Woodworker's Manuals 1961-1970

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.



Chronological List of Woodworking Manuals, Periodicals,  1961-1970:


Chronological List of Woodworking Manuals, Periodicals,  1961-1970:

Home Craftsman. v. 19-30, no. 4. Ja.-F. '50-N.-D. '61. Home Crafts-man Corp.


1961: Pelton, B. W. Furniture making and cabinet work. 2d ed. 1961. Van Nostrand.

 Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1961: Peters, Geoff. Woodturning. 1961. Arco Pub. Co.

 Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1961: J. J. Hammond  and others. Woodworking technology. 1961. Mc-Knight.

         Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1961: B. W. Heppenstall. Contemporary furniture designs. 1961. John Murray, London.

 Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1961: Hjorth, Herman, 1883-1951; Rev. by Albert Constantine, Jr.. Veneering made easy for school and home workshop.  New York, A. Constantine, 1951.


1961: W. F. Holtrop and Herman Hjorth. Principles of woodworking. 1961. Bruce.


Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1961: John Gerald Shea. Woodworking For Everybody. Princeton, New Jersey, Nostrand Co., 1961. 3d edition. 219 p. 1st edition, 1944; second edition, 1953.


Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965



1961:  R. J. DeCristoforo. Fun With a Saw.  McGraw,, 1961


Indexed in Index to Handicrafts 1965


1962:  R. J. DeCristoforo. Mechanix illustrated carpentry handbook.  Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett Publications, 1962


1962:  R. J. DeCristoforo. Fun with a saw:  radial arm saw woodworking for everyone.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962

1962: Ecke, Gustav. Chinese Domestic Furniture in Photographs and Measured Drawings (Dover Books on Furniture)     ISBN: 0486251713.

1962: Robert Scharff. Newest ways to expert woodworking; easy power tool techniques for all do-it-yourself materials including wood, aluminum, composition materials, tile, and plastics.  1962 176 p. illus. 

1963:  James M O'Neill. Making colonial furniture: instructions and diagrams for 24 projects. Dover, 1963, 1997. 141 p. : ill. ISBN: 0486296660 (pbk.)

1964:  John Gerald Shea.  Making colonial furniture reproductions: over 100 projects with measured drawings.  New York: Dover, 1964,  1994. Libraries Worldwide: 34

1965: John Gerald Shea.  Contemporary Furniture Making for Everybody. Van Nostrand, 1965. 178 pages

From Chapter 1:

    Philosophy of Contemporary Design

    It is a common misconception that the term "contemporary" represents the extreme opposite of "traditional", when applied to furniture design.

    Actually, there is not too great a difference between traditional designs of certain fundamental types and some basic contemporary concepts. Certainly, the rudimentary, solid wood furniture of early colonial America has much in common with the best contemporary furniture designed today. Both types are essentially functional both are devoid of ostentatious ornamentation.

    But the line is sharply drawn between contemporary furniture and traditional furniture of the more sophisticated periods. Indeed, the philosophy of contemporary design rules out the use of applied embellishment, elaborately curved and scrolled shapes and decorative turning. It seeks beauty through absolute simplicity.

    The effective contemporary designer is constantly concerned with economy of essentials. He must often ask himself: Is this feature necessary? And does it contribute anything to the appeal and purpose of the design?


    a chair is not made more comfortable by the carving or turning of its legs;

    a table [is not] rendered more serviceable by the amount of decoration it displays.

    So the contemporary designer discards traditional embellishment insofar as it does not contribute to functional requirements.


1965: R J. DeCristoforo. Home carpentry handbook. Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett Publications, 1965



1965: R J. DeCristoforo. How to build your own furniture. New York:  Harper & Row, 1965.



1965: Mario Dal Fabrro. How to Make Wood Furnishings for Your Home. 1965

Click on this link to see an extended discussion of Dal Fabbro's Woodworker's Manuals


1966: R J. DeCristoforo. The how-to- book of carpentry. New York:  Arco 1966


1967: R J. DeCristoforo. Modern power tool woodworking. New York:  Arco Pub. Co. 1967


1967: Mechanix illustrated carpentry handbook. Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett Publications, 1967. 


1968: David Collischon. Furniture Making.  Studio Vista, 1968.



1968: Stanley Works Inc. The use and care of hand tools. New Britain, Conn. : Stanley Tools, Division of the Stanley Works  [40] p.


1968: R J. DeCristoforo. The new carpentry handbook. Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett Publications,inc.,1968 112 p.

1969: R J. DeCristoforo. The Practical Book of Home Carpentry. [not decristoforo’s first book]

1969: R J. DeCristoforo. How to build your own furniture New York : Popular Science Pub. Co., 1969.


1969: Walter George Alton. More Woodwork Projects.  Allman, 1969.


1970:  Vernon Martin Albers. Amateur Furniture Construction.   A. S. Barnes, 1970.

1970: Laszlo Katz. The Art of Woodworking and Furniture Appreciation.  New York: P.F.C. Publishing Co., inc., in cooperation with PFC Woodworking Co, Inc., 1970. 192 pages.

The author -- a cabinetmaker of the 'old school' -- lovingly and painstakingly provides history and commentary of hand tools and furniture, beginning in the neolithic age,  including the craftsmanship required in its making. Evidently published again in 1980, illustrations in color and black/white -- need to check

... Furniture uniquely combines, and even transcends the basic art forms which, by themselves, are greatly appreciated and highly prized; i.e., sculpture, painting, fabrics, ceramics, the decorative arts and even, to a degree, music and literature.

Furniture makes use of every material from the very precious to the most prevalent found n the various arts. But most important — nd frequently forgotten — is the fact that 1) furniture is functional, the art form hich serves human needs other than aesthetic, and 2) furniture ties together all the other arts, thereby making it ossible to have them in the home.

Mr. Katz in his book points out not just he main styles and history, but the aterials, the invention of tools which made he styles possible, the use of the tools and materials related to construction resulting in the creation of furniture. It brings to ife for your permanent enjoyment this major art of the art in our lives. If you're not areful, you may start creating some of your wn furniture after reading this book.

While the U.S. has had its fair share f great and famous artists creating urniture, this is a rapidly dying art. he few marvelously skilled in the field re not being replaced, due to the public's ack of understanding, appreciation, recognition of the artistic skills, and willingness to pay properly for the creation involved. What profession today can proudly state that they are skilled in so many arts, crafts and sciences as those required of the creator of furniture: drafting, artistic drawing, design (knowledge of all styles and decorations), lumbermen (knowledge of all kinds, cuts and grains of wood), machinist, sculptor, decorator (inlays, overlays, decorative hardware, ceramics, painted designs, etc.), finisher (paint, oil, shellac, varnish, lacquer and many antique finishes). Furniture making provides the ost expansive creativity of innate expression and the widest opportunity of all the arts. ...

Source: Foreword, written by Arthur J Cawford 

1970 David F. Butler, Simplified Furniture Design and Construction New York: A. S. Barnes, 1970 ISBN 0498073459, 9780498073458 118 pages

I remember -- vaguely now -- when this book (and the Albers book below) came to my attention. However, all manuals directed toward newbie woodworkers suffer from the same malady: not enough basic stuff to get the newbie started on a firm footing.

Aside: Still very much a novice academic librarian, to sharpen my writing skills, I started reviewing books for Library Journal, a weekly magazine that featured breaking news in the profession plus hundreds of reviews of books, pre-selected by the LJ editors as potential puchases for public library shelves. Learning to write pithy reviews within the limit of 100 words was just the correct formula for sharpening the skill of making points without excess verbiage. (Read more here: -- shortly afterward, I tried writing books, and needed to give up book reviewing, but it was an experience that I have never regretted.)

First off, Butler seeks to place his budding woodworker in a warm comfort zone:


    Like many young couples starting out on a small budget, my wife and I needed furniture, and did not have funds to purchase everything. We both had an interest in early Ameri­can furniture, and put this interest to work creating the designs described in this book. If one does not have funds to buy furniture, then funds are not available to buy elaborate woodworking machinery and tools. The designs described in this book were created to utilize simple construction techniques and a minimum of tools and machinery. The projects have stood the test of time, and some are now over fifteen years old and still in excellent condition.

    Many friends have helped with this book in discussions of designs and assembly techniques during the past twenty years. Special thanks are due to Mrs. Geraldine. A. Patti, for typing and retyping the manuscript in addition to her regular secre­tarial duties. Thanks are also expressed to Mr. John E. Wood­bridge, who reviewed the manuscript carefully, and suggested many improvements.





      Photograph of Workbench Figure 1

      Construction Details of Workbench Figure 2



      Empty Bookcase Figure 1

      Construction Details Figure 2

      Finished Bookcase Full of Books Figure 3


      Brass Lamp with Shade Figure 1

      Brass Lamp Construction Details Figure 2

      Pistol Lamp without Shade Figure 3

      Detail Drawing of Pistol Lamp Figure 4

      Casting Holder for Pistol Lan Figure 5

      Finished Pistol Lamp Figure 6

      Finished Rifle Lamp Figure 7

      Detail Drawing of Rifle Lamp Figure 8


      Cabinet with Doors Open Figure 1

      Construction Details of Cabinet Figure 2

      Elements of the Cabinet Figure 3

      Finished Cabinet with Doors Closed Figure 4


      Finished Speaker Cabinet Figure 1

      Details of Speaker Cabinet Figure 2


      Coffee Table with Magazines Figure 1

      Coffee Table with Pan and Cover Removed Figure 2

      Coffee Table Filled with Plants Figure 3

      Design of Coffee Table Figure 4

      Construction Details of Table Figure 5


      Finished Cabinet in Use Figure 1

      Open Gun Cabinet Outdoors Figure 2

      Construction Details Figure 3

      Gun Cabinet Closed Figure 4


      Finished Hutch with Displays Figure 1

      Design of Hutch Figure 2

      Construction Details Figure 3

      Hutch With Door and Drawers Open Figure 4


Chapter 1:

Tools and Workbench

    Many people enjoy woodworking as a hobby. The excellent woodworking courses offered in high schools train several hundred thousand young men each year in the proper use of hand tools. Several million American homes have small shops in the basement where boys and girls learn woodworking skills from their parents. Others take up the hobby as a means for relaxation later on in life, if woodworking can be used to create objects which are truly useful, the hobby becomes dou­bly rewarding. Many young couples find it an area where both can bring their own particular skills to bear. The husband may design and build the furniture while the wife applies her efforts to the finer operations of finishing the furniture. The finishing operations require knowledge of stains and fillers and the relative merits of such materials as shellacs, varnishes, and the newer synthetic finishes. Proper finishing provides a durable, rugged surface and in the process enhances the natural ap­pearance of the wood. The major problem that most woodworkers face is the need for elaborate machinery which is far beyond the financial reach of the average budget. The techniques of simplified construction described in this book allow the assembly of high quality, durable furniture with a minimum investment in tools. Half of the projects described in this book were built with no power tools at all, including the "Hutch" described in Chapter 9. Excellent furniture can be constructed this way but more time and effort are required than if better equipment is available. It is essential to have a small set of high-quality woodworking tools in order to do worthwhile work. It is desirable to have a large, sturdy workbench which can be the focal point for your woodworking activities. [ Butler has more on this topic here.]

    Source: David F. Butler, Simplified Furniture Design and Construction New York: A. S. Barnes, 1970


1970: Vernon m Albers Amateur Furniture Construction New York: A S Barnes, 1970

Unlike Butler (above) -- who walks woodworkers through projects in his manual -- Albers' manual is more in what I would call the "sink or swim" genre. Moreover, I have always found Albers pencil drawings wanting for clarity, at least for the newbie.


    There is a growing interest in hobbies in America because of the increase in the amount of leisure time available to large numbers of people. Many people, in their quests for hobbies, are interested in doing something constructive. This accounts for the increased interest in woodcraftsmanship.


    Woodcraftsmansbip is a hobby which can be engaged in with either a simple and inexpensive outlay of tools and equipment or an elaborate assemblage of power tools. Early professional craftsmen worked entirely with hand tools, and the still-extant results of their work bear witness to the fact that power tools are not essential to the attainment of fine craftsmanship. Power tools, however, permit you to obtain the same results with much less expenditure of time and labor. The hobbyist planning to engage in woodworking should purchase his tools with care, always remembering that a power tool requires adequate space if it is to provide its potential contribution.

    Woodworking has an appeal to many people because beautiful things can be fabricated from wood. Wood is a material which continually challenges the skill of a craftsman because no two pieces of it behave in the same way.

    The beginning woodcraftsman should start with the construction of simple things and gradually progress to the more complicated. As his skill increases, his interest in his hobby will increase. Regardless of the degree of skill he has attained, the amateur furniture builder will continually encounter new problems to be solved.

    It is possible to build furniture from available designs, but the creative amateur will eventually wish to create designs of his own so that his hobby can become an art as well as a craft.

    I became interested in the building of furniture when I took a course in manual arts in high school nearly fifty years ago. I have constructed many pieces of furniture, several of which required approximately two years to complete. I never go to my shop to work on a project unless I want to. If a man goes to work on a project because he feels it is his duty, the project becomes a job rather than a hobby.



    Amateur Furniture Building

    This book is written for amateurs. Its purpose is to acquaint the amateur with the proper tools and procedures for their use in fabricating furniture and cabinets of wood. Furniture and cabinetwork may be done with either hand tools or power tools. In general, the fundamental methods of woodworking and wood joining are the same whether hand tools or power tools are used except in factories where methods are applied to produce large numbers of the same item. The most important difference between hand tool-work and power tool-work is the amount of physical labor and time involved. It may appear that less skill is necessary when power tools are used. In practice there is little difference in the levels of skill required except, often, in the way in which the skills are applied.

    It is possible to do fine work with hand tools. An amateur who is not in a position to use power tools should not feel that he is therefore denied the opportunity of enjoying the pleasures of woodworking.

    queen_anne_side_table_alber You may be interested in building reproductions of antique furniture or some simple items needed in your home. Although the finished products may differ greatly in appearance, the fundamentals of wood joining and Woodworking will be similar in your fabrication of each.

    If you are interested in antiques, a book entitled Furniture Antiques Found In Virginia by Ernest C. Lynch, Jr. (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1954) is a good source of designs, with working drawings of a number of museum pieces. [Not online] In many instances, you will see a piece of furniture appealing to you which you will wish to modify in design in order to meet your requirements.

    Woodworking is a craft which becomes more interest­ing as you pursue it. Unlike homogeneous materials such as metals and plastics, no two pieces of wood are alike. The physical properties of wood are different in different directions. You will soon learn that it is important to se­lect pieces of wood so that their different grain patterns, inclusions, and even knots fall in areas where they can be most effective in enhancing the appearance of a fin­ished piece. In doing this your skill will improve. It re­quires experience to visualize the appearance of a final surface.

    1.2. Wood

    Wood of local varieties is available as lumber in rough form from small sawmills. There are dealers who can supply very fine grades of lumber for furniture mak­ing and there are others who can supply plywoods in vari­ous hardwoods.

    The hardwoods-which are products of deciduous trees such as maple, oak, walnut, cherry and mahagony-are those most commonly used in furniture making. The soft­woods from evergreen trees-pine, fir, and redwood-are used in some furniture and also to a large extent in cabinet making. Plywood is manufactured by gluing together alternate layers of woods whose grains run perpendicular to each other. Plywood, in thicknesses from 38" to 34', ismost commonly used. Plywood may be three-ply, five- ply, or seven-ply. It may be obtained in finish quality on both sides or only one side. Hardwoods may be obtained as special plywood, with a layer of the finish wood on each side and solid lumber in between, plus thin layers of wood with right-angled grains on either side of the center.

    The material for plywood is cut by shaving a layer from around and around a log while the wood is still green. Its grain-pattern is different from that of a piece of lumber cut in the ordinary way from the same wood. The reader is referred to The Craftsman In Wood by Edward H. Pinto (London: G. Bell and Sons Limited, 1962) for a thorough description of the various woods and woodpoducts.

    Much of the lumber used in furniture making is sawed and milled to either 3/4" or 13/16" thickness. I usually work with cherry or walnut because I like them and they are native to the region where I live. I get the lumber rough- sawed from farmers or small mills. I have the boards mill­ed to 13/16" at a local mill. In addition to these-which should have been seasoned for two or three years before they were milled -- I always have some milled to 32" and others to 2" or 3" for use in making furniture legs. This thick material is left in rough-sawed condition.

    Cherry lumber was frequently used in making Early American furniture. It is a very hard wood, difficult to work, and quite susceptible to warping. It is light in color when first cut but darkens with age to a beautiful reddish brown.

    Walnut is not as hard as cherry. It is considerably easi­er to work. And it is not as subject to warping. It has a wide range of color, varying from almost black to brown and reddish brown. There is little or no change in its color with time, except that exposure to strong sunlight sometimes causes bleaching. Maple and birch are white, hard, fine-grained woods, not very subject to warping. They are structurally strong. They are used where a strong white wood is desired or where the wood is to be painted or stained. They are re­latively easy to work.

    Pine has had considerable use in certain types of furni­ture where a soft white wood is desired. It is easy to work, but much care must be exercised to avoid denting the surface. It is widely used in cabinet work both as lum­ber and as plywood when the cabinets are to be painted.

    Oak is a hard coarse-grained wood. It is used for cer­tain kinds of heavy furniture and also for the hidden structure of upholstered furniture. Much English furni­ture was made of oak. Styles of furniture for which oak is appropriate would not look right if fabricated from mahogany or walnut.

    Mahogany is not a wood native to North America. There are several kinds such as Mexican, Hondura, and Philippine, which vary in hardness and color. Maho­gany is easy to work. It usually is stained red, although it is beautiful when finished in its natural color. Since it is imported, it is generally more expensive than native woods.

    1.3. Tools

    Some tools are essential to any kind of furniture-making. Some are not essential but desirable to have. Others are essential to specific operations which you may or may not wish to do.

    Even though you may wish to invest in power tools, before you start to do anything you will need hand tools. Acquire them first. They are listed in Table 1. [click here for table 1]

    Source: Vernon m Albers, Amateur Furniture Construction New York: A S Barnes, 1970