Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Amateur House Carpenter

Every now and then I get a fresh supply of old books from a friend at Teachers College. While Teachers was the first university in the US to offer advanced degrees in the manual arts and while Teachers College was first founded with the express purpose of doing so, the manual arts are no longer of interest in American education. That means that early books are removed from the shelves, and kind librarians, loving books and the knowledge they contain, make some rather interesting efforts to place them in the right hands. My daughter arrived for my mother's memorial service with extra weight in her duffle, some of which was a book called The Amateur House Carpenter, by Ellis A. Davidson. The author also illustrated the book with drawings composed on wood.

These old books contain a wealth of wisdom such as the following sound advice:
It is of course, very easy to form a large collection of tools, but it is not wise to do this; it is, by far, better to purchase only such as are absolutely required, adding to the stock from time to time. By this plan the habit is formed of getting as much work as possible out of each tool, and further, it is not likely that the amateur carpenter will undertake the larger and rougher departments of the trade, such as planing large boards or sawing them down lengthwise, knowing that they may be obtained thus prepared for very little more than they would cost in the rough, as at most timber-yards there are machines for sawing and planing, and thus it is advisable to order the wood in lengths planed and edged.
Of course sound advice will change in circumstances. For instance you could not at this point in the American retail industry, go to a lumber yard and find anyone capable of sizing a variety of woods to exacting widths in order to come up with a serviceable product. But buying tools one at a time is still good sense. Learn what each tools affords in skill and power, knowing its full potential in head, hand and heart before you become overwhelmed by the wide range of tools available.

The drawing above is by Ellis A. Davidson


  1. Anonymous2:21 PM

    Very good advice in that book. People are always surprised to see how few tools I have. Seems like a lot to me, but not to them.


  2. Head, Heart,Hands.......adopted in 1927 for the 4-H pledge. Here is a link.