Words of wisdom

My recent blog on woodworking mistakes garnered some insightful quotations on the subject of experience. For something a bit different this time around, I thought I’d present a short collection of quotations from famous individuals specific to our favorite endeavor.

Henry David Thoreau, no slouch when it came to woodworking, had a good attitude about his work. “Drive a nail home and clinch it so faithfully that you can wake up in the night and think of your work with satisfaction – a work at which you would not be ashamed to invoke the muse.”

We’re often asked how we accomplish our art, and Michelangelo – although he worked in stone, not wood – explained it perfectly when he said, “I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.”

Abraham Lincoln, although he gained fame in fields other than woodworking, knew the secret to getting things done right when he noted that the key to a good job is careful preparation of your tools. “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax.”

Speaking of tools, Henry Ward Beecher succinctly described their proper role in the craft. “A tool is but the extension of a man’s hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. And he that invents a machine augments the power of man and the well-being of mankind.”

Of course, some folks prefer the pleasures of a nonpowered woodshop. Larry Heinonen put it like this: “A good, sharp hand tool is a joy to use. It gives the woodworker a strong sense that he or she is working wood, rather than simply machining it.”

I don’t know if Benjamin Franklin ever had a “honey-do” list of workshop requests from his wife, but this quote makes me think he might have. “Ye cabinetmakers! Brave workers in wood, as you work for the ladies, your work must be good.” Franklin also showed a lot of insight when he observed, “Man is a tool-making animal.”

In the 19th century, Thomas Carlyle had a slightly different take on the same theme. “Man is a tool-using animal.”

Your humble blogger might offer this 21st-century observation on the topic: “Man is a clamp-buying animal.”

And you can quote me on that.

Till next time,

A.J.

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