Our Christmas Gift to You: Practical Geometry

555px-Peter_Nicholson_(architect)Every year we try to offer our readers a little gift during the holidays. Last year was an mp3 of “The Irish Joiner,” before that was Henry Adams’ rare “Joints in Woodwork.”

This year, we offer you lateness.

John Hoffman and I have been working around the clock to build a new Lost Art Press web site and get our book fulfillment handled by a local company so we can spend more time making books than mailing them.

Oh, and I’ve been working on a little book called “Campaign Furniture.”

But today I had a few moments of free time to pull together something special for you. It relates to one of the book we released this year: “By Hand & Eye” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. In all honesty, we have been shocked by how well the book has been selling since its release in mid-2013. We are already in our second printing.

After talking to students in classes and at shows all over the world, I have heard the following question: I love this book, so what is the next step?

As Obi-Wan Kenobi says, it’s “the first step into a larger world.” And that is the world of geometry, which is more important to our craft than math or even reading.

I am not certain what George and Jim would recommend, but I heartily recommend you investigate some of the basic (very basic) manuals designed for beginning mechanics that were written in the 19th century. My favorite of the basic manuals is Peter Nicholson’s “Mechanic’s Companion,” which was written as a sequel to Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick’s Exercises” (1678).

Unlike Moxon, Nicholson was a practitioner with a traditional training. And as a result, his book is more detailed. I own the 1845 edition of Nicholson. And while I know you can get copies of it on GoogleBooks, I decided to scan his chapter on basic geometry for you at a high resolution (800 dpi – almost good enough for a decent web press).

It’s a much prettier scan than you’ll get from Google, and I hope you will download it, read it and attempt some of the lessons. It’s a short chapter, but not a single word is wasted. (Oh, there is one error, but I’ll leave that for you to find.)

If you can master this short chapter, next year I’ll post the next stage of a geometry education for a mechanic.

Download the low-resolution pdf here (less than 3mb).

Download the high-resolution pdf (197mb) from Jeff Burks server here. (Thanks Jeff!).

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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19 Responses to Our Christmas Gift to You: Practical Geometry

  1. rondennis303 says:

    Great! I could use a refresher course, its been over forty years,

  2. Jack Maci says:

    “And that is the world of geometry, which is more important to our craft than math or even reading” Geometry is a branch of mathematics. I think you meant to say elementary arithmetic instead of math. As a mathematician, I couldn’t let that one go. Nice download. Nicholson’s description of definitions, axioms, and theorems reminded me of Euclid. For those geeky enough to want a more in-depth look at Euclidian geometry, try “The Elements”.

  3. Robert Engl says:

    I was unable to download the high resolution pdf. Anyone else having that problem?

  4. m46opie says:

    Then came the moment on Christmas morning when you got to the flat box. Mom seemed real excited for you to open it, so you just knew it was going to be clothes….

  5. Walt Scrivens says:

    Dropbox is saying the high-resolution PDF has been removed. Would you check the link, please? Thanks. Walt

    • lostartpress says:


      You must be looking at the email version of the post. Click through to our website and try then. We moved the high-resolution file to Jeff Burks’ web site. It works.

  6. Daniel Roy says:

    Chris, I’d love to download the ‘Joints in Woodwork’ files but they are missing for the link given on that old post.
    Thanks, Dan

  7. By the time I was in high school, they no longer taught geometry with compass and divider; it was taught entirely in the abstract. It’s really nice having an opportunity to learn it in a more practical manner. I always boggle a bit watching someone like Roy Underhill laying out angles with a compass.

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