This Week's Story

Henry Ford sees possibilities and has the "guts" to pursue them.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Master Mechanic, part two

How do I tell Dad that I don’t want to be a farmer? He thinks once a farmer, always a farmer. I want to work with machinery, any kind of machinery.

Henry went to his father. “Dad, I want to get a job in Detroit.”

“Son, why would you want to be a greasy mechanic? Stay here.  You can farm, and repair machinery. But, if you want to go, go.”

At age seventeen, after his high school graduation, Henry left home. By horse-drawn wagon his dad took him to Detroit. Henry was on his own, with $5.00, a trunk, and some farm vegetables.

It was 1880 and Detroit had 100,000 people, and many small engine shops and factories. Henry found a job as an apprentice with a company that made small steam engines and other machinery. His pay was $2.50 per week for working daily from 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. Henry was elated to be among machines!

He was horrified to find that the cheapest place he could find to live and eat would cost $3.50 per week. Without another job, he would

be $1.00 more in debt every week. After his first day of work he found a night job repairing watches. Now with two jobs he would have $1.00 a week to save. He would work happily for fifteen hours a day, because he was learning about machinery.

Watch repair increased Henry’s knowledge of machine design. It had been a hobby of his since he was twelve.

For nine months at the machine shop Henry learned how every piece of machinery worked and fit into a whole. He read technical journals. How to change metals from one shape to another was fascinating and practical. Henry’s energy was astonishing, and his awareness of how people worked was likewise amazing.

He noticed many problems. Shop time was wasted. Workers wandered around stopping to talk as they got equipment. What they needed could have been brought to them and their work could have continued without break. No workman was an expert at one job.  Equipment had to be filed to fit. Nothing fit when it was first made.

Henry went to the foreman. “I’m taking a new job. I’ll be paid fifty cents less per week, but I can learn new things.”

“That makes no sense. People work for money.”

Henry replied, “Money’s a tool and so is learning, which I need.”

Henry’s new job lasted for two years and was with marine engines. There was a limited market, no specialization, and no mass production. He continued his watch repair and collected 300 watches. He studied their differences and decided that watches could be made precisely by machinery. He drew designs for the machines and figured that if watches were sold in large quantity, one could be sold for thirty cents.

However, there was a problem! There was not enough demand for watches. He dropped his project, but he had discovered that machines can mass produce objects that have a set size. That was a revolutionary concept that would change the living standards of millions of Americans.

Henry’s next job made his convictions about production stronger. He returned to the farm, but he was a new kind of farmer. He built machines to replace hand labor and continued to have his dream of building a car. He had become a superb mechanic. He went from project to project always learning and improving machines.

In his reading he learned about a silent gas engine, with major difficulties, but new processes. With a wife supportive of his experiments, he returned to Detroit, a new job, and making his first car.

This is Barbara Steiner, soon to return with part three of The Master Mechanic. Please check out

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