Elements of Woodwork and Carpentry ~ Free eBooks

Elements of Woodwork was the first book in a series of vocational texts by Charles A. King published in the early 1900s. Other books in King’s woodwork and carpentry series include Elements of Carpentry, Constructive Carpentry, and Inside Finishing.

The series was aimed at students in 6th through 9th grades. Since many in those days left at 8th grade (with an education considered by some as far superior to that of today’s high school graduates1) you’ll have an appreciation for the material covered in the series.

In preparing this book, it has been the author’s purpose to present, in as complete and concise form as possible, the knowledge which every wood-worker should possess regarding the care and use of his tools and the material upon which he employs them.

Whether an amateur, apprentice, or skilled workman, whether a carpenter, boat builder, pattern maker, or wood carver, the elementary knowledge of the construction of tools, of sharpening them, and of their adjustment and manipulation is practically the same. The structure of wood, and the necessity of applying its peculiarities of grain and texture to the advantage of the work in hand, also is the same upon all branches of woodwork.

While innumerable tools and cutting devices have been invented to enable the wood-worker to accomplish special results economically both as to time and material, a study of them will prove that they all operate upon a few simple principles, a knowledge of which is not difficult to acquire, though skill and judgment in the application of the tools can be attained only by continuous and properly directed practice.

Elements of Woodwork

Nearly 100 illustrations help the student learn the fundamentals, beginning with the wood he uses:

  • Growth and types of wood.
  • Care of lumber.
  • Tools.
  • Glue and sandpaper.
  • Wood finishing.

Questions at the end of each section will spur learning. For example, one question asks:

What should be the qualities of a good framing timber? Of timber for outside finish? To be buried? For floors? For inside finish? For shingles? For siding? How long should lumber be dried before using? How should lumber for inside finish be cared for while waiting for use? Describe the qualities and the uses of the following kinds of lumber: ash, apple, basswood, beech, birch, butternut, cedar, cherry, chestnut, cypress, elm, hemlock, hickory, locust, maple, mahogany, oak, pine, poplar, spruce, sycamore, walnut.

Elements of Woodwork

Learning a Trade

In the small school I attended it was understood that fewer than half would go on to college. But the school was blessed with an incredible vocational program and hands-on learning emphasis. These guys didn’t play at shop, they built things — real things that were subsequently used by the school.

Trade schools are becoming more popular today as demand increases along with pay.2 Not to mention the lower costs of education and faster entry into market.3

If you have a student that is good with his hands and interested in woodworking, you can use this book to self-teach. Yes, lumber is probably handled a bit differently today. But over 100 years ago, they knew how to work the wood. We can benefit.

The teacher’s Handbook in Woodwork and Carpentry can be used by the student for
explanation of many woodworking techniques: Shingling, jointing, shellacking. It also has a handy list of tools to start with and instructions for constructing a variety of items.

Whether for beginning a career or learning a new hobby, Elements of Woodwork begins a great series for anyone interested in working wood. And it is free!

1In 2013, ABC News picked up this 1912 8th Grade Examination. Over 100 years later, most high school graduates consider the test “difficult.” “The test was administered by Bullitt County Schools and it was known as the “Common Exam.” In this rural county, a good score on the exam meant a high school scholarship. A secondary education was a rarity back then, and this test was the only way many farm children were able to attend high school. No pressure, right?” — ABC News, “Warning: This Eighth Grade Exam May Make You Feel Bad About Yourself,” August 13, 2013.

2 Jon Marcus, “Long disparaged, education for skilled trades is making a comeback,” Washington Post, December 31, 2021.

3 Robert Farrington, “Trade Schools Vs. Traditional College: What You Should Know,” Forbes, February 21, 2022.

Free eBooks: Elements of Woodwork
Free eBooks: Elements of Construction
Free eBooks: Handbook of Woodwork and Carpentry

Sample Exercises

If you are into woodworking, here are some of the “Suggestive Exercises” you can ponder from the chapter on tools:

  1. What should be the quality of all mechanics’ tools? Is a good, serviceable tool always finely finished? Are tools made especially for some dealer always reliable? What is the safest method to follow in buying tools? How may the efficiency of a tool be known?
  2. Describe two forms of benches. Describe a modern vise.
  3. Describe the rule in common use.
  4. For what is the try-square used? Why should special care be used in purchasing one? How may a square be tested?
  5. Compare the steel square and the try-square.
  6. Describe the bevel and its use.
  7. For what is the gauge used? Should the graduations of the gauge be depended upon in setting it? What special form of gauge is useful?
  8. What will be the result if the head of a hammer is not properly tempered? Why is the eye shaped as it is? How is the handle fastened to the head? Describe the wood necessary for a hammer handle. How should a hammer be hung? How should nails be driven so that they will hold the best? What should be guarded against in driving up ceiling or matched boards? How and why should nail heads be sunk below the joint surface?
  9. For what is a hatchet used? Describe two ways of sharpening a hatchet.
  10. What is the principal use of a mallet? Describe and compare two forms of mallets.
  11. What are the two parts of a saw? Describe the use of a ripsaw. After what tool is it
    modeled? After what tool are the teeth of a cutting-off saw modeled? What kind of saw combines the teeth of both? For what is it used? Why is it made of softer metal than are other saws? Describe a saw adapted to jobbing work. Describe the backsaw. How can the blade be straightened if it is sprung? What kind of saw is used for fine work? How should the thickness of the back of a saw compare with its cutting edge? What is gained by this? What test should the blade of a high-grade saw be able to stand? What are the best sizes for saws? Compare the practical features of a hard and a medium hand saw. How should a saw be held? How much force should be used upon a saw? How do some workmen change the handles of their saws to make the saws run more easily?

Additional Resources

10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #9 Research & Projects
The student can keep a notebook while working through the series, creating his own “textbook” for reference and inspiration.

Life Skills
We have many other resources such as cooking, tying knots, electronics, handling money, and more!

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