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Pocket Ref

If for any reason you ever find yourself needing to rebuild civilization, the Pocket Ref by Thomas J. Glover and Sequoia Publishing would be the one book you’d want to have on hand.  Need to know how to tie a truckers hitch?  Check out page 548.  How about the correct concrete mix ratio for building a retaining wall?  Page 101.  Let’s say you need a crash course on how to weld — that starts on page 667.  This uber-reference book’s small size belies the vast amount of information contained within.

The Pocket Ref has been in print since 1989 and is in its third edition.  It’s about 3” x 5” so it will actually fit pretty comfortably in your jeans or shirt pocket.  Of course, you could find all of this information online, but the Pocket Ref’s 768 pages worth of knowledge goes with you in places the web can’t.

My copy is a soft cover Make Magazine branded edition that cost me $13.00 — its usual list price.  Street pricing starts around $10; we found it for $10 from Amazon right now, for example.  If you want something that feels a bit more substantial, you can pick up a hard cover version for around $20.

Pocket Ref [Sequoia Publishing]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s this?]


15 Responses to Small Book, Big Information (And Small Price)

  1. PutnamEco says:

    There is a whole series of pocket refs.

    almost as much fun as the machinery handbook.

  2. Evan N. says:

    Love this thing! Got mine at Restoration Hardware. I use it regularly in the machine shop. I also like the mineral composition section. Another book I like that I have because I did theater in college is the Backstage Handbook. It’s got a lot of good carpentry (guide to build a run of stairs, for example) as well as other things useful outside the theater as well.

  3. Stuey says:

    69 out of 71 amazon reviewers gave it 5 stars with the 2 outcasts giving it only 4 stars out of 5.

    This will definitely be included with my next amazon order!

  4. I haven’t used mine very much at all since I bought it, since the internet is not only faster to search, it’s also more up-to-date. But I still keep it in the car, because you just never know… It’s fun to flip through!

    The “Pocket Partner” is even cooler. It’s targeted at law enforcement and first responders, and in addition to fun party games (which they blandly call “field sobriety tests”) and hand signals (SWAT charades!), there are some comedy gems, like the shift-work survival guide. “No doughnuts!”, it admonishes.

    The back half of the Pocket Partner is a Haz-Mat reference, which decodes those placard numbers you see on trucks, so you can tell just how S.O.L. you’d be if it crashed. There’s also a phone book with everything from ATF field offices to the Fish & Wildlife service. Absolutely worth ten bucks just to say “wow, I’m glad I don’t have to keep all this in my head”.

  5. Roscoe says:

    I’m with Nate- the Internet is pretty vast. I carry a Blackberry too, so once I find something I think I’ll want it again, I save it in my notes and always have it with me.

  6. Adam says:

    Despite having a blackberry, multiple computers, and heck, being a full-time IT consultant, i have an anachronistic streak a mile wide, and a pocket reference like this appeals to me. No matter what kind of internet connection you have, it doesn’t work everywhere! I’m buying one of these for the car and for my camping kit.

  7. wogdgo says:

    …and with all the metal on the stall doors, wireless is a no go in the staff bathroom. It’s going in my ‘other’ kit.

  8. l_bilyk says:

    I keep one in the tool box

  9. T says:

    I have an internet connection, Machinery’s Handbook on CD-Rom, and I still use the Pocket Ref. For a lot of things I find it’s quicker to open a book and flip through it then navigate a 20 MB pdf or wade through google results until you find the right one.

  10. eschoendorff says:

    This edition is also available at HF. I love mine. An excellent use of $10. And it doesn’t take batteries.

  11. Chris Ford says:

    Blackberry?!?!?!?!?!?!? The pocket ref is for people that actually work with their hands, not people that worry about blisters. And as for looking things up on the internet, I’m sorry but I try to keep my computers out of the shop as actual work is done their and computers tend to turn into casualties very quickly.

    P.S. If you’ve ever watched Mythbusters you’d know that Adam and Jamie are constantly referring to their pocket refs.

  12. Chris, you’re obviously using the wrong computers in the shop! I’ve been carrying around one used Toughbook or another for years. I’ve used them as hammers, vises, wheel chocks, and yes, I even type on them sometimes.

    Buying a new one is not for the faint of heart, but on the used market they’re quite affordable. Some models are tougher than others, but in general, any computer with a built-in carrying handle can take some punishment. If it has rubber-sealed covers over the ports, it’s probably dustproof.

    Most rugged laptops also have touchpads that can be used with gloves, a big consideration for workers in the field. I adore my Toughbooks, and the Itronix hardware I’ve poked at is even sturdier. One of these days, I’ll end up with a Getac or a Melard, I know it.

    With the right hardware, the only casualty when you bring a computer into the shop will be your productivity, because now you’ve got an MP3 player and a web browser and an RSS reader and a…. yeah. Maybe there’s something to be said for good old paper books, after all.

  13. Can anyone vouch for the Handyman Pocket Ref by the same author? Currently it’s less than $7 at Rockler (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=10215), and I’m debating if that’s reason enough to start going order-crazy again.

  14. Eric says:


    I just got the Handyman in your pocket ref today. They are fairly similar. So far it seems that the handyman version contains less general information and focuses more on the properties of various materials and building techniques. if you go to the publisher’s page about the book there is a link to a .pdf chart comparing it to the rocket ref. Here’s the link: http://www.sequoiapublishing.com/pdt_handyman.htm

  15. Eric,

    Thanks for the link!

    Aftering skimming through the comparison, it seems that there is a lot of overlap between the two books, but also several unique portions. I’m slightly on the fence about purchasing the handyman version, so I’ll wait and see how much I like the pocketref before I decide.

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