Greetings and a hearty welcome to one and all. Volumes of exciting and informative articles lie ahead, and it goes without saying that a good many of us here at Tools For Working Wood are wringing our hands in anticipation.
If you stumbled across this blog and don't know what I'm on about; we're re-releasing Work!
It only happens to be the most comprehensive DIY journal ever published. You don't have to take my word for it either. By all means, check out what Joel, Chris,
have to say. If you're not a woodworker, don't fret. Work
is non-denominational. Its scope is so exhaustive, tinkers of all stripes will develop palpitations.
For each issue, I'll give a brief overview of the contents, with a mind toward letting the journal speak for itself. However, on the occasion of the re-release of the first issue, I'd like to share one observation:
The preparation of all the scans and graphics for this project means I get a sneak peak at all of the good stuff. In a sense, this is a break from my usual duties as a tool designer. From another viewpoint, though, this sort of activity comprises the backbone of our design philosophy. Close examination of historical drawings and documents is the foundation work for every new Gramercy Tool. Every point of growth or victory I can mark as a designer just means I owe that much more to the leagues of technicians and craftsmen that have gone before.
The wisdom of the ancients can be humbling stuff, and the upshot of working with it all the time is that I often wind up feeling like a perpetual tyro: out of my depth, and playing catch-up to a technical revolution that started in the nineteenth century. Sometimes it feels like drinking from the fire hose.
After a cursory examination of the volumes of Work
, I thought I was in for more of the same. The illustrations range from deft to downright exquisite. The scope of topics is absurdly broad. Even the adverts can teach a master class in typography.
The thing I did not expect to find between the engravings and the Victorian technical jargon was an underpinning of sympathy toward the neophyte, and general solidarity with all persons engaged in the manual arts, regardless of social station.
In the section titled, To Our Readers, the editor, Francis Young, writes:
Mention has been made, well nigh in the same breath of the amateur and the professional workman; but are they not more closely akin than superficial thinkers are disposed to allow? Are not all men amateurs alike? Are not all professionals? Verily, yes; each and every man in his own order. What, indeed, is the difference between workmen, amateur and professional, save that the latter practises his craft or calling for gain, and the former loves and cultivates his art for amusement. … Even a professional workman is an amateur in everything else except the one particular handicraft by which he lives; so that, speaking fractionally, every man, if he be one fourth professional, is very likely three-fourths amateur, and so may be regarded in point of fact more of an amateur after all than he is of the professional.
Despite writing in a time and place notable for its rigid social structures, the editor proceeds to point out that improvement in the arena of technical instruction will be found equally beneficial to workmen that would otherwise be considered social opposites; young and old, master and apprentice, professional and amateur. Warmer still are the remarks proffered at the beginning of the section on the Bunsen Battery. George Edwinson Bonney excuses the apparently remedial topic of battery construction by indicating:
We are apt to forget the troubles of our younger days when we picked up our stock of knowledge bit by bit and crumb by crumb from every source within our reach.
Further along, he addresses his peers:
We stand as lights to the younger workmen around us. The future of the nation depends on these young men. If they learn to despise knowledge now, they will live to find themselves common labourers to the skilled workmen of other nations. Much good or harm may be wrought in the mind of a young man by the example of older men.
I find there is something eerily timely about these remarks. They certainly sound like the substance of a lot of recent conversations shared with friends and coworkers; with customers over the phone and with fellow toolmakers at shows. It may be that the tone of Work sounds so contemporaneous because the contributing authors routinely ballast their technical material with concepts that happen to be timeless. In any case, Work
is clearly something very special. The wisdom of the ancients to be sure, but this time we all get an engraved invitation to come and drink from the fire hose.
Now, when I'm feeling like seven-eighths an amateur, it's at least heartening to know that I'm in such good company. Moreover, it appears my well-being and improvement as such was being looked after nigh on a century before I was born.
ARTICLES FOUND IN THIS ISSUE:
Disclaimer: Articles in Work: The Illustrated Weekly Journal for Mechanics describe materials and methods that would not be considered safe or advisable today. We are not responsible for the content of these magazines, and cannot take any responsibility for anyone attempting projects or procedures described therein.
A Cabinet In Fret-Cutting • To Our Readers • The Bunsen Battery (Part 1)
A Chat About Furniture • Circular-Saw Rigs For The Lathe • Sign Writing And Lettering (Part 1)
The Kaleidescope: Its Construction and Application • Our Guide To Good Things
• Click to Download Vol.1 - No.1 •
The first issue of Work was published on March 23rd, 1889. The goal of this project is to release digital copies of the individual issues starting on the same date in 2012, effectively republishing the materials 123 years to the day from their original release.
The original printing was on thin, inexpensive paper. There are many cases of uneven inking and bleed-through from the page behind. Our copies of Work come from bound library volumes of these issues and are subject to unfavorable trimming, missing covers, etc. Please bear with us if a margin is clipped too close, or a few words are unreadable. To minimize harm to these fragile volumes, we've undertaken the task of scanning the books ourselves. We would like to thank James Vasile and Karl Fogel for their help in supplying us with a book scanner and generally enabling this project to get off the ground.
The original content is out of copyright, however, our scans and processing are not. You are welcome to download, print, and pretty much do what you want with the scan for your own personal purposes. Feel free to post a link or a copy on your blog or website. All we ask is a link back to the original project and this blog. We are not giving permission for commercial downloads or reprinting at this time.