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The Boy Mechanic

It’s hard to believe that there was a time in this country when children were encouraged to do risky (and interesting) things. But it’s true! Boys and Girls were given simple items and allowed to experiment with the way the world works by making and doing things that could possibly poke an eye out. Nothing exemplifies this better than The Boy Mechanic, a collection of simple projects that graced the pages of Popular Mechanics during the end of 19th and first half of the 20th century.

The book contains hundreds of projects, from simple stuff like making your own sawhorses to the more complicated and risky construction of a small electric furnace. (To give you an idea of this book’s age — and how long it’s been since we trusted our children to try anything on their own — the furnace project calls for thin layers of asbestos for insulation.) Of course, it’s a wonder our fathers and grandfathers made it out alive.

I’m not saying children should go out and try to hurt themselves. But there are risky things worth doing as long as risks are properly weighed and appropriate safety precautions taken. Get this book — and some safety glasses and a helmet — for a kid in your life. It’s available free via Project Gutenberg in digital form, and if you’d like a bound book, Amazon carries it for $10.

Free Download Page [Gutenberg Project]
Via Amazon [What’s this?]


8 Responses to The Boy Mechanic: Kid Projects From Back In The Day

  1. I bought the reprint of this book and the Boy Mechanic makes toys. What great book, although there’s some translating to do (Dad, what’s a dry cell?). I’ve already bought my 10 year old a bag of small electric motors for his first few projects.

  2. Kurt Schwind says:

    This is a good example of what Nick Engle (sp) was saying during the podcast. I think it’s really important to encourage kids to use tools and to just ‘do’ for themselves.

  3. Mel E. says:

    Great idea for a kid. It went the way of chemistry sets, those would be full of hazardous materials now. Image the msds would be bigger than the kits.

  4. Whimsy says:

    May I also recommend Practical Mechanics for Boys by J. S. Zerbe ? Available trough the awesome Gutenberg Project as well ( http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/22298 ). Another interesting example in the books-for-boys category, mainly focussing on tools and tool maintenance (it has an entire chapter on files alone, which I find telling).

  5. Jakester says:

    Lee Valley (http://www.leevalley.com) sells reprints of these. Item number 49L82.10.

  6. Rusty L says:

    There’s a company called Lindsays Technical Books that specializes in reprinting old books like this. I actually bought Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the Boy Mechanic from them a few years ago. They might still be printing them.

  7. Lee Floyt says:

    Learning how to do these types of things as a kid might seem dangerous, but how dangerous is it that we’ve got a whole generation of kids who are more comfortable with gamepads than with tools?

  8. Thy says:

    I really like this book but I got no money to buy it 🙁

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