Wood turning has become a hobby of choice for many people today. While some few earn a living turning wood, most do it for enjoyment. For centuries, it was a way of life for many, hence the prominence of the name “Turner” in many of our phone books. Every town needed one.
While the advent of plastic bowls and steel spoons has lessened the need for professional turners, the warmth of wood over plastic and many metals has caused a great renaissance in the joy of wood turning for hobby and artistry. At the beginning of the twentieth century wood turning was a sought after craft and was taught in many of our schools. One of the text books used was A Course in Woodturning, 1919, by Archie Milton and Otto Wohlers.
The book is available online at Project Gutenberg , the home of over 20,000 free ebooks. I have taken the text under the rules of the Gutenberg Project and reformatted it for easier internet use with linked access to the pictures, explanations, exercises and projects. While the book is dated, there is a lot of great information.
There is a great deal of work left to do on the book. Some is incidental tweaking to make the Table of Contents a little easier to use although it works very well. Other work requires some extensive editorial addition with the changes in technology and the movement from the commercial venue to the hobby shop. There is also the need to supply some information about the exercises and projects that would normally come from the classroom advisor. In addition, there is the desire to have pictures to go with the line drawings of the exercises and projects which of course requires I do and photograph each one of the over one hundred activities. This will take some time as will allowing for printer friendly pages of each line drawing, not a consideration in 1919.
Still, this book is an enjoyable read and a glimpse into a different turning world and past time. Some projects will seem very dated such as collar boxes and hat pin receivers, but a good box is a good box. Chucks referred to are screw chucks and jam chucks, not the four jawed variety of today. If one begins at the beginning and turns all the exercises and projects, he or she will be a good turner indeed.
Please note that wood working of any sort carries its own dangers and neither the original authors, Project Gutenberg nor myself are responsible for your safety at the lathe or during any other work shop activity. Be careful and have fun.