Words to Live By
Over the door in our main shop room is a sign that has been hanging in my various work spaces for years. Every time you leave the room if you look up you'll see that "good enough is rarely good enough." It's a constant reminder that our goal is quality.
Today we had a problem with our edge sander. The result was slightly rounded ends on some 8/4 oak parts that had to be redone after the sander was repaired. One of my two guys joked "we do it nice because we do it twice!" I had to chuckle. My comment in those situations has always been "the sign of a true professional is not that it gets done right the first time, but rather that when done it looks like it got done right the first time." I think I like the new version better.
Any good "shopisms" you'd like to share?
"The happiness we attain in life is inversely proportionate to the amount of crap we accumulate."
We never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over.
Everyone always brings joy to this shop.
Some when they enter.
Some when they leave.
There are no stupid questions only stupid people?
Nec aspera torents
(Difficulties be damned!)
"Charge per hour to make your stuff: $20. If you help me: $100."
"The choices are: fast, cheap and pretty. Pick two."
"Never argue with an idiot; spectators do not know which is which."
"Lack of planning on your part does not make an emergency on my part."
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't... you're right!"
"As a man thinketh... so he is."
"The best angle from which to approach any problem is the try-angle."
"The only difference between try and triumph is a little umph."
"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."
"The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me."
There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.
- Edward Wallis Hoch
"It is not smarter than you are."
"You can't make chicken salad out of chicken s**t."
"If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have replied, 'A faster horse.'"
- H. Ford
Anything is possible if properly funded!
"The hand and the mouth do not work effectively at the same time."
- Wallace Nutting
"Better to have and not need, than to need and not have."
On the shop floor and over my desk:
"Samples are like safety glasses. They protect you from what you don't see coming!"
I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.
- Thomas Jefferson
The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.
When in doubt, throw it out. We do our best and caulk the rest.
From the original questioner:
I'll add one more. And it is perhaps a bit controversial. However I'm sure most everyone has thought along these lines on that occasion when in spite of the best efforts, something has gone awry, and yet the project came out perfect anyway.
"I'd rather be lucky than good."
Both my guys came to me right out of trade school and have been with me for many years. Early on as they were building their skills, they would roll their eyes when I said this. Now they have come to understand.
You only see a cabinetmaker hurrying when he is making a mistake or fixing one.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience from poor judgment.
I am often greeted with the phrase:
"What do you know?" The answer is always "never enough!"
In the same vein: "You don't know what you don't know."
Recently I saw something attributed to John Wayne: "If you are going to be stupid, you better be tough."
"It's too bad that ignorance is not painful."
"Quality has no time limit"
"When you are self-employed, you only have to work a half a day. Yup, any 12 hours you choose."
"Do as I say, not as I do."
Two in my office. Inlaid on my desk:
"Fortune favors a prepared mind."
On the wall:
"Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water."
Click here for higher quality, full size image
Click here for higher quality, full size image
I'd rather be hungry, than tired and hungry.
I always prefer a humorous, but truthful side to quotes. Here are a few from Groucho Marks and Bill Cosby:
No man goes before his time, unless the boss leaves early.
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
A word to the wise isn't necessary; it's the stupid ones who need the advice.
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.
In order to succeed, your desire to succeed has to be stronger than your fear of failure.
"Do you understand everything you know about what you're doing?"
"Good from far, but far from good."
"The best lessons are those that are bought, rather than taught."
Favorite in the last shop:
"Are you going to retire on that cabinet?"
"Luck" is the residue of good design.
In flying by the seat of your pants, nothing is as useless as the air above you or the runway behind you.
Never argue about insignificant semi-colons; they are merely a convenience. Commas, on the other hand, can change your world. To wit:
Eats shoots and leaves
Eats, shoots, and leaves
On my office wall: There are 7 P's in "profit"
I have a sign hanging over my finishing table that says "We never make mistrakes!" And it's true... really.
I can't believe I haven't heard these two yet:
"Putty's your buddy."
"Do your best, caulk the rest."
On the more serious side… Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer of Maxims in 1st Century BC Italy once said, “To do two things at once is to do neither.“
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, defiantly shouting "Geronimo," with the bank accounts empty and all the credit cards maxed out."
“If you make something idiot proof, all they do is create a better idiot.”
Hammer and file to fit, putty and paint to match.
A little putty, a little paint, makes a carpenter what he ain't.
This came from my father, who started the business. Even in today's technology, I believe it still holds true.
"If you work around here, you gotta be a monkey wrench."
From a medic friend:
"We can't fix dead."
From the shop foreman:
And my all time favorite:
You want it when?
The difference between a pat on the back, and a kick in the butt? About a foot...
Cut it twice and it's still too short?
"I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong."
People think this stuff grows on trees.
From the original questioner:
Good one. Reminds me that I've often told people who asked why radius work cost so much that "trees don't grow in this shape."
"You just can't fix stupid."
"I have no quarrel with the man who has a lower price, for no one better than he knows how much his services are worth."
I have had to say this to an expert who refuses to consider something more times than I care to remember: "Understand me: Ii do not want to be right, because if I am right, we are in trouble."
"I have been doing it that way for thirty years." Well, you been doing it wrong for thirty years!
"Some people have 20 years of increasing experience. Some have the first year of experience repeated 20 times."
"Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple."
- Albert Einstein
Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, and cut with an axe.
"Cheer up" he said, "things could be worse." So I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.
From Henry Ford, and I assume to be followed while negotiating:
"Don't complain, Don't explain."
We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.
No one is listening until you make a mistake.
Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.
Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
If you haven't much education, you must use your brain.
Never mess up an apology with an excuse.
Don't squat with your spurs on.
Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.
Good judgment comes from bad experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
A closed mouth gathers no foot.
Duct tape is like the force, it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.
There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your mouth is moving.
Anything worth taking seriously is worth making fun of.
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
Chaos, panic, and disorder - my work here is done.
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don't have film.
I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it.
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
I've learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in.
I've learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.
I've learned that it takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.
I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities or politicians.
I've learned that no matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get arrested and end up in the local paper.
I've learned that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.
Never raise your hands to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected.
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings. They did it by killing all those who opposed them.
If you can stay calm, while all around you is chaos... then you probably haven't completely understood the seriousness of the situation.
Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Some people could bend a crowbar in a sandpit.
Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity.
I started out with nothing... I still have most of it.
Funny, I don't remember being absent minded.
If at first you do succeed, try not to look too astonished.
The first rule of holes: If you are in one, stop digging.
I've had this feeling of deja vu before.
Just because your head is pointy, that doesn't mean you're sharp.
The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.
Stop bickering like spoiled little kids. I suggest you act like spoiled adults and settle this in court!
You're better off with nothing to do, than doing nothing!
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
Often in error, never in doubt.
Lower your expectations, then you won't be disappointed.
"If the fish aren't biting, move the canoe."
Success has a thousand parents; failure is an orphan.
I work at two speeds. If you don't' like this one, you probably won't like the other one.
Deadlines… I love the whooshing noise they make as they go past.
Boss - "Hey, what are you doing?"
Employee - "Nothing."
Boss - "You were doing that yesterday."
Employee - "Yer, well I didn't finish."
Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts.
- Henry Rosovsky
...or understanding that "the truth is more important than the facts."
- Frank Lloyd Wright
"We build it nice, because we build it twice."
Never say never!
We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, have done so much for so long with so little, we now attempt the impossible with nothing.
You can rub and you can rub, but you can't polish a turd. (Usually muttered when it's time to give up and start again.)
This is what my Father would tell me:
"If you can't find time to do it right the first time, how can you find time to do it a second?"
Hire us. We may be slow, but we're rough.
Look, there they go. I must catch them because I am their leader.
This project ain't going backwards - it's moving forward in the other direction.
I manage everything from lists so I don't forget anything. Anyone seen my list?
If at first you don't succeed, pass it off to a subordinate so you have someone to blame when it fails again. If it succeeds, pat yourself on the back for being a good enough administrator to put the right person on the job.
A pat on the back and a kick in the ass are essentially the same thing - they are both earned.
The flogging shall continue until morale improves.
They are 3 types of people in the world:
People that WATCH THINGS HAPPEN!
People that MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!
and People that say WHAT HAPPENED!
Which one are you?
There are three things nigh impossible to do:
Climb a fence leaning towards you,
Kiss a girl leaning away from you, and
Help someone that doesn't want to be helped.
Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.
- attributed to John Wayne
I have a few of Lao Tzu's quotes pinned on my office board. As relevant today as they were 600 B.C.
"Whether something is successful or tragic depends on how it ends; everyone knows this. How something will end can be determined by how it begins; very few know this."
"If you wish to achieve greatness, you will need to master the small deeds that it is made of. If you wish to understand complexity, you will need to see the simple things that it contains. Then the great will be small, the complex will be simple, effort will vanish, and things will arrange themselves in order."
One for you owners/employers out there:
Always! No, no, that's not it… Never!
The reason I have what you want is, I never loaned it out before.
That which I least want to do is oft that which I most should do.
"Name a shrub after me... Something prickly and hard to eradicate."
- from "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian
"Complacency is the killer of both your business and life."
This is my own personal mantra every morning that I walk into my shop.
I believe nothing I hear and only half of what I see.
MURPHY'S OTHER 15 LAWS
1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
3. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
4. A day without sunshine is like, well... Night.
5. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
6. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
7. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
8. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
9. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them.
10. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.
11. The things that come to those that wait, may be the things left by those, who got there first.
12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
13. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.
14 . The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in the dark.
15.. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people, who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.
Never stand in the way of a man intent on making a fool of himself.
Remember about Chinese hardware: Chip meat makes chip soup.
You want it bad, you get it bad.
The worse you want it, the worse you get it.
The admission of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.
"That work obviously came with a tail light warranty! When the tail lights disappear, the warranty is up!"
Some folks expect me to be able to recreate an intricate museum piece instantly and for less cost than a plastic chair at the hardware store.
I had to tell a customer once that the diningroomtable button on my table saw was jammed.
On my business cards and T-shirts, my company motto reads, "Buy Quality, Cry Once." It really weeds out the window shoppers from the serious customers. That, and I also have "caller I.Q." on my phone so I don't have to waste my time talking to idiots.
My favorite variation of an above quote:
"We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."
There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't.
A lot of people aim to achieve nothing in life - and have amazing accuracy.
If we don't specify exactly what we want, we have no reason to complain about what we get or where we find ourselves.
"Looks good from my house."
"Good enough for who it's for."
"I see the bubble."
"If you can't be good, be lucky."
"Perfect will be good enough."
"Can you fix it?"
"No good deed goes unpunished."
"Your mother doesn't work here; clean up your own mess."
"The beatings will cease when morale improves."
"The sun was in my eyes. One excuse is as good as another."
"No, your other left."
"We're not building a piano here."
"Is yesterday too soon?"
"It comes with a taillight warranty."
"The impossible just costs more and takes longer."
Red Green used to say, "If the women don't find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy."
"We shoot for perfect and settle for excellent."
"We may be slow, but we're expensive."
"If you don't believe in life after death, you should see this shop at closing time."
"Someone asked me how many guys work here, and I said about half of them."
"If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it yourself" - Albert Einstein
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me six times, shame on me."
"Never send the homeowner to the store." (I'm dead serious about that one.)
"PPPPPP" (old Navy saying) = "Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance"
Ikea is that way!
No Credit - No Problem. No Cash... Problem!
For something to be truly complex, it must be brilliantly simple.
I am still laughing about the caller IQ line. I wonder if its possible to screen calls based on household income. I think I am going to call my phone company just to hear their reaction when I ask.
Monday is an awful way to spend 14.3% of your life.
Warranty is good til you can't see the taillights or first rain, whichever comes first.
You'll never see it from a galloping horse.
Some people don't mind work; they could watch it all day.
"...to crush my enemies, to see them driven before me, to hear the lamentations of their women."
"That's close enough for the girls I date."
I cover table tops with a sheet of Lexan or lexar or whatever they call plastic today. The sign on the plastic reads" "Your nails and jewelry scratched a 10 dollar piece of plastic as opposed to two months of veneer work. This is your lucky day."
From my flooring days, "stiletto heels are the best way to make you pay me twice."
There is only one basic human right - the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
This place is a zoo. Please do not annoy, torment, pester, plague, molest, worry, badger, harry, harass, heckle, persecute, irk, bullyrag, vex, disquiet, grate, bother, tease, nettle, tantalize, or ruffle any of the animals.
You either learn from experience or take the time to learn from your own.
Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes along.
Experience is what you got by not having it when you need it.
Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.
There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.
Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.
Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.
Work like a gentleman.
I found out this morning that Eli Goldratt passed away yesterday. In memory of the founder of the Theory of Constraints, here a few of his quotes:
"Common sense is not common at all."
"The more complex the problem, the simpler the solution needs to be."
"If you think you can counter emotion with logic, you've not been married."
"As long as you cannot clearly verbalize your own intuition, the only thing you will communicate is your own confusion."
"A smart man learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others."
What you lack in skill, make up in fill.
"There are two types of employees - ones that make me money and ones that cost me money. Which one are you?"
When I was an apprentice 35+ years back, there were two messages on the walls:
1. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; you have to do something to earn your pay.
2. Learn by mistakes - let the other person make the mistake.
My father always told me to measure twice and cut once. My mother would say to me (and I mention this to some of my clients) when I queried things while she was busy sewing, "never show a fool an unfinished job."
The logo of the company where I did my apprenticeship, which I still use today, as they closed years ago:
I had a sign in my shop for years that said:
The devil is in the details!
I thought I was wrong once… but I was mistaken.
To err is human, to forgive is not company policy.
"The devil is in the details"
"God is in the details."
- Mies van der Rohe
"To do is to be" - Nietzsche
"To be is to do" - Kant
"Do be do be do" - Sinatra
Another great one from Mies van der Rohe:
"Less is more."
To err is human. To really screw up requires a computer.
"There is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution."
There is no such thing as a "cabinetry emergency."
We have easy credit terms - Half down, the rest, now!
Be anything you want. But don't ever be satisfied. Your crew can always do better. You can always do better.
Jesus is coming back... Everybody look busy!
It looks better from over there.
Excuses are like a**holes. Everyone has one and they all stink!
The law of horizontal surfaces on construction sites: the abrasiveness of an item placed on a horizontal surface is inversely proportional to the cost of that surface.
"Some mornings it's just not worth gnawing through the restraints."
When presenting a solution to the boss, at the end say, "...and Bob's your uncle." After a few months of this, it becomes shortened to something like, "...Bob." It's an old British or Scottish saying, not sure which. It always gets a chuckle.
You only need to be 10% smarter than the wood.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
"I don't usually charge too much extra if you want to watch... but if you want to help, it gets real expensive."
A mentor friend of mine had a deformed thumb. I asked how this came to be.
He said: "I was holding this awkward piece that needed a good hammer blow to make it fit, so I said to my help: When I nod my head, hit it!"
Sandpaper is cheap; elbow grease is expensive.
To customer: What you don't want is important to you, I well realize, but what's only important to me is what you do want.
Don't steal. The government hates competition.
I don't find it hard to meet expenses. They're everywhere.
By any means necessary, avoid getting blood on that fine piece of wood.
1000 attaboys get less attention than 1 awshit.
You gotta be smarter than the board!
If it was easy, anybody could do it!
The best way for a woodworker to become a millionaire is to start with $2 million.
Tradesmen, always remember, cash is tax free.
People ask what I do for a living. I tell them "I'm in the wood business." Oh yeah? "Yeah, I sit around and think about what it WOOD be like to have a high paying job."
I use this line to illustrate the point of maintaining focus. "It took two hundred years to grow that tree. Don't mess it up in two minutes."
It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble; it's what we know that ain't so.
- Will Rogers
Pray not for lighter burdens, but for stronger backs.
"Well, ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members! In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine! That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
The most wasted of all days is the day when we have not laughed.
We have one rule in the shop. DO NOT BLEED ON THE TOOLS! If you do, wipe it off fast, because blood makes the tools rust.
"If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
The secret of life is to have a task, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life, and the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do." I think that was Henry Moore. He was a sculptor I think.
Every tool is a hammer except a chisel, and that's a screwdriver.
The Work You Produce is a Direct Reflection of Your Attitude!
I was hired to do the interior paint for the restoration on the oldest Queen Ann in Olympia, Washington. In the course of my paint work, I came across seemingly innumerable woodworking projects. I had time and was enjoying the work, so I copied existing woodwork and made repairs that blended with the existing woodwork in a couple high profile, damaged and missing sections. The owners then had me doing other tasks to tend problems they, before, thought they would have to live with. That included matching patches of the cedar flooring, door and window restorations and so forth.
In time, and regarding intricate restoration repairs, the finish and other contractors present were often heard replaying that joke so many of us have heard or used: "Let the painter take care of it."
Give me the grace to see a joke,
To get some humor out of life,
And pass it on to other folk.
As a teacher at a technical college, I have had to give direction to more than a few. Here are some of the quotes I like the best:
Tear-out is for suckers.
You only have to be smarter than the wood.
You'll find the proper gluing technique as soon as you apply the finish.
Beauty is in the details, plus or minus .003".
Never let the instructor touch your project.
Do you think this wood grows on trees?.
It's okay to start sanding with 220. See you in a month.
Your lack of planning, well... it's just plain obvious.
You couldn't have written this - some of these letters are actually in the alphabet.
If at first you don't succeed, to hell with it. No use making a fool of yourself.
If at first you don't succeed, hide all evidence you tried.
[and for emergencies only]
If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
If at first you do succeed - try not to look too surprised.
A good reputation comes from many deeds. A bad reputation can come from one. Take my advice (I'm not using it).
You can't fix stupid.
Darwin strikes again.
The new one is when someone gets distracted from the task at hand, someone yells "Squirrel!" (from the cartoon UP).
Would you like me to level this to the earth or to your house?
"Measure once, cut twice."
I cut the dang thing three times and it' still too short.
"Be careful with that thing - skin grows back... wood doesn't."
"A professional may do things pretty easily from all appearances, but he is taking with each little bit so that it is just right."
A misplaced decimal place in the Y or X axis is usually not a disaster, but in the Z it is.
It's not level until the Lady says it is level.
We had a relatively new hire in the shop, who had claimed some level of experience, ask the Plant Manager, while looking at his tape measure, "I know these lines are the eighths, but what are these little lines in between?"
I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I'm not sure that you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
I ask the homeowner "Do you want this installed level and plumb, or the way we usually do it?" Or when installing a staircase, "Do you want the big step at the top or the bottom?" Some don't realize I'm kidding!
When I was in my 20's, I was sent out with one other, older guy to frame a single family residential project. I had been a framer for about 30 hours at this point. Slim, my slightly elder teacher explained to me the intricacies of the tape measure:
"The lines with the numbers on 'em are important. All them other lines just cause problems."
"If you get blood on my tools, you're fired."
Measure twice, cut once! If it's still wrong, then there is something wrong.
I can see your sawmill can cut a board that is 1/4" thick, but how does it do cutting a board that is 1-1/2" thick?
There was a large sign hanging at a small manufacturing facility in front of a long corridor. Sign read:
"Quality - Whatever it takes!"
However whoever hung the sign did not realize that as visitors approached the sign down the corridor all they could read was:
"Quality - Whatever"
Here are two that I've always remembered:
At Higgins and Irvine Building Supply in Lexington, Va years ago:
Our credit manager is Helen Waite. If you want credit, you can go to Helen Waite.
Wish I remembered who to credit for this:
They crucified the only perfect carpenter.
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