Editor’s note: This summer John Hoffman met young woodworker Danny Spatz at the Lie-Nielsen Open House event in Warren, Maine. Danny is an enthusiastic young woodworker and spent the day working with all the demonstrators at the show.
During the day, Danny mentioned that he had written a book report on “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” for school, and we have reprinted it here with his permission.
When Thomas starts out in Mr. Jackson’s shop as an apprentice, he is neglected until he could prove his worth. He shows his potential by taking on the odd jobs he is given with pride. This leads to Mr. Jackson giving him the packing box project. One of the major themes in The Joiner and Cabinet Maker, is proving one’s worth. Thomas gets to do this when Mr. Jackson gives him the task of making the packing box.
Thomas first gets a chance to show his potential, when he builds the packing box. When Thomas finishes it in the allotted time, Mr. Jackson is very pleased and says, “‘Well done Thomas, it is a very well made box, square and firm, and nicely put together. You may take it home to Mr. Green yourself.’” Mr. Jackson is delighted to see how Thomas made a good box with time to spare, and how seriously he took a minor project like this. He takes pride in his apprentice, and sees his usefulness. Also, as he is writing out his bills to Thomas for the odd jobs he has done, Mr. Jackson, “Finds the value of his apprentice, and treats him well accordingly.” These small jobs show his master that he is a hard worker, and he allows Thomas to build the next, higher profile job.
By making the packing box, Thomas is considered very highly by Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson then thinks Thomas is fit for making the schoolbox, and Thomas uses this opportunity to further prove his worth. Mr. Jackson remarks on the practice dovetail joints that he has cut, “‘Well, really it is not a bad joint, and I am very glad to see it, for I think you will be able to make the schoolbox for Master John.’” Thomas has proved he is worthy of the project, and he has exhibited that he spends his free time well, by practicing in his craft. After Thomas is finished with construction of the box, Mr. Jackson examines it and has no imperfections to point out, “‘Thomas it is a very good job, and for so young a workman you have not been long over it.’” Mr. Jackson is impressed by Thomas’ performance, and realizes his full potential to be a great journeyman.
Mr. Jackson, having seen that Thomas will become very skilled in the craft, begins to pay him after about half of his seven years have passed. Thomas seizes the opportunity to purchase tools of his own, and treats them well, like a responsible journeyman should. “Already Thomas is doing things which bring in profit to his master; and has begun to receive small weekly wages himself.” This proves that Mr. Jackson believes that Thomas is a trustworthy apprentice, and begins to pay him so he can have a full set of tools by the time he is working on his own. Thomas builds a full sized chest of drawers for his master to sell. Mr. Jackson is so pleased with the job that, “Mr. Jackson thinks it is very creditable to his young apprentice, and boasts that it is as well made and handsome a piece of furniture as need be sent out of any cabinet maker’s shop.” Thomas is such a favorite of Mr. Jackson, that he brags about how he has such a great apprentice, building such great projects. By the end of his apprenticeship, Thomas has proved to his master that he will become one of the most skilled craftsmen as could be.
Since Thomas started out in his apprenticeship doing the odd jobs with gusto, he was considered by Mr. Jackson as having potential. When Mr. jackson was presented the opportunity to give Thomas a project that the other apprentices considered was beneath them, Thomas got to prove his worth. This enabled him to take a step further in his education as a joiner.
— Danny Spatz