The Year of the Covington Mechanical Library


This calendar year has been all about gutting, rebuilding and setting up the Horse Garage, which will store wood and a few machines that I use for processing stock. For 2018, the major project will be setting up a mechanical library in the area formerly known as the storeroom.

Today, Brendan Gaffney and I took the first step on this project by moving all of the book inventory, furniture parts and shelving to the basement below the shop.

I’ve been waiting months for the humidity level in the basement to reach a tolerable level for books and furniture parts. Earlier this year, we dug out the basement floor about 18”, installed French drains and a sump pump and concreted the place. At the time, the humidity levels down there matched the outdoors (or a little higher).

About two weeks ago, the humidity level in the basement began to match the humidity in my shop upstairs.

Tomorrow, I’ll start moving the bulk of my woodworking book collection to our library area. When I run out of shelf space, my plan is to build an entire floor-to-ceiling bank of bookshelves on the blank north wall of the building.

I hope that task will be easier than gutting a building and rebuilding the Horse Garage. But I’ve been wrong before.

The goal of the mechanical library is amorphous for now. There are plenty of excellent mechanical libraries out there (Winterthur and American College of the Building Arts are two wonderful ones that I have visited). But the mechanical societies of the 18th and 19th centuries had other functions that were social and educational. So I’m letting things fall into shape as the community of Covington and our storefront get on their feet.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site:

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to The Year of the Covington Mechanical Library

  1. tpobrienjr says:

    If I sent you a list of books that I would offer to the CML, and offered to donate and ship at my expense, would you be interested in selecting a few? Cherry-picking is of course encouraged!

  2. A basement floor can be dug deeper? I learn some unexpected things on this blog.

  3. Will the library be open to visitors, not to take home of course but to read some.

  4. GravelRoad says:

    I know this property has been a lot of work for you and your family/friends, but you truly have a lot of unique, inspiring spaces! Every time I think we have seen your storefront layout, you come up with a new room or building! Lots of opportunity to enrich the woodworking community! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dan Lyderson-Jackson says:

    Okay, I’ll admit my ignorance. I haven’t heard the term Mechanical Library before. My assumption is its a collection of books dedicated to a certain trade or type of work?

  6. toolnut says:

    I always liked that archway. Anyway, a dehumidifier in the basement works wonders and would make the space usable year round. You could run a drain line from it to the sump and never worry about having to emptying it. Just a thought.

  7. rons54 says:

    Ahh, ha. A light begins to dawn. I look forward to seeing this grow and develop. And if the time comes when subscribers or donors are wanted, I hope that I will be able to participate.

  8. Jim Maher says:

    What do you mean by a “Mechanical Library”?

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