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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
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Today’s woodworker has a lot more help when it comes to working out the tricky angles of some furniture joints, roof geometry or the wind and rise of a set of stairs he is constructing. Back in the day, school geometry lessons fed straight into the knowledge needed in an apprenticeship and carpenters found themselves learning on the job and learning what was needed to be able to draft calculations in their heads.
A lot of this knowledge has been lost as technology has taken over somewhat, but I find myself increasingly fascinated in the various calculations one can learn to estimate precise cutting angles.
Following on from my post about French ‘guitardes’ and ‘L’art du Trait‘, I have been researching knowledge about plane geometry and it’s use in carpentry and joinery.
Over on ‘A Woodworker’s Musings’, D.B.Blaney not only seems to know a lot more about this in practice than me, but has also constructed some fine models. I love the pictures of loftsmen in the mould loft at Harland and Wolff shipyards. You can see the large drawings on the floor from the loftsmen.
I contacted Mr Blaney about this great post and asked if he had some reference on how to get re-aquainted with plane geometry and it’s use. He recommended some books:
A Treatise on Stairbuilding and Handrailing by W & A Mowat
A Builder’s Companion by Asher Benjamin
and also Chris Hall’s website, The Carpentry Way.
(I have also been told a recent book called ‘A Simplified Guide to Custom Stairbuilding and Tangent Handrailing‘ by George Di Cristina is also excellent)
This brought me onto Googling tangent stairbuilding and I hit upon a four-part series online by ThisIsCarpentry, which explains how geometry is used in tangent handrailing and crafting a proper volute.
Drawing a volute
Carving a volute
I’m sure there’s a lot more out there, any recommendations for making a start are gratefully received. I did also buy the new book from Lost Art Press, ‘By Hand & Eye‘, but overall I didn’t think it was put together very well, or was that helpful. I believe the authors are currently making an accompanying ‘workbook’ to explain the workings better. Read into that what you will, but not one of LAP’s better books, in my opinion.
Yup. “Men Defined: Nudes,” which is still available at Amazon. That’s not my writing, I promise. If I were to write an erotic non-woodworking book it would be about goats.
It’s an odd experience to see your name on a book you didn’t write. And I had that same weird feeling when I saw “Classic American Furniture” by Christopher Schwarz advertised on ShopWoodworking.com.
My first thought: Hey, you other Christopher Schwarz. Stop invading my topic. I’ve carefully steered clear of writing about the erotic world of men in black and white.
As it turns out, I did write this book. Kinda sorta.
“Classic American Furniture” is a compilation of a lot of projects I built for the now-defunct Woodworking Magazine (yes, I miss it, too). In addition to my stuff, there also are a fair number of technique pieces and small projects from the other editors.
I finally got a copy of the book yesterday and spent some time paging through it. It’s actually a nice compilation of projects with a pared-back American aesthetic (and not a single nude person in sight). There’s Some Shaker and Arts & Crafts pieces, of course. But also some simple back-country pieces that are unadorned and nicely proportioned.
If you never saw Woodworking Magazine, this book is a good introduction to it and the approach we took to building and finishing pieces.
I receive no royalties from this book, FYI. And I’m not an affiliate with ShopWoodworking (or anyone). So I have no financial interest in it. Check it out here. It’s on sale for abou $20.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
This is one of the two main international auctions held each year and is well worth a visit. As usual the catalogue is crammed full of goodies including some very rare gunmetal Norris planes, out of my league!
There are also about 25 stands in the hall selling a wide variety of tools with plenty of bargains to be had. I will have one of these stands selling a few planes from my personal collection as well as my piston fit oak toolbox featured in my YouTube video above, price £300.
Also for sale in the auction is the anarchists tool chest made by Chris Schwarz at his teaching course in 2014. The chest comes full of tools kindly donated by numerous toolmakers around the world with a total value of £5,400, (excluding the chest). The guide price is £3-5,000 for the lot.
This is a charity lot with the entire proceeds going to the furniture crafts courses at Warwickshire College where the course was held.
This will be a great auction and well worth the trip!
I’ve been a fan of Roland Chadwick’s music since hearing a performance of his trio for classical guitar, Letter from LA, a few years ago. So I was delighted when he contacted me about a guitar that needed some attention.
It was a fine instrument too – a cedar top classical guitar made by an Australian guitar maker, Simon Marty, in 1988. Quite apart from being 25 years old, it had worked hard for its living and the thin cedar top had developed some nasty cracks in the widest part of the lower bout. Some of the internal braces had come unglued too, and the guitar was more or less unplayable. To make matters worse, someone had tried to repair the cracks with superglue.
This is what it looked like after I had scraped away most of the superglue.
With a hand through the soundhole, I could feel that the cracked part of the soundboard had become detached from a long transverse bar running across the instrument under the bridge. This explained the multiple little dowels, which were a previous attempt to fix the problem. The only thing to do was cut out the damaged wood and replace it.
I also needed to replace some missing braces and re-glue several that were beginning to come unstuck. The difficulty here was that the braces, constructed out of balsa wood and carbon fibre, were very thin and it was almost impossible to position conventional clamps accurately enough to hold them in place without distortion. In the end, I solved the problem by making a few spring-loaded miniature go-bars. Wedged between the back of the guitar and the top of the brace, they kept everything in place while the glue cured.
After re-polishing, it was ready to perform again. All well worth the trouble because, despite its age, it’s an excellent guitar which produces a big warm sound.
I put this aside for a while and moved on to something else.
|did a good job on the scraper|
|the card scraper edge|
|this don't look good|
I filed these two by hand also and I didn't get any bald spots. I expected that as I was using more of the file and not concentrating on one area. I think using the Grobets by hand for this would make them last a lot longer. Big favor point was I didn't have any bald spots when I was done.
Of the two methods I like the hand filing method vice using a jig. The files cut easily and with very few strokes I had a consistent shine. It's not that difficult and I find filing much easier to do then sharpening a chisel freehand.
|flush and even|
I wanted to glue the ribs on tonight but I need my wife's phone to do that. I want it to check the position of the phone's speaker and middle shelf relationship. I'll be doing that tomorrow because after my wife came home she wanted to go get a pizza.
In what city was the first stock exchange established in the United States?
answer - Philadelphia in 1790
A covert exchange in a harvested Indiana corn field.
Three woodwoorking nerds gather on a Chicago side street.
A back-alley hand off in Roger's Park.
The case for sharp tools is home.
Getting a screw to locate dead center in a countersunk hole involves dealing with some tricky forces. The fibers on the surface can throw off your best efforts: they influence the tip of the drill toward a preferred direction, often not your own. When working with hinges you have a restraining shoulder or gain toward which you can offset the screw hole location, pulling the hinge tight against it, similar to drawboring a pin in mortice and tenon joinery.
There are times when there is no restraining shoulder and the centering must be accurate or the piece to be held down by the screw will shift. In a regular through hole a center punch works well, but with a countersunk hole the point is too far in advance.
In many situations a vix bit does the job well enough (not “foolproof” though!) if the tolerances permit, such as the holes for metal drawer slides and door latches. In a more critical situation it might well bite you because the drill bit is simply a twist drill passing through an oversized shaft that can react to the surface fibers and ride away from center even though the beveled self-aligning tip is designed to register dead center. The drill will go where it will and can veer off center, pushing the sloping ends of the tip to push up one side of the countersunk hole. Compounding this situation is the fact that you are generally using it in a hand held drill and can easily not be drilling truly perpendicular to the work.
I have figured a way to use the vix bit to create a very small and accurately centered mark in the wood fibers. From there other tools come into play.
First I remove the drill bit (in this case for the vix bit #2) and substitute a 9/64” center punch that fits the shaft with no side-to-side slop. It isn’t tightened with the screw but can slide up and down.
Carefully checking for perpendicular I just use finger pressure downward and spin the punch a little.
It leaves a tiny hole. This I enlarge using the Carbide Scrawl from Blackburn Tools.
Another punch follows which I tap lightly with a hammer.
The tip of this punch matches up nicely with the tip of a tapered woodscrew drill bit chucked in the drill press.
I will use my standard method of a hobby knife aided by my cheap linoleum cutting gouges.
His full name is Forum's Bernie, but I'll just make a sign saying Bernie.
He is not a pure bred horse, but something called: Danish Warmblood. It is a breeding federation where all kinds of horses and breeds are accepted, as long as they are warm blooded horses. So you can mix other warmblooded horses that you might like, and get the foal listed in this register. The main idea is to make a ride-able horse with fine qualities in various situations (as far as I have understood)
As far as I remember, some of his pedigree is Hannoveran and Trakehner, but there is also some Danish Warmblood in the lines too.
It is a very popular breed of horses in Denmark, and they are doing all right in various International competitions, with dressage as the main focus as far as I have been able to tell.
Danish Warmblood has got their own logo which is pretty simple to carve. It is a crown with a wavy line beneath it.
All I have to do now is to pull myself together and start the project by finding a suitable piece of wood and plane it flat. Well, maybe tomorrow will be the starting day for that.
I mean really, Algebra, Calculus? Just couldn’t get my head around it. (Also too busy chasin’ girls and not a member of the football team.) Now Geometry, on the other hand…I could “see” that.
My friend Chad (of Woodchoppintime fame) and I were discussing this just a few weeks ago. After several glasses of a very nice bourbon cask ale, we concluded that Geometry is a way of “seeing”, not a way of “figuring”. If I move myself in relationship to an object, I get a one view. Conversely, if I move the object in relationship to myself, I get another view. Hello! This is the how they built the Pyramids and how Hiram put the “Temple” together. It’s all about seeing. And it’s about making yourself “part of the picture.”
We see “lines” that are “plumb”, “level”, or angled in relation to other lines. I don’t know about you, but I don’t “see” things in terms of sines and cosines. We see in reference to planes of view. Ergo, Plane Geometry.
Geometry was what allowed masons and carpenters to build the great cathedrals of Europe, with not one computer on the jobsite. Geometry was the “life blood” of our “brotherhood”. It gave craftsmen position in society.
But then came Newton and Leibniz. They changed everything. After these two, the mason and carpenter were no longer officers of the town council, they were mere employees.
But hark! There may be good news. It seems there is a resurgence of interest in geometry and how it relates to our craft. One can only hope. But we must study, if we are to see.
Short post today.
Sam was coming to us for the month of March, only a week or so left already, but now he will be staying on at the end of the month. I invited him to pursue his training with us as we have empty benches between classes. Tomorrow we’re picking up wood for him to start his 9th project, building his first workbench. I’ll keep you posted over the coming year. Might film some of it too. So, yet another new maker on his way.
One of the challenges with the design of this cabinet is the glass panel floats between the two doors. At least it does the way I am building it. This means the glass panel (which is dead square and can't easily be changed) fits only when the doors are hung dead-nuts-perfectly-square when hung.
I was hoping that the problems would be resolved when I tuned the hinges. The problems have to do with the fact that I didn't check ANYTHING for square when constructing this. I thought it would save a bit of time.
I was wrong.
|Not sure if you can tell from this angle, but the doors are not in a straight plane with each other.|
|This part of the door hangs down, the hinge side is right on.|
|For example, the top door. The rabbet is adjusted perfectly, but you can see the door is not straight on the cabinet. Pay no attention to the glob of paint that ran down the front and dried right in front of the camera lens!|
It sounds like an opportunity for a blog post on the strength of panels constructed with clinched nails!
My plan is to build the door panels a little oversize. After I mount the door straight, I can then cut off the extras and sink the rabbet so it will fit the glass dead perfect.
The problem with this plan is that the cross battens on the door also serve to clamp the glass in place.
So, I think the solution is to sink that rabbet with a plow plane.
Unless anyone else has a better idea, I'll probably get a chance to do this on Monday.
I am eagerly awaiting 6:45 p.m. today, March 20. Yes, because it’s a Friday, but for a more important reason: at that moment, spring officially arrives in the northern hemisphere. Right now my backyard is a soggy, muddy mess, with everything that was hidden under the snow finally revealed. There are sticks and branches, part of a tarp that blew off a stack of yard chairs, chewed up dog toys, […]
Simple project, just a felt-lined tray to hold marquetry pieces as I cut them out. Modeled after the trays at ASFM. Made out of off-cuts of VG/OG Fir from the press and scraps of 1/4″ ply. Doesn’t everyone have turquoise felt laying around the shop?
Nereng er ein gard i Tynset kommune i Østerdalen i Hedmark. I samband med ein stor gardsauksjon 22-23. juni 2013 kom det fram ein skottbenk i oversikta av det som skulle seljast. Dette vekka mi interesse og eg fekk mobilisert representantar frå Norsk Skottbenk Union som sikra seg denne skottbenken. Bilete og oppmålingsteikningar av benken har vi tidlegare posta her på bloggen. Eg vart også merksam på at det var ein del verktøy som vart ropt opp på auksjonen og prøvde å sikre meg så mykje som mogleg av dette for å ha som referanse på verktøy frå Nord-Østerdalen. Andre sikra seg ein del av verktøyet frå smia på garden. Skottbenken, snikkarverktøyet og utstyr frå smia kan til saman gi eit interessant bilete av handverket på garden.
Eg har så langt fotografert alle høvlane eg har fått tak i. Desse har eg presentert i eit billedgalleri lengre ned i posten. Det har ikkje dukka opp nokon skottokse mellom verktøya eg har fått tak i. Derimot er det med ein golvplog som tydeleg er meint for å brukast på skottbenk. Under har eg eit bilete av noko av verktøyet slik det stod i skåpet i snikkarverkstaden før auksjonen.Eit av bileta frå auksjonen på Nereng. Skapet med snikkarverktøy ser veldig spennande ut for meg som er interessert i kva verktøy snikkarane hadde og brukte tidlegare. Foto: Ola Rye
Dei fleste av høvlane er stempla med bokstavane PP.N. Eg tolkar det slik at N står for Nereng. I folketeljinga for Tynset i år 1900 er det Peder P. Nereng som er husfader på garden. Han er fødd i Tynset i år 1849 og er sonen til Peder Arnesen fødd 1805. Peder Arnesen står oppført i folketeljinga frå 1865 som gårdbruker og smed. Det skulle tyde på at han har smidd meir enn berre til eige behov. Mange av høvlane har stål som verkar å vere heimesmidde. Blant “rusk og rask” i smia var det nokre tremalar som såg ut som høvelstål. Truleg er desse laga av snikkaren som har laga seg høvel og levert til smeden som skal smi stålet nøyaktig etter malen. Det er ingen malar som høver nøyaktig til stål i høvlane frå garden. Kanskje er det malar frå andre snikkarar som har kjøpt stål frå smeden på Nereng?
Peder P. Nereng er også nemnt i folketeljinga frå 1865, då som 16 år gamal. Det står i feltet for yrke at han “hjælper Faderen med Gaardsbrg.” Han er altså med i arbeidet på garden. Kanskje har han så tidleg begynt å snikre og å lage seg høvlar? Garden hadde vore i familien i lang tid før dette så det var sikkert høvlar til husbruk på garden. For meg verkar det rimeleg at Peder P. Nereng har vore den mest aktive snikkaren på garden og at høvlane for det meste er laga og brukt av han. Han yrkesaktive karriere var starta så vidt i 1865 og han var i full drift i år 1900. Meir detaljar om kor lenge han levde og arbeidde har eg ikkje klart å skaffe i denne omgang.Tremalar til høvelstål frå smia på Nereng. Dei 4 øvste er tremalar til høvelstål og dei to nedste er stål frå høvlane frå Nereng. Foto: Roald Renmælmo
Under følgjer eit billedgalleri med høvlane frå Nereng som eg fekk kjøpt på auksjonen. Det kan ha vore fleire høvlar på garden men dette er truleg mesteparten. Eg har berre skrive kort om kvar enkelt høvel. Ei fullstendig registrering av høvlane har eg ikkje tatt mål av meg til å gjennomføre. Likevel håpar eg at bilete og dei korte tekstane kan gi eit bilete av høvlane på ein gard på Tynset i andre halvdel av 1800-talet.
Samlinga av høvlar frå Nereng trur eg kan avspegle kva som var vanleg på ein gard i det området. Det er få høvlar som verkar veldig spesialiserte. Dei fleste kan knytast til snikring av vanleg innreiing og møblar i hus. Kom gjerne med innspel og spørsmål høvlane.
well there’s a lot going on here, it just doesn’t look it according to the blog. Much of the activity is in my head anyway. Let’s see…recently I’ve been preparing to teach classes, or teaching them. The spoon class at Plymouth CRAFT went very well, at least I think it did. some of the students thought so too. It was a hoppin’ scene, and I’m too out of breath to run it all down. here’s some pictures I swiped from Marie Pelletier who shot a bunch for us. One or two are mine. spoon carving, knitting, sausage-making (well, my shot was cooking some…) and egg-decoration. And lunch. http://plymouthcraft.org/
At the same time as that, I was (with help, thanks to Michael Doherty) prepping material for the upcoming chest-building insanity coming up at Bob Van Dyke’s. I hear today the first 150 or so pieces have been delivered and are ready for students tomorrow to begin planing them. when Roy Underhill & I tried a chest class last summer, we both said within 15 minutes of being underway, “this is nuts” and we’d never do it again. Then Bob called, cooked up his scheme, and the log piece fell into place…so here goes again. Impromptu riving brake:
but all the while, I’ve been thinking about workspaces. it’s 8 or so months since I left my shop at the museum. Luckily I was lent a shop where I can work & shoot photographs for the upcoming book on joinery. That’s a great space, but it’s not mine…
and then the winter struck. I loved it, but one thing that much snow did here was make anything you want to do take longer. So I stuck close to home, and worked at the workbench I have in the basement here. That space is multi-purpose to say the least. Effectively the part I work in amounts to about 7’ x 10’ – with a little extra if I move stuff out of the way…but then it’s in the way for something else. I counted one day – I needed a chisel, and it was 9 steps to the tool chest, 9 steps back. I know I’m not alone in this regard, but it sure is crazy-making.
that’s one reason why there’s been so little on the blog – no room to take decent pictures. Here’s one I shot with an Ipad, of a chest test-fitted. I’d have to go out the window if I had to move quickly. And I had to move stuff just to shoot this with an Ipad!
I’ve been busy with Instagram and Facebook, but to me those aren’t as satisfying as this. to me, this becomes like a journal or record of my work..
but I’m cautiously optimistic that 2015 will change some of that. Sounds like I might be able to build a shop (whoops – not a shop, an “auxiliary building”) – I have more checking to do, but the first round with the town sounded hopeful. I did not tell them what it was for, just a “tool shed”. so in my mind, I’m designing a 12 1/2’ x 16’ building. I already am thinking of what to carve on the frame! I know – “nothing’s for certain, it can always go wrong” – but I said cautiously optimistic.
I always wanted to be this guy:
Or the joiner-equivalent of this British chair maker:
We’ll see how it goes.
Maureen has moved onto Spring, just like today’s calendar. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts lotsa colors…
In North America, we are too cavalier in using the word “master” to describe an artisan. Many times, it’s simply BS advertising copy when a publisher tries to puff up one of its authors: “Mr. Shinkle Gymnosperm is a master cabinetmaker.”
I think we can pretty much ignore that as over-heated hyperbole. But when I see a woodworker describe himself or herself as a “master carpenter,” “master turner” or “master carver” I have one reaction.
Show me your papers.
Today I stopped by Frieda’s Desserts to get some croissants after picking up a plank of hard maple. I’ve eaten at a lot of bakeries; Frieda’s is the best I’ve had in North America. It’s run by Armin Hack, a tremendous and friendly German baker. His “Meisterbrief” – or master’s certificate – hangs above the cash register for all to inspect.
He earned his certificate in konditoren-handwerk – confections – on 23 Jan. 1986.
As I said above, his pastry is amazing, but the paper does not make it so.
The term “master” in Germany and many other European countries means you have studied a curriculum for several years in both your craft and in business. You have passed a series of official state-sanctioned tests and are therefore permitted to set up shop and sell your wares. There are also obligations that come with the title – you must be willing to teach journeymen and apprentices what you know.
The certificate typically applies to an area of the craft that is quite narrow. For example, I have met many German joiners who know nothing about carving or turning. Those are other crafts. So applying the term “master woodworker,” to someone who has mastered all aspects of the craft is also a bit odd to my ears.
Plus in North America, the terms such as “apprentices,” “journeymen” and “master” never really had much weight here. While there were attempts to set up a formal European system here, they failed for the most part. There was simply too much work and not enough bodies.
We’re Americans. We don’t use those terms.
Yes, I know that some of our trade unions have a formal system that mimics the European system. They have titles. They also have coursework, a series of tests and – in the end – a piece of paper you receive that means something.
So the next time you see that term “master” before someone’s name or their trade, ask to see their “Meisterbrief.” It should be right above the cash register.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
The Journeyman Smith
What is a journeyman smith?
The first time that I remember hearing the term journeyman applied to any particular trade was about twenty-nine years ago, at which time I was quite a youth. The word was employed at the end of every verse of a somewhat lengthy song, called the “Journeyman Tailor.” The real meaning of the word, or why it was applied to trades, became to me a vast and not over lucid problem.
Feeling anxious to learn its exact meaning, I applied to my maternal author for a definition of the term. After receiving the answer, that it applied to all tradesmen or mechanics that had finished their apprenticeship, I felt as much enlightened as before.
The word journey, I knew, related to travel; the combination only was a puzzle. How a carpenter, or smith, or tailor, with steady employment and a permanent domicil, should be styled or called a traveling mechanic, was more than my comprehension could fathom. To arrive at the solution of this problem was ever my great aim. Numberless times have I asked of master mechanics its true meaning, and in the end invariably found myself no wiser than before.
In 1852, after having entered upon the third year of my apprenticeship, it became my duty to help a German smith, and excellent mechanic, but unable to utter a word of English, or to comprehend anything mentioned to him in the same language. In order to be able to understand each other, we commenced the task of teaching each other our native languages, and in a measure we succeeded.
While conversing with him in German upon the German method of constructing vehicles, the German apprenticeship system, and other matters relating to the trade, I was successful in finding a clue which I felt quite certain would lead me to the proper solution of the great apprenticeship problem.
He mentioned that, while he was a “Handwerks-Bursch,” of having stopped a certain length of time in Berlin. Handwerks-Bursch was to me so much Greek. After giving my friend to understand that I would like to know the literal meaning of the term, he told me that it meant a traveling mechanic. Following up on my clue, I finally came to the solution of the problem that had troubled my brain for the preceding eleven years, which is about as follows:
Until the last few years, it was imperative, in German countries, and in the majority of other European countries, upon every person, after he had finished his apprenticeship and before entering into business on his own account, to spend a certain number of years in traveling in other countries, or in different sections of his own country, that he might become acquainted with the different methods of working, and thereby perfect himself and become competent to enter into business on his own account.
The term applies to single men only, working for other persons. As soon as he enters into business he is termed (in German parlance) “Meister,” or “Werke-Meister.” If he becomes married and does not establish himself in business, but works for another person, the term “Handwerks-Bursch,” or traveling mechanic, does not apply to his calling any longer. He is looked upon as an inferior workman, and is termed a “Sack-Reise” [the literal translation of “sack” in this case applies to household effects], or in English, “a botch,” a man that is encumbered, etc. The meaning of the term may be measurably altered by emphasizing or taking from.
The foregoing system, once in vogue throughout all European countries, is fast dying out, and at present exists in but one or two German Provinces. The old terms all falling into disuse, and in some of the German States have become obsolete—the terms used at present signify a learned smith, carpenter, or tailor, having a greater amount of significance, and are in the ascendency.
In conclusion, your humble servant would say, that until the term “journeyman” becomes obsolete (that is, so far as relates to the mechanic of this enlightened country), and the proper term, Master Mechanic, supersedes it, that the writer will remain as equally dissatisfied as he was prior to his learning the exact or literal meaning of the word journeyman in its present application.
New York, Oct. 31, 1870.
The New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine – December, 1870
Its Continuation and Conclusion
“Those that are bound must obey.”
The writer, fortunately, belongs to that class that is generally favored with constant employment, and in consequence he is bound to obey the injunctions of his employers, and to render to them sufficient duties in office, that they may be satisfied that they are not paying him for services not performed. And on the other hand, the duties of your humble servant are such that much of his time beyond the regular ten hours per diem has to be devoted to the furtherance of the interests of his employers, and moreover, from the rapid strides of progress and improvement which are every day taking place in the art of Coach-making, some little time must be spent in his own culture, in order that he may keep pace with the present age of progress.
Therefore he has no time to devote to controversies, and furthermore, his chances of obtaining an education sufficient to enable him to enter into any controversy have ever been too limited; but in all his pen and ink sketches he will endeavor to use as pure English as possible, and will spare no pains to make all his problems as lucid as possible, in order that those, who may have labored under the same disadvantages that he has, may be able to understand his exact meaning.
In writing a previous article, termed “Journeyman Smith,” I sought, by brevity and as plain language as I could use, to find why the term journeyman was applied to mechanics that had served their regular term of apprenticeship—not the modern application, but the primitive one.
My esteemed and good friend, the Editor, fails to agree with me, and requests by particular favor to hear from me again on the subject. In compliance with the request I now embrace the few moments that are lying about loose to continue and conclude all that I have to say on the subject.
I have known for years that the French word jour (pronounced zhoor), translated to English, means day or light; that journée (pronounced zhoorna), means all that transpires in a day, viz., the day’ s light, the day’ s heat, the day’s toil, the day’s profit, the day’s travel, etc. And I have every reason to believe that the English word journey is taken from the French word journée.
But all this in no way tends towards telling us why the term journeyman was first applied to the mechanics.
Farm laborers, clerks, drivers, etc., have never been complimented with the term. Their labor is done in the day; then why not employ the same term in speaking of them? Because their duties being ever the same, there was nothing to be learned that could not be learned at home, hence what use had they in “journeying, strange lands and things to see.”
The writer has frequently heard, in by-gone days, many and different ballads, all having for their theme the “journeyman.” One verse was about as follows.
“East and West I did journey,
Strange towns and cities for to see,
I journeyed up, I journeyed down
Until I came to fair Lunnun town.”
As mentioned in the preceding article, it was the custom in all European countries for the young mechanic, after he had completed his apprenticeship, to spend a certain number of years in traveling in other or foreign parts. The terms applied in the different countries to these persons are about as follows.
In England, on his first round, he is called a journeyman, or young tramp, or tramp, or stager, from the fact of his having to move so far in each day. The whole country being laid out in stages or day’s journeys, at certain towns he has the privilege of remaining longer than at others. He has the privilege of making two or three stages or journeys in a day, and receives a competence from each one. If he obtains or takes employment, he is considered as being done for the present with journeying or tramping, and is called a smith, tailor, etc., according to his profession, which he enjoys until he again starts on his meanderings, the term journeyman being rarely if ever applied while in constant employment.
Some mechanics rarely perform more than twelve weeks’ work in the year, and are always on the move, and are termed old tramps or old stagers, and such is their knowledge of the country that they can travel two years without visiting the same place twice.
In France the custom was the same, but has of late years been dying out. The terms applied there are, when traveling, ouvrier voyageur: a traveling workman or a young mechanic on his tour of learning or perfecting himself in his trade. When in employment, he is called compagnonnage forgeron (smith), or if a carriage-maker or wheeler, compagnonnage charron.
In German countries, he is first called ein Handwerksbursch auf Reise: a young Handwerker on his travels, or a young mechanic traveling to finish his trade. When spoken of by those at home, it is said, er reist in der Fremde: he is traveling among stranger, or is journeying to finish his trade. While he is in employment he is called Geselle: companion, or smith companion, or body-maker companion, etc. After he is done with traveling, and is about or contemplates establishing himself in business, he is called ein reisender Geselle, and reisender Arbeiter: traveled companion, or learned companion, or traveled workman, or learned workman, smith, etc.
Believing that I have quoted enough to make myself directly understood, I will now conclude the subject by saying that I believe, from what has been set forth, that the term journeyman was first applied to mechanics because of their having to travel or journey after having finished their apprenticeship.
What the modern meaning of the term may be is no concern of mine, nor do I question Messrs. Webster, Walker, or Johnson, as to whether they are right or wrong; but since writing my first essay upon the subject, I have convened a number of learned mechanics of the art of Coach-Making, and after conversing upon the different terms in use in Europe, reading the article appearing in the December number of the Magazine, and the editor’s note attached, I asked them their views as to which was correct.
After an hour’s controversy upon the subject, during which English, French, and German Dictionaries were examined and quoted, it was voted that the author of Journeyman was correct, as was also the esteemed editor, so far as related to his quotation from Webster.
Then, if both are right, why should the subject be continued any longer, when it will more materially enhance the value of the Magazine, and increase the knowledge of the craft, to devote valuable space to direct practical articles.
At some future time I shall endeavor to place before the patrons of my good friend, the editor, a full and complete statement of the customs of European Mechanics, which I believe will well pay for the reading.
J.L.H.M.The foregoing article is a most interesting one. The derivation of the word journeyman, as suggested by our correspondent, is argued by him most ingeniously, and he has brought forward in its support many facts with which we were unacquainted. If the facts mentioned by Mr. M. be correct (and at present we have no reason to doubt them), then the derivation mentioned by Webster is incorrect. The writer of the following verses, which we picked up the other day, seems, however, to hold Webster’s idea of the primitive meaning of the word:
Working, working, hour by hour,
Through the morning’s chill and dew,
Through the sunshine and the shower,
Through the evening’s dusky blue.
Stone by stone is laid with care
In the river’s flowing tide;
Night comes on, the day is dead,
Labor must be laid aside.
Still no vision of the work
Peers to cheer the worker’s face;
Still the river darkly flows,
Not a ripple points the place.
Journeymen we are, and each
Has his portion in a day;
We must stop, and others come
When the hours have flown away.
What though some do all unseen,
There the depth may darker be,
There the sand may run less bright,
Or the tide more forcibly.
Working, working, hour by hour,
One shall see his labor done;
Working, working, just as nobly,
Many see it just begun.
The New York Coach-Maker’s Magazine – February 1871
Filed under: Historical Images