Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's A Find!


Okay, maybe not so significant to anyone other than me. Way back in the previous millennium, like maybe 1961 or so, a favorite great-uncle of mine passed on. Dr. George Duff Ross had been the town physician in Liberty Hill, Texas for many years. There are still people around who bear one of his three names in honor of his delivering them. He was also, in my eyes, something of a Renaissance Man. He had a myriad of hobbies, including taxidermy, woodworking and fishing. He had designed and built his own very unique home in the town. He also had a well equipped workshop. 
After he passed on and his house was sold, we had a lot of his books and things to dispose of. I managed to latch on to a few. I was only ten or eleven at the time, but I already had a huge love of books, and everything of Uncle Doc's was fascinating to me. I didn't get to keep much, but one was the book shown above. 

"The Amateur Craftsman's Cyclopedia of Things to Make" was printed in 1937 by the Popular Science Publishing Company. The book was hardback and composed of 338 pages of projects, tips, and all sorts of fascinating information drawn from years of back issues of Popular Science magazine. 
The title page calls it "A complete manual for the home-workshop enthusiast with detailed working drawings and instructions for making toys, novelties, sporting equipment, models, furniture, house and garden conveniences, radios, photographic accessories, and scientific instruments - painting - workshop methods - metal working." "With over 1400 working drawings, diagrams, and illustrations."


I loved this book! I was already fascinated with do-it-yourself projects. Of course, much of the book was pretty dated, even by 1960. However, the contents stirred my imagination and gave me a start on many of the interests I hold still today, such as woodworking, photography, metalworking, and electronics.


For several years I returned to this book over and over, poring over the pictures and details. Finally, my grandfather loaned the book to his brother who also had a workshop. I never saw it again. Over the past 40 years or so I forgot the exact name of the book, but I still remembered the book itself, as well as a visual memory of many of the contents. I tried a few times to find another copy, but I was stymied by not having the actual name or publisher.


Finally, a couple of weeks ago in a related search of vintage workshop articles, I came across an article that I remembered from the book. The footing on the page copied gave me the right name. Of course it is out of print and a collectible but I subsequently found a used copy of the book on Amazon.com.  For fifteen dollars plus shipping it could be mine! I jumped on it. In a couple of days I had it, the copy shown above. 


This copy is a second edition and is a slightly larger format than the original, I believe. However, it is all there in pretty good condition. Everything I remembered from before. I am so pleased to finally have this book back in my possession!

I'm still a sucker for old reprints of vintage how-to articles. I'm a bit fan of ingenuity. A lot of the time the methods and materials are waaaaaaay out of date. I mean, how often can you run down the the mechanic shop and find a magneto from a Model T? However, the concepts are still sound, even if it is necessary to find modern equivalents for materials and finished projects. You may not have need of a wall rack for buggy whips, but it may give you and idea for something else!

Long lost treasure!

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