detailing and laying out of work, which was formerly considered the duty of the thoroughly-skilled mechanic, now being done much better, and more economically, by specialists trained for each particular task, the versatile mechanic is no longer indispensable.
In addition to this, with the growing tendency to standardize designs and operations, combined with a multiplicity of ingenious devices to save time and cheapen construction, the time seems not far distant when the making of artistic woodwork will become a lost art, and the peculiar dexterity acquired by years of training the hands to use the tools, which we call skill, may be ultimately dispensed with in the wood-working shops.
D. M. C.
The Wood-Worker – (Indianapolis) February, 1921
– Jeff Burks