Everyone who is familiar with any line of manufacture has heard both of these terms applied to artisans in wood a great many times. Frequently the words mean the same thing. Nevertheless, there may be a marked difference between the classes.
The mechanic is a man whose brains are everlastingly creating something. He is dissatisfied. Constantly he is coming up with a rig or device to enable him to do a given piece of work in quicker time.
Someone has said that the mechanic is constitutionally lazy so far as his hands are concerned, that his chronic discontent is always trying to devise ways and means of making the machines do his work for him.
Now the mechanic may or may not be skilled in the use of hand tools and even may be lacking in accurate work at the machines. In many instances a good mechanic is not capable of doing the very finest of hand work though in most cases he is a good workman as well as a mechanic.
On the contrary, the good workman is one skilled in the use of tools. He takes pride in perfect joints and in accurately finished work. A good workman may or may not be a fast workman, but he is precise and painstaking. His mind is generally not hampered by trying to devise a lot of new ways of doing a thing. He is satisfied with making it the best he knows how and by the good old way.
Your good workman, however, speedily recognizes the advantages of quicker and better methods. He also gives a warm welcome to the advantage of special tools or devices as quickly as anybody. We have known of a case where one mechanic in his noon hour dissertations at the shop would eventually set several good workmen at the construction of devices to assist them in their work and then these workmen would receive the credit for having originated the schemes, while the credit was in the first place really due the man who was so busy thinking of other devices that he had no time to develop the many things which he had already suggested.
A mechanic is properly catalogued under the term “inventor,” though the talent may be only so far developed that the possessor gets no farther than clever adaptations of the work in hand. A mechanic does not always make a good foreman. He always wants to change things, while the foreman is put in that place to see that the men under him turn out a product which the manufacturer can sell.
There is probably no class of men who lose themselves more completely in their tasks than true mechanics. When a man of this type concentrates his thought on a problem or series of problems outside matters have to wait; surrounding conditions, personal aggrandisement, all must await his pleasure; in short, he lives in his studies.
Success may come his way, failure may be his lot, but the delicious dream of improvement lures him on. Many are the rosy prospects that have brightened the mechanic’s path, difficulties have lent zest to his pursuit of the game, the tragedy of poverty has stalked through his romance, out of a multitude of inventions, his own may have never emerged from the patentable process into prosperous manufacture, yet he is kindred to these richly rewarded few who have scored with greatest success in the industrial work of the world. Good workman and prolific mechanic deserve all the reward that can come their way. They are the salt of the earth, the stirring prose and poetry of our times.