Woodworker's Manuals 1991-2000

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 1991-2000


R.J. DeCristoforo.   The jigsaw/scroll saw book, with 80 patterns.   Blue Ridge Summit , PA : Tab Books, 1990


R.J. DeCristoforo.  Gifts from the woodshop.  Blue Ridge  Summit , PA : TAB Books, 1991.


R.J. DeCristoforo The drill press book :  including 80 jigs & accessories you can make. Blue Ridge  Summit , PA : Tab Books, 1991


R.J. DeCristoforo.  The Complete Book of Joinery New York : Meredith Press, xi, 308 p. : ill. ISBN: 0696111276 an exquisite book.


Kathy Prochnow and  Dave Prochnow . The art of fine furniture building. Cincinnati , Ohio : Betterway Books,1993 ISBN: 1558702822. 174 p. Libraries worldwide that own item: 161


R.J. DeCristoforo.  Woodworking for beginners.  Blue Ridge Summit , PA : TAB Books, 1993


R.J. DeCristoforo. The portable router book Blue Ridge   Summit, PA : TAB Books, 1994.


Edward A. Baldwin. Backyard Building Projects. McGraw-Hill, 1993.

[more likely in the domain of home-building, rather than amateur woodworking.]


Time-Life Books. Hand Tools Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1993. 144 pages.

As well as covering a panoply of hand tools, most tools -- the most well-known and popular -- include an illustrated "how-to-use" section. First, a three-part introduction features accounts by noted professional woodworkers, Kelly Mehler, Curtis Erpelding, and Toshio Odate, respectively,  on "the hand tool experience", the "making of hand tools", and "respect for hand tools".

Without a doubt, the book's intent is to fire up the imagination of the wannabe newbie woodworker, an intent that -- with brief, to-the-point text and well-excuted drawings and color photographs-- in my view, the book achieves.












Ken Sadler and  Kenneth Sadler, Jr. Building Fine Furniture from Solid Wood F & W Pubns 1994.


Chris Simpson. The Complete Guide to Woodworking. Running Press, 1994.


Victor  John Taylor. Period Furniture Projects: Plans and Full Instructions for Twenty Distinctive Pieces. Sterling , 1994.


Bill Hylton . Country Pine: Furniture You Can Make With the Table Saw and Router. Rodale Press, 1995.


John Birchard , Robert J. Beckstrom , Sally W. Smith. Projects for Woodworkers.  Ortho Books, Meredith Books, 1995.


Black & Decker Corporation ( Towson , Md. ) Den & family room furnishings. Cowles Creative Publishing.; Black & Decker Corporation,  Towson , Md. , 1996.


R.J. DeCristoforo.  Woodworking mistakes & solutions New York :  Sterling Pub., 1996.


J. D. Lawrence. Furniture-Making from the Inside Out.   Sterling , 1996.


Reader's Digest Association. Reader's Digest Book of Home Do-It-Yourself Projects. 368 p. Pleasantville, N.Y: Putnam Pub Group, 1996) ISBN:

Libraries worldwide that own item: 93


Christopher Cavanaugh (Editor)           Furniture Projects.  Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Books,  1996.


John D. Wagner. Mission Furniture You Can Build.   Houghton Mifflin, 1997.


Dave MacKenzie . Pine Furniture Projects for the Home.  Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, 1997.


[author not known – but commissioned by Black and Decker Portable Workshop] Decorative Accessories: Basic Wood Projects With Portable Power Tools. Creative Pub Intl, 1997. 96 pages.

A determinedly anti-woodworking manual, the back cover of Decorative Accessories claims that purchasers of this manual will be able to


Put the finishing touches on your home with these unique and creative decorative accessories:


•       A finely crafted jewelry box

•       An innovative bookshelf assembled without glue, nails, or screws

•       A plate and spoon rack

•       A mission-style window seat

•       And MANY MORE useful, inexpensive projects you can build yourself.


This book contains plans for 21 basic wood projects for your entire home. Each project features full-color photographs of the major construction steps, a detailed technical drawing, and easy-to-follow step-by-step directions.


Anyone can build a Black & Decker® Portable Workshop project with:







Deceptive, nonetheless! The photos show all B and D portable tools being used. But the deception shows more blatantly in a recommended project, a mantelpiece. In this project, crown moulding is used, which the builder is encouraged to buy as a stock piece. OK, let’s say that’s fine. However, the crown moulding is accented by dentil moulding , and conveniently, no mention is made in the instructions about how or where this material comes from.


Graham Blackburn. Furniture Design: Design, Construction, & Technique. Lyons & Burford . Globe Pequot, 1997.

Linenfold: [good account and diagrams in blackburn 1997]


John D. Wagner. Mission Furniture You Can Build.  Houghton Mifflin, 1997.


Robert Sonday . Shaker Style Wood Projects. Sterling , 1997.


Larry Hawkins, Making Twig Mosaic Rustic Furniture. Schiffer , 1997.


Larry Hawkins.   More Twig Mosaic Furniture.Schiffer , 1998.


Bill Hylton . Illustrated Cabinetmaking: How to Design and Construct Furniture That Works.  

Rodale Press (January 1998)


George Buchanan. Making Country Furniture: 15 Step-by-Step Projects.  Taunton Press, 1998.


Scott Landis. The Workshop Book. Taunton , 1998. 216 pp.


Sandor Nagyszalanczy. The Art of Fine Tools . Newtown, CT:  Taunton Press, 1998.


Jeff Greef . Woodworking for fun & profit. Rocklin , Calif. : Prima Home, c1999. ix, 324 p. : ill. ; ISBN: 0761520384 http://www.loc.gov/catdir/bios/random059/99039231.html Table of contents http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/random041/99039231.html -- is this pub associated with Rockwell Delta?


R.J. DeCristoforo.  The ultimate workshop jig book.    Cincinnati , Ohio : Betterway ; London : Hi Marketing, 1999.


Andy Schultz.  Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture You Can Build.    Popular Woodworking Books, 1999.


Kingsley H. Hammett, Early New Mexican Furniture: A Handbook of Plans and Building Techniques. Santa Fe, NM: Fleetwood, 1999. 96 pages.

Kingsley H. Hammett, MA, 1979, School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia, is publisher of DESIGNER/builder magazine, A Journal of the Human Environment. Along with his wife and managing editor, Jerilou, the magazine has won the Utne Reader "Best of the Alternative Press Award" and is now the magazine for Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility. He and Jerilou also have released, The Essence of Santa Fe: From a Way of Life to a Style. They are now editing a book of essays, The Suburbanization of New York: How the World's Greatest City is Becoming Just Another Town. The Hammetts reside in Santa Fe , N.M.

From Preface:

I decided to assemble this book on early New Mexican furniture to offer woodworkers a guide to a style whose simplicity, humility, and elegance has few rivals. These pieces embody the frugal and unpretentious lifestyle on this rustic frontier where their makers lived in isolation for centuries. Here, among the mountains and plains of central and northern New Mexico , they took locally available materials and crafted unique pieces to meet the utilitarian needs of their time.


In an attempt to promote a better understanding of the history, design, and construction of traditionally made New Mexican colonial furniture, this book offers the skilled craftsman the accurate dimensions that are so critical to building these pieces to their correct proportions. It provides the details and embellishments that make them uniquely New Mexican. For those who may be interested in producing a piece of early New Mexican furniture in the traditional manner, I offer this book as a guide. …


Plans and details to build 36 early New Mexican pieces.


The book includes "History Of Furniture In New Mexico," by Donna S  Pierce, curator of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and El Rancho de las Golondrinas Museum in Santa Fe . ( Pierce's article appeared originally in The American Craftsman and the European Tradition, 1620-1820, a catalog produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)


The next section, "traditional details and decorative embellishments," features text and diagrams of design motifs typical of  early New Mexican furniture: Geometric Relief Carving Bullet Carving; Rams' Horns; Groove and Bead Carving Basket Weave Chip Carving; Serrated Edge; Sawtooth Chip Carving; Negative Space; and the Geometric Designs, Lightning Bolt, Bowtie, Scallop, Tulip, Step-and-Mesa, and Cupid's Bow. The final section covers the  photographs and dimensioned drawings of the 36 chairs, chests, tables, Trasteros , cupboards, Roperos , and Alacenas .

The book is one of several published recently dedicated toward celebrating the furniture designs of American citizens of Spanish heritage.