Woodworker's manuals 1941 to 1950
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.
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.
In many respects, Hamilton's manual compares with John Gerald Shea and Paul Not Wenger's Woodworking For Everybody, which came out only three years later, in 1944.
1941: Baxter, William T. and Lackey, Paul G. Woodworking projects and upholstery. Van Nostrand, 1941.
1941: Stanley Works Inc.
1941: Popular Mechanics. Forty Power Tools You Can Make. 1941.
This 96 page manual was reprinted in 1943, 1944, and 1948.
home workshop manual; a handbook of tested projects, working methods, and
shop hints for the home workshop enthusiast, with directions and detailed
construction drawings for making furniture, models, novelties, household
accessories, sporting equipment, home and garden improvements, shop aids,
and many other articles. With over 1500 working drawings, diagrams
and illustrations. 1941 496 p. illus.,
Prepared by the editorial staff of Popular Science Monthly, only about 1/5 of the manual's pages are dedicated to woodworking..
Given the era in which this manual was published -- its publication coincides with
s entry into WW II in 1941 -- you have forgive the aura of dreariness that it evinces. "Giant" in the title is indeed the operative word, and you suspect that the urge to gorge this volume with projects comes from the constraints of rationing that inevitably accompanies a nation's deployment into a war economy. Recognizing this, apologetically, the Preface states, America'
However, these reservations do not dampen our enthusiasm for the progress in home workshops that this manual signals:
its section on woodworking tools features at least four significant events in the history of the amateur woodworking movement.
First, the use of a shaper in the home shop: "the Light Duty Delta ½" shaper. Is it the Delta Light Duty? Popular Science does not indicate the manufacturer, but in appearance it is a Rockwell Delta Light Duty no 1180.
Second, "high speed routing", combining a lathe and a circular saw, a set-up that in effect creates a horizontal mortiser for the home shop, and which anticipates the Shopsmith, which hit the home shop market in 1947.
Brief note on Shopsmith models pictured above:
Third, "resawing" rough pieces of timber with a 14-inch bandsaw.
Fourth, using router bits and/or shaper cutters on a drill press.
1941: Williams A. D. Spanish colonial furniture. 1941. Bruce.
I judge this woodworker's manual to be part of the Colonial Revival, although, as you read the quoted section below -- it comes to us in a rather indirect manner. According Williams, the revival was more accidental than deliberate. For a more detailed and up-to-date account of the revival of Spanish colonial furniture, consult Lonn Taylor's New Mexican Furniture: 1600-1940 (1987), cited in Glossary entry, Colonial Revival.
Taylorbegins his account in a much earlier period, with the Spanish expedition of Francisco Vasques de Coronado in 1540 in search of gold and the Seven Cities of Cibola, and ends with the 1930s craft revival of early Hispanic-style furniture.
From Williams' Preface:
1942: Griswold, Lester E. Handicrafts; simplified procedure and projects in leather, celluloid, metal, wood, batik, rope and cordage, primitive Indian crafts. 1942 ed. Author.
1942: Stanley Works Inc. How to Work with Tools and Wood 1942. Original, hardcover, 188 pages
1942: Nelson Lincoln
From p. 9:
CORNER CLOCK CASE [(photo and drawing on opd.) Note that in 1942, there is an assumption by the authors of this manual that that the amateur woodworker has access to a table saw with stacked dado blades, a shaper and a band saw.]
"Patterned somewhat on the lines of the familiar grandfather clock, this attractive clock case has the advantage of fitting into a corner while offering shelf space for the display of other pieces.
The construction is quite simple. There are three uprights, two front and one rear. These are rabbeted to take the 1/4 inch plywood panels, and also dadoed to form supports for the shelves. The dado cuts are diagonally across the work, making it necessary to hold the upright in a vee block, as shown in the photo, while making the out. Each out in each of the three uprights should be made one after the other, using the same stop in order to insure accurate spacing.
The shelves are made from 3/4 inch stock to the shape shown in the plan drawing. It is a good idea to make a full-size drawing of this plan before sawing wood. The front edge of each shelf is rounded on the shaper. The door is a simple job of mitering.
As shown in the drawing, the sides of the door are out at 45 degrees to fit the inside faces of the uprights. Top and bottom pediments are cut out on the band saw to the shape shown, after which the ends are rounded off, as can be seen in the drawing (bottom pediment). Each pediment is screw-fastened to the shelf against which it fits. A turned finial in wood or brass should be fitted to the center portion of the top pediment. A professional touch is given the piece by covering the facing edges of the front uprights with lace mouldering. This can match or contrast with the finish.
The clock movement and dial are fitted on a
suitable framework, the base of the frame being fastened to the
shelf. The rabbet in the door frame is
for glass only. A 12-in. square dial is required. Any style of
movement from a simple electric to a full
1942: Clifford K. Lush It's Fun To Build Modern Furniture. Bruce Publishing 1942 111 pages $2.00
Blurb from dust jacket for Shea's Colonial Furniture, extolling Lush's It's Fun To Build Modern Furniture:
It's really fun to build the modern furniture shown in this interesting collection of more than fifty things to make, ranging from a simple condiment shelf and knife rack to the more complex pieces such as a desk, a table, and other pieces.
1942: G. A. Raeth. Master Homecraft Projects. 1942. Bruce.
Power Tools You Can Make.
Evidently also issued in 1944. Indexed in Index to Handicrafts, 1950
The second of three editions, the first and third, respectively, 1936 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.
1943: William W Klenke. Furniture joinery.
FOREWORD for Furniture Joinery
FOR SEVENTEEN years, Joints and How They Are Made, the book on which this book is based, was used with success in the school shops, by the home craftsman, and as a reference book by furniture de-signers, architects, and draftsmen. During that period there has sprung up throughout this vast land of ours an ever-increasing number of home craftsmen: boys, men and women of all ages, who are especially interested, not in jointmaking alone, but rather in how to make furniture and other articles of wood wherein, of course, the making of joints and how to assemble them play an important part.
([Temporay notes: Statistics on women in WW II: In 1942, just between the months of January and July, the estimates of the proportion of jobs that would be 'acceptable' for women was raised by employers from 29 to 55 percent; About half of the working women were married; By the end of the war the average income for women had risen by 38%; By 1945, one in every three workers was a woman. source: Wikipedia, but as time allows, will look for more stats].)
However, for GIs, conscription/enlistment cutoff date was 35th birthday, meaning that only young men served in the active armed services, leaving a cadre of older men at home. Plus, rationing -- imposed by the federal government -- created a need for furniture (to be made by amateurs?) ]
More text from FOREWORD: "Since furniture, cabinet, and mill work is only as strong as its weakest joint, it at once becomes of paramount importance first to select the correct joint and secondly that it be made to fit and hold together permanently.
Although no attempt is made to show all the wood joints known to man, as some of these joints are impractical, some can be replaced to advantage by joints the author has given, and still others come under the heading of the steel square, the complete treatment of which has' been given by many good authors; however, within these pages a good joint is shown for every type of wood construction as used by the home craftsman.
So as to simplify matters for the less experienced woodworker, who has no expert to instruct or help him, detailed working drawings of different type pieces of furniture are included in this book and then simple instructions are given in making the joints involved.
1944: Dundore, Roy H. Home craft course in Pennsylvania German painted furniture. 1944. Keyser.
1944: John Gerald Shea and Paul Not Wenger. Woodworking For Everybody. International Textbook, 1944.
1944: COLLINS, A. FREDERICK. Working With Tools For Fun and Profit.
1945: Edwin T Hamilton. Home carpentry.
1945: Popular Science. Complete Home Workshop Encyclopedia: 868 Things to Make and Do at Home. Popular Science publishing, 1945. 578 pages.
Lacking an "introduction", this guide to the home workshop, curiously, mixes many different topics associated with activities in/around the home at the close of WW II, but even an elaborate table of contents and index fail to relieve users from having to leaf through the book's pages. The book gives you the feeling that, in anticipation of a burgeoning market for peacetime activities at the drawdown of the War, it was rushed out quickly.
1946: Edward W Hobbs. Easy furniture building: a practical handbook for the home craftsman. London, Cassell Co. 1946 [2d. ed.]. 147 p. illus.,
1946: How to get the most out of your home workshop hand and power tools. Popular Science Publishing, 1946.
For a take on this woodworker's manual, as a departure from the straight-forward guide to woodworking -- and a foray into the notions of the psychology of creativity, through the reference to "skill hunger"-- see this webpage.
However, this manual suffers from the constraints imposed by our government during WW II, i.e., rations imposed on manufacturing and publishing. It is of poor quality in several ways: pulp-ish paper, now very fragile -- my copy a light brown --; most photographs are undersized, and not sharp and clear, and the numerous diagrams and drawings -- while mostly quite clear -- are small, which makes the viewer struggle to get needed details.
Perhaps the best example to validate my claim about a low standard is the article on the router: In the image from the section of the router -- reproduced on the left --, for example, readers are asked to visualize a fixture of a router "veining" a round workpiece, "using notched edge of fence". Where is the "notched edge" and the "fence"? I think, instead, it should read, "curved edge", something that you can see if you click here.
Such criticism -- sixty years after the fact is perhaps unfair, or at the very least, unwarranted, given the conditions everybody was operating under in the wake of rationing during WW II.
(Another consideration: the router, as a recently introduced portable power tool, had yet to be viewed as a needed tool in a homeworkshop, attitude that changed quickly when you look at the treatment the router receive four years later, in Milton Gunerman's How to Operate Your Power Tools
Indexed in Index to Handicrafts, 1950 An updating of Hjorth's 1930, first edition?
1946: Wyatt, Edwin M. Wonders in wood. Bruce, 1946.
A textbook that reflects the "Industrial Arts" era in the history of American education, which roughly dates from 1920 to 1950. Organizationally, this textbook similar to the model developed in 1888 by W. F. M. Goss and later employed by authors like Charles G. Wheeler. That is, for ease of teaching and learning in the school shop, after a broad arrangement of material, chapter by chapter, the discussion is laid out by topical units, such as "dado", "groove", "rabbet" and so on. The text is enhanced using both photos and diagrams. Goss and Wheeler used numbers as well as headings to designate topics, but Johnson and Newkirk simply lay the information with headings.
(When numbers are included for topics, the manual is automatically set up with a very useful indexing system; that is, in the manual's section on cutting "grooves" in workpieces, if a reader doesn't know what a "stacked dado" is, by inserting the number of the paragraph in which stacked dado is discussed, readers can go directly to the section on stacked dado. Such a practice eliminates going back and forth between the manual's text and its index.)
What really distinguishes this woodworker's manual, though, is the amount of space, 20 pages, dedicated to "the homeworkshop" and to messages throughout that woodworking, is -- indeed -- a worthwhile leisure activity. For example, included among the introductory paragraphs for the chapter on cabinetmaking is this observation:
From the book's Unit V, on Cabinetmaking
From the book's Unit X, on The Home Workshop
THE PURPOSE OF A HOME WORKSHOP
1947: Walter E. Durbahn and J. Ralph Dalzell, Dictionary of Carpentry Terms CHICAGO: AMERICAN TECHNICAL SOCIETY, 1947
Please note the details about this dictionary in the gray-shaded box below. Deceptively slight in appearance -- including with its wire binding -- this small work packs much information useful to the woodworker as well as the carpenter. Durbahn's bona fides as a promoter of the amateur woodworking movement deserves much greater acknowledgment than he has been given to date. In impact, he compares with Norm Abram. See an extended discussion of Durbahn's impact here.
WALTER E. DURBAHN B.S., M.A., was in 1947, Chairman of Vocational Department, Highland Park High School, Highland Park, Illinois, a Member of American Vocational Association, and Author of Fundamentals of Carpentry .
J. RALPH DALZELL, B.S., Managing Editor, American Technical Society, is author of How to Plan a House, How to Remodel a House, How to Estimate for the Building Trades, Building Trades Blueprint Reading, and Painting and Decorating.
1947: Van Tassel, Raymond. Woodworking crafts. 1947. Van Nostrand.
1948: Douglass, James H., and Roberts, R. H. Projects in woodwork. 1948 ed. McKnight.
1948: William W Klenke. Furniture book. Manual Arts, 1948.
1948: Herman Hjorth. Reproduction of antique furniture. 1948
1949: Home workshop annual : 288 pages of
projects anyone can build with hand or power tools ; more than 500
pictures, diagrams and working drawings / English Book : 274 p. : ill. ;
B. W. Furniture Making and
Cabinet Work: A Handbook.
1949: Mario Dal Fabbro, . Modern furniture: its design and
1949: Goodger, C. A. Woodwork and Metalwork. (1949) Dryad Press. Manual Arts.
1949: Margon, Lester. Construction of American furniture treasures. New York: Home Craftsman Pub. Corp., 1949.
From page 133 of How to Master the Radial Arm Saw:
Notice that the publisher of Margon's book is Home Craftsman. HC is one of the few magazines of the Depression -- the other is Deltagram -- that is almost entirely dedicated to woodworking. Insightfully, in the mid-1930s, HC's editors started publishing Margon's extensive drawings and details of construction of classic museum pieces of American furniture on an almost monthly frequency. I have leafed through all the volumes for the 1930s and the 1940s -- still working on the 1950s an '60s, it died in 1965 -- and have read the letters from readers, who -- frequently with pictures of furniture they made -- note with great pride the fact that they managed to build a Margon piece. It was in the late 1940s that Wallace "Mr Sawdust" Kunkel met Margon, and became a great fan. In his book, How to Master the Radial Arm Saw , Kunkel shows a Margon drawing (below). (Kunkel also shows on -- page 218 -- the bombe chest he made that was chosen "International Award of Excellence for Professional Furniture-Makers" - in 1993.)
Back in the `40s, I was working in Rockefeller Center. A new book came out, called, Construction of Early American Furniture Treasures. Dover Press published it (sic) - and, I'm happy to say, it's still available.
It sent my life off into a beautiful, new direction: Period Furniture. From then on, I was to "live" in museums and relish every little pointer of the methods and designs used by the great master wood-workers. (continued below)
There are several books under his name. Each one better than the other. Though I prefer the one mentioned.
This is a portion of the book's ad in Home Craftsman, July-August, p 7:
First Edition off the Press in September
1950: Lammey, W.
1950: F. H. Gottshall. Making useful things of wood. 1950. Bruce.
1950: C. H.
Hayward. ed. Staining and polishing.
1950. Evans Bros.,
1950: M. J. Gunerman, How to Operate Your Power Tools. Home Craftsman Pub. Corp., 1950.
This manual contains articles originally published in issues of Home Craftsman in 1949 and 1950. In HC, they are, however, under the pen of Herman Hjorth. (Hjorth died in 1951.)
Compare the image above with the drawing published four years earlier
1950: M. J. Gunerman, ed. Cabinets, bookcases and wall shelves. 1950. Home Craftsman Pub. Corp.
1950: Yates, Raymond F Antique Reproductions For The Home Craftsman, Whittlesey House, 1950.
Painstakingly detailed account of reproducing early-19th-century, furniture pieces, with emphasis upon "primitives", including techniques for distressing, where the craftsman can give an authenticity to a piece's vintage, by making the piece look well-used.
Every design given herein is authentic in every respect, the actual measurements having been carefully taken from original pieces known to have come from the quaint shops of early craftsmen.
Yates demonstrates construction techniques using only hand tools, a curious policy for 1950, given that woodworkers, e.g., Wallace Kunkel, were promoting power tools, such as the Dewalt radial arm saw, for home workshops when Yates' book was published. (Yates does admit that you can achieve the same results with more up-to-date tools, but that is a personal choice the craftsman has to make.)
The book's contents includes: Preface: A Word to the Reader, ch 1 Understanding Wood and Lumber; ch 2 Old Tools and Methods; ch 3 Joints; ch 4 Making It Look Old; ch 5 Speaking of Hardware; ch 6 Old-time Stenciling and Finishing; ch 7 An Early Nineteenth-century Pine Chest; ch 8 Country Chippendale Blanket Chest; ch 9 Old Pine Dressers; ch 10 There's Charm in These Easy-to-make Tables; ch 11 Corner Cupboards; ch 12 Chairmaking; ch 13 Chair Seats: Rush and Splint; ch 14 An Old Pine Clockcase; ch 15 Walls and Backgrounds; and Index.
Ch 1, for example, focuses on woods and wood behavior, where Yates tries
...to capture the mood and manner of the village tinker and to share as far as possible the philosophy and the technique of his unhurried craft. This requires, among other things, a knowledge of raw wood, especially pine, maple, tulipwood, and wild cherry, for these were the most widely used of all the provincial cabinet woods. They were employed in the construction of chests, settles, beds, and tables. Oak, hickory, and ash, too, were used; the latter two especially for chairs..
In Chapter 2, "old tools and methods",very detailed, with illustrations,
Illustrated with excellent drawings, including measured drawings of furniture pieces, and many black-and-white photographs of furniture and old tools. (The three images below come from ch 9.) Not heavy on bibliography but does reference a few classics, including Joseph Moxon's 1683 Mechanick Exercises - also this link -- emphasizing the printing trade - but, as Yates shows, also includes woodcuts of 17th century woodworking tools -- and Henry C. Mercer's 1929 Ancient Carpenter's Tools. (Mercer's book is also available in several other editions, including a Dover reprint.
The pages of Antique Reproductions For The Home Craftsman reveal Yates personal passion for woodworking. His devotion to the craft is especially exhibited when he explains details about the "warmth of wood", the feel of the hand tools in your hand as you shape workpieces, but most especially when describing the reconstruction of the primitive pieces using hand tools. Taken together, all features about this book, first, appeal to me personally - since I have a similar passion for woodworking -- Yates' enthusiasm is catching -- and second, gives the book itself an appeal that is timeless. In short, it is an "old" book that will never be old, in the sense it is outdated by technological advances.
1950: Paul V Champion. Creative crate craft.
1950: Cramlet, R. C. Woodwork visualized. 1950. Bruce.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). Bedroom furniture. General, 1950.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). Dining room furniture. General, 1950.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). 450 questions/answers on home repairs/workshop methods. General, 1950.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). Living room furniture. General, 1950.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). 9 corner cabinets. General, 1950.
1950: Popular Homecraft (periodical). 35 tables of all kinds. General, 1950.