I am distinguishing the earlier (1927) of these two woodworker's manuals from the later (1952). Why waste my time? It's puzzling, even to me, but -- for a reason not clear even to myself -- the (anonymous) 1927 manual is the more appealing. Why? The 1927 manual is all hand tools, and -- as I've said elsewhere -- my preference in my personal woodworking is working with power tools. As far as descriptions, illustrations go, both are about equal. (My Paperback copy of the later edition suffers from the poorer quality of paper used, and the paperback's binding makes use of it less convenient -- that is, unlike the 1927 edition, with stitched binding in the spine, it doesn't fall open easily.) Or, it might have something to do with the "passion" the anonymous writer brings out with his pen.
How to Work With Tools and Wood
For the Home Workshop
N H Mager
How to Work With Tools and Wood
1927: Stanley Tools. How To Work with Tools and Wood for the home workshop by the Stanley Rule & Level Plant, 1927. 180 pages.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936
I, too, used to think that working with tools and wood was only for the naturally skillful.
But it isn't.
With a fair knowledge of how to use tools any one can do home repair jobs and actually make simple or even elaborate things.
This book has been written to give any one that knowledge.
It may lead them into intensely interesting and profitable hours in the home workshop.
Table of Contents
I. All of Us Can Use Tools II. How to Become Skillful
III. Let's Make Something IV. This Will Be a Bench
V. And Now It Really is a Bench VI. Taking It from a Working Drawing
VII. Finishing Up the Bookrack VIII. Sharpening the Tools
IX. More about Putting the Pieces Together X. Some Fancy Touches
XI. Getting It Ready for Use XII. Things Around the House
See comment below on this 1927 Stanley Tools woodworker's manual and photo (above) in a 1990s scholarly monograph (emphasis added):
"... Handymen husbands and handywomen wives—and handy couples too—found immense encouragement in the advertising of hardware companies. Simmons Hardware of St. Louis and New York, for example, wholesaled the "Keen Kutter" line of woodworking tools, telling readers of Country Life and other borderland journals that "the desire to `make something' is just human nature" and that having fine tools "in the home is not only a joy but an economy." 27 Perhaps the Stanley Company of New Britain, Connecticut, advertised most effectively, however, moving in the early 1920s from producing high-quality tools for professionals and amateurs to publishing as well. How to Work with Tools and Wood: For the Home Workshop, a 1927 clothbound, photograph-illustrated volume nearly two hundred pages long, reflects the firm's awareness of the burgeoning tool market in borderland places. Anonymously authored by a man confessing to a lifelong love of the smell and feel of both new lumber and very old furniture, How to Work with Tools fastens at once on the essential rightness of a family man's knowing how to "humor a furnace fire, fix electric lights, or grease the chassis on a car"—and build nearly anything from wood.
The book offers few projects. 28 [fn 28 for How to Work with Tools and Wood] Rather it moves precisely and quickly from simple issues like planing, using sketches of a cat's fur to explain woodgrain direction, to setting mitre boxes and making dovetail joints. And clearly it addresses borderland men, professionals owning large cellars for workshops, who wear vests and ties while holding chisels. Equipped with the tools and plans advertised in its final pages, the borderland man might make birdhouses, flat-bottomed rowboats, garden seats and trellises, and, of course, the massive workbenches so essential to everything."
Source: John Stilgoe, Borderland: Origins of the American Suburbs, 1820-1939, page 297
Stilgoe betrays his "outsider" credentials, though, by failing too understand the nuances this anonymous manual contains. From my perspective -- in the first decade of the 21st century, 80 years after the Stanley Tools manual was published -- I see a very competent woodworker's manual, but written with several sets of hands and minds. The photos (above, and rare for woodworker's manuals of the period, for sure, come out of corporate headquarters, as Stilgoe correctly notes.)
(The image on the left -- page 131 of the 1927 edition -- for example, lays out the procedures and pitfalls of cutting dadoes with a hand saw. In the 1955 paperback edition of the manual (cited below), the same image is reprinted, but no mention of the router's capability for cutting dadoes. The chapter on the router shows how that tool -- very efficiently -- cuts dadoes, but, in the text, no linkage between page 181 and the chapter on the router, nor any cross-reference in the index.)
But the text of the chapters and the pen-and-ink illustrations are the results of an experienced woodworker, a woodworker who brings both a passion to woodworking and a depth of knowledge and experience in woodworking with hand tools, as displayed on the left -- how to cut dadoes with a hand saw -- and in the text of Chapters 1 and 2 (reprinted below).
The Stanley Tool Company corporate mindset continues control by eliminating any mention of power woodworking tools, which were coming onto the home-shop market in great numbers in the late 1920s. In the 1920s, Stanley Tools did not have a power tool line, but scroll down to their 1952 manual -- with the same title -- and see, now, a volume full of illustrations of using power tools in woodworking operations.
CHAPTER I: All of Us Can Use Tools
Never in my boyhood life was I permitted to touch clean, new wood with sharp tools. Some one preconceived the notion that my hands were all thumbs.
I can remember myself so well as a very little boy standing in a lumber yard, feeling pieces of spruce and white pine, looking longingly at a springy plank 2 inches thick and 16 feet long, and wanting that plank almost more than anything I ever had seen before or since.
Later there were times when I stood for hours with my nose pressed against the glass of the show window of a hardware store, dreaming of myself at a work bench with all of the planes, the saws, the rules, the chisels, the hammers, the screw-drivers that I could possibly want. But I did not ask for them because my family was fully convinced that my hands were all thumbs. I might want to tinker about with wood and tools but they made me feel that sweet smelling lumber was for boys and men who knew how to use it, not for those who had no "talent."
Resigned but discontented I grew up believing there was a great mystery, for instance, about hanging a door. I have seen carpenters breathe on the hinges which they were about to screw into position with the idea that it brought them good luck and that the doors as a result would hang well. It isn't true, of course. There is no mystery about hanging a door. You don't need good luck. You need only know how to do it, providing you have tools of good steel, well sharpened. Today, I believe, I could guarantee to teach my fifteen-year-old boy in two lessons how to hang a door.
It wasn't until I became a husband and a householder that I got myself a tool chest. Talk about it being my hope chest! I really believe it has saved my life time and again—sharp, well designed tools and good, clean, bright wood and the joy of working with them. I learned to put up shelves, hang a door, put new locks on windows and cupboards and build very satisfactory pieces of simple furniture. It's as easy for me to do that kind of thing as it is for me to humor a furnace fire, fix electric lights, or grease the chassis on a car.
Having learned to do those things I wanted to do more. I learned what a tool can do, I, who since my childhood had known that haunting, pungent scent of fresh wood in my nostrils. Most important, however, is something else I learned—I learned that any big job, such as building a kitchen cabinet, is not a mysterious and wonderfully complex task. It is not a battle with wood that will not come to time in your hands. It does not require a mysterious and occult knowledge.
I discovered that you do not stand over a pile of lumber with a saw, a plane and a chisel in your hand and say "hokus-pokus." On the contrary what you actually do is take a small board of the proper kind of wood, make it the right length and the right width and join it to another small piece which you have put through the same process. You keep on doing this, occasionally erecting three or four of the pieces you have put together. When you get through with the job, after a few hours' labor, you have what is called a kitchen cabinet. It is not a kitchen cabinet until you have put it all together and erected it in place. It is a collection of pieces of board, sawed and planed to fit together in various ways.
Really it's as simple as 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4.
So I learned that making anything out of wood is like doing any other job; you need to know a little bit about it, to have the proper tools to do it and then do it little by little and bit by bit.
That is all there is to making anything of wood. You make a little piece of it at a time.
THINGS MADE BY HAND ARE MOST BEAUTIFUL
Not very long ago I made a lucky purchase. It was a little Jacobean stool, such as they used to have five hundred years ago in Elizabethan England for small boys and girls to sit upon. It is made of oak and it is well worn from countless childish shoes and trousers. It is, I believe, more beautiful than any stool which I could purchase today in a store. The only reason why this old stool, which has seen so many centuries pass, is more beautiful than a stool I could buy in a furniture store, is because it is well made by hand, is simple and rugged in design, is made of most excellent materials, and the wood has acquired the beautiful color the years have brought to it.
The fact is that almost anything which we use can be made stronger, more simple, more beautiful, by loving hands than it can by machinery. There is no reason why a kitchen shelf may not be fundamentally beautiful. There is no reason why a door cannot be hung so that it swings at the touch of a hand and is beautiful because it is simple and rugged.
If you will learn to make an ordinary mortise, to form a dovetail joint, a halved joint, or to plane the edge of a board so that it is square; if you will learn to drive a nail straight, to put heavy screws in oak without splitting the board, and handles on a drawer so that they are straight: your work in wood should be beautiful.
You can go to a store and buy a kitchen cabinet ready for use, well painted, for $50.00 or $60.00. You, yourself, can make in the evenings, that kitchen cabinet for not over $10.00. You can go to a store and buy a candle-stick complete ready for use, varnished and polished, for from 10 cents to $5.00. You can make that candlestick yourself with perhaps no saving in money. But when you have made it and it is standing on the mantelpiece you have always before you as you look at it the memory of a sharp tool cutting into well seasoned wood. Through your hands, and your hands alone, the world is richer by the existence of that object that you can hold in your hand.
That is the satisfaction which the artisan in paint, the artisan in words, or the artisan in steel, stone, glass or wood feels. There is something priceless about it. You have a value that no man can take from you. Let the candlestick become blackened and charred, let it be broken by careless hands and still the joy of its creation cannot be taken from you, it is yours for the length of your life.
CHAPTER II: How to Become Skillful
Craftsmanship is a combination of knowledge on how to use tools and of skill with the hands. An old carpenter has more tricks of the trade than he could possibly teach and no two carpenters' tricks are the same in every instance. These tricks are a part of the day's work. They come from cut and try or the trial and error method. You could start today and in half an hour learn all by yourself several things about tools and wood. If you took a plane to a piece of white pine you would discover shortly that when you attempt to push the tool against the grain you would not make a smooth cut, yet when you push the plane with the grain you make a smooth cut which, with a sharp plane, is almost as smooth as though you had sandpapered it down.
Lesson One. You have learned never to plane a piece of wood until you have examined it to see what way the grain runs. You will learn to plane always with the grain unless you have a special finishing job requiring a special type of work. There is no way of learning such facts except by trying.
The other factor in craftsmanship is natural skill with the hands. To become a skilled workman in wood requires practice for two reasons—you learn to handle tools delicately and firmly, as a pianist learns to strike the notes on his keyboard to produce precisely the effect he wishes; the other is to learn by trial and error the better ways of doing every single little thing.
There is no real short cut to craftsmanship and one of the very greatest advantages of working with wood is that you learn this fact and are extremely likely to guide your life in the future according to these principles. You learn a great deal about life and business from a kit of tools and some wood.
WHAT THIS BOOK CAN DO
No book could possibly give you all the tricks of the carpenter's trade. They have to be learned at the bench. But there is no reason why you cannot learn all you need to know for the home use of a good set of tools. You can teach yourself while making things which you wish to use.
It is the purpose of this volume to give you fundamentals which will enable you to get the most fun out of tools and to achieve the most skill.
And most important of all, by using this book to help you make things at home, you will be adding to the richness of your own life.
(If there are particular things which you wish to make, the publisher of this book can tell you how to procure working drawings, which, with the aid of this volume, will enable you to build almost anything you would care to undertake.)
1952: Stanley Tools. How To Work with Tools and Wood. New York: Pocket Books. (Division of the Stanley Works,
) 444 pages with index. New Britain Connecticut
Check the details below, and see how remarkable the changes are. In the 1927 manual, nary a power woodworking tool; contrast this truth with the several chapters dedicated, respectively, to such tools as the portable drill, the portable power saw, and perhaps most significant, the portable power router. All of this change in a quarter century!
On the verso of the title page, my copy of this paperback book (pocketbook-size) indicates that -- by February 1973 -- it had been reprinted 24 times, which means, at 2500 copies per printing, an astonishing 62,500 copies. Are these the number of copies "sold" or are these the "distributed"? I ask the question, because of the corporate origins, i.e., Stanley Tools. However, rather a glitzy volume, full of splashy color photos of Stanley products, instead, this is a strictly-business, with 21 chapters and over 40 working drawings and other numerous black-and-white drawings of tools and processes for hand tools and portable power tools, definitely sticking to the title's claim, "how to work with tools and wood, but within the scope of Stanley's products -- i.e., there are no major stationary woodworking tools featured.
In truth, some drawings include the Stanley logo, and definitely some illustrations are of tools that only Stanley produces, but if you can get beyond that, this woodworker's manual is a "nuts and bolts" guide for the enthusiastic and fired-up newbie.
Another truth: the audience is the serious "do-it-yourselfer", and there were plenty of them in the 1950s. (I will discuss of the "do-it-yourself" movement -- which began with a flourish in the early 1950s but still continues today -- in my narrative on the decade. However some of this spirit is captured in the 1953 Collier's Magazine piece by Phil Creden, "America Rediscovers Its Hands ".)
CHAPTER ONE: Anyone Can Work with Tools and Wood
Perhaps you have read, with a little laugh, the famous advertisements: "You too can learn to play the piano" — or to paint, or write . . . or do anything else that you just know you can't learn to do.
The surprising thing is that in spite of ten thumbs, more or less, you can learn to do many things you never thought you could. Certainly anyone can learn to work well with tools. Of course, your skill will come quickly or slowly depending on your talent and your determination to develop your abilities. But there is no reason why anyone without serious physical impairments cannot do a creditable job while working with tools. Some skill, a lot of care, and a good design can provide for your home many things that will give you the threefold satisfaction of seeing your own handiwork, of providing the unique thing most suited for your needs, and of knowing that it cost you only a small fraction of what the same object would have cost in a retail store. But even more important, you will find that the making — the sweat and tears and frustrations — will give you the ultimate joys that come only from a satisfying hobby: the satisfaction of creating a fine thing with your own skills.
Craftsmanship is a combination of knowledge of how to use tools and skill in using the hands. An old cabinetmaker or carpenter knows more about using tools and wood than he could possibly teach. These tricks are a part of his day's work. They come from many hours of cut and try, trial and error. But you can start today and in half an hour learn all by yourself many fascinating things about tools and wood. If you take a plane to a piece of white pine, you will soon discover that when you attempt to push the tool against the grain, you don't make a smooth cut, but when you push the plane with the grain, you do. With a sharp plane, the cut is almost as smooth as if you had used sandpaper.
The other factor in craftsmanship is skill with the hands. To become a skilled workman in wood requires practice, for two reasons: (1) you learn to handle tools delicately and firmly, as a pianist learns to strike the notes on his keyboard to produce precisely the effect he wishes; (2) you learn by trial and error the best ways of using your hands.
No book can possibly give you all the tricks of good carpentry. They have to be learned at the bench. But this volume will give you fundamentals that will enable you to get the most fun out of your tools and to achieve the most skill, to find relaxation from the stress and strain of a busy day, and to add to the richness of your life.
Working with tools and wood is a hobby packed with romance and tradition. There is a special kind of delight in making the sturdy colonial furniture in the same way that early American settlers did. The craftsmanship of Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Duncan Phyfe, and other masters takes on new meaning as you strive to reproduce their work. Every kind of wood that you use has a charm and story of its own, and the tools that you use have a history that extends back to crude implements used many generations ago.
There are unlimited interesting possibilities in woodworking. In this book, we try to give you the fundamentals to help you start on the right track. It may be that wood carving, reproducing antiques, making model boats, trains, or air-planes, building furniture for your home . . . will catch your fancy. No matter if you make one or many kinds of things, every article you make is a new and complete diversion. Into it will go your thought and your individuality, all of which help to identify that article as distinctly yours. In detail, it will be unlike anything else, for it is rare that two pieces of handwork are ever exactly alike.
Begin in a modest way. Each new experience and success will inspire your ambition to go on to a greater degree of accomplishment. Your appreciation of woodworking as a hobby will grow in proportion to your effort. Your workshop will become a happy haven in which you can relax from everyday care and work.
Remember that the full extent of enjoyment you obtain from any hobby depends on the amount of your own personality you put into it. The result of your effort will reward you ten times over.
From the Galveston Daily News June 12, 1955, page 36:
A How-to-do-it book for amateur workmen
Amateur craftsman who enjoy working with tool. will undoubtedly find many a helpful idea In a pocketbook entitled How to Work With Tools and Wood, which has just been published by Pocket Books, Inc.
Author of this informative volume is Fred Gross, manager of the Educational Department for Stanley Tools.
With a fair knowledge of how to use tools, anyone can do home-repair jobs and actually make simple or even elaborate things, author Gross declares.
"Craftsmanship is a combination of knowledge of how to use tools and of skill with the hands," Gross says.
He then goes on to explain how ordinary carpenter's or woodworkers tools should be used.
Then, utilizing the step-by-step principle, he explains in lucid detail how things can be made with these tools: -a bookrack, for example, a workbench, a folding tennis table, a birdhouse, a sawhorse, a foot stool a colonial magazine rack, a coffee table.
He winds up with a chapter on the proper tools for a home work-shop.
Gross' volume is illustrated with more than 400 how-to-do-it drawings, and it should prove at once handy and helpful to any amateur craftsman who likes to make things or do ordinary repairs around the house.