Woodworker's Manuals 1911-1920

Note to Readers:

Layout of chapters and other pages on the website is still in flux. Each chapter's narrative is "in progress", and, chapter-by-chapter, will be uploaded as parts are completed. My experience writing books published in paper only translates so far when it comes to writing an "online" book. For me, at least, the change in format, especially the idea of being confronted by a video screen of text and images, rather than physical pages of text and images, requires learning anew a host of techniques that applies in traditional publishing. The saving grace of digitized publishing is, however, that unlike the paper format, nothing is carved in stone. With the digitized format, numerous variations in style, organization, and so forth, can be tried, until arriving at what seems like a reasonable, fairly attractive set of results.

Why survey three centuries of woodworking manuals?

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 in assembling these manuals 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's Introduction revives the term, "Skill Hunger", coined and popularized in the Depression by promoters such as Lawrence Pearsall Jack, for promoting use of "leisure time" wisely.

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.)

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 and and Periodicals,  1911-1920

[under construction]


Ira Samuel Griffith, Woodworking for Amateur Craftsmen Chicago: Popular Mechanics Press, 1911.128 Pages, 125 Illustrations Cloth Cover, Size 5x7 inches Price   50 Cents Postpaid

Blurb in rear section of Windsor's book on Mission Furniture

"WRITTEN SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND IT" “One of the latest of Popular Mechanics Series of Industrial Handbooks. This book was especially designed to cover every essential step from the A B C to the X Y Z of woodworking. The chapters dealing with making special articles bring out every cut, joint and process used in this important trade, and the proper use and care of tools, working up of materials, etc., are treated thoroughly and plainly.

Making Out a Stock Bill—Laying Out Rough Stock—Hand Saws—Sawing with Hand Saws—Planes: How to Set and Adjust the Irons—Squaring Up Mill Planed Stock—Squar­ing Up Rough Stock—Whetting Plane Irons and Chisels—Grinding Plane Irons and Chisels—Making a Bird Box—Making a Tabouret—How to Make an Umbrella Stand—Mak­ing a Magazine Stand—Making a Table—Making a Cabinet. A valuable book for either self-instruction or use in manual training courses

Griffith, Supervisor of Manual Training, Oak Park, IL, is a prominent figure in the Industrial Arts movement early in the 20th century. His other credits include Instructor in Wood-work and Methods, Bradley Polytechnic Institute Summer School, Editor Illinois Manual Arts Association, Chairman, Editorial Board, Western Drawing and Manual Training Association. This book -- online through the Open Library program -- is listed as part of the "Popular Mechanics Handbooks" series.

Griffith also published articles in Manual Training Magazine and was recognized in the manual education field for his contributions (read more here):

To assess how influential Griffith was during this era, we need only to note that The Elementary School Journal assigned a reviewer to evaluate several of his textbooks in a single review:


Correlated Courses in Woodwork and Mechanical Drawing. By Ira S. Griffith, A.B. The Manual Arts Press. Pp. 238.

Essentials of Woodworking. By Ira S. Griffith, A.B. The Manual Arts Press. Pp. 190.

Projects for Beginning Woodwork and Mechanical Drawing. By Ira S. Griffith, A.B. The Manual Arts Press. 51 plates.

Advanced Projects in Woodwork. By Ira S. Griffith, A.B. The Manual Arts Press. 51 plates.

This series of books is certainly a very genuine contribution to the work of manual training.

The books on woodworking which are listed above represent a very comprehensive attempt to make the shopwork in the last two years of the elementary school systematic and progressive. One of the great virtues of the foreign systems of manual training, namely the Russian system and the Sloyd system, was that these systems were worked out completely, so that the teacher of limited training knew how to proceed step by step through a series of class exercises. With a reorganization of manual training and the injection of many demands for an industrial type of training, the regular progression of this work has lost somewhat. Even teachers who have seen the importance of introducing manual training into the school work have been unable to organize their good intentions and the enthusiasm of the students into anything which would constitute a regular progressive scheme.

Source: The Elementary School Journal By University of Chicago. Dept. of Education, University of Chicago. Graduate School of Education, Chicago Institute, Academic and Pedagogic, University of Chicago Press Journals Division, JSTOR (Organization) Published by University of Chicago Press, 1913 Item notes: v. 13

1911: William Noyes. Handwork In Wood. The Manual Arts Press. 1911.  234 pages.

The classic Arts and Crafts text for vocational and amateur training. 


Charles G. Wheeler. A Shorter Course in Woodworking: A Practical Manual for Home and School. New York: G P Putnam’s Sons, 1911. 286 pages.

With over 700 Illustrations. Wheeler follows the organizational scheme developed by W F M Goss, in the manual, Benchwork in Wood  (1887) In Part 1 (see below, in light gray shaded area) "4." refers to "The Rule", "5", to "The Square" "8", "The Bevel", and so on, up to "173", "Chairs,". Each of these numbered topics is in turn liberally is illustrated with numbered "figures". Taken together, the numbered categories  and the numbered figures give readers a built in system of cross references. In addition, the book has 12 pages of double-columned index entries. The boxed-area below is the publisher’s advertisement for this book. Also note endorsement below.

PART I contains chapters treating on tools, wood, laying out of work, etc., and gives detailed directions and suggestions for fitting up workshops, including benches, bench hooks, tool cabinets, etc., together with matters of general importance to the beginner.

PART II gives detailed directions, with illustrations, for making many objects of interest to the amateur ; such as toboggans, sleds, gymnastic apparatus, book-cases, dog-houses, etc.

PART III treats of simple house-building for beginners, and includes a variety of camping-houses, boat-houses, etc., with directions and designs for simple summer-cottage building.

PART IV. treats of boat-building, including punts, flat-bottom canoes, skiffs, iceboats, small sail-boats, etc.

PART V. is alphabetically arranged, and gives descriptions of common tools and their uses, and also of such subjects as bending wood, boring, doors, frames, planing, rounding sticks, and the like.

Wood-working for Beginners has my hearty endorsement. The subject is treated in a masterly manner. It shows in its plan a thorough acquaintance with the subject. It is best of its class of which I have any knowledge. After showing the work to several of the Faculty of Girard College they all gave it their unqualified approval."—D. Eavenson, Manual Training School, Girard College, Philadelphia, Pa.


Crater and Holt (Grand Rapids) One Hundred Designs With Full Details of "Easy-To-Make" Furniture. Grand Rapids:  Dean-Hicks, 1913.
1913: Frank Halstead. Mission Furniture: Original Arts & Crafts Period Working Drawings.

["We were very fortunate in acquiring a set of 87 hand drawn plates for Mission Furniture produced in 1913 by Frank Halstead a couple of years ago. The problem was that these plans were printed on a very thick paper that had an extremely  high acid content and over the last 91 years the paper had turned a dark brown making it very  difficult to distinguish the black line drawings and the hand lettered dimensions from the background of the pages. We started working on this set a year ago and were successful in correcting the drawings just in time to introduce it at the Twin Cities Arts and Crafts Show in St. Paul,  Minnesota.  This book is sure to delight any woodworker looking for authentic, period Mission Furniture Plans”] Soft cover, 8" x 10-1/2", 87 singles sided plates $24.95" http://www.gustavslibrary.com/missionfurniture.htm ]


Frank Halstead. Working Drawings for Cabinet Making Models, Arranged for High School Courses. Boston : D. C. Heath, 1913. 87 plates.


This book of plates in cabinet-making is the result of seven years' experience in the teaching of this subject to high school and evening school classes. These plates are arranged to cover the subject from a practical point of view — a view suggested by careful observation of the needs of day and evening school classes in woodworking. It should not be regarded as a text-book, but simply as a collection of prac­tical problems in cabinet-making, which can be adapted by any teacher to any course he may be using.

The author believes that this book will be of great assis­tance to all instructors in cabinet-making, but especially to those who have just graduated, as the latter are generally insufficiently supplied with designs in this branch of wood-working. He believes, also, that it will relieve the manual training instructor of the necessity of draughting his own designs and making his own blue prints.


Abbot McClure. Making Built-in Furniture. New York: McBride, Nast, 1914.

Chiefly for the amateur craftsman.


Paul D. Otter. click on this link.

1914: Paul D. Otter.Furniture for the Craftsman. 306 pages. Size 6 x 9 in. Illustrated with 297 pen and ink drawings. Bound in board covers.Published by the David Williams Company, 231 to 241 West Thirty-ninth street, New York City.Price $1.50, postpaid.


New Publications

Furniture for the Craftsman. By Paul D. Otter. 306 pages. Size 6 x 9 in. Illustrated with 297 pen and ink drawings. Bound in board covers. ublished by the David Williams Company, 231 to 241 West Thirty-ninth street, New York City. Price $1.50, postpaid.


A fruitful source of winter work or whenever the regular season is dull is the making of various articles or pieces of furniture and furnishings for the household by the building mechanic who is clever in the handling of his tools. In the book under review the author has presented a great variety of interesting examples of work of the nature indicated together with much valuable information as to the manner in which each piece of work can be successfully and economically accomplished. The book may be regarded as a manual for the student and mechanic, the information contained within its covers being presented in such a way as to be of the greatest practical value to those for whom it is especially intended. Mr. Otter is a practical man of wide experience thoroughly familiar with all the details of furniture construction and design. What he has to say, therefore, reflects the ideas of the practical rather than merely the theoretical.

Much of the material contained within the covers of the book originally appeared in the columns of The Building Age and our readers are therefore more or less familiar with the style in which Mr. Otter handles his various subjects. A great deal of additional matter, however, has been added to the original articles and all has been arranged in the form of a handbook in order to meet the more general requirements, under the title given above. It is pointed out that in addition to the carpenter, the builder, the cabinet maker and the manual training student, there is "the day-fagged business man as well as many others who are likely to find refreshment from commercial and professional pressure in the increasing skill of doing things and in the joy of their accomplishment." The various subjects are treated within the compass of 16 well arranged and carefully illustrated chapters. One of these considers the essential tools and equipment necessary for doing the work, while others describe various kinds of furniture as well as bath room accessories. The concluding chapters are devoted to finishing and upholstery.

More or less attention is given to the design and construction of the furniture usually found upon the porch of the country house or modern mansion as well as about the spacious grounds. The work considered as a whole meets a well-defined demand and coming at this season is especially opportune.

Otter's book was reissued -- virtually unchanged -- in 1923, this time with 318 pages, rather than 306 in this, the 1914 edition.


<> Louise Brigham, Box Furniture. New York: Century, 1915. $2.50.

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936

This woodworker's manual had an extraordinary impact, something that I will deal with in the future.


R. S. Bowers, and John Bovingdon, Furniture Making. 1915. McKay. $3.50. 407 pages.

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936


Stephen M Wirts.  History of Furniture Designing: how the development of this art has paralleled the history of civilization, something about period designs.  [Detroit, Mich. : Wolverine Manufacturing Co.?], 1 v. (unpaged) : ill. ; 16 cm.


George Ashdown Audsley and Berthold Audsley. Amateur Joinery in the Home: a Practical Manual for the Amateur Joiner on the Construction of Articles of Domestic Furniture. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1916. 105 pages and 22 measured drawings, on glossy paper, drawn especially for this volume.


Edward F. Worst.  Vintage Mission Furniture Projects: Original Designs from the American Arts and Crafts Movement.  246 pp. 

Edward F. Worst was the Supervisor of Elementary Manual Training and Construction Work in Chicago during the early part of the 20th Century.

From the Introduction:

"This manual is designed as a guide to manual training teachers who believe that the object of education is the development of the child morally and mentally rather than the acquisition of skill, which is often the most dominant feature in manual training. Not that the training to acquire skill should be neglected, but it should not be fostered at the expense of the child's broad understanding of nature and nature’s laws."

Considered one of the best Manual Arts instruction manuals of the early 1900's, Worst's book appeared in 1917, the year America  entered WW I and two years after Gustav Stickley  declared bankruptcy.

Along with an index, not mentioned, incidentally,on the table of contents, Worst's book contains over 270 figures and photos, many full-page, accompanied by  carefully formulated instructions. Mission furniture (including a Morris chair) predominates: parchment lampshades, floor and table lamps, weaving baskets for plant stands, rushing furniture, desks, chairs, foot stools, newspaper tray, directory rack, leg rests, magazine racks, waste baskets, screens, smoking stands, stationary case, tabourets, candle sticks, sconces, plant rack, folding table, telephone table and chair, etc.

This book is available as a reprint, in soft cover, 7-3/4" x 10", 246 pages, by Gustav’s Books.


Ralph F.Windoes, Cedar chests. 1918. Bruce. $1.25.

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936.


Harry Einsley Wood, and James Henry Smith,Prevocational and Industrial ArtsChicago: Atkinson, Mentzer & company, 1919.268 pages.

classification of woodworking tools

Covering all of Industrial Arts, not just woodworking, this book is still useful -- for newbies especially -- because of its many pencil drawings and charts that illustrate a full range of hand tools. (You can tell that this manual is on the beginning edge of the era of electrification by the crudeness of the electric motors included among its illustrations.) Even today, 90 years after its publication, the book's chart classifying hand tools is still instructive.

The Preface is posted below:


Changing industrial and social conditions demand changes along educational lines.

In the early period of our national development manufacturing was done in the home and a child had a chance to observe the work of his parents or his older brothers or sisters, and thus absorb the means and methods of work. In the present stage of production on a large scale, everything is so highly specialized that the young employed worker does not even have the opportunity of seeing what is taking place in other parts of the plant in which he works. The school therefore faces the problem of giving as broad a knowledge of industries and occupations as is possible with the facilities and equipment available, thus supplying what was formerly obtained from the home and small shop.

The mere acquiring of the so-called fundamentals is not sufficient to equip the children of today so that they can intelligently choose their life work. They should have a taste of industrial work in a prevocational way in order that they may, with some degree of intelligence, choose occupations for which they are fitted. It is not presumed that the brief courses in our public schools will make them proficient in any craft or occupation, but leaders in education realize that personal dislikes, mental and physical deficiencies and lack of dexterity can early be discovered through prevocational industrial courses. These courses result in the development of a keen interest on the part of many pupils in perhaps one or two lines together with a limited degree of skill in manipulating the tools of these trades or occupations as well as a discernment of their content.

With these thoughts in mind, the authors of this book have endeavored to present various lines of work in such a fashion that pupils of the grammar grades or prevocational period may understand and make use of them; that high school or vocational school pupils may profitably use them for informational or manipulative suggestions and that individuals, who are not in school, but who are seeking help in the details of the crafts covered in this volume, can find the guidance which they need. It is impossible to cover all of the details of each craft in the brief space allotted to each subject in this volume, but sufficient details have been given to enable the reader to do effective work in the subjects under consideration.

No courses of study are suggested in this book. A variety of projects have been suggested, some of which will appeal to pupils in a city or village and, some of which will appeal more particularly to pupils in a rural community, but it is left to the instructor or individual to evolve his sequence of work. By means of this breadth of selected projects and the group arrangement of the book, it is made easily adjustable to the needs of any local situation. At the same time information on work outside of the particular community is brought before the pupils. It is the idea of the authors that the projects given in this text be used as suggestive material and redesigned or developed to suit the individual needs of the pupil. The mere fact that one subject is presented in this book before another, does not necessarily mean that it should be studied in that order; in fact, it may not be possible or advisable to undertake all of the lines of work suggested because of inadequate equipment or lack of interest in some subjects in certain communities.

It is hoped that in this text a real need in the school will be met. It has been developed by the authors at the suggestion of educators who have felt the need of a book which would set forth the informational side of manual arts in connection with a variety of subjects and projects of an industrial character. In this way content is emphasized as well as skill




Percy A. Wells, Furniture for small houses. 1920. London: Batsford. 12s. 6d.

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936.

Click on link for an extended discussion of woodworker's manuals produced by Wells and John Hooper.