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American poet Edwin Markham (1852-1940) said, “It is better to rust out than wear out.” Clearly, Eddie never dealt with woodworking machinery in a hot, humid shop in the summer time.

Perhaps that’s why his best-remembered quote is exactly the opposite that of philosopher Richard Cumberland (1632-1718): “It is better to wear out than to rust out.”

This is the time of year here in the Mid-Ohio Valley where it gets as hot and humid as Alabama. It has to do with the river valley and air inversions or something, but when the heat and humidity decide to settle in, it’s pretty much permanent until October or thereabouts. Sure, we get the occasional delightfully cool, dry day but those are as short-lived as they are rare.

And this time of year is when I say goodnight to a perfectly in-order shop, only to say good morning to at least two or three inadvertent rusty handprints in the morning. I try to be aware of what I’m touching and leaning on during the day. Likewise, I try to remember to wipe down cast-iron surfaces after using machinery. And, yes, I keep a ready supply of four-aught steel wool and Scotch-Brite pads handy, as well as paste wax and anything else to combat the relentless rust, but it’s still a losing battle.

For my shop setup, I find it far easier to bring the heat up in the winter than to bring the heat down in the summer. Fans help, but only to a point, and since an air conditioner for the shop just isn’t in the budget this year, I guess the time to embrace Markham’s observation is at hand.

No wonder I’ve always favored philosophy over poetry.



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