Woodworker's Manuals 1931-1940

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.

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. Click here to read Document 8: Popular Science "How the Hammer, Saw and Try-Square Can Satisfy!" 1946

How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Workshop Hand and Power Tools "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  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,  1931-1940:

Index to Handicrafts, Modelmaking and Workshop Projects

1936 bibliography indicates the following periodicals are indexed. For accounts of these periodical, go to 5:2

 Home craftsman  New YorK: Home craftsman publishing,1931- 1965

Popular Homecraft. v. 2-5.  Chicago: General Publishing. Co., Chicago, May 1930-

Popular Mechanics. v. 53–63. Ja. '30–Je. '35. (Occasional references from earlier volumes included). Popular Mechanics Press. 

Popular Mechanics shop notes. v. 25 (1929), v. 27 (1931)–v. 30 (1934) Popular Mechanics Press. 50e each. 

Popular Science. v. 112-126. Ja. '28–Jc. '35. (Occasional references from earlier volumes included). Popular Science Pub. Co.

In 1905, Popular Mechanics began its annual, Shop Notes, and continued its publication until the 1930s.

Popular Woodturning. 1930. Popular Mechanics Press. 25c. 

Wood-Turning. n. d. Lippincott. $1.75. 

Wood Worker. v. 36-39. Ja. '32-Je. '35. Evans.

Chronological List of Woodworking Manuals, 1931-1940:

1931: Franklin H. Gottshall.  Simple Colonial Furniture: Building Your Own Family Heirlooms.   Bonanza Books, 1931. 

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936 
1932: Walker-Turner Co., Woodworker's Handbook: A Practical Manual for Guidance in Planning, Installing and Operating Power Workshops Plainfield, NJ: Walker-Turner Company, 1932. 121 pages (click here for an extended treatment of this manual)

1932: Herman Hjorth. How to make veneered panels for the school and home workshop. New York : The Casein Manufacturing Company of America, Inc., 1932.[1]-96 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936
1932: Douglass, James H., and Roberts, Richard H. Instruction and Information Units for Hand Woodworking. 1932. McCormick-Mathers Co., Wichita, Kan. No price. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936 
1933: Hjorth, Herman. Basic woodworking processes. Bruce, 1933. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936
1934: Faulkner, Herbert W. Wood carving as a hobby. 1934. Harper. $2.00. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936
1935: John Gerald Shea, and Paul Nolt Wenger. Colonial Furniture.  Bruce, 1935. 180 pages. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936 Link to extended discussion of Shea's woodworker's manuals
1935: Hjorth, Herman. Basic Woodworking Processes. 1935 ed. Bruce.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943
1935: Harry J. Hobbs. Working With Tools Leisure Little Book number 25. reprinted in  1960, with the addition of 30 pages of projects reprinted from issues of The Home Craftsman Magazine – check stuff on disk

1935: William W Klenke Unique simple toys. McKnight & McKnight, 1935. 

1935: William W Klenke. Things to make and how to make them. Manual Arts Press, 1935.

1935: Klenke, William W. Home workshop. 1935. Manual Arts.  

1935: Klenke, William W. Things to make for the camp and game room. 1935. Manual Arts. 

1935: Klenke, William W. Things to make for the home. 1935. Manual Arts. 

1935: Klenke, William W. Things to make for the lawn and garden. 1935. Manual Arts.

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936

Klenke is prominent in Industrial Arts circles in the 19120, 1930s, 1940s. When time allow, I will investigate why he published five books in a single year.
1935: Stieri, Emanuele. Home craftsmanship. 1935. McGraw-Hill. $2.50. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936
1935: Wells, Percy A. Design in woodwork. 1935. Lippincott. $2.00. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1936 Link to extended treatment of this manual.
1935: Douglass, James IT., Modern Projects in Woodwork. 1935 and 1939 eds. McCormick.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1943
1935: deltagram_getting_the_most_out_of_1930sGetting the most out of your lathe. 4th ed. Delta Mfg. Co., Milwaukee, Wis, 1935.

The image on the left captures the spirit that the company sought to promote about Delta machine tools for the home workshop. As the info in the image indicates, the ad was in The Deltagram February, 1939 issue. (It's puzzling that in my copy of The Deltagram, no prices are given, even to the extent that the spaces for price info are blank. It is curious why that happened.)

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943 Click here for an online full text version.


1936: Getting the most out of your shaper. 2d ed. 1936. Delta Mfg. Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts  1943 1943 Click here for full text of this manual at OWWM
1936: Douglass, James I T., and Roberts, R. H. Instruction and Information Units for Hand Woodworking. 1936 ed. McCormick. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts, 1943
1936: Fryklund, Verne C., and La Berge, A. J. General Shop Woodworking. 1936. McKnight.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts, 1943.

Since beginning this history of woodworking project, I have purchased on www.bookfinder.com numerous woodworker's manuals, incuding the Fryklund La Berge volume above. Like numerous other woodworker's manuals of the firs half of the twentieth century, the Fryklund-La Berge manual is a "text book", this one designed for junior high school woodworking courses. In the latter sense -- at least in the wake of the disappearance of high school woodworking courses today -- this manual testifies to the lasting truth that, with inspired teaching, students can master remarkable achievements.

An example of my enthusism is this helpful account of Thumb Mold. (In acknowledgment of its standard in layign out the steps in making a "thum (nail) mold by hand, the "exercise was republished in Popular Homecraft march april 1933 page 563; also "To lay out a thumb mold." In Verne Fryklund and Armand J La Berge General Shop Woodworking. 1940 ed., pages 67-68. (There is an "irony", here, I think, because General Shop Woodworking is designed for woodworking courses at the "junior high school" level! On the strength of the croos-reference to the instructions on making the "thumb nail mold" in PH, impulsively I ordered a copy of General Shop Woodworking.

When it arrived, I was astonished. For its attention to rudimentary details about techniques and skills in woodworking, this woodworker's manual, it exceeds our usual expectations about this genre of textbooks by leaps. In over one hundreds pages, Fryklund and La Berge painstakingly, and with clarity and affection,lay out over 70 exercises of "What You Should Be Able To Do". Without any doubt, this manual rivals those manuals from the 1920s that I have vigorously commended: Charles G Wheeler and Chelsea Fraser.)

"Creating Thumb Mold for Table Top"


1936: Willoughby, George A., and Chamberlain, Duane G. General Shop Handbook; Instruction Units for Beginners in School and at Home. Peoria, IL: Manual Arts, 1936. 94 pages.
The first of three editions, the second and third, respectively, 1943 and 1958, this woodworker's manual follows the same theme as the textbooks designed for industrial education by Emanuel E Ericson -- four eds for 1930 through 1976 -- the inclusion of the homeworkshop component for boys. What is different about Willoughby and Chamberlain is that not until 1958 is any attention given power tools in the textbook's contents. For more info on the homeworkshop movement, click here.
1937: Harmes, Earl. Furniture of yesterday and today. 1937. Bruce.
1937: Hjorth, Herman. Modern Machine Woodworking. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1937.
Hjorth, born in 1883, died in 1951. Under William F Holtrop, this valued manual was re-edited and published issued in 1960, to record the "significant changes". Describes the tools -- emphasizing major power tools -- explains how to use them correctly and safely and how to care for them. As a document of its time, Modern Machine Woodworking deserves a place alongside classics like John Richards' A Treatise on the Construction and Operation of Woodworking Machines 1872 and 1971: Daniel W. Irwin. Power Tool Maintenance. McGraw-Hill, 1971. 
1937: Getting the most out of your band saw and scroll saw. 5th ed. 1937. Delta Mfg. Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943 Click here for access to a full text version of this manual on OWWM.
1937: Getting the most out of your circular saw and jointer. 6th ed. 1937. Delta Mfg. Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943 Click here for an oline version of this manual on OWWM website.

1937 Archie Frederick Collins, Amateur Power Working Tools Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1937

1937: Popular Science. Amateur Craftsman's Cyclopedia. 1937. Popular Science Pub. Co.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1936
1937:  A Frederick Collins. Working With Tools For Fun and Profit.
From the preface: 

Now it matters but little what your financial or social position may be, how well educated you are, or what your vocation is, if you have never used woodworking tools you have missed one of the greatest pleasures and lasting bene­fits that is the heritage of the human race. To be able to use tools is a special education in itself, for it coordinates the mind, the eye, and the hand, and this kind of training will help you to do many other things well and, it follows, will prove to be of the greatest value to you as long as you live.

Collins delivers on his promise that woodworking can become “one of the greatest pleasures and lasting bene­fits that is the heritage of the human race” by covering in his 13 chapters important matters like “the tools you need,” “how to use the tools,” “kinds of wood to use,” and, significantly, “some modern age furniture” – the latter chapter covers this important topic much more elaborately than Harmes (1940).

You won't find the word modernage in the dictionary for it is so new that the lexicographers haven't caught up with it yet. Obviously it is compounded from two perfectly familiar words modern and age, but when these are coupled together and the accent is put on the first syllable—it gives them a very up-to-the-minute, or a little beyond it, sound. Now the word modernage, which under any and all circumstances is spelled with a lower-case m, has been adopted by a New York firm of furniture dealers to indicate that they handle only ultra-fashioned furniture, and this is the kind I'm go­ing to tell you how to build in this chapter.


Of the four chapters mentioned above, the first two and the last make the book very useful for beginning craftsmen, of whatever age. (I mention age, because libraries think that this book is designed for a juvenile audience, which I think is doubtful. Nowhere throughout the book could I detect Collins speaking to a young audience.) No photos, but numerous line drawings. Using Collins in combination with Harmes  (1940) makes sense, because together they jointly cover a range of matter pertaining to introducing wannabe craftsmen to woodworking within the context of what opportunities were available to woodworkers as the Depression ended and amerce entered World War II.
1937: Franklin H. Gottshall. How to Design Period Furniture, Milwaukee : Bruce Publishing Co.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943 Click here for a discussion of Gottshall's contributions to woodworking.   Gottshall’s 1937 book is one of the landmark publications in woodworking, pretty much still in demand today as a source of inspiration, ideas, and design principles.
1937: Herman Hjorth. Principles of Woodworking. Bruce, 1937

1937: Rodney Hooper. Woodcraft in design and practice. London, Batsford, 1937. viii, 160 p. illus. 24 cm. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts Click here for a discussion of Hooper's contributions to woodworking.

1938:   The Stanley Tool Guide. 1938.
1938:  William W Klenke. Tables (Things to make and how to make them) Manual Arts, 1938.
1938: William W Klenke. Small pieces of furniture (Things to make and how to make them) Manual Arts, 1938.  
1938: John Gerald Shea and Paul Nolt Wenger. Provincial Furniture.   Bruce, 1938. 161 pages.
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943


DURING the past score of years the American people have shown marked interest in quaint historical types of furniture. This interest has been fos­tered through the renewed popularity of the early American antique. [Here, Shea and Wenger refer to the Colonial Revival.] It has con­tinued to include other kindred styles of furniture which emanated from other countries. Among the offerings of these other countries, that of France is par­ticularly noteworthy. 

There is something about these unsophisticated provincial furniture designs which attunes them to our popular imagination. Perhaps the feeling of inherent warmth or homely well-being which they convey, furnishes some clue to their current popularity. People are impressed by the charming simplicity of these designs—a sort of simplicity that is in absolute contrast to the modern scene. It may even be thought that provincial furniture brings with it warmth and comfort and relaxation and that it distinguishes the home in which it is used as a proper retreat from the harsh hubbub of everyday life....” 

While Shea and Wenger don’t use “French” in this book’s title, perusing the contents soon makes it evident that, throughout, the concern is with furniture produced in France over several periods of that nation’s history.

[Note to self: this account of Provincial Furniture is incomplete. In folder, under Shea, is reprint of the authors’ masterful brief account of “French Provincial Furniture".]

1938: Wells, Percy A. and Hooper, John. Modern Cabinetwork: Furniture and Fitments. 5th ed. 1938. Philadelphia: J. W. Lippin­cott. 390 pages
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943. Click here for an extended treatment of this important manual 
  1939:  Stieri, Emanuele, Woodworking as a Hobby.   New   York, London , Harper. 
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943  In this woodworker’s manual, Stieri – an editor for Popular Science in the 1930s and 1940s -- gives a lot of attention to hand tools and the power tools available for home shops in 1939. Surprisingly, in the brief ch 1, on the home shop layout, Stieri shows a workbench in the diagrams, but doesn’t mention anything about it in the text. Is this neglect of the workbench simply an oversight by Stieri? Stieri begins Chapter 1 with, 

Woodworking, almost as old as civilization itself, is by far the most popular of hobbies. The development of fine hand and power tools has contributed in no small measure to the present-day popularity of woodworking as a hobby and an art. These make woodworking not only comparatively easy, but also interesting and at times even profitable. The idea underlying the production of this book is to acquaint the craftsman with every phase of woodworking, from the choosing of proper tools and equipment, their care and main­tenance, to the actual construction of many useful objects.


1939: Hooper, Rodney. Modern Furniture Making and Design. Manual Arts, 1939. 160 pages.

 Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943.  Click here for an extended treatment of this important manual  First published in England in 1937 under the title Woodcraft in Design and Practice.  Click here for  a discussion of the contributions to woodworking by Hooper.


Herman Hjorth. Forty Pieces of Furniture. Milwaukee : Bruce, 1939. 

Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1943

Aesthetically, Hjorth continues his preference for the traditional, as the forty pieces are  Colonial or later American designs.
In the Worldcat bibliographic database, over 160 libraries worldwide record owning a copy of this book. Not a high number, of course, but hardly reflects the entire number of copies in circulation. 
Given the title of this book, Forty Pieces of Furniture, for the author to include over 50 pages of discussion of techniques in veneering and carving, and finishing, liberally illustrated with photos and diagrams, may seem odd, but Hjorth himself notes in his introduction to the book, posted below, 


these projects are not too difficult" for boys who have learned "to square to dimensions" and to make a respectable mortise-and-tenon joint,” meaning that any boy introduced to these techniques in high courses would not be immune to applying them in his own woodworking later, as a mature man taking up woodworking seriously as a hobby. 

(In collaboration with the Casein Glue company, and Albert Constantine, Hjorth did two other books dedicated to veneering.) 
Simply to lay out the table of contents, though, gives you a good idea of what is incorporated in these fifty-plus pages:
VENEERING AND INLAYING: Prejudice Against Veneer­ing; What is Veneer; Kinds of Veneer; Simple Veneered Construction; Cutting, Jointing, and Tap­ing Veneers; Simple Dia­mond Matching; Other Forms of Matching; Bor­ders; Gluing Veneers; Edge Veneering; Special Veneering Jobs; Making Curved Cabinet Doors; Laying Curly Veneers; Preparing a Veneered Surface for Finishing; Inlay­ing; Line Inlay; Center Inlay; and Block Inlay and Veneer Patching.
For “SIMPLE CARVING,” Hjorth discusses Cutting Small Molding or Beads on Flat or Curved Surfaces; Reeding or Fluting Turned Work; Making a Single Spiral; Making a Double Spiral; Making a Hollow Spiral; Carving Borders; Carving Strapwork Design; Carv­ing a Leaf on a Table Leg; Carving the Knee on a Cabriole Leg; and Carving the Top of a Column.
The chapter on  WOOD FINISHING focuses on Smoothing and Finishing the Surface; Scraping; Sanding; Final Sand­ing; Wetting the Surface; Staining, including Directions for Applying Water Stain; Filling; Finishing Coats: Shellac; Boiled Linseed Oil; Varnish; Lacquer; and, finally, Typical Finishes.


Most of the pieces of furniture described and illustrated in this book are small in size and therefore economical as to the material needed. They have all been made in the author's classes of second-and third-year high-school boys.

While not intended for beginners or very young students, these projects are not too difficult for boys who have learned "to square to dimensions" and to make a respectable mortise-and-tenon joint. A few simple exercises in wood turning may be given as a parallel course.

The majority of the designs are adaptations of classical prototypes, which are widely known and appreciated and therefore welcome, or at least acceptable, in most American homes.

In order to produce a finished article that will compare favorably with factory-built furniture, several refinements in design and construction, as simple veneering and carving, have been introduced. These processes are not difficult, but rather unfamiliar or untried by the nonprofessional woodworker. They have therefore been described in some detail in separate chapters. To spend a little time on the study and practice of veneering and carving is well worth while, because such refinements not only add enormously to the ,appearance of a piece of furniture, but also — and this is more important — give students an entirely new interest in woodworking, an eagerness to achieve, and a wholesome pride in their accomplishments. Although this book was developed in schoolwork it is hoped that it will not be limited to this field, but that it may also prove interesting and stimulating to the many who practice woodwork as a hobby.

Grateful acknowledgment is hereby given to The Veneer Association for use of Figures 2, 3, 4, 4A, and 37, to the Mahogany Association, Inc., for Figures 35 and 36 and to Albert Constantine & Son, Inc., for the use of Figures 55 and 56.

I wish in particular to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. W. F. Leicester, vice-president of the Casein Company of America, who encouraged me to experiment with casein glue both for veneering and furniture making in general.
Yonkers, New York
March 23, 1939