There has been a good deal for some time past spoken and written about the education of the workman, but technical knowledge is not all that our artisans require. The use and abuse of tools is a subject of great importance, yet we hear no one essaying to say a few plain words upon the topic.
There are many workmen who probably pride themselves upon the knowledge of their trade, and who, with a compass, rule, and square, may be able to draw a number of lines and curves occurring in the setting out of their work. Even a little geometrical knowledge is useful; yet a little more attention on the part of these same workmen to the use and condition of their tools would be highly desirable.
If we take the case of a cabinet-maker or joiner, who generally requires to have a good “kit” of bench or workshop tools at least, it will be usually found that, for the one workman who keeps his tools in a proper and serviceable condition, there will be three who will be perfectly careless about the appearance of the tools that they are using. A workman who has a good basket of tools, pertinently observes a writer in the Irish Builder, will find more favour with those employing him than those who have not a presentable set of tools.
Planes, the wooden part as well as the cutting irons, should be kept in clean condition. In grinding and sharpening tools there is much to learn by many workmen, notwithstanding their constant use. Chisels and gouges should have firm and well-formed handles, and the heads of the handles should not show a battered and ragged appearance. Handsaws and other saws should not be allowed to be buckled in the blades, and good setting and careful filing are indispensable.
Without going through the list, it may be at once boldly said, that the character and ability of a workman may be known by the state of his tools. A workman who does not take a pleasure in keeping his tools in good order will not take a pleasure in executing his work. In fact, no workman can perform good workmanship with a bad set of tools.
There is an old proverb which says that “good tools are half the work,” which means, that a workman with good tools and knowing how to use them will get through his work in half the time that he would with indifferent tools—and so he would. But good tools, at the same time, in the hands of a bad workman or botch will not effect much for him. There is an art in using tools deftly, and this art is part of the skilled labour that constitutes the competent workman.
The Furniture Gazette – March 15, 1884