Machine Shop Characters


There are many things to be learned in the machine shop by keeping one’s eyes open, and observing the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of our shopmates.

There is, for instance, the much talked about and well known man who “knows it all.” You can tell him nothing that he does not already know. It doesn’t matter what sort of a job you are doing, he will tell you how he generally does it, even though it is the first of its kind. He is always afraid that you will spoil the job, because you are not doing it as he thinks it ought to be done.

You will also find the man who thinks that “anything is good enough.” You will recognize him by looking into his tool chest or drawer. It looks like a veritable junk shop. His hammer handle is without a wedge, or it is split; his chisels always have a fringe on the top, which would make one think that they had been hit with a sledge; his squares and fancy tools (if he has any) are scattered about among the files and scrap that invariably accumulate in the bottom of his drawer. The work that he turns out is on a parallel with his tools; if he is a lathesman, he will try to cut out a sharp corner with a round-nosed tool, and as a natural consequence manages to cut a groove into the mandrel.

Closely related to him is the man who calipers his work until he has taken off too much stock, and then wonders why it is that “Jim” seldom or never spoils a job, while he is always in hard luck. If he is keying a wheel onto a shaft, he somehow manages to file off enough of the key to make it drive chock up to the head before he knows where he is.

I must not forget the chronic borrower. He has that nice, smooth, oily way of coming up to you with a “Say, Bill, lend us that center punch of yours, I’m having mine dressed,” and somehow that is the last you will ever see of that or any other tool that you loan him, unless you jog him about it, and then—“Oh, that’s so, I forgot all about it.” Verily, he is a fiend, and has made many a man resolve not to keep a decent tool in the shop, for fear that it will eventually find its way into the drawer of this shop abomination.

Did you ever see the man who imagines that the shop would go to smash if he wasn’t there to look after things? He rushes about as though the whole concern rested on his shoulders, and he has that careworn look that would suggest that he was responsible for the outcome of all matters pertaining to the future welfare of everything and everybody about the place. He thinks that nothing has been done right, unless it was done at his suggestion. Poor fellow, I really feel sorry for him. I believe that many of these men are sincere in their beliefs, but it is only a delusion. They don’t seem to realize that there isn’t a man in the shop, or any other place, whose position could not be filled by some one else with perhaps greater efficiency.

There is the chronic crank who has a growl for every one; he is the terror of the apprentice, who is afraid of his swearing and abuse. So I might go on—the man who does everything with a rush, but somehow never gets through any sooner than the man who takes time to use his brain, and brings into his work ideas and contrivances which more than make up for his neighbor’s expenditure of muscle.

The man who has a hobby, and who will talk about it whenever he can get any one to listen to him, “and a host of others.”

Charles Stelzle

American Machinist – February 18, 1892

—Jeff Burks

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3 Responses to Machine Shop Characters

  1. Eric Coyle says:

    nice post….sounds like so many woodbutchery bloggers don’t it?

  2. turdfighter says:

    It’s funny how you see these characters in all trades and professions.

    I could put faces on all the ones described.

  3. seawolfe2013 says:

    The pic at the beginning of the post looks remarkably like the new Lie Nielson shooting board plane! Sometimes the tried and tested designs are the best!

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