Recipe for Happiness


“Traditional Chair Making – High Wycombe,” photographer unknown. © High Wycombe Furniture Archive, Bucks New University

“It is one thing for the man whose daily work offers him a really creative job, the engineer, the skilled craftsman, the artist, the writer, because with the work comes the discipline. He has to stick it, in spite of the weather or his feelings at the moment, because he who will not work neither shall he eat, neither, in fact, shall he have anything else that is worth having. But because the job is a job into which he can really put all his powers, he has the chance of extracting real satisfaction, real happiness, from it. Or at least as much as we can hope for in an imperfect world. Because to become absorbed in an interesting job is happiness. But when a man takes up some form of creative work in his spare time, he has to be his own taskmaster. And that is not so easy. There is always the temptation to cry off when he doesn’t feel like it, or to drop it altogether when difficulties crop up—as they are bound to do when a man is learning to do a thing on his own. In short, it takes character and grit to stick it long enough to acquire real skill. But once that is attained he has achieved something that will set him on the road to still greater achievement in the future. And that is at least one recipe for happiness.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1942

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13 Responses to Recipe for Happiness

  1. nrhiller says:


  2. An old craftsman says:


  3. jonfiant says:

    Just so well said. It’s neat to think that this gentleman’s words from 1942 still ring so true. Even more poignant for me as I contemplate a career change at my age of 51.

    • jonfiant says:

      I meant to say this as well, that the impending career change is due to to the lack of creativity. I am tired of building plywood and plastic boxes for people that I will never meet. What I do is only woodworking in the academic sense, since particle board was once wood before the addition of all the glue.

  4. Richard Mahler says:

    I cannot imagine life without the satisfaction of doing creative projects with my hands – it is a different experience of happiness than most people think of when they consider the word.

  5. Good to remember. Especially trying to buckle down to a big writing project where the lines between labor and leisure blur. Thanks.

  6. Eric R says:

    When I am engulfed in a special project, it’s like I’m transported to a different world…honest.

  7. Jacques Blaauw says:

    What is that workholding jig? The pair of rough-cut branches tied together with twine, and then he stands between them?
    It looks like his vice has all the parts needed to make it work; I don’t quite get what that could be.

    • Richard Mahler says:

      Looks like he has bent a branch for a chair back and is stripping the bark and working it down; you see a more finished example standing behind the nearly completed chair. That is my assumption.

    • Richard Mahler says:

      There are a few smaller bent “U” shapes hanging behind him, still tied with twine. These may be chair frame backs but could also be yokes for oxen or another farm animals.

  8. juliamakl says:

    It was very awakening to read and I enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing!

  9. The happiness of real skill, I like it, thanks.

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