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JOEL Joel's Blog

Announcing The Work Magazine Reprint Project


Announcing The Work Magazine Reprint Project 4You might have noticed a new blog listing. The greatest of all the DIY publications was called "Work An Illustrated Magazine of Practice and Theory for All Workmen, Professional and Amateur". The first issue was originally published on March 23, 1889 and for the next few decades, every week, a new sixteen page issue containing all sorts of wonderful projects was mailed to subscribers.
The magazine was a successor publication to another magazine called "Work and Design" which was similar but this new magazine emphasized more practical projects, more of them, and lots and lots of drawings and illustrations. The target subscriber was the nineteenth century do-it-yourselfer, the practical man, who these days would be part of the "maker crowd".

Make magazine, the current publication at the forefront of the modern maker culture covers a very wide range of projects, mostly electronic, but also in wood, and Work also tried to be as diverse as possible. The projects run from the pretty simple, such as making a battery, to all sorts of crazy stuff like building a carriage. Shop tools for both wood and metal working were a perennial favorite, and there are even some product reviews. I am personally convinced (with no evidence) that a good many of the unsigned craftsman made iron or "infill" planes started out as a project from work magazine. The names of some of the writers and editors will be very familiar to you, including Paul Hasluck, George Ellis, Bernard Jones, David Denning, and others. Each issue also contained a great column on new products they like and boy am I jealous of the lathe mentioned in the first issue.

The range of articles are vast, crazy, and informative. For anyone interested in making stuff, any stuff, from all sorts of materials, this is the magazine for you. For woodworkers and metalworkers - lots of projects or all sorts of complexity. There are even a fair number of projects of an electrical or photographic nature.

This is all very exciting, but very few copies of the original magazine survive and the copies that do survive are fragile. The original volumes in our collection are oversize, printed on thin paper, and the bindings are easily damaged. While we can leaf through the volumes they are too delicate to read comfortably. So we decided to scan in the magazines and make it possible not just for us but for anyone to curl up with a copy. The challenge was figuring out how to scan the books.

The first issue came out on March 23rd 1889 and ran 16 pages every week. We hope to maintain that schedule exactly and post a new entry every two weeks exactly 123 years after the original publication. If you subscribe to the blog using email notification, an RSS feed, or adding the RSS feed in your favorite reader you will get notified when a new issue gets posted. The actual issue will be a downloadable, searchable, PDF, of maybe a larger size than we hoped, but we wanted to make sure the illustrations and text were easily readable.

Announcing The Work Magazine Reprint Project 5Where we have the material we are also including the ads. Which are fun. Who would not like to be able to order some of the tools listed in the Melhuish or Nurse ads?

What did it cost in 1889 to buy an issue of this wonderful magazine? 1 penny. But in 2012, you will be able to download every issue for the princely sum of nothing - free. Yes, some things get less expensive with time.

One thing you will have to get used to is that the articles were serialized. So the first issue contains lots of introductory material. The second issue continues several articles and it just gets better and better. And who knows what crazy stuff will be in each issue.

The coolest part of this project is a selfish self interest. Except for the first couple of issues we haven't prepared all the issues for publication but we did have to upload and download a few test issues to ensure readability. I don't have a Kindle but I downloaded the PDF of the first issue into my IPad, curled up on my couch and for the first time I was able to get lost in fun stuff from the last century without worrying about tearing a binding or destroying anything. So I am looking forward to reading each issue as eagerly as the original subscribers were and I think lots of you will be too.

You can take a look at the countdown page here.
Join the conversation
03/13/2012 Stu Halsell
I have several old books similar to this publication - I am eagerly waiting to see this book.
03/13/2012 Dennis
The kindle doesn't do that well with PDF files unless the (1) margins are minimal and (2) the page dimensions are similar to the kindle's. In particular long thin pages look worse than fat ones. If you send me a couple of random pages I can give you some feedback.

This is exciting stuff!
03/13/2012 Joe McGlynn
Wow, I can't wait to check this out!
03/13/2012 Charlie Buchanan
Thanks, Joel
This is an outstanding service to those of us interested in woodworking and historical tools and methods.
03/13/2012 Mike O'Brien
This sounds like it will be great reading. Thank you to Joel and staff for making this available to us. Quite an undertaking for sure, but TFWW is known for that.
All the best , Mike O'Brien
Valley Head, AL
Thanks for taking this project on, can't wait to see the first issue.
03/13/2012 Ron Kanter
Really looking forward to reading this new/old mag.
It is certainly something I would be willing to support financially with a modest subscription price. Just saying your hard work is much appreciated.
Philadelphia, PA
03/13/2012 Adam
Very cool, will there be a print edition of this as well?
The magazine is a little oversize so printing it isn't trivial. The original scans we are cleaning up are very high res so in future if there is a demand we might do a print on demand version of 6 months or a years worth of issues.
03/13/2012 Troy
I have been working for years to scan and perform OCR on a similar project and can certainly appreciate the effort involved. I’m looking forward to the first issue.
03/14/2012 DJ Mueller
I would certainly welcome bound reprints of Work. Perhaps I need to evolve from my Luddite ways, but for me, there is nothing quite like referencing through a book, in route to the end, with a good cup of coffee close at hand.
03/15/2012 Chuck Nuesmeyer
What better way to spend time that I don't have than reading old reprints. Take some time for ouselves.
03/17/2012 Dale Snyder
I love this stuff; many thanks for doing this.
03/21/2012 Marty Backe
I look forward to reading these. But tell me, are you actually committing to this project for the next ~30 years? That's dedication ;-);
03/22/2012 Collin
You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar that now has provided us villeins a means to escape the fangs of unmerciful officers out to arrest us for debt we cannot compass (Thanks for making this a free magazine!). I can not wait for this to be downloadable! What a great gift you are providing to those of us that enjoy making things. Thank you!
03/22/2012 michael
can't wait - is the an estimated Price?
09/06/2012 Sage1975
Exactly where could I find this particular Wephorum platform FOR ?
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.