Every Man his own Mechanic
by Francis Young, London, 1891
 
 
This book must have filled a need in Victorian society, as it went through many editions in the UK, USA and Australia. (The download is the ninth edition.)
The author is wonderfully partisan in his defence of the 'squeezed middle' of the time – clergymen and civil servants – whose modest incomes did not keep up with rising prices at a time when strikes were frequent. His suggestion is that rather than pay high wages to working men, his readers should learn to do the necessary jobs about the house for themselves. 
 
Even if they don't have any repairs to do, they can set to and build the "Amateur's Suburban Fowl House" (p 466) so that they can get eggs at a penny each, undercutting the local grocer who would charge them 1½d per egg, rising to as much as 2½d at Christmas!
 
01 suburban fowl house Copy
 
It's a lovely mixture of the systematic and the rambling. See, for example the author's happy reminiscences of Sunday morning 'steeplechases' round the dormitory at his boarding school (p 371) or the warning against the severe muscular spasms that can be brought on by playing on a swing (p 447).
 
Although he advises against doing one's own gas fitting, which "if badly and inefficiently done may involve serious consequences" some of the projects are surprisingly ambitious. For example, the directions for making a treadle powered fret-saw describe how to make wooden patterns, from which the iron-work can be cast (though that job is left to a professional foundryman). 
 
The sections on tools are perhaps what most TATHS members would be interested in.
They generally give sources and prices, which is helpful if you want to compare the price of a wooden smoothing plane with one of the new metal planes being imported from America, or find out how much to pay for a decent Sheffield-made saw. 
 
There is quite a lot of detail on new, improved or patented tools, with the eighth edition having an appendix describing new tools introduced in the previous ten years.
 
02 patent reeder Copy
 
The author was editor of "Amateur Work Illustrated" magazine, and some of these sections read just like modern press releases, copied and pasted into each month's issue. Tools covered include some not described in detail anywhere else (as far as I know) such as beaders and routers from Stanley and Preston (though Preston are not explicitly named.)
 
The new Forstner bit is described, but drawing it comprehensibly seems to have defeated the engraver's skills.
 
03 forstner Copy
Nurse's patent regulator gets two pages of glowing prose. 
 
Though few would want to read all the way through, it is well worth dipping into to find out how to repaper a room where there has been typhus fever, or how to dig your own artesian well, or just to enjoy the florid Victorian writing style, where half a page can be filled with an explanation of why there is no room to write any more.
 
04 gentleman dovetailer Copy
 
 
Andy Tuckwell
 
 

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