Glossary Intro and Glossary Annexes

Woodworker's Encyclopedias

Note: , 12-8-2010. Folks, this is a toughy. I give weight to "encylopedia" in the book's title, but other factors -- primarily breadth of coverage of the field -- as criteria for inclusion of a book. The meaning of "woodworking", for example, has a broader connotation the simply "working with tools"

A comment about the so-called "woodworker's encyclopedias" outlined below: Now that we have the INTERNET and "Google books research" and so on, creating an "encyclopedia" for woodworkers would not only be an exercise in futility, but downright dumb, since -- as a publisher -- you would enjoy very low sales, with every remaining set having to be "remaindered" to use the bookseller's term.

In their day, though, these sets of encyclopedia for woodworkers were a good thing, because not only did they serve a real need, when offered by supermarkets at $1 per volume per week , the sets were fairly easy to buy.

For the results, below, using the Worldcat bibliographic database with terms su= "Tools" and su= "Encyclopedias," yields the first four books, but not the Tool Catalog. The Tool Catalog is very much like the others, including that probably some of the same people had a hand in assembling the materials that the books contains, although this is speculation. The discrepancy in the subject heading is an example of the anomalies in cataloging books. (Any attempt to explain more about such discrepancies would end in needless details.)


Hasluck, Paul Noonan, ed., Cassell's cyclopaedia of mechanics, containing receipts, processes, and memoranda for workshop use. London: Cassell, 1900. 4 volumes.

Not alphabetically arranged, but it has an alphabetical index.

I was fortunate in finding a single volume of this venerable encyclopedia on the used book market, via My volume was published in London. The American edition -- below -- came out in 5 volumes, but the British edition comprised 4 volumes.

First, today our understanding of the meaning of "mechanic" is more circumscribed than the meaning of that term in 1900. In 1900, mechanic was an all-inclusive word -- a worker skilled in tools -- where it incorporated woodworking activities, machinist activities, and so forth. With the coming of the automobile in the 1920s, the meaning of mechanic shrunk to its current meaning -- a worker skilled in working with tools on automobiles and other similar vehicles of transportation.

For a model of the Cassell's publishing firm, think of our today's Taunton Press operating between 1870 to 1910. (Since 1976, Taunton is the parent company for Fine Woodworking and literally hundreds of woodworker's manuals. Between 1870 and 1910, based in London, and under the strong editorship of Paul Noonan Hasluck and ? Cassell published Amateur Work Illustrated , Work: the illustrated weekly journal for mechanics, and countless woodworker's manuals.) Click here for an image of the Cassell listings in The Cassell's magazine, published both in London and New York.



CASSELL'S CYCLOPAEDIA OF MECHANICS, comprised in 1,760 pages, contains in a form convenient for ready reference and everyday use receipts, processes, and memoranda selected from a rich store of choice information contributed by a staff of skilful and talented technicians, upon whose practical experience and expert knowledge the information is based. The matter contained in the volumes has been carefully digested, freely illustrated, and made plain to those inexperienced.

Preface continues below.

All compilations of receipts and memoranda for the use of mechanics that have been published -- and some have attained great popularity -- differ from the present series in the important fact that almost every item in these volumes is the paid contribution of an expert, written specially to satisfy the want of an inquirer, and each has challenged emendation from a wide circle of practical men. Corrective and supplementary matter supplied by these critical readers has been incorporated to ensure the greater efficiency of this work.

A superficial glance through the pages of the volumes might tend to a false impression that the varied contents are not readily available for easy and systematic reference. However, this is not so. Experience has shown that it is not possible to classify paragraphs that often include matters essentially different so that there shall be a definite place for every item, and the impossibility of such a course is particularly emphasised in the present collection, which embraces subjects widely diversified. Even a little consideration of this Cyclopedia would show that no possible arrangement of the paragraphs would place them so that the several facts contained in each could be found with ease and certainty. The copious Index provides a means by which every separate particular and detail of any kind dealt with in the volumes may be traced and referred to with the least amount of trouble. This index also brings together all references to the same subject, however widely they may be scattered, and all varied notes included under one heading are properly analysed and, thus disclosed, regrouped with kindred topics. No pains have been spared in the compilation of this Index, which efficiently serves a purpose impossible to be met by any arrangement of paragraphs comprising the volume.

End of Preface

Listed as a recommended purchase for public libraries in

Alice Bertha Kroeger, Guide to the study and use of reference books: a manual for librarians ..., Chicago: American Library Association, 1904, page 29, column 2:--


Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia  for home owner, craftsman, and hobbyist. New York, J.J. Little & Ives Co.,1955 12 v. illus. 23 cm.


Popular science do-it-yourself encyclopedia; complete how-to series for the entire family, Brooklyn, Arlrich Pub. Co., 1955. 12 v. illus.

Long before becoming interested in this woodworking history project, I had a complete set of the PS. Probably for lack of space on my bookshelves, I gave the 12-volume set away. Now, sensitive to the motivations of potential woodworkers of that era -- booming post-WW  II -- I began looking at these sets in a different light. Much of the content is, yes, dedicated to house construction and home improvement, but there is no lack of woodworking. In the future I plan on an extended treatment of this set.


Charles H Hayward, Tools For Woodwork New York: Drake, 1976

For seriously taking up woodwork, Hayward suggests that beginning woodworkers purchase the the following hand tools:


First published in England in 1973.

In woodworking, especially amateur woodworking, Hayward is for England and the rest of the United Kingdom what R J DeCristoforo is for America. (Even with their English slant, Hayward's books are popular in America.)

Read more here


By the editors of Consumer Guide”. The Tool catalog : an expert selection of the world's finest tools. New York : Harper & Row, ; 1978. 288 p. Among the contributors to this volume are the following professional woodworkers: Ernie Conover, R J DeCristoforo, Matt Zurawski.


Mark Duginske, Kim Carelton Graves, Bruce Marshall, Dick Onians, Mario Rodriguez Tools : a complete illustrated encyclopedia. New York : Simon & Schuster


Ernest Scott, The Mitchell Beazley Illustrated Encyclopedia of Working in Wood: Tools, Methods, Materials, Classic Constructions London: Mitchell Beazley, 1980.

Adapted From the Foreword

Handling wood, sensing its textures, its fragrances, helps us -- as amateur woodworkers -- begin to capture some of the many pleasures of bygone eras, when the skills of the master cabinetmaker were more commonplace.

"The Tudor Chest", explains Ernest Scott, "may be described as the predecessor of all basic furniture forms". For centuries -- in the Medieval and Tudor home , i.e., the 14th to 16th centuries -- it fullfilled a unique multipurpose: as table, chair, storage unit, and -- because of the mobile nature of society in that era, "packing case". Most importantly, the "coffer" chest morphed into the "chest-on-drawers", and then to the "chest-of-drawers", something which indicates that the "chest" component of a chest of drawers entirely disappeared.

ernest_scott the tudor chest

Art, properly so called, should present to us a work in which we are in the immediate presence of a production teeming with beauty, conformable to recognized conditions of taste and the aesthetic faculty, and directly the result of the human agent who has produced it. Hence, however beautiful, no work the result simply of mechanical agency, is admissible.

Source: J. A. Hammersley, "Exhibition of Art Treasures of the United Kingdom ", Manchester papers: a series of occasional essays, Volume 1, 1856, page 249.

On the left is the "key" to Scott's "Cross reference" apparatus, a device designed to lead readers to other sections of his "woodworker's encyclopedia" for "how-to-do-it" details.

In our post-industrial age, while the master craftsman's skills are required less and less in the pursuit of a living, nostaligically, these skills are coveted more and more, often sought out as avocational skills by amateur craftsman looking for a rewarding hobby, a hobby that often is rewarding in more ways than one way. Acknowledging the inclination by an educated population looking for a productive outlet, enlisted an army of in this woodworker's manual, the object of the British woodworker, Ernest Scott, is to make the secrets of the skilled craftsman available through visual sequences. It provides the essential sound basis on which successful woodworking is founded: how to select the most suitable material and best method of working, how to maintain and use the correct tool for the job and how to apply the principles of design and construction. Working in Wood is divided into six sections: (1) Classic constructions; (2) Design; (3) Tools; (4) Methods; (5) Materials; and (6) Fixtures and and fittings. Each section is treated separately and linked by an extensive index. All technical terms are fully explained in the comprehensive glossary.

The Classic constructions section introduces the subject of woodworking through some of the finest furniture ever made. (Through is the operative term, as Scott uses the "Tudor Chest" as a basic building block for illustrating the historical evolution of Western-world furniture forms. In the illustration on the right, follow the sequence from the top -- "dugout chest" to the bottom, "split-carcased chest of drawers", which emerged in the 17th century. A more elaborate account of this historical evolution, by the furniture authority, Herbert Cescinsky, is in .Early English Furniture and Woodwork London: Routledge, 1922, a 2-volume folio-sized set covers furniture topics for the age of oak in Britain -- the 15 and 16 hundreds, the beginning of records of carpentry and woodworking in the English-speaking world -- including such matters as the origin of the practice of "quartersawing" oak.

cross-section for four-sided post

Each piece has been selected for its universal appeal and as an example of quality craftsmanship. Even with the development of sophisticated power tools, the principles underlying the best traditional techniques are wholly applicable to fine woodworking today. (All the key methods and materials relating to each piece are contained in individual cross-reference panels. Example pf "Cross-reference panel" reproduced in table above.)

The Design section is an analysis of all the problems that need to be resolved before starting any project. The appopriate design tools are illustrated and their uses demonstrated in the context of planning a project.

The Tools section is an analysis of all the hand and machine tools required in producing quality work, from the basic kit to specialized fixed power tools. The tools are divided according to their uses, such as sawing, planing, smoothing and chiselling. A complete description is supplied with each tool, and on the same or accompanying pages there are precise instructions on how to work with each.

The Methods section is a comprehensive demonstration of all the essential techniques in woodworking: jointing; work- ing manufactured boards; frame- and carcass-making; bend- ing; laminating; woodturning; woodcarving; veneering; finishing surfaces and restoring. Each technique is described through illustrations of the key actions by the specialist craftsman and precise step-by-step text.

The Materials section is an extensive study of the most sympathetic of all materials., It provides a complete under- standing of wood, from how the tree grows, to how wood is converted and seasoned as well as the considerations to make when selecting and buying timber. More than 50 woods are illustrated in full colour, and there is a detailed table defining the strengths, screwing, nailing and gluing properties and uses of the world™s major timbers. Manufactured boards and veneers are also described.

Finally, the Fixtures and fittings section is a detailed compendium of all the universal woodworking accessories from intricate cranked and cylinder hinges to space-saving wardrobe rails and cupboard corner fittings.

As the scope of this book is so vast, Ernest Scott has worked in association with a team of specialist mastercraftsmen, each an expert in his chosen branch of woodworking.

As a result, Working in Wood contains the accumulated knowledge of literally, hundreds of years of practical experience. That experience is presented in a way that makes Working in Wood a unique book. The craftsman best communicates his expertise by demonstrating his skills and describing his actions as he works. This is exactly how Working in Wood has been created. Photographers and researchers have been specially 'commissioned to witness and record the author and the team of specialist master- craftsmen, each demonstrating their particular craft. _In this way their unique knowledge has been captured and passed on.


Albert Jackson and David Day. Collins Compete Woodworker’s Manual. London: Collins, 2005. 352 pp.


Albert Jackson & David Day Collins Complete Wood Worker's Manual. London: Collins, 1989. 320 pages.

Each respective edition, the publisher boasts, is “the most comprehensive illustrated guide to woodworking tools, materials, techniques & constructions ever published.” In addition to to the handtools, power tools, machine tools, of the volumes above, these two volumes -- 1st and 2nd editions, actually -- include woods of the world, designing & plans, woodturning, workshops, joints, bending, veneering, marquetry, carving and finishing. French and English translations. Latest ed. 2005.


Albert Jackson and David. Day. Tools and how to use them: an illustrated encyclopedia. New York : Wings Books ; Avenel, N.J. : Distributed by Outlet Book Co.,

Published originally in 1978: Albert Jackson and David. Day. Tools and how to use them: an illustrated encyclopedia. New York : Knopf, 1978.


Jim Tolpin Working Wood: A Complete Bench-Top Reference Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, 1997.

Other Woodworker's "encyclopedias"

(my own selections -- since beginning this project, I have acquired numerous books on woodworking topics, including several where the coverage of woodworking topics is extensive. Each book listed below, in one way or another, deserves recognition as an "encyclopedia". )

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