The following is excerpted from “Mechanic’s Companion,” by Peter Nicholson, one of the foundational English-language texts in woodworking and the building trades. First published in 1812, “Mechanic’s Companion” is an invaluable and thorough treatment of techniques, with 40 plates that provide an excellent and detailed look at the tools of the time, along with a straightforward chapter on the geometry instruction necessary to the building trades.
If you work with hand tools, you will find useful primary-source information on how to use the 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.
A B the treadle or foot-board.
a the manner of fixing the treadle to the floor.
C the crank hook, hooked into a staple, and the end of the piece A.
D the crank for turning the fly with the upper part of the crank hook formed into a collar for embracing the crank.
E the fly. heel with several angular grooves cut in its circumference, in order to hold the band and keep it from sliding.
F the pillar for supporting the end of the mandrel.
G the puppet supporting the end of the mandrel, which holds the chuck.
H the right hand puppet, containing the fore centre, which is tightened by means of a screw.
I, K the legs, the fly being supported by that of I, the other end is supported by an upright between the legs.
L the mandrel, showing the end of the spindle projecting over the puppet G, in order to receive the chuck.
M the rest, tightened below by means of a screw, and made so as to be fixed in any position to the chuck.
N a foot-board.
O several of the most useful tools employed in turning.