An Artificer's Bibliography

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This is the short version of a workshop booklist of a determined (yet not really very successful) maker (me). I'm better with books than machinery, really. I do have a modest home machine shop, as well as quite a bit of cast iron relating to typefounding and letterpress printing. Mostly, though, I have books.

For a random and irregular collection of further literature on specific machines and machine shop topics, see the Circuitous Root Machine Shop Notebooks.

See also Books which Ruined My Life.

My list here is anything but comprehensive. I've limited it to texts which are in some way extraordinary (even it's a small, quirky way). If you can pick up any work listed here and not feel within yourself the desire to make something, then the workshop is not for you.

The order here alphabetical, because they're all equally interesting.

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Abler, William. Shop Tactics. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 1976.

The original (1973) edition was entitled "The Sensuous Gadgeteer." Hand-drawn details of basic tool use, all of which are "obvious" after you learn them.

"The Amateur Scientist" column in Scientific American, 1928-2001.

See the Wikipedia article on it for a brief history ( The last writer of this column, Shawn Carlson, has collected the entire series in CD-ROM format. I have the 2000-2002 version of this, published by Tinker's Guild, LLC. A quick search online (in 2014) indicates that the 2006 edition published by Bright Science is still available (ISBN 0970347626).

While this column was conducted by no less than five columnists over the decades, for many the "classic" articles will always be those by C. L. Stong from 1955 to 1977. Stong also published a collection of revised articles in book form. Note that his name is "Stong" (not "Strong"). He should not be confused with John Strong, author of Procedures in Experimental Physics.

Brown, Sam. [Anything and everything by Sam Brown. See A Sam Brown Bibliography.]

Sam Brown was the finest technical writer ever. We are fortunate that he wrote primarily about the home workshop and, later, optics and amateur astronomy.

Cook, Sherman R. Electrical Things Boys Like to Make. Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1954. (Also reprinted by Lindsay publications.)

This is particularly good at the construction details of making electrical (not electronic) things out of bits and pieces of metal and wood. Need it be said that the title is a regrettable piece of 1950s marketing, and that both men and women might like to make these things?

Cundy, H. M. and A. P. Rollett. Mathematical Models. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1951 & 1961.

First edition 1951. Second edition (corrected) 1961. Reprinted (as a "third edition," with no indication of revision) in 1981 by Tarquin Publications. ISBN: 0-906212-20-0. Still in print (as of 2014).

Physical mathematical models.

Daniels, George. Watchmaking. Third Edition. London: Philip Wilson, Publishers, 2011.

First edition 1981. Reprinted with additions 1985. Revised 1999 and reprinted 2002. Revised and reprinted 2011.

Everything you need to know to build a mechanical watch and its case is in this book.

Frank, Adolph F. Animated Scale Models Handbook. NY: Arco Publishing, Inc., 1981.

This is not an Important Book in the Grand Scheme of Things. Quite the opposite - and that's what makes it significant. It's about making simple mechanical moving models for your model train layout or diorama. It's a late example of the kind of creative tinkering that once characterized the American basement and garage (and which today, with the rise of "maker's culture," is flourishing once again).

Holtzappfel & Holtzapffel. Turning and Mechanical Manipulation. (Five volumes)

This is the classic reference for the field of "ornamental turning," but if you have any aspirations really to understand workshop methods you'll find that you go back again and again to Holtzapffel. See the CircuitousRoot page on Holtzapffel for bibliography and sources.

A lathe handbook.

You need an introductory handbook for the operation of a standard 20th century manual (= no CNC, no DRO) engine lathe. The classic one is How To Run a Lathe, published by South Bend in dozens of editions from 1914 to the 1960s. Secondhand copies are not hard to find, and it was reprinted by Lindsay Publications for many years. Several early editions are online at: A different scan of the 1915 edition is online at (the former Old Woodworking Machinery site), (Go to the site. Enter "South Bend" in the search box. Click on "South Bend Lathe Works" in the results. Click on the "Publications and Reprints" tab in the resulting page. As of early 2014 the editions present were 1914 and 1928.)

A machine shop textbook.

You need a good general machine shop textbook from the middle of the 20th century. That is, it should be from a period after most modern techniques and tools were introduced (e.g., high-speed steel inserts in place of hand-forged lathe tools) but before the introduction of CNC. (There's nothing wrong with CNC. But running a CNC machine tool is a process of teaching a computer how to build something. It is disrespectful to the computer to do this if you cannot first do it yourself.)

One of the best is the two-volume set Machine Shop Practice by Karl Hans Moltrecht. (NY: The Industrial Press, 1971, 1981.) But there were several very good textbooks in this period; it's worth getting a couple of them just to compare methods.

Make magazine.

From the 1890s through the 1960s, home shop tinkering characterized America. Given a bunch of old Model T parts, some scrap wood, and a pile of old Popular Mechanics magazines for ideas, you could make anything. When the affluent "baby boomer" generation grew up, though, this died (surviving only in highly marginalized subgroups such as the live-steam locomotive builders). In 2005, O'Reilly Publications (who publish the only consistently good computer books) started Make magazine and kick-started the renaissance of what is now known as "maker's" culture.

Moxon, Joseph. Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-Works. (Applied to the Arts of Smithing, Joinery, Carpentry, Turning [and] Bricklayery, to which is added Mechanic Dyalling.) London: for the author, 1678-1680. Second Edition (assembled as a book) 1694. Third Ddition 1703).

This has been reprinted in several modern editions.

In around 1975 (with printings through at least 1994) The Astragal Press (Mendham, NJ) reprinted it, in cooperation with the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) and with an introduction by John S. Kebabian. ISBN: 0-9618088-1-0. It's worth looking around for a secondhand copy of this Kebabian/Astragal/EAIA edition - and then a second secondhand copy of it for the bench.

In 2009 The Toolemera Press (Dedham, MA) reprinted it, with different introductory material. ISBN: 978-0-9825329-0-4. (Unfortunately, they have chosen to assert new copyright on the entire book - even the 300 year old parts. This just doesn't seem in the right spirit of things, and I can't bring myself to purchase their reprint.

It has also been scanned by Google from the University of Michigan copy. This is available both via Google Books and The Hathi Trust. Unfortunately, the Hathi Trust no longer permits full-volume downloads for the general public. Here is a local copy of the Google Books PDF: moxon-1703-mechanick-exercises-google-mich.pdf. Here is a local copy assembled from the Hathi Trust page images: moxon-1703-mechanick-exercises-hathi-mdp-39015028306002.pdf.

For other modern reprints, some quite difficult to obtain, see the bibliography on Moxon in the Circuitous Root Ornamental Turning notebooks.

Note: This work originally appeared serially and was later collected as a single volume. Moxon also wrote a quite distinct second volume of "Mechanick Exercises" devoted to typefounding and printing .

Some of Moxon's material on turning concerns what was later called "ornamental turning." For more on this see: Ornamental Turning and Related Work: Literature.

Technical writing in English begins with Moxon.

Perkins, Archie. The Modern Watchmakers Lathe and How to Use It. Harrison, OH: American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, 2003. ISBN: 0-918845-23-8

Even if you never touch a mechanical watch, this book is valuable because it discusses in detail an astonishing range of fine mechanical operations and the lathe-based apparatus with which they are accomplished.

[Rimmer] Kegler, Richard. Making faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century. [film] Buffalo, NY: P22 Type Foundry, ca. 2010.

There is no process of which I am aware which more tightly integrates art and technology than the making of metal type: from the conception of the lettering through the production of matrices to its casting. Very few people in the industrial era have actually done all of these things themselves. The late Canadian typefounder and printer Jim Rimmer did. This film captured not only the spirit of his work but most of the technical details (many of which were not really recorded before). It ranks alongside Moxon (vol. 2) and Fournier as one of the most important documents in the history of type-making. It's certainly the most influential film in my own life - which took a sharp turn toward typefounding after I saw a pre-release screening of it at the 2010 American Typecasting Fellowship meeting.

P22 site: . Trailer:

Shute, Nevil. Trustee from the Toolroom. (1960)

The only mainstream novel ever written about model engineering. Nevil Shute Norway was himself an engineer and model engineer. The description of the protagonist's basement workshop is admirable. The novel itself is perhaps not a masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction, but it is endearing. The protagonist, a model engineering writer, is presented with an arbitrary quest (Hitchcock would have called it a "MacGuffin") which forces him to travel without a budget around the world. He makes it by depending on favors and good will from the model engineering community worldwide. Any mainstream critic would find it preposterous. Anyone involved with model engineering or the 21st century "maker's culture" would see at once that it was absolutely realistic.

Stong, C. L. [The Scientific American Book of Projects For] The Amateur Scientist. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1960.

This is a collection of revised columns from "The Amateur Scientist". In at least one case the version in this book was expanded from the briefer version in the magazine. This book was reprinted in paperback, but today remains out of print. The hardcover is much nicer to use - the binding on the paperback version is poor. A scan of it is freely downloadable via The Internet Archive at:

C. L. Stong should not be confused with John Strong, principal author of Procedures in Experimental Physics.

Strong, John, H. Victor Heher, Albert E. Whitford, C. Hawley Cartwright, and Roger Hayward. Illus. Roger Hayward. Procedures in Experimental Physics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1938.

Reprinted in 1986 by Lindsay Publications, Inc.

John Strong should not be confused with C. L. Stong (who edited "The Amateur Scientist" column in Scientific American for many years.

Roger Hayward also illustrated some of "The Amateur Scientist". The Wikipedia article on Hayward is very brief, but does link to material about Hayward at Oregon State University (which houses his papers). See and

Underhill, Roy. The Woodwright's Shop. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981. [Still in print.]

Underhill undertakes to start with a tree and an axe and make one thing after another until he has a house and everything in it. My goal is to start with a rock and some fire and make one thing after another until I have an industrial revolution and everything in it. At home.