For as long as I can remember I have been interested in how things work, how they are made, and how to fix them. I was never contented with simply dismantling, reassembling was a must – though probably because if my father found out that I had taken something apart, resulting in it no longer working, I would have been in big trouble. Some of the earliest things I can remember taking apart were G.I. Joes, who in the eighties were held together with screws and a rubber band. And often after an intense battle a soldier’s intestinal elastic would need replaced.
Learning to work with my hands to build, create, and repair has always been a major part of my life. Whether it was intently staring over my father’s shoulder as he made repairs to my Honda trail bike, or studying the advanced repairs my decade older brother made to his and my toys. Or being in a formal setting like Industrial Technology class in fifth and sixth grade, where we learned to do poured plastic resin molds, dipped rubber molds, made pinewood derby cars, engraved plastic name tags with a pattern router, and made edge-glued notepads. Or, as is the case now, learning from books. I have a passion to continue learning and I don’t see the desire being confined to any one particular subject any time in the near future.
This eagerness to learn and to never settle on a single topic endears me to publication from the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s like the Work Bench Magazine. That includes plans for making your own violin, yacht, or in ground swimming pool. Or the Popular Mechanics Encyclopedia that covers topics such as bookbinding, silvering mirrors, and developing photographs. More recently I picked up copies of Reader’s Digest books from that era at used book sales. One, is titled Back to Basics and is full of what the editors deem necessary to live independently. It includes instruction for buying an acreage that can provide for the family with its orchard, fish pond, and wide open spaces for livestock and gardens. It also provides limited instructions on soapmaking, canning, and broom making. The second book is Crafts & Hobbies, which covers topics like weaving, stained glass, and leather working. These publication and others like them are what keep me thinking of new things to try and new projects to create.
The mid to late 20th century wasn’t the only time for these types of books and magazines. In the late 19th century there was The Work Magazine, An Illustrated Magazine for Practice and Theory. It is currently being digitized by the folks over at Tools for Working Wood under the blog bearing its name. Full of plans and instructions for projects it is sure to spark your creativity. The latest posting even discusses building a Victorian Greenhouse. If you need help on finding some new projects be sure and check out this publication, as well as others available in any older person’s home or your public library.
Know of anymore publications like this? Comment Below.