Apr 02 2008

The Woodworks Library

Amongst the many dilemmas facing the woodworker, just a few are what to build and how to build it, but even as those questions seem like early ones in the process, the earlier ones considered are even more elementary.

The nature and ways of wood, joinery, adhesives, and style are all things that need to be dealt with in the “what” to build and “how” to build it. Is it furniture, casework, cabinetry? Will it involve carpentry, as a built in as many elements of Arts and Crafts styling will? will it include some metal work or upholstery? Other leading questions like, will I have the appropriate tools, and can I properly fixture the work for all the different elements of construction? What finishes are most appropriate, and how best to apply them?

You see, it is a lot of questions. Fortunately there are a lot of answers. The art and craft of woodworking is age old, in fact, even our great grandparents and grandparents knew a lot about it, and lucky for us, even as much of an undertaking it was to publish books back in the day, the understandings of the woodworking trades, the methods and the how to with hand and power tools was something they authors of that period wrote about quite articulately. There was a want for future generations to know these things, and there was a lot they understood.

With all things old becoming new again with the resurgence of interest in woodworking as well as some of its somewhat forgotten ways, many libraries as well as groups like Project Gutenberg and companies like Google and Microsoft have taken on the mammoth task of digitizing many of these old texts, of which there were few left in access to the public, before father time could claim them. Fortunately many of these books are now available in the public domain and can be used quite freely by anyone as long as their purposes are not commercial.

The daunting thing I have learned is that it is hard to know what all has been digitized to the public domain, and where exactly to find a particular kind of knowledge, because each place has a bunch of books but none of them has all of them. Harder still the books are not categorized for easy access to the woodworker with a need for specific information. My desire was one amongst others I am sure, to help people find and have access to this old but still completely relevant information. By the time I finished hunting (for now) I came up with over 100 books and nearly 1 gigabyte of collected works.

This collection became The Woodworks Library. My criteria for the library was to only have complete books which were fully clear in the United States as existing freely as public domain. The original copyright holder has not renewed their claims and the book is no longer of commercial value to publishers, this means you can have it, I can have it, and as long as we do not use it for commercial use in any way, then the priceless information within is available to help us all be better at the things we hope to achieve.

The Woodworks Library is organized in a somewhat comfortable fashion. I did not bother with over-categorization of it, because many of the books in it cover a wide range of subject matter. After evaluating each book, I placed it in the list according to what seemed to be the biggest theme of the book. You will find that many of the books will cover many of the same things, topically, but once you wade in, you will see that the books were written at different times and or each author came from a different school of thought, and so the cross comparisons of information will be very interesting.

Read with an open mind and remember the era for which they were written as well as the audience the author was writing to. While it is great to feel a certain book speaks to you more than another, there is something in all of the books and the differing methods and understanding are of note, because it affords us all a chance to walk in that author or editor’s shoes. Wood, and the crafts that are supportive to it, are a many faceted knowledge, and you never know when a knowledge you discount or disagree with today may become your saving grace tomorrow. So just do your best and absorb all you can. Trust me, there is a lot to read and many of these authors clearly made sharing it with future generations it their life’s work.

Is there something in here for everyone? Perhaps a little, maybe not. I’ll leave that up to you to decide for you. That which is here, I’ve tried to organize by listing books and writings in categories which were most directly related yet not overly topical, and as a descending list in an order, which mainly attempted to group like with like without being too constraining.

By topic, we have; Understanding Wood, Furniture and Design, Woodworking, Carpentry, Turning, Carving, Finishing, Patternmaking, Shop Mathematics and Calculation, Blueprint Reading, Hand Tools, Machine Tools, Shop Machinery, and finally, Blacksmithing Welding and Metalwork. Remember, There are over 100 full-length books, and the occasional technical paper, just waiting for whomever to have a look and learn something new.

Feel free to bookmark the Library, and remember there is always a link to it directly on every page here at the Woodworks, so help yourself, and learn what was known about working wood long ago. It is here for everyone to use as a resource that helps us all become better woodworkers. All the information is as valid and applicable today as ever. If you know of any books in the digital realm, which are in the public domain as complete works, and seem like they are a good fit for the Woodworks Library, please fell free to contact me about them and we’ll see what we can do to add them. After all, it’s all for anyone practicing the crafts.

Please enjoy The Woodworks Library.

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