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The Practical Mechanic:
Every Man His Own Mechanic
Broken Window, How To Mend It
Knowledge Must Be Paid For
Kinds Of Woods Used In Carpentry
Toosl Used In Carpentry
The Glue Pot
Sharpening Tools
The Carpenter's Bench
How To Hold And Handle Tools
Divisions Of The Building Trade
Soldering And Brazing
Indoor And Outdoor Painting
Varnishes And Recipers For Making Varnishes
Polishing And Recipes For Polish
Wall Paper Hanging

Knowledge Must Be Paid For

( Originally Published 1902 )

It is good policy, then, for every man who seeks to do a little as a handicraftsman, to lay out a few dollars in obtaining the services of any moderately skilled artisan, who, for such a sum, would willingly show the aspirant how to use his tools, and how to keep them in working order. Thus, for example, if a man desired to follow up carpentry, it will be beneficial to him in the highest degree to enlist the services of a carpenter who will show him how to use his saw and his plane, and how to keep his saw fit for use by sharpening it with a file, and his plane and other cutting tools in proper condition by means of the grind stone and oilstone. If, again, he wished to be able to build a brick wall, he should get a bricklayer to show him how to prepare his foundations with spade and level, and how to put in the footings of his wall, and to raise it, course after course, so that its faces within and without, may be truly perpendicular, inclining neither to the one side nor the other. Having once learned how to do a thing, a fairly intelligent man will not require so very much practice to enable him to do such work as inclination or necessity may suggest, in a, tolerably workmanlike manner.

Carpentry Most Desirable.

If it be asked what branch of handicraft trade, or, to bring matters within a narrower compass, what branch of the building trade is most suitable and most useful for amateurs generally, and householders especially, it must be answered that a knowledge of carpentry and joinery will be found by far the most desirable. Next to this, it is necessary to know something about painting and glazing, which comes fairly within the province of the amateur. Collaterally with these useful arts, paperhanging may be mentioned. It is unlikely that a man will do much smith's work, but even in this it is possible for an amateur to do something, and a slight acquaintance with the arts of brazing, soldering, and working in metals will enable a man to make propagating cases that shall do him good service, and apparatus for heating a small greenhouse, if he have one, at little, expense, even if he still leaves it to the peripatetic knife-grinder and tinman to stop up holes im leaking coffee-pots and saucepans, and to renew the damaged bottoms of colanders and milk-strainers.

Bricklaying and Masonry.

Bricklaying and masonry are trades which possibly an amateur will not meddle much with; but some slight acquaintance with the principles of each, and the materials employed, is desirable, even if it be for no other or better purpose than that of giving an eye to any workman who may be employed in this way on the premises, in order to see that he is doing his work in a workmanlike manner, that he is using proper materials, and that he is not wasting his time-a thing which no workman who has any self-respect will do. It is, however, quite as well to be able to know oneself how to set a stone or step that has become loose by one cause or another, in cement, and how to prepare the cement for the work ; and know in what proportions sand and cement should be mingled for the purpose of making a suitable composition for fixing the step once again, so that it may remain immovable in its proper position.


Lastly, a knowledge of excavating in all its branches is attended with advantageIn the term "excavating" a far greater variety of work is comprised than appears upon the face of it at first sight. It means far more than digging or hollowing out a pit, as for a well or a trench, or for the foundation of a wall. It embraces these, it is true, but it also implies a knowledge of the manufacture - if we may use the word - of concrete, and the purposes to which it is put, of making garden walks and paths, and of leveling, so far as it may be applied to the construction of drains for carrying off the surplus water from the soil of the garden, or even from a stable or pigsty, and the laying of drain-pipes for this purpose. It also gathers within its wide embrace a knowledge of the method of making tar paving and burning clay into ballast-processes which will often be found extremely useful in the garden.

Kinds and Prices of Materials.

It is important for every one who attempts to work in wood that he should be familiar with the various kinds of wood that are used, and the purposes for which each is specially adapted. Experience will show that wood which is admirably fitted for one kind of work is by no means suit able for another. The prices, too, of different sorts of wood differ as much as their qualities, and it is desirable that the amateur artisan should become acquainted with these to some extent, that he may know what he is about when he is making purchases of his timber merchant. A knowledge of the prices of the different kinds of wood used in building and furniture making will also be useful to him in other ways. For example, if he intends to put up even so unambitious a structure as a weather-boarded shed, he can, after making his plans and working drawings, calculate to a nicety the quantity of wood that will be wanted, and its cost at the timber yard ; and if he finds that the job will run into more money than he expected, he can modify his plans and the mode of structure to suit his pocket.

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