“I dig old books.” ™
Welcome to my page of quotations about woodworking, wood, carpentry, craftsmen, tools, workshops, woodworkers, and the like. It has been my pleasure digging through lots of old books to find these quotes. Enjoy!
A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist. ~Louis Nizer (1902–1994)
But, at all events, one thing we have in our power — the doing without machine ornament and cast-iron work. All the stamped metals, and artificial stones, and imitation woods and bronzes, over the invention of which we hear daily exultation — all the short, and cheap, and easy ways of doing that whose difficulty is its honour — are just so many new obstacles in our already encumbered road. They will not make one of us happier or wiser — they will extend neither the pride of judgment nor the privilege of enjoyment. They will only make us shallower in our understandings, colder in our hearts, and feebler in our wits. And most justly. For we are not sent into this world to do any thing into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily: neither is to be done by halves and shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all. ~John Ruskin, "The Lamp of Life," The Seven Lamps of Architecture, 1849
Where you find quality, you will find a craftsman, not a quality-control expert. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner. ~Author Unknown
"But, on the whole," continues our eloquent Professor, "Man is a Tool-using Animal (Handthierendes Thier). Weak in himself, and of small stature, he stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-soled, of some half-square foot, insecurely enough; has to straddle out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest of bipeds!... Nevertheless he can use Tools, can devise Tools: with these the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; he kneads glowing iron, as if it were soft paste; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without Tools; without Tools he is nothing, with Tools he is all." ~Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh, Book I, "The World in Clothes," 1831 [Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, the book's hero, translates to "God-born Devil's Dung" according to N.L. Frothingham, showing the nature of opposing elements — half diabolic satire, half angelic contemplation. Transcendentalism, Descendentalism.
For a craftsman like my father, nothing is more exasperating than to witness tool abuse. In particular, I remember a steel tape measure he gave me after I had somehow managed to lose the first twelve inches of it. ~Richard Menzies, "If I Were A Carpenter," RDMenzies.com, 2011
I think objects made of wood by children, left to their own devices, if such there be, will assay ten percent wood, ninety percent nails. ~Robert Paul Smith, "Where Did You Go?" "Out." "What Did You Do?" "Nothing.", 1957
It is a proverb wise and ancient,
Beware how you give any edge tool
Unto madmen that be insipient,
Unto a young child, and unto a fool.
~William Wager, The Longer Thou Livest, the More Fool Thou Art, c.1568 [For Madmen, Children, Wits and Fools / Shou'd never meddle with Edg'd Tools. Swift, c.1714
'Tis dangerous meddling with edge-tools. ~John Tatham, c.1652 ["It is ill jesting with edge-tools, especially such as are sharpened by Scripture." Fuller, c.1662. "It is ill Jesting with the Joiner's Tools, worse with the Doctor's." Franklin, c.1752. "Oh, dear, what an edged tool you are"—"Don't play with me then." Dickens, c.1839.
[E]dged tools are dangerous things to handle, and not infrequently do much hurt. ~Agnes Reppllier, "Wit and Humor," 1892 [A bit of context here: "Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food, and few things in the world are more wearying than a sarcastic attitude towards life.... The best use we can make of humor is, not to divert ourselves with, but to defend ourselves against, the folly of fools..."
Blunt tools are sometimes found of use where sharper instruments would fail. ~Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge [plain-speaking, candor
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp... ~Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself," Leaves of Grass
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see every where.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Builders"
Woodworking minus patience equals firewood. ~Author unknown
Woodworkers are knotty. ~Author unknown
A bad day woodworking is better than a good day working. ~Author unknown
The Legislature have appropriated $6,000 to defray the funeral expenses of the Princess. The obsequies will take place the latter part of next week. I have seen the coffin (it is not quite finished yet), and certainly it is the most elegant piece of burial furniture I ever saw. It is made of those two superb species of native wood, kou and koa. The former is nearly as dark as ebony; the latter is like fine California laurel, richly grained and clouded with mahogany. Both woods have an iron-like hardness, and are exceedingly close in grain, and when highly polished and varnished nothing in the shape of wood can be more brilliant, more lustrous, more beautiful. It produces a sort of ecstasy in me to look at it, and holds me like a mesmeric fascination. There is nothing extraordinary about the fashioning — the planning and construction — of this coffin, but still it is beautiful. The wood is so splendidly burnished, and so gracefully grained and clouded. ~Mark Twain, 1866 June 22nd, Honolulu [Princess Victoria Kamamalu Kaahumanu
[Heathens] worship visible images to the Honour of the invisible God; and they could sometimes laugh at their Gods whom their Priests expos'd to worship, and yet themselves knew them to have been a plum-tree.... It was a great question among Carpenters whether this wood should be a God or a stool.... the Prophets discoursed against them in the matter of images they called them wood and stone, Gold and Silver, and represented the folly of putting trust in things that had no life, which themselves plac'd there, which Cats did sit upon and birds build their nests in... ~Jeremy Taylor, Ductor Dubitantium, or The Rule of Conscience, 1659
For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind. ~Eleanor Everet
Know safety, no injury. No safety, know injury. ~Author unknown
There appeared upon the scene a certain man. I never saw him, but I have heard my father mention that he was a showy man... but that he was not to be, without ignorance or prejudice, mistaken for a gentleman, my father most strongly asseverates; because it is a principle of his that no man who was not a true gentleman at heart ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and the more varnish you put on the more the grain will express itself. ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, Chapter XXII, 1861 [a little altered
Putty and paint will fix what ain't. ~Handyman saying
My wife's idea of sexy is Norm Abram wearing nothing other than a tool belt and safety glasses. ~Richard Menzies, "If I Were A Carpenter," RDMenzies.com, 2011
Split your own wood, and it will warm you twice. ~Old New England Saying
One room was hung with great maps of all parts of the globe, carved out of wood — with raised knobs for islands, nail heads for cities, veins or grooves for rivers, etc., but no names written anywhere. On a table was a great map of the United States, all sawed to pieces — each State sawed apart and the whole put together like a puzzle. A little girl pulled this map to pieces and jumbled the States up like a pile of bricks, and then the young disunionist repented of her work, and quickly reconstructed her country again — did it about as fast as she could pick up the several States, pass her hand across their faces and lay them down again. And she mentioned the capital of each State and described its location correctly. I was granted the privilege of questioning her and testing her geographical knowledge, but did not try it. Those blank wooden maps were little more intelligible to me than a flag-stone pavement would have been. ~Mark Twain, 1867 May 2nd, New York, "The Blind Asylum"
Hearing protection is a sound investment. ~Author unknown
To learn about eye protection, ask someone who has one. ~Author unknown
Safety glasses: making foresight 20/20. ~Author unknown
Your safety gears are between your ears. ~Author unknown
A wise Man will make Tools of what comes to Hand. ~Thomas Fuller's Gnomologia, 1732 (No.476) ["the moment creates the tool to serve its need" C.F. Macintyre's translation from German of Goethe's 1806 Faust
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 a man and the wellbeing of mankind. ~Henry Ward Beecher, "Earthly Immortality" (Plymouth Pulpit sermon, c.1869)
Put your soul into your work, not your hand... ~State Safety News, September 1916, published by the University of Arizona Bureau of Mines
Broken tools can be replaced. You can't. ~Author unknown
What is a workman without his tooles? ~Proverb quoted by Heywood, 1546
Men have become the tools of their tools. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Good workmen never quarrel with their tools. ~Lord Byron, Don Juan
Are the tools without, which the carpenter puts forth his hands to, or are they and all the carpentry within himself; and would he not smile at the notion that chest or house is more than he? ~C.A. Bartol, The Rising Faith, Chapter XI: Personality, 1873
The wordsmith cut saws for a living. ~Terri Guillemets
They who in youth to manners ne'er attend,
Will in advancing years small gain acquire:
Wood, while 'tis green, thou mayst at pleasure bend;
When dry, thou canst not change it save by fire.
~Saʿdī, The Gulistān, 1258, translated by Edward B. Eastwick, 1852 [The couplet: "Surely green branches thou mayst render straight; Th' attempt to straighten dry wood comes too late."
Lang or ye cut Balkland wood with a pen knife. ~Scottish proverb, said when people work with improper tools, c.1500s
Don't learn safety by accident. ~Author unknown
All wood is worth logs. ~English proverb quoted by Cotgrave, 1611
A knotty piece of timber must have smooth wedges. ~English proverb quoted by John Ray, 1670
George Dempster: We have hardly a right to abuse this tragedy; for, bad as it is, how vain should either of us be to write one not near so good.
Samuel Johnson: Why no, Sir; this is not just reasoning. You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.
~1763 June 25th, conversation, quoted in Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by James Boswell, Esq., 1791 [Of David Mallet's Elvira.
Touch wood, it's sure to come good. ~Old saying ["Knock on wood" is our modern version of the superstition.
Who answers when you knock on wood? ~J. Drummond, People, 1969
A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey-wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop. ~Rupert Hughes