Good Workmen and Good Tools


The good workman will never use poor tools when he can obtain good ones. The careless workman may, but such choice is an evidence of inferiority, and brands him at once as a man who takes little pride in his calling. A selfish consideration, if no other, will ordinarily impel the workman to select the best tools, because with them he can perform his labor with much greater ease, and with better effect, than with inferior ones.

Exact work can hardly be expected from the mechanic who uses inexact tools, although sometimes very excellent results are obtained where poor tools are employed. But this is always at the expense of greater labor and greater care. Rapidity of work often depends upon the character and condition of the tools employed. This is frequently illustrated in a vivid manner by the attempt to employ a dull saw or a dull plane. Even a trifling defect sometimes causes no end of trouble. To do the most effective work, tools must be of improved design, made strongly for use, and kept in good order. Then the conditions are ripe for executing work under the most favorable circumstances.

It is only the slipshod workman who will be content to use rusty tools, of antiquated design, and out of order, or verging on a state of dilapidation. As well might one expect to find a really superior musician drumming away on an old and worn-out instrument, whose every note gives forth a discord, as to see a bright, active and expert mechanic employing poor and badly-used tools. The good workman will insist on having good tools, and these he will see are kept in fit condition for work. Any other course would be prima facie evidence of his lack of superiority in his calling.

The Builder and Wood-Worker – December, 1885

—Jeff Burks

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11 Responses to Good Workmen and Good Tools

  1. Jesse Decker says:

    Of antiquated design.

  2. Jim Tolpin says:

    As in all images of 19th century (and earlier) woodworking shops, the planes are set edge-side down on the benches and shelves. Laying planes on their sides is what us moderns were taught to do, having to work in industrial (and school industrial art) shops where respect for the sanctity of the benches (not to mention the tools themselves) was no longer honored.

  3. C Blake says:

    If I needed an excuse to buy newer and better tools, this is it!

    Rob Lee must have put you up to posting this…

    Best regards

  4. Ed Clarke says:

    That’s an artist’s impression of a wood shop. I can’t imagine a craftsman jumbling his hollows and rounds like that; the augers will require a ladder to get down and what the heck happened to the front face of his bench top? Also, it doesn’t seem to be thirty eight inches high…

    • No it’s a post card of a craftsman in his shop back in the fifty’s or even sixty’s in some rural area of France, I’ve seen quite a lot of them when I was young. They used to sell postcards typical of old trades in every café. I’ve work in a shop a bit like this in 74, you had the modern cast iron machines on one side and always a few old workbenchs loaded with old tools on the other side.
      François a french woodworker

    • steve voigt says:

      It’s definitely 38″ high. The “woodworker” in the picture is actually Roubert Bouvet, a famous french basketball player who was nearly 8 feet tall.

  5. wesleytanner says:

    The way the painter uses light (and seems mostly interested in it) suggests to me that it was painted for magazine illustration in the 1970s. It could have a nineteenth-century source, but the New Realist general flatness of the paint treatment points to that period and a ad agency.

    • wesleytanner says:

      A second look at the figure’s clothing suggests a contemporary photograph might have been the painter’s source.

  6. m46opie says:

    What struck me was the face vise in the middle of the bench leg. Would love to see how THAT was done!!

  7. Blah, blah,bla….

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