Peter Nicholson’s “The Mechanic’s Companion” is one of the landmark English-language books on woodworking and related building trades. First published in 1812, it’s an invaluable treatment of period techniques, with 40 detailed plates that offer an excellent look of the tools of the time, and a thorough review of the geometry you need for all types of construction.
You’ll find useful primary-source information on how to use traditional joinery tools at the bench. That’s because Nicholson – unlike other technical writers of the time – was a trained cabinetmaker, who later became an architect, prolific author and teacher. So he writes (and writes well) with the authority of experience and clarity on all things carpentry and joinery. For the other trades covered – bricklaying, masonry, slating, plastering, painting, smithing and turning – he relies on masters for solid information and relays it in easy-to-understand prose.
“Mechanic’s Companion” went through a number of printings, both in England and in the United States; this reprint is of the 1845 U.S. edition, which includes information on mid 19th-century New York City building codes (which are – to me, anyway! – fascinating). I spent a month or so in early 2018 scanning the pages of the original (at high and crisp resolution, of course) and cleaning up the foxing, as well as rebuilding many broken letters and words, pixel by pixel. My aim was to present as clean a book as possible. (I also bumped up the size by 10 percent, just to make it a little more readable.)
But after two years of fulfilling orders out of my living room and dining room – and becoming increasingly busy with freelance work for Lost Art Press and others – I decided my time and floor space could be better spent. So, Lost Art Press picked up the remainder of my print run, and will keep this important book in print (something I would not have been able to do on my own).
Like all Lost Art Press books, “Mechanic’s Companion” text is printed on acid-free paper in Smythe-sewn signatures that are reinforced with fiber tape. The interior is then wrapped in hardcover boards and cotton cloth. The book is produced entirely in the United States.