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Carpentry for Boys
August 3, 2013 3:42 PM   Subscribe

CARPENTRY FOR BOYS WITH 250 ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS By J. S. ZERBE, M.E. Copyright, 1914.
posted by Think_Long (29 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool find, and also underscores how useless I am outside of, like, a text editor.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2013


"This chapter is not given for the purpose of calling attention to all the errors which are so common, but merely to point out a few which the boy will commit as he tries to carry out his work for the first time. [...] Never saw out the scribing or marking line, either in cutting or in ripping. The lines should be obliterated by the plane, when it is being finished, and not before."

Haha, I still don't do this. When I was a boy I was just happy to have the saw point the right way.
posted by user92371 at 4:06 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the Carpenter & the Architect chapter:

"So in your leisure or in your active moments, if you wish to advance, you must be alert. Know for yourself the reasons for things, and you will thereby form the stepping stones that will lead you upward and contribute to your success."
posted by yoga at 4:08 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A boy in 1914 could do the work of ten men in 2014.
posted by planetesimal at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed this passage:

I urge the ingenious youth to rig up a wood-turning lathe, for the reason that it is a tool easily made. . .

Really. Okay *grabs pencil*

Simple Turning Lathe.—A very simple turning lathe may be made by following these instructions:

The Rails.—Procure two straight 2" × 4" scantling (A), four feet long, and planed on all sides. Bore four ⅜-inch holes at each end, as shown, and 10 inches from one end four more holes. A plan of these holes is shown in B, where the exact spacing is indicated. Then prepare two pieces 2" × 4" scantling (C), planed, 42 inches long, one end of each being chamfered off, as at 2, and provided with four bolt holes. Ten inches down, and on the same side, with the chamfer (2) is a cross gain (3), the same angle as the chamfer. Midway between the cross gain (3) and the lower end of the leg is [Pg 139] a gain (4) in the edge, at right angles to the cross gain (3).

The Legs.—Now prepare two legs (D) for the tail end of the frame, each 32 inches long, with a chamfer (5) at one end, and provided with four bolt holes. At the lower end bore a bolt hole for the cross base piece. This piece (E) is 4" × 4", 21 inches long, and has a bolt hole at each end and one near the middle. The next piece (F) is 2" × 4", 14½ inches long, provided with a rebate (6) at each end, to fit the cross gains (4) of the legs (C). Near the middle is a journal block (7).


*slams head on desk*
posted by Think_Long at 4:13 PM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Apparently the boys of Metafilter are intimidated by the boys of 1914 when it comes to building their own Simple Turning Lathe. Thank god the girls are up to the challenge.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thank god the girls are up to the challenge.
posted by Nanukthedog


Speaking as the woodworking teacher at an all girls school, I can attest that this it 100% accurate.

(we've had a woodworking program since the 1880's and I'm still teaching with the same benches and in some cases, tools from the 1930's.)
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


A boy in 1914 could do the work of ten men in 2014.

It's lucky he could; once the war and the flu hit, he'd have to.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:48 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


This carpentrix spent most of today building a wooden storage/display tray for her nail polish collection.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:08 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


VI. The Uses of the Compass and the Square

I knew it. Masonic propaganda.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Rails.—Procure two straight 2" × 4" scantling (A), four feet long, and planed on all sides. Bore four ⅜-inch holes at each end, as shown, and 10 inches from one end four more holes. A plan of these holes is shown in B, where the exact spacing is indicated. Then prepare two pieces 2" × 4" scantling (C), planed, 42 inches long, one end of each being chamfered off, as at 2, and provided with four bolt holes. Ten inches down, and on the same side, with the chamfer (2) is a cross gain (3), the same angle as the chamfer. Midway between the cross gain (3) and the lower end of the leg is [Pg 139] a gain (4) in the edge, at right angles to the cross gain (3).

I've found that projects like this are much, much simpler once you get started. At the outset, it's like...where do I even?? Then you take the first step and each succeeding step is obvious. You're like...well duh, OBVIOUSLY I'd do that. Why did you even write that down??

The key is to realize it'll take at least 10 times longer to do each thing than it does to read and understand it. Often 100 times longer.
posted by DU at 5:30 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is something about working with real material (wood, metal, cars) that is satisfying and will carry the child, boy or girl, throughout his or her life.

Just knowing the difference between a rip saw and a crosscut saw gave me confidence. Pounding red iron was scary, at first, but shaping the metal to my will was amazing. Most cars, these days, have no "user serviceable parts inside," but just being able to check my tire pressure and my oil helps me feel more in control, and not just a victim of technology.
posted by SPrintF at 5:42 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was in middle school, shop was a mandatory part of the school program. Of course, by then the USSR had collapsed, and so had access to any kind of shop equipment. I don't think that in two years of shop I did more than sand a block of wood and hammer a rivet.
posted by Nomyte at 5:47 PM on August 3, 2013


Most interesting. Thanks!

Anyone interested in a single page version or an epub can find them at Project Gutenberg's Carpentry for Boys page; you can also check out Rustic Carpentry and Woodwork Joints.
posted by kristi at 6:19 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Possibly related, for that time period:
Sloyd (Slöjd), also known as Educational sloyd, was a system of handicraft-based education started by Uno Cygnaeus in Finland in 1865. The system was further refined and promoted worldwide, including adoption in the United States, until the early 20th Century.
posted by XMLicious at 7:13 PM on August 3, 2013


"As stated in the Introductory, the purpose of this book is to show how to do the things"
posted by maus at 7:14 PM on August 3, 2013


That's great. Simple carpentry is one of those things I think I should be able to pick up, and then I try to do it and end up with a perfectly sturdy, functional bookshelf that leans ten degrees to the right. (It's lasted through three moves and ten years now, so I'm calling it mostly a victory.) I'm just too impatient and too overconfident to make good stuff, and I don't try it often enough to develop actual skill.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no native carpentry skills; but the level of reading involved in this and in a home ec book of the time really slams how far our k-12 schools have fallen.
A lot of literacy left when the schools dumped these classes so they could have dedicated 'read' and 'math' 2x a day.
posted by buzzman at 9:00 PM on August 3, 2013


"Do well that which you attempt to do. Don't do it in that manner because some one has done it in that way before you. If, in the trade, the experience of ages has taught the craftsman that some particular way of doing things is correct, there is no law to prevent you from combating that method. Your way may be better. But you must remember that in every plan for doing a thing there is some particular reason, or reasons, why it is carried out in that way. Study and learn to apply those reasons." CHAPTER XVI - The Carpenter and the Architect
posted by suedehead at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Writing was so much better when images were expensive.
posted by Teakettle at 9:40 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


When we weren't smoking in the wood shop during lunch (the door was easily forced open), I made a chess board, completely unsupervised, with zero input from the teacher. He just didn't give a shit.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:05 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a load of social commentary/moralizing. You Do These Things Because It Is So Ordained. It's heavenly to keep a tidy desk. Habits will make you happy. You Will Be A Good Person If You Abide The Rules.

Good tool-usage fundamentals throughout. For craft, there often is just one best way of doing it. Learn from the experience of the tens of thousands of tradesmen who used the same tools.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, in 1914, boys built 2-bedroom houses.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:36 AM on August 4, 2013


Wow, in 1914, boys built 2-bedroom houses.

Not just in 1914, but in 1966. The students of our middle school built one every year in a corner of the school yard, starting in September, and it was auctioned off every June. Professionals came in and prepared a (temporary) foundation on which the shop classes (woodwork, electrical, metalwork) built a 2x4 house, which had a 'split' down the middle so that it could be taken away in two long narrow pieces and reassembled on the purchaser's lot. I spent a good chunk of grade 9 climbing around inside ours that year ...
posted by woodblock100 at 4:45 AM on August 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


No TV, no broadcast radio (tubes still being perfected), no teen stereos, no feature-length films, no superheroes, zombies, just one or two vampires and one Captain Nemo. Big trees still existed aplenty, 2x4's didn't cost $8 each, and they were straight without knotholes. Craftsmen were still highly respected.

It got harder being hands-on as time went by and used-up resources started to get scarce/expensive. Even big cars to work on and cuss over went away. The Make Magazine and associated neighborhood shops are about all that's left of the many electronics hobbies. But there's still bicycles!
posted by Twang at 8:25 AM on August 4, 2013


I don't think anybody should feel too intimidated by this. A lot of old instructional books are designed to look impressive when you're browsing it in the store but the coverage is only an inch deep and not much use without personal instruction. It's fun to comb through for tidbits though.

I sure wish manual training was still taught when I was in school. For anyone interested in learning to work with hand tools, The Woodwright's Shop has tonnes of episodes for streaming (the ones featuring Cristopher Schwarz cover basics of layout, sawing and planing) Paul Sellers has a great youtube channel and will show you all the basics along witha fantastic sharpening tecnique and a wonderful step-by-step of building an English joiners bench from home center lumber.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:19 AM on August 4, 2013


Thanks for this. Just bought a house from 1904 and we're working on restoring it. Now I can get my 13-year-old son off Minecraft and doing most of the work.
posted by pashdown at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a single HTML page version (from Project Gutenberg) in HTML. Gutenberg also has .mobi, .epub, and Kindle versions, plus the original page images.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 6:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]



buzzman: "I have no native carpentry skills; but the level of reading involved in this and in a home ec book of the time really slams how far our k-12 schools have fallen.
A lot of literacy left when the schools dumped these classes so they could have dedicated 'read' and 'math' 2x a day.
"

It's hard to seperate the archaicness of the launguage from the reading level of the instruction. I know I at times have trouble following written directions of technical subjects from England merely because of the differences in language. My brain stumbles on scantling or gain and it makes it hard to maintain the picture of the process in my mind.
posted by Mitheral at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2013


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