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Popular Mechanics published Forty Power Tools You Can Make in the early 1940’s as a thin hardback. The book is, as are most Popular Mechanics books, a collection of articles from the magazine. At a time when most machines were required for the war effort it must have been seen as a way to encourage people to keep up their hobbies in the face of scarcity.

The book is about 96 pages and has 3 plans for bandsaws, 3 for drill presses, 2 scroll saws (one of which is pedal powered!), 7 sanders of various types, 3 power saws, 2 wood lathes, shaper, power plane, model maker’s metal lathe, power hacksaw, and filing machine. Sprinkled within are other articles on accessories and other modifications to tools. It’s one of those books that can jog your creative urges as well as showing just how thrifty people used to be.

The book is available used from a variety of sellers between $2 and $10, while Amazon has a much higher price. It doesn’t seem to be available as a reprint.

Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


11 Responses to A Good Read: Forty Power Tools You Can Make

  1. Mike says:

    Looks super cool! I’ve been interested in a DIY large disc sander…maybe this will give me a few hints.

  2. fritz gorbach says:

    I think it was shopnotes magazine a year or so ago had plans for a 12 inch disc sander. I saved it somewhere, but you could prob. search the website. As I remember, the only thing I didn’t like was they cut some shaft bearings out of plywood or something. I figured on replacing them with some pillow blocks from grainger, and adding some steel to the base for mass. Overall though, I think they were nice plans.

  3. Brau says:

    Sigh. My dad’s shop was full of homemade power tools. He was a master of used washer motors (some with dead starter coils) and pulleys. I almost feel guilty for having bought my tools … almost. The biggest problem I find today is that the price of the specialty DIY parts can outweigh buying the tool. (IE: When I went looking for simple pulleys, few quality units could be found, and they were $20-$70 each. Ouch)

  4. Jim says:

    Go to Amazon with the above link and look inside the book. There are several pages available describing the construction of a tablesaw. I am curious who “could” make it, then who “would” make it. Although, it would be an interesting project to make many of them to sit along side their commercailly available counterparts. To have a shop full of hand made stationary woodworking tools would be a topic of conversation.

  5. KMR says:

    If this is a collection of articles from the PM magazines, you can read ALL of the PM backissues on Google Books (under their magazines).

  6. fred says:

    This looks to be a true period piece. I grew up in a household with parent who were of working age during the Great Depression. Perhaps frugality was instilled in them and me because of their experience. Being born in the “40’s at the beginning of the Baby Boom – I was probably also influenced by some of the post-war shortages on the one hand – plus lots of true war-surplus materials being available on the other hand. Making things often seemed like the economic way to go – and scrounging for parts seemed like fun. What we face today seems more than a bit different (maybe it’s my age – but I don’t think so.) Making a machine tool from parts now would only seem to be a good idea if you wanted the experience, needed some special feature, or looked at the challenge as an opportunity to show off your skills. While things like the pride you might garner from producing a quality tool are not insignificant – the economics will likely be against you. You will certainly suffer from lack of economies of scale buying one-off parts at retail in the US and even with your labor counted for nothing your overall monetary investment will likely be more than most of what you could buy on the market. I actually amazed at how competitive the prices are for much of what we purchase. While we might decry the move of production to offshore manufacturing – with its loss of US jobs – and diminution of quality – there is no doubt, in my mind, that the global competition has forced prices down – particularly if you view prices in real terms adjusted for inflation.

  7. David Bryan says:

    Fred, the economics of everything are against some folks nowadays, just like it’s always been. There’s still lots of people who have way more time than money and make do or do without.

  8. Hutch says:

    This book is also available as a PDF eBook (on CD-rom) here:

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