A Joiner’s boy, going to his work, carried with him a basket of tools; and as he walked rather quick, it occasioned some little commotion among the sharp-edged instruments. The consequent accidental rubs which took place as they encountered each other at length excited an irritation of spirit, and the inconvenience of this unavoidable jostling soon proceeded to raise a voluntary purpose to injure one another, under the pretence of retaliation for the knocks, and scratches, and cuts which were inflicted from the deplorable circumstances in which they were placed.
“Pray, brother, keep your teeth to yourself,” said a Hatchet to a Saw. At the same time bouncing up, he gave him a pretty sharp cut on the handle, which making him strike a File with some violence that lay under him, forced its rough side against the point of a Gimblet; and whilst itself felt the hurt, it drove the handle into the box of a Plane, which it knocked out of its place and stuck fast therein.
“What are you all about?” said the Plane; “do you see what a situation you have put me into? What is to become now of your clumsy operations, if you are without the finishing touch of my ability? What sort of work will you look like, do you think?”
“I think,” said the Saw, ” that we can do perfectly well without your insignificant help. What do you do towards the forming of the things we are employed in? Whatever it be, I am the most important; the length and breadth of all things are determined by my power, and each part made to suit the other.”
“You boast yourself too much”, Mr. Saw,” said the Hatchet. “Who chopped down the tree in the forest, and lopped off the superfluous branches, and prepared the trunk, before you could have a single plank to saw? Such conceit indeed ! forgetting the one that goes before and provides all for your after works.”
“Besides,” said the File, “I think I have some right to talk about what fits the joints and smoothes the edges.”
“You all forget us,” said the little Gimblet and Pricker; “we are not to be despised, though we are little: we are necessary. What sort of work would you make, do you think, if you should begin to hammer or screw without our help to prepare the way? Tell me now, you company of Nails, what splitting and tearing would happen, if you were driven in without preparation?”
“It is not we,” answered the Nails, “who split and tear the wood; it is that clumsy-headed Hammer that comes without reason or care, and knocks us on the head, and drives us in, whether we will or not.”
Thus they talked in confusion and anger, each assuming consequence to himself, or throwing blame on the other. The Hammer made no reply, but snug down in the bottom of the basket, kept himself quiet and listened to the affray. At length the boy reached the workshop, where the master was waiting for him.
“What has made you so long in coming, boy? Did I not tell you that you should make that box, and that you should come in time? You know it is wanted this evening; and if you are idle you will make bungling work of it. Here, take that bit of rough wood; it is a good tough bit of a tree which I chopped down with my own hands in the squire’s park; I know it is a tough one, for if I had not had a good Hatchet, I should never have got it down.”
As the boy set down his basket to prepare for his work, and all was still within, the company there had time to listen to what was going forward in the shop; and the Hatchet felt no small degree of self-complacence when he heard himself thus unexpectedly acknowledged as a first instrument.
“Now,” continued the master, “take your Hatchet, and first chop off these knobby lumps here.”
“Did I not tell you,” said the Hatchet, as the boy opened his basket to take him out, “did I not tell you, that none of you could do without me?”
“A clumsy bit of goods it must need be,” said the Saw, “to require your help.”
“Ay, indeed,” said the Plane, “as if I could not put all to rights and smooth away all the lumps which the Hatchet leaves, as well as the ragged roughness you will leave, Mr. Saw.”
By this time the Hatchet was in the boy’s hand and applied to its use; sharply it cut, to show what it could do.
“Stay, stay,” said the master, ” take that knob* off closer, or else when you come to divide it across just there you will give your Saw double work and yourself too; it is hard to saw through a knot: besides, as it must be planed on both sides, the Plane will jut against this knot and, it may be, snip the edge; it will be almost as bad as a nail-head!”
* Knob, generally, but incorrectly pronounced in conversation as if spelled nub.
“Do you hear now, you Saw and Plane? I will do my work as I should do, not so much to do you good, as show you what I can do!”
The block of wood was now pretty well trimmed, and the boy, thinking that he might rest a little, threw down the Hatchet and stood still.
“What are you idling for, boy? Did I not tell you that there was no time to lose? Will chopping with your Hatchet make the box? Quicken your motions, and take your Saw, and saw it into six slices like bits of plank.”
In a tone of sarcastic contempt, the Saw said, as the boy took him out of the basket,—”Can cutting with your Hatchet make the box?”
Soon was the Saw put to its use, and slice after slice of the plank was cut and laid in readiness. And the boy, now forward to go on with his job, was beginning to see how he would put it together.
“What are you doing, you jumbling lad? What sort of a box, now, do you think it would be, if you made it up in this rough form? Do you see how the Saw has torn and jagged the board? Where is your Plane? Go to work and plane it as smooth as a looking-glass.”
The Plane was then taken, and as it began to pass over the Saw’s rough work, it seemed to whistle with delight, and to repeat, “Make it as smooth as a looking-glass.”
“There,” said the master, sliding his hand over the boards, “that is something like—now you may go on. Measure your boards for bottom, top, sides, and ends, and then divide them with your Saw.”
“Ah, ah, said the Saw, “will planing make the box?” The parts were then divided, and the boy thinking that all must be ready, expected to put it together.
“See, see, what is to become of these ragged edges? Do you see how rough the Saw has left them? Will it suit the smooth inside and outside to leave them so? Take your File and smooth these top edges well.”
The File now rose into self consequence, as he was taken to put on the finishing smoothing. “Now then, boy, begin to put together.” The boy began, and taking a long Nail and the Hammer, was about to drive it in, when the master seized his arm to stop him.
“Ott ott, fellow!* A pretty job you will make at last ! do you not know that you will split the board all to pieces, if you drive your Nails without making a way first with the Pricker? Here,” he continued, taking out the Pricker, “make a hole here; feel that it goes through to the board which it is to join, and then drive the Nail.” The boy did so, and all the nails went in smoothly and easily; and he drove them to the head without injuring the boards.
* Not feller.
“Now then, how will you put on the lid? Here, take this pair of hinges and screw them to it.” The boy began to do as he was bid.
“What are you doing now; will you split that board with Screws? Take the Gimblet and prepare the way with it; then put in the Screws, and take the Screw-driver and screw them in to the very head.” The boy obeyed, and the master said,
“There now, there is a box at last! A rough-made one after all, though you will think much of it, I suppose. Learn the use of your Tools; what one cannot do, another can. What good do they do you, if they only lie in your basket? And remember, they cannot make a box unless you make use of them.”
“There they are all together; you wanted them all; and when you get a little more experience, you will find out before you can make a thing as it should be, that you will want many more instruments, and many years practice.”
The Hammer, which was a sensible downright honest fellow, had not listened to the first quarrel in the basket, nor to the master’s words, without application; and he thus addressed the Tools:
“Brethren, for we must all call ourselves brethren, you see that none of us have any reason to boast ourselves one against another, and also of how little use we are alone. We must all do our part, or there will be no work for us to share. And we must also have some one who, like another instrument, will put us all to our uses. He, too, without the master’s teaching, seems but a bungler. Where, or what, would have been the box, without one who knew how to use both boy and tools?”
The Reader’s Guide: Containing a Notice of the Elementary Sounds in the English Language; Instructions for Reading Both Prose and Verse, with Numerous Examples for Illustration, and Lessons for Practice – 1845