Free Download: The First Ever English Language Book on Woodworking – Joseph Moxon’s ‘Mechanick Exercises’

One of my favorite truths about woodworking is: it really hasn’t changed much in the last few centuries. Sure, there are table saws that won’t cut hotdogs now, but if you look at the hand tool design, they’re nearly identical. (In fact, most modern high end tool makers are doing their best to emulate historic tools from the 19th century, albeit with newer materials). All of this is to say – this is a good thing, people who make stuff! It’s good for your wallet, cause you can easily find these old tools and bring them back to life. And it’s also good for your wallet (see what I did there?), because it means you can find loads of old books, magazines, and other instructional materials, all of which will be valid.   And some, of course, will be free. Like this guy, Joseph Moxon’s 1703 Mechanick Exercises, the oldest known book on woodworking published in English. And check out this subtitle:

The Doctrine of Handy-works. Applied to the Arts of Smithing, Joinery, Carpentry, Turning, Bricklayery. To which is Added, Mechanick Dyalling: Shewing how to Draw a True Sun-dyal on Any Given Plane, However Scituated; Only with the Help of a Straight Ruler and a Pair of Compasses, and Without Any Arithmetical Calculation

Dope, right? It’s got lots of interesting things to say about joinery, workbenches, lumber selection, and contains lots of helpful plates that detail how woodworkers were working on these pieces of historic furniture, millwork, and other items. 

One of the more well-known details is the “Moxon vise” a two-jawed, twin-screwed device that is not mentioned in the text, but visible in the illustrations. Look familar?

Being 300+ years old, it’s in the public domain. Google Books has it here, for free.

Christopher Schwarz provides another link here. Check it out!