Woodworker's Manuals 1900 and Before

Why survey three centuries of woodworking manuals?

What follows immediately below are preliminary remarks designed to highlight matters that I have discovered in beginning a survey of woodworking manuals published over a period of three centuries.

The main focus of my study is the 20th century, but since woodworking manuals published in the 18th century remain popular among certain amateur woodworkers today, I believe that I need to explore approaches that allows you to visualize the context in which these "original" woodworking manuals were published, and thus may be able to sense their significance as timeless artifacts.

My first convictions about woodworking manuals is that the intent of their authors of these is to instruct and to inspire.

The "to instruct" -- the "how-to-do-it" function -- is obvious. Potential woodworkers need guidance, and guidance comes best from other woodworkers' experience.

The "to inspire" part may not be obvious to beginners, of course, but finding any evidence of attempts toward inspiration is usually not difficult, especially if you read the introduction to a woodworking manual.

For example, read the introduction to the 1946 woodworker's manual, How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools, published by Popular Science.

This manual is the source of the term, "Skill Hunger". What is "skill hunger?" For the editors of the woodworker's manual, How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools, skill hunger concerns "How the Hammer, Saw and Try-Square Can Satisfy the Urge to Make Things". Read more on this term by clicking on this hyperlink.

In comparison, how does this 1946, How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools , manual stand up in promoting use of power tools over competitive manuals?

I checked this matter by doing a survey of woodworking manuals published between 1941 and 1950 in the Worldcat bibliographic database.  

(Worldcat, the world's largest bibliographic database of books, periodicals, publications of governments, etc, etc., currently contains records for over 50 million items.)

For How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools , Worldcat registers only 17 copies in libraries worldwide -- telling us that libraries did not perceive this title as a "keeper", meaning that we can't use library holdings as an indicator of the impact of this manual on the amateur woodworking movement in the '40s.

(Since How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools is over 50 years old, and has been "replaced" by numerous other more up-to-date manuals, most public libraries could have "discarded" their copies for more recently published books.

(By discard, do not think the trash can; instead, it is more likely that the book was offered for sale at one of the book sales public libraries conduct annually. As a rule, public libraries -- unlike college libraries -- do not consider themselves "last copy" repositories. However, while this assumption may be soundly based, it is still only speculation.)

Worldcat registers that in 1946, 35 volumes were published, and for the decade, i.e., from 1941-1950, 206 volumes were published that libraries classified as woodworking manuals. So, with these figures, we can conclude that the How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools volume had much competition, especially in a nation occupied by a war.

How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools was, however, indexed in the Index to Handicrafts,   Modelmaking   and Workshop Projects, 2d supplement, 1950. This is one volume in a series of five volumes, published between 1943 and 1975. These volumes were purchased widely by public libraries, because their contents are indexes the internal contents of manuals. Pages of The Index to Handicrafts where certain "how-to" plans are accessible: for example, the following entry shows that you can find:

"Mortising and shaping on the drill press". In How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools , pp. 91-95.

The Index to Handicrafts began as an in-house file of hand-written 3 x5 inch library cards in the Pittsburgh Public Library. Click on this link for an online example of how a public library lists these volumes.

How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools is still in the Index to Handicrafts,   Modelmaking   and Workshop Projects volume, but the manual itself -- probably because in public libraries it is considered outdated -- has been removed from the shelves of many public libraries.

Chronological List of Woodworking Manuals, Periodicals,   19th century and earlier, to 1900:

1582: Jacques Besson Theatrum Instrumentorum et Machinarum 1582.

Holtzapffel notes that Besson's work "Contains three engravings of complex lathes for screw-cutting, and oblique turning, with very slight descriptions." The image below on the left depicts the "earliest" of a lathe being used for a special purpose, and the text in the box below reprints a brief page from a larger account of Besson on the Smithsonian website:


    Jacques Besson and his Theater of Instruments and Machines

    Near the end of the 16th century, a new type of book appeared which evolved into an entire genre of literature known as the "Theater of machines." These works represented a new way of thinking that was cultivated during the Renaissance: mathematical principles could be applied to the development of new machines and new technical achievements were appropriate considerations for monarchs and the upper class.

    Renaissance scholars rediscovered the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, such as Vitruvius, Frontinus, and Hero of Alexandria, which encouraged men like Villard de Honnecourt and Leonardo da Vinci to experiment with new and ingenious devices. None of Villard's or Leonardo's works were published; they preferred to keep their discoveries to themselves and not reveal their artisan secrets.

    Eventually, after one hundred years or so, a new group of mathematical practitioners began to appear on the scene, teaching mathematics and producing mathematical instruments. They saw the advantage of applying their mathematical skills to new devices and publicizing them in print so as to attract the attention of patrons and even gain exclusive rights to their inventions. Their Theaters could not help but attract attention as the large books were enhanced by the numerous and often spectacular illustrations that they contained.

    The first of the Theaters was produced by Jacques Besson (1540?-1573). ... Read more

    Source: The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology Smithsonian Institution Libraries Digital Edition 1999

Sources: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, open source copy; Robert S. Woodbury History of the Lathe to 1850: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element ... Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961

1615: Salomon De Caus, Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes. 1624

Holtzapfffel states that De Caus "contains one engraving, and a few lines explanatory of a mode of turning the oval and of screw-cutting".

Woodbury claims that this book was published in 1615, Holtzapffel, in 1624.

Sources: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, open source copy; Robert S. Woodbury History of the Lathe to 1850: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element ... Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961

1676: Andre Felibien, Des Principes de l'Architecture, de la Sculpture, de la Peinture, et des autres Arts qui en dependent Paris: 1676.

biography in Encyclopedia Britannica 13th edition, 1911.

    Felibien devoted twelve pages to his remarks on the lathe, with a few words relative to the modes of oval turning, and to rose-engine work.

    Source: Charles Holtzapffel Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 1: Materials, Their Choice, Preparation and Various Modes of Working Them 1846, page 6.

Woodworking Magazine's Christopher Schwarz notes that an image of an early workshop is published in Principes de l'architecture

1678: Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-Works 1678, 1703; reprint Morristown: Astragal, 1989.

Published in monthly parts, Volume 1. contains, "Smithing, Joinery, Carpentry, Turning, Brichlayery, and Mechanick Dyalling," with a good description of the apparatus for turning. Volume II., "Handy- Works applied to the Art of Printing."

    ... [O]f course, some of the most familiar images come from the great 18th- and 19th-century encyclopedias compiled by Diderot, Roubo and Andre Felibien and their English counterparts, Joseph Moxon and Peter Nicholson. But workshop illustrations in these books primarily illustrate benches and tools. ...

    Source: 1998: Scott Landis. The Workshop Book Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1998, page 10.

Below in the boxed area is a web-based account of an application of a concept generated by Joseph Moxon:


    Rippled or waveform moldings (French-moulures ondées), also called "flame moldings" (German- flammleisten and wellenleisten), have been used in furniture and picture frames since the early 17th century. Reportedly invented in Germany, they rapidly spread to other European countries. They are popularly associated with Dutch baroque frames, especially when executed in ebony and ebonized fruitwoods. Devices for making these moldings all use a pattern and follower system to duplicate a waveform onto a stock piece. The device that is discussed in this article was closely based on the engraving and description in Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises of 1678-80. Details of construction and use of this reproduction "Waving Engine" (as Moxon called it) are given, along with examples of finished moldings and frames illustrating the tool's versatility. Scattered published descriptions of this technology show a gradually increasing complexity of the devices from the 17th century to the present. This gradual replacement of a highly skilled operator using a simple device, by a complex machine that can be run by an unskilled operator culminating in the almost complete removal of an operator in the 20th century, illustrates larger trends in craft and woodworking over the last few centuries.

    Source: Jonathan Thornton, "The History and Technology of Waveform Moldings: Reproducing and Using Moxon's 'Waving Engine'."

1719: Nicholas Grollier de Serviere. Recueil d'Ouvrages Curieux de Mathematique et de Mecanique, ou Description du Cabinet de Monsieur Grollier de Serviere... Lyon; David Forey: 1719.

    A quarto volume -- in size, pages are about 9" x 12" -- was published at Lyons, styled Recueil d'Ou­vrages curieux, de Mathematique et de Mécanique; ou, description du Cabinet de M. Grollier de Serviere, par son petit fils. This work contains eighty plates, with etchings of his grandfather's designs for time-pieces, hydraulic machines, various bridges, military and other works, preceded by twelve plates of several of his highly ornamental works executed in the lathe.

    Source: Charles Holtzapffel Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 1: Materials, Their Choice, Preparation and Various Modes of Working Them 1846, page 6.

According to a web-based listing of Grollier de Serviere's tome by a San Franciso book-seller, it is "One of the 17th Century's Most Celebrated and Fantastic Cabinets [in French one of the meanings of "cabinet" is "collection of works of art, etc."]:

Nicholas Grollier de Serviere, Recueil d'Ouvrages Curieux de Mathematique et de Mecanique, ou Description du Cabinet de Monsieur Grollier de Serviere... Lyon; David Forey, 1719:

A descriptive and illustrated catalog of the marvelous and curious mechanical models and ivory turnings constructed by Nicholas Grollier de Serviere, a soldier, turner, inventor and the author's father. Nicolas Grollier de Serviere (1596-1689), a descendant of Jean Grolier, was indeed a multi-talented man. In his youth he was a soldier and engineer, serving in Flanders, Germany, Italy and Constantinople. As a military engineer he specialized in moveable bridges and other such inventions, and when he retired to his estates in Lyon he constructed numerous fantastic models, which included floating bridges, water pumps, fantastical regulator clocks, his famous "reading wheel" machine, artistic machinery for rendering perspectives, and all sorts of other devices. His "Cabinet" fast became a wonder to be visited by, among others, Louis XIV, as well as a host of politicians, scholars, and other inventors and craftsmen.

In addition to being a skilled model-maker, de Serviere was also amongst the leading turners of his time, constructing inexplicably intricate and unlikely forms in ivory on the turning lathe. After his death his son, the Grand-Prieur de l'Abbaye de Savigny, kept the Cabinet up and published this volume dedicated to illustrating and describing its objects. Amongst those who visited and marveled was the young Monk Charles Plumier, who wrote the first book on the subject of turning, "L'Art du Tourner", in 1701.

The plates in this book begin with examples of de Serviere's intricate workmanship on the lathe, starting with a plate of very delicate and intricately carved ivories, followed by "pieces excentriques", a series of Escher-esque carved balls within balls and sharp, pointy things sticking out of carved balls, followed by more spheres within spheres, and then some marvelously turned and carved "pieces hors du rond", wooden tower-like pieces of great ingenuity and delicacy; these are followed by a plate of carved rosettes. But this is more than a book of lathe-work (interesting as that may be).

The second section illustrates a series of ingenious clockworks invented by de Serviere, many with an elaborate series of rails winding down the frame; there are also clocks with carved serpents, an hourglass, and one with Atlas holding up the Earth.

The third section features elaborate machinery invented or envisioned by de Serviere, such as devices for raising water from streams, watermills, water wheels, and other water-related apparatus, including several paddle-wheeled boats; there follows a group of bridges, including pontoon bridges and other sectional works; there are also gates and portable ladders for military use. Interestingly, in retirement Grollier de Serviere did not limit his tinkering to miniatures- he constructed a full-sized pile-driver in his gardens, powered by a water-wheel held steady by two boats.

The book ends with some ingenious plans for furniture, including the reading "wheel", where the sitter sits in front of a ferris-wheel device of shelves, on each of which is an open book; a wheeled chair; a portable screen device for accurately sketching buildings, and something having to do with lamps which looks fairly lethal. As a collection of designs and inventions, the Cabinet of Nicholas Grollier de Serviere is as awe-inspiring and fantastic today as it was in 1719, and it remains an important record of the work of one of the 17th century's most accomplished turners. The book was reissued in 1733 and 1751.

Hardcover. 7.5"x10", (28) + 101 + (8) pages, plus 85 copperplate engravings (numbered 1-88; nos. 39, 48 and 76 were never issued); with several woodcut head and tailpieces and decorative vignettes in the text; title page printed in red and black. Bound in old full calf with appropriate wear, with a new spine label; hinges tight and apart from some minor soiling and several minor marginal dampstains, a very nice, wide margined and clean copy. [20741]

[Price:] $3,000.00

1754: Thomas Chippendale. The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker's Director: being a large collection of the most elegant and useful designs of household furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and modern taste.. 1754.

The first edition of what is said to be the most famous book on furniture ever published.

(Reprinted by Dover in 1966. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.ChippGentCab)


On the right is a reproduction of the orignal title page for the book's 3d edition :

The images below are from page 7 of the plates in Chippendale's book; from left to right, the vertical columns illustrate, respectively, Tuscan, Doric, Tonick, Corinthian, and Composite designs.


Sources: Chippendale's biography in 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica   (Dated, yes, but still very useful, the 1911 EB remains one of the monuments of scholarship in the history of encyclopedias.) More up-to-date, though, is the account of Chippendale's life in Louise Ade Boger, The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959, pages 279-287 (not online); also Geoffery Beard and Christopher Gilbert, eds., Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660–1840 Leeds, England: S. W. Maney and Son, Ltd., 1986; here are many links to Chippendale, but more significant, his impact on subsequent design of furniture on the Buffalo (NY) Architecture and History website; see also Helena Hayward and Pat Kirkham, William and John Linnel,  Eighteenth-Century London Furniture Makers New York: Rizzoli, 1980, pages 168–80, Appendix 3.

1701: Charles Plumier L'Art de Tourner en Perfection Lyons: J. Certe, 1701.

According to Charles Holtzapffel,

    "The first treatise written exclusively upon the subject, being a folio volume entitled, L'Art de Tourner en Perfection, by "le Pere Charles Plumier, (Religieux Minime,") and printed at Lyons in 1701. The author herein goes so far back as to refer the practice of the art to Tubal Cain, who is recorded in Sacred Writ [i.e., the Bible] to have been the first worker in metal; whilst others attribute to him the invention of wind instruments, the organ, and various machines.

    Plumier considered it impossible that the circular parts of such works could have been made otherwise than by the process of turning, which therefore he presumes to have been known to mankind at an extremely remote period; he also considers that the numerous circular works and objects recorded to have existed in Solomon's Temple, including the lamps and musical instruments used therein, could not have been produced otherwise than by the use of the lathe.

    That account of the origin of the art which ascribes it to Daedalus, and which is quoted by Plumier and the various Encyclopedists, appears to be derived from Felibien, (who -- see above -- wrote in 1690, Principes de l'architecture )

    Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, pages 6-7open source copy

Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, pages 6-7open source copy

1769: André Jacob Roubo, L'Art du Menuisier  Paris, 1769-74. Three volumes, over 300 plates.

for an extended account, click here

Roubo's manual is a classic, for sure, but since it is only accessible in French, use of it by woodworkers today will be limited in a number of ways. Access is limited to the few woodworkers willing either to purchase the set (it won't be cheap) or go through the rigors of borrowing the book through interlibrary loan.

(A search on www.bookfinder.com proved unsuccessful in getting even a "hit", let alone a price quote. Antiq Books is offering it at $9500 American Reprinted as: Roubo, J.A. [1774] L’Art du Menuisier Geneva: Skatline Reprints, 1984.

And, perhaps more limiting, access to it is restricted to the handful of American woodworkers fluent in the French language. However, be aware that this multi-volume set contains over 300 plates.)

1778-1812: Robert and James Adam. Works in Architecture.   A posthumous volume was published in 1822.

1794: A Hepplewhite and Co. The Cabinet-Maker and Upholster’s Guide; or, Repository of Designs for Every Article of Household Furniture, in the Newest and Most Approved Taste. [by] George Hepplewhite. 3d ed. of 1794. London , 1794. New York , Dover Publications [1969] Description:      viii, 24 p. 123 illus. 28 cm.

ISBN: 0486221830 "An unabridged and unaltered republication of the third (1794) edition ... A new introduction has been written ... by Joseph Aronson."         "From drawings by A. Hepplewhite and Co., cabinet-makers."         Bibliography: p. [ix] Electronic File Information:       Publisher description link: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/description/dover031/69019164.html

1792-4: L. E. Bergeron, Manuel du Tourneur 2 vols. quarto, 1792-4, Paris, by

For Holtzapffel,

    ... this work is highly satisfactory, and is a record of all the material improvements introduced in the mechanism of the lathe by our Continental neighbours, subsequent to the period at which Plumier wrote ; and from these machines many of our modern contriv­ances are taken, although during the interval which has since elapsed, considerable changes have been introduced, as well in the manner of turning as in the material of the apparatus, wood being in many cases supplanted by metal, a more useful change as regards the excellence of construction, and also the strength and durability of the machinery.

    A second edition of Bergeron's work, revised by his son-in-law, Hamelin Bergeron, was published in 1816 ; another smaller pub­lication, entitled "L'Art du Tourneur, par M. Pauline Desormeux " in 2 vols. 12mo, with an atlas, was printed in Paris in 1824; and lastly, two small volumes 16mo, with plates, entitled Nouveau Manuel du Tourneur, ou Traite' complet et simple de cet Art, redige par M. Dessables, the second edition of which, printed in 1839, and forming a part of the " Encyclopedie-Roret," completes the list of French works devoted to the subject, the last two being in some respects compilations from Bergeron; the latter works only include the practice of hand-turning, leaving unnoticed the rose-engine, the eccentric-chuck, and various apparatus described in the old books, although the "Manuel-Roret" contains, in an appendix, some extracts relative to the art of turning, from more recent scientific journals, and the printed transactions of various societies, with explanatory notes, by Mapod, Tourneur-mecanicien....

    Several amateurs have undertaken the translation of Bergeron's Manuel into the English language, and others have commenced new works, but none of these have been carried to completion. The former proceeding would have called for a reconstruction of the book, which, although it abounds with a great deal of original, useful, and practical matter, is rather diffuse, and refers to apparatus that has been so far altered and superseded by others of more recent construction, and subsequent invention, that such a translation, if adapted to the present state of the art, would almost amount to a new work.

    (This is a source of the English translation of Bergeron, to which Holtzapffel alludes above: ENGLISH MECHANIC AND WORLD OF SCIENCE: No. 1,253. AND WORLD OP SCIENCE AND ART FRIDAY, MARCH, 1889. EXTRACTS FROM BERGERON volume XXII: "Description of the Rose Engine....." )

    Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, page 7open source copy

1802: Thomas Sheraton. The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawingbook, in four parts. London : T Bensley, 1802. Reprinted by Praeger in 1970, by Dover in 1972.

1817-19 etc: John Holt Ibbetson

Adapted from Holtzapffel, 1846, pages 7-8:


    In England, where, during the last half-century, the art has perhaps been far more extensively practised, both as a source of emolument and of amusement, we find in addition to the brief articles in the various encyclopaedias, periodicals, and a few works devoted to mechanical subjects, only the following treatises on detached portions of the art, namely:

    1817:John Holt Ibbetson, Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning, with Prac­tical Illustrations for producing Corresponding Pieces in that Art.

    1819: Charles H. Rich, Specimens of the Art of Ornamental Turning, in Eccentric and Concentric Patterns, with six copper-plate engravings; by Esq., Southampton."

    1819: "Tables; by which are exhibited at one view all the divisions of each circle on the dividing plate. By C. H. Rich, Esq."


    1825: A second edition of Ibbetson's Specimens.

    1833: "A Brief Account of Ibbetson's Geometric Chuck, manufactured by Holtzapffel & Co., with a selection of 32 Specimens, illustrative of some of its powers. By J. H. lbbet­son, Esq."

    1838: A third edition of Ibbetson's Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning. " With considerable Additions, including a description and copperplate engravings of the Compound Eccen­tric Chuck, constructed by the Author, and used by him in the execution of his Specimens."

    The mention of the above publications by Mr. Ibbetson, enables me to particularize the services he has rendered to his fellow amateurs; and their inspection will abundantly show the great care and perseverance that he has devoted to the pursuits of turning, and the deserved eminence he has attained therein.

    He has not only attended to the production of numerous highly ornamental combinations and effects, many of which are displayed in the treatises before cited ; others in his " Practical View of an invention for the better protecting Bank Notes against Forgery," editions 1 and 2, 1820 and 21, and in numerous communications to the Mechanics' Magazine; he has done more than this by constructing with his own hands the major part of the apparatus that he has used, many of which are original, and will be duly noticed in their appropriate places, in this work.

    The best notices in our language of the general application of the art, are probably those contained in Rees's Cyclopedia, under the heads of "Turning," "Lathe," and "Rose Engine".

    For Mr. Ibbetson's first description of his modification of the Geometric Chuck, see Mechanics' Magazine, 30th Dec., 1826.

    Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, page 7open source copy

1826: George Smith, upholsterer to His Majesty. The cabinet-maker and upholsterer's guide being a complete drawing book, in which will be comprised treatises on geometry and perspective as applicable to the above branches of mechanics ... numerous engravings ... : to which is added a complete series of new and original designs for household furniture and interior decoration ... . London : Jones, 1826. as cited by Charles Holtzapffel, 1843: Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 1.

1843: Charles Holtzapffel, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation London: 1843 (Reprinted by Astragal Press in 1994.)

Turning and Mechanical Manipulation VOLume 2.

Turning and Mechanical Manipulation volume 4

Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 3

    The art of turning is one very extensively pursued in this country both for business and pleasure ; its uses, too, are manifold, and scarcely second to any in mechanical importance ; yet, strange to say, there is probably no branch of art on which less has been written and published in our mother tongue. All the best works on turning are in the French language; the only English authors of note are [John Holt] Ibbetson and [Charless H] Rich - the former an old and frequent correspondent of the Mechanics' Magazine, which had the honour of giving to the world (as Mr. Holtzapfiel very handsomely acknowledges) the first description of his admirable modification of the geometric chuck; and in our greatest English collection of books, the British Museum, there is not a single work on turning, either French or English, (with the exception of Rich's) of later date than 1724-7.

    Of there being ample room under these circumstances for a complete English work on the subject (for both Ibbetson's and Rich's embrace but small portions of it) there can be no question; and among the persons most likely to do it well, we know of none so likely to unite the suffrages of all turners, both amateur and practical, as the living representative of the house of Holtzapflel, long the most eminent makers of turning tools and machines in this country.

    Mr. Charles Holtzapffel, the author of the work before us, states that he had made some beginnings in conjunction with his late much-respected father; but that after the death of Ihc latter in 1835, he recommenced his labours on a new plan, of which he now presents the first fruits to the public.

    The most distinguishing features of this plan are its great comprehensiveness, and excellent methodical arrangement.

    Mr. Holtzapffel proposes to discuss in successive volumes,

    I. The materials used in turning, and the various modes of preparing them, as seasoning, hardening, tempering, alloying, &c.

    II. The principles, construction, and purposes of cutting tools, and the various processes used in the production of form, and embellishment of surfaces, as grinding, polishing, &c.

    III. The principles and practice of hand or surface turning. IV. The principles and practice of ornamental or complex turning.

    And V. The principles and practice of amateur engineering, embracing wheel and screw cutting, drilling, planing. Sec.

    The work will thus include not only everything necessary to a perfect understanding of the art of turning in all its branches, but a vast body of valuable information having important relations to other arts as well as turning. Excellent as some of the French works are - the Manuel du Tourneur especially - they are likely to be quite eclipsed by this new production of our own country. The chief fault -- if fault it can be called -- of Mr. Holtzapffel's work will be its size; but this will be found remedied to a great extent by the judicious arrangement of the materials which he has adopted.

    "From the systematic arrangement which has been attempted throughout the five volumes, it is hoped that instead of the numerous descriptions and instructions being indiscriminately mixed and scattered, they will assume the shape of so many brief and separate treatises; and will, in a great measure, condense into a few consecutive pages, the remarks offered under each head; a form that will admit of any subject being selected, and of a more easy and distinct reference and comparison, when the reader may find pliers and thrown into water if necessary; others are then thrust forward from the cooler parts of the plate to take their place."

    Hatchets, adzes, cold chisels, and numbers of similar tools, in which the total bulk is considerable compared with the part to be hardened, are only partially dipped; they are afterwards let down by the heat of the remainder of the tool; and when the colour indicative of the temper is attained, they are entirely quenched. With the view of removing the loose scales, or the oxidation acquired in the fire, some workmen rub the objects hastily in dry salt before plunging them in the water, in order to give them a cleaner and whiter face."

    In hardening large dies, anvils, and other pieces of considerable size, by direct immersion, the rapid formation of steam at the sides of the metal prevents the free access of the water for the removal of the heat with the required expedition; in these cases a copious stream of water from a reservoir above is allowed to fall on the surface to be hardened. This contrivance is frequently called a 'float', and although the derivation of the name is not very clear, the practice is excellent, as it supplies an abundance of cold water, and which, as it falls directly on the centre of the anvil is sure to render that part hard. It is, however, dangerous to stand near such works at the time, as when the anvil face, &c., is not perfectly welded, it sometimes in part flies off with great violence and a loud report."

    Occasionally the object is partly immersed in a tank beneath the fall of water, by means of a crane, slings, &c.; it is ultimately tempered with its own heat and dropped in to become entirely cold." "Oil, or various mixtures of oils, tallow, wax, resin, &c., are used for many thin and elastic objects, such as needles, fishhooks, steel pens, springs, &c., which require a milder degree of hardness than is given by water."

    Source: M. Salmon, The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette 1843, pages 37, 40.


James Lukin, The Amateur Mechanic's Workshop ... London, 1870. 148 pages

1873 Our workshop, being a practical guide to the amateur in the art of carpentry and joinery ... New York, T. O'Kane, 1873, page 25.

Amateur work, the equivalent of today's 'DIY', became very popular in the Edwardian period, roughly 1880-1914, as a result of the rising cost of professional labour, increased leisure time and purchasing power and general changes in social attitudes, prompting a greater range of books for amateurs.

Source: Helen C. Long, The Edwardian House: The Middle-class Home in Britain, 1880-1914 Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993

My copy of this manual shows a New York publisher, but, internally, you soon detect references to things that are definitely British, including a cross-reference to Charles Holtzapffel, cited above. The market for this manual -- notice "amateur" in its title? -- is the burgeoning middle-class in urban centers in Britain, especially London. The London metropolitan population grew rapidly; between 1700-1750, from about 575,000 to about 675,000, and by 1801, it was over 900,000, or roughly a tenth of the population of England and Wales. By 1840, it was about 2,225,000; and by 1911, at 7,250,000, it had more tripled.

Since this woodworker's manual dedicated to "amateur woodworkers" was published simultaneously in Britain and American, I think it safe to assume that "the rising costs" that the author of the 1993 monograph, Helen C Long, above, refers, was occurring, much the same way, in both nations. Scroll down, for example, to entries which mention Paul Hasluck, below, and see a London-based weekly periodical with "amateur" included in the title. Notice, too, that, with the heft of the workbench the manual recommends, you conclude right away that a serious of purpose exists. Realistically, though, the manual also assumes that the wannabe woodworker -- i.e., "amateur mechanic", would either purchase the workbench from a carpenter, or buy it new, with no suggestion that the prospective woodworker build his own, in a pre-power tool era. However, numerous foot-powered lathes, circular saws, fretsaws, and the like were available. Read more here.

workbench in our workshop 1873

The second source, below, from 1873, states,

The author has given us illustrations with descriptions of The Bench; How to Use Tools; Selection and Seasoning of Woods; on Joining Timbers; Grooving-Plains; Mortising and Tenoning; Dovetailing, Veneering, Varnishing, and French Polishing. A very useful little book.

Source: Phrenological Journal and Science of Health Philadelphia: 1873

1880: A.H. Pomeroy (Firm)   A complete list in miniature of Wild's latest scroll saw designs. Hartford: the Firm, 1880.

1880:   The Fret sawyer's monthly and home decorator December ?     New York : Adams & Bishop, 1880.

According to Worldcat, this periodical folded? After issue number 5 of volume 1.

1881: Industrial School Association, Wood-Working Tools: How to Use Them Boston: Ginn and Heath, 1881.

Did This Woodworker's Manual Signal the Launch of the Manual Arts Era?

Additional views of Wood-Working Tools: How to Use Them:

wood-working tools: how to use them

My adaption of chapter 13, "Joinery"

Produced as a result of the impact of the Russian system upon America's technological education in the 1870s, in the sense of its impact, Wood-Working Tools: How to Use Them is in many ways probably one of the most significant woodworker's manuals. Why? Because it is the first manual designed as a "how-to book", step-by-step guide for a person to obtain in the 1880s a skillful command of using the hand tools of the woodworking trade:

Six years after the publication of Wood-Working Tools: How to Use Them, this assessment was offered by

Robert Seidel and Margaret Kelver Smith, Industrial Instruction: A Pedagogic and Social Necessity ; Together with a Critique Upon Objections Advanced Boston: D.C. Heath & Co., 1887:


    The experience of the association in carrying on this school led Mr. Whitaker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had much to do with arranging the course of shop lessons, to suggest to the association the preparation of a manual, or hand-book, for such instruction. This resulted in the preparation and publication of such a work.* The little book itself is an object lesson on one of the many uses of drawing, for its admirable illustrations, showing the position of the body and of the hands and tools diiriug the different mechanical operations, are better than many times the number of pages of descriptive text could have been.

    The report made by Professor William R. Ware, chairman of the committee charged, with the duty of preparing the manual, is of interest as showing how much of thought and care may be given, and how many minds may unite, in the production of even so small a book in bulk. To this little hand-book of 100 pages no less than fourteen persons are recorded to have made important contributions, while due credit is also given to a treatise prepared by Charles Holtzopffel, uf London, so long ago as 1835.

    As the introduction by Rev. Mr. Chaney sets forth, in brief, the purpose of the manual and the practicability of giving similar instruction in connection with the public schools, it is given in full:



    THIS book aims to give, in fourteen chapters, directions and exercises for the use of the Wood-working Tools.

    Like other text-books of its kind, it will best accomplish its purpose in the hands of an intelligent and practical teacher, who may use it for his own guidance in conducting a class. At the same time, it is so simply written and so amply illustrated, that any bright boy will find the book alone a great help in his endeavors to learn the right way of using common tools.

    The book has been prepared for the Industrial School Association of Boston. That Society, having conducted successful industrial schools during the winters of 1876-7 and 1877-8, at 23 Church Street, concluded to offer its apparatus and the results of its experiments to the city, In the hope that such schools would be maintained at the public expense. Meantime, the Society appointed a committee to embody the valuable experience gained in its schools, in a Manual of Instruction.

    This Manual, with the accompanying account of its preparation, is their report.

    The Society hopes that the public will share its satisfaction in the work of its committee. The lessons are few in number, and simple in character. They aim only to give an elementary training in the manipulations common to all wood-working trades. But it is not chiefly in the interest of these or of any other trades that this course is offered to the public. Lessons like these, given at the same time with the studies now pursued in our grammar schools, would relieve the weariness of purely mental exercises, and give a new zest to their pursuit. A single ward-room, like the one used by the school in Church Street, in any city, for the six months from December to May, during which time it usually lies idle, with very little expense beyond the original plant and a moderate salary to the teacher, would meet all the needs of three or four of the largest grammar schools for boys. Three such supplementary schools, if used in turn, would amply satisfy all the rightful claims of industrial education of this kind upon the school system of such a city as Boston. At so small an outlay of attention and money might the native aptitude of American youth for manual skill be turned into useful channels. In so simple a way might the needed check be given to that exclusive tendency towards clerical rather than industrial pursuits which the present school course undoubtedly promotes.

    President of the Industrial School Association.

    Applicants for further information may address Miss S. C. PAINE, Secretary, Brimmer Street, Boston ; and Rev. GEO. L. CHANEY, 7 Tremont Place, Boston, Mass.

    Source:Industrial School Association, Wood-working Tools: How to Use Them. A Manual Boston: Ginn & Heath, for the Industrial School Association, 1881.

    Portions of a chapter from Wood-Working Tools: How to Use Them: Chapter XIII "Joinery". (Detailed instructions on recommended procedures for cutting mortise-and-tenon joints.)

    Reviews of Woodworking Tools: How to Use Them


Amateur Work Illustrated , ed by Paul Noonan Hasluck ...

The First annual volume of an English magazine , .... Taken altogether, the book is one which the mechanically- inclined amateur will find a very useful companion in his workshop. The practical -character of many of the articles, owing to the fact that they have been written by persons who are familiar with the trades which they describe, makes the work specially valuable. To this, add the fact that very many of the workmen-authors are amateurs, and it is easy to see that from the amateur standpoint the value of the instruction afforded is very high.

From Building Age 6 March 1884, page 51

To most boys and men there belongs an instinct for building and fashioning things in wood, stone, and metals, as natural as is the feminine instinct for dolls and housewifely duties. The typical Yankee carries about with him a stick to whittle in his leisure moments, and the same instinct prompts many a professional man to find solace after his mental labour in working at carpentry, or modelling in clay, or woodcarving, or tho turning lathe. A better evidence of this popular taste could not be found than is shown in the pages of a book now in process of publication for the use of amateur mechanics, under the title of Amateur Work? The second volume which has just been published is now before us. Its plan is that of a popular encyclopedia of mechanics, made up of articles written by practical men engaged in the art they describe, and profusely illustrated with admirable woodcuts, detail-sheets, and scale drawings. It contains also a correspondence department under the head of " Amateur's in Council," in which suggestions, questions, and answers from volunteer contributors are given a place. Almost every branch of mechanical work that amateurs could engage in, is considered, even violin-making and organ-building among the rest, and nothing seems easier than to carry out such clear instructions as are given.

Source: "Editor's Literary Record", Harper's Monthly Magazine68 May 1884 page 971.


Work: the illustrated weekly journal for mechanics

1888: Thomas A. Clark.   Workshop notes & sketches for handicraft classes;    being a first year's course in woodworking.     Edinburgh , 1888.


1889-1893: Francis Chilton-Young; Paul Nooncree Hasluck Work; an illustrated magazine of practice and theory for all workmen, professional and amateur. Weekly v. : ill. ; 30 cm.London : Cassell, 1889-1893.

1891 Francis Young, Every Man His Own Mechanic London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1891.

title page fromfrancis young, every man his own mechanic 1891


Every Man His Own Mechanic

A complete guide to even description of Constructive and Decorative Work that may be done by the Amateur Artisan. By Francis Chilton Young, Editor of the First Series of "Amateur Work, Illustrated: Amateur's Practical Library", including Carpentry for (1) River & Garden; Decorative Work for House and Home; (2) Electrical Apparatus for Amateurs; (3) Home Carpentry for Handy Men: A Book of Practical Instruction; (4) Home Carpentry for Handymen A Book of Practical Instruction in All Kinds of Constructive & Decorative Work in Wood that Can Be Done by the Amateur in House, Garden & Farmstead; (5) Metal Working For Amateurs; and (6) Ornamental Carpentry. In 3 Parts. Part 1, Wood Carving for Amateurs. Part 2, Decorative Carpentry. Part 3, Oriental Lattice Work.." Tenth Edition, Revised throughout by the Author, and including an Appendix of about 100 pages describing the New Tools of recent years. With 85 Wood Engravings, and Three Folding Supplements.(Continues below.)

"There is a fund of solid information of every kind in the work befoie us. which entitles it to the proud distinction of being a complete 'vade-mecum' of the subjects upon which it treats."

Also by the same author


By Francis Chilton Young, Author of "Every Man His Own Mechanic," (1) Carpentry and Joinery (2) Carpentry and Joinery for the Garden. (3) Carpentry and Joinerv for the Farmstead. With over 550 Illustrations.

Ths Comprehensive and Exhaustive Volume will be found to form a Perfect Mine of Practical Instruction in all Constructive and Decorative Work in Wood that can be done by tho Amateur in House, Garden, and Farms. It is a source of endless pleasure, profit, and enjoyment to every Handy Man and Home Mechanic. By the aid of this manual any man who can handle a tool can work wonders in the way of improving his home and surroundings; and the simplicity of its instruction and of the elucidatory diagrams will recommend its use in thousands of British homes.

Mr. Chilton-Young has written a book on Home Carpentry for Handy Men Handy amateurs, and by preference householders, will find ¡ill they want to know here, adapted to a practical knowledge of their probable resources. He knows by experience the improvements they will want to make on the existing woodwork of the ordinary villa, and the space likely to be available for pergolas, trellises, verandahs, summer houses, and so forth, should these be aimed at. One could carpenter on a desert island by the light of this book, provided a small tool box were opportunely washed ashore.

1891: David Denning, The Art and Craft of Cabinet-Making : A Practical Handbook to the Construction of Cabinet Furniture, The Use of Tools, Formation Of Joints, Hints On Designing And Setting Out Work, Veneering, Etc. ; Together With A Review Of The Development Of Furniture. London: Whittaker, 1891.

An ambitious work, it claims to be designed for the "amateur", but the newbie -- starting from scratch -- would need to have much self-patience to gain the commanding skill shown in the black-and-white pencil drawings that illustrate this woodworker's manual. Denning's focus is on hand tools and "processes": -- how to make joints, moldings, design techniques, and the like. No question about the author's capability in laying out everything; instead, would the wannabe woodworker have enough drive to sustain interest until skills developed?

    BY way of preface it seems unnecessary to say much beyond stating that the intention is to supply amateurs and young professional cabinet-makers with a reliable guide to the construction of cabinet furniture.

    No attempt has been made to teach the thoroughly experienced artisan, and no new fads are advocated either in style or processes. The ordinary reliable methods of the workshop and nothing more are explained, and on this account the book will, no doubt, be of greater use to those for whom it is intended than if new theories, of construction as it ought to be, according to many of those who presume to teach the skilled mechanic, had been advocated.

    It will, no doubt, have been observed by those who are interested in the subject that cabinet-making as distinguished from joinery has received scant attention, as with scarcely an exception the books professedly treating of the former only, have included much that pertains to the latter.

    Those who are practically acquainted with the manufacture of furniture will understand the reasons, which, however, it is unnecessary to explain here.

1894: Paul Nooncree Hasluck. The Cabinet Worker's Handybook: a Practical Manual Embracing Information on the Tools, Materials, Appliances and Processes Employed in Cabinet Work. London: Crosby, Lockwood and Son.

A prolific author, Hasluck evidently also edited the shortlived, London-based weekly, Work (above). The Worldcat bibliographic database records over 440 "hits" with Hasluck as author, a number that obviously needs qualification; I will investigate. The Cabinet Worker's Handybook is one of several woodworker's manuals that Hasluck authored. That it is directed toward the amateur becomes clear in several ways, but principally because of his choice of words in the introduction, and from the gist of a book review -- quoted as promotion material in the actual volume. This entire book is on opd.


1898: Peter John Arkwright, ed. Cabinet-Making for Amateurs: A Practical Handbook on the Making of Various Articles of   Furniture, by Various Hands. London : L Upcott Gill, 1898.

Partially on line, this illustrated woodworker's manual presents designs for shop-made work benches, an overview of tools available for amateurs, and numerous projects. Does not touch on power woodworking machines, even though direct-current electric motors -- suitable for home workshops -- were on the market.

1899: Charles Holme. A Course of Instruction in Wood Carving According to the Japanese Method. London: Offices of the "The Studio", 1899.

In Japan the art of woodcarving has probably been carried to a greater degree of perfection than in any other country in the world. Coincident with the progress of civilization and the development of the arts in the West, the sculpture of marble and stone assumed an importance proportionate to the extent to which those materials were employed in architecture. The physical characterislics of Japan — the prevalence of earthquakes and earthtremors — which prohibifed the use of heavy materials for building purposes, have, at the same time, ordained the employment of wood as best adapted to resist these seismic disturbances. Cottage and palace, barn and temple, are, therefore, mainly constructed of it, and wooden temples exist in Japan, built as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, which are still in sound condition and exhibit in a far less degree the ravages of time than do the stone buildings of the same age in Europe. Whether wood or stone be the more 'noble' material does not here concern us; but that wood has been rightly selected for use in Japan there can be no manner of doubt; and the result has been to give the wood-carver a position in the arts equivalent to that enjoyed by the mason in the West. As much respect is probably paid in Japan to the memory of the eminent wood-carver 'Hidari' Jingoro, whose works may still be admired and wondered at in many important buildings in that country, as is bestowed in Europe upon the achievements of Phidias, albeit that the essential characters of the great arts of Japan and Greece are based upon widely differing philosophies.

Thus Charles Holme -- editor of the seminal periodical, The Studio, introduces a small book full of interest to anyone studying the art of decorating wood. The book's main purpose is present brief detail, the elementary parts of the course of instruction in woodcarving given at the School of Fine Arts of the University of Tokio, a school established to revive the old-time crafts of Japan. It contains brief descriptions of tools and processes, and line cuts of about seventy of the exercise pieces contained in the three-years' course of instruction at Tokio. These range from the cutting of a straight line lengthwise the grain of a block of wood to modeling fungi, flames, and cloud-forms. They are arranged in a step-by-step sequence, from easy to more complex carving exercises.

The book's original frontispiece and the three other reproductions of photographs of doors, gateway, frieze, and ceiling decorations in the temple of Nikko in Tokyo are missing.

1900:   Henry Tanner. English interior woodwork of the XVI, XVII, & XVIIIth centuries; a series of the best and most characteristic examples of chimney-pieces, panelling, staircases, doors, screens, & c. Measured and drawn and with introductory and descriptive text.     New York , Architectural Book Pub. Co. 1900.