“Mechanic’s Companion” is 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.
Having now mentioned the principal tools, and their application, it will here be proper to say something of the operations of Carpentry, which may be considered under two general heads; one of individual pieces, the other the combination of two or more pieces. Individual pieces undergo various operations as sawing, planing, rebating, and grooving, or ploughing: the operation of the pit saw is so well known as hardly to need a description; planing, rebating, grooving, or ploughing, are more frequently employed in Joinery, and will be there fully described. The other general head may be sub-divided into two others, viz. that of joining one piece of timber to another, in order to make one, two, or four angles, the other that of fastening two or more pieces together, in order to form one piece, which could not be got sufficiently large or long in a single piece; there are two methods of joining pieces at an angle, one by notching, the other by mortise and tenon…
Fig. 1 the manner of cocking tie beams with the wall plates fitted together. See § 25.
Fig. 2 shows the manner by which the cocking joint is fitted together, No. 1 part of the end of the tie beam, with the notch to receive the part between the notches in No. 2, which is a part of the wall plate. See § 25.
Fig. 3 dove-tail cocking; No. 1 the male or exterior dove-tail cut out on the end of the tie beam: No. 2 the female or interior dove-tail cut out of the wall plate, to receive the male dove-tail. See § 24.
Fig. 4 the manner of joining two pieces together to form a right angle, so that each piece will only be extended on one side of the other, by halving the pieces together, or taking a notch out of each, half the thickness. See § 26.
Fig. 5 two pieces joined together, forming four right angles, when one piece only exceeds the breadth of the other by a very short distance: No. 2 the socket of one piece, which receives the neck or substance of the other. This and the preceding are both employed in joining wall plates at the angle; but the latter is preferable, when the thickness of walls will admit of it.
Fig. 6 the method of fixing angle tics: No. 1 part of angle tie, with part of the wall plate: No. 2 the wall plate, showing the socket or female dove-tail. Though the angle tie is here shown flush with the wall, in order to show the manner of connecting the two pieces together; the angle tie is seldom, or never let down flush, as this would not only weaken the angle tie, but also the plate into which it is framed. See § 27.