Chapter 7:3 1951-1960 Typical workshop space available to amateur woodworkersBack to Chapter 7
Impact of Increased Size of New Houses
The fragment on the left is taken from Robert J Shiller, an economist at Yale University. The data comes originally from the United States census, but the actual source is not cited. This is an area that I will continue work on, because it is important, when considering the space in the home dedicated to a workshop.
Source: Robert J Shiller, "Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices", Economist's Voice March 2006, page 6.
On the right is a graph that shows us the upward incline -- from the 1950s to 2000 -- of the square-footage of the average new house.
Will cover this in greater detail, but note briefly the post-WW II housing boom resulted in the "attached two-car garage", a spot that homeowners discovered was ideal for a homeworkshop.
The American Man's Urge to Create Theme Begun by Pop Mechanics Mags Decade Before
From Popular Science Publishing, How to get the most out of your home workshop; all the home craftsman needs to know about the use of hand and power tools in his own home. Published in 1946. In this book, the preface observes, "How the Hammer, Saw and Try-Square Can Satisfy". More significant, though, I think, is the reiteration of the 1930's phrase, "Skill Hunger".
In 1950s, Home Workshops Part of Post- WW II Housing Boom
1. In 1952, for example, "hobbyists spent about $100 million on woodworking tools, [because]... creativity is not a spigot that can suddenly be turned on at age 65 and retirement..."
Sources: Earl Raab, Gertrude Jaeger Selznick Major Social Problems Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson and Co.,1959, page 511;Wall Street Journal October 14, 1952, but page number not given. (Raab was President, California Association for Mental Health and Selznick was in the Survey Research Center, University of California Berkeley.)
2. From a home-built fallout shelter out in the backyard to a pine umbrella stand for the front hallway, do-it-yourself supported projects of every kind. So widespread became the idea of creating, building, modernizing, repairing, and sprucing up things around the home without professional help that Time magazine devoted an August 1954, cover story to the popularity of "doing-it-yourself."
Almost overnight, home workshops from simple to sophisticated became commonplace. The home itself emerged as a primary hobby—its proper upkeep and improvements occupied many a do-it-yourselfer's time.
The sales of multipurpose power tools like the Shopsmith, a five-in-one combination woodworking machine introduced in 1947, skyrocketed, creating a new generation of craftsmen.
Simpler power devices, like table saws, jigsaws, lathes, and drills also enjoyed surging popularity, along with quality hand tools. By the mid-1950s, power tool sales exceeded $200 million a year, and they continued their stratospheric climb for the remainder of the decade.13
Source: Carolyn M. Goldstein, Do-It-Yourself: Home Improvement in 20th Century America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998. page ?.)
.... 3. Lumberyards and home supply stores flourished, urging on the public with attractive displays of plywood, free how-to brochures and plans, plus much in-store advice. Husbands saw their shops as male redoubts, even if they got tucked into a closet or a corner of the garage. Advertising emphasized father-son bonding, but seldom did mothers or daughters appear, at least in the idealized workshop. Despite the gender bias found in most depictions of woodworking and carpentry, home improvement and the do-it-yourself craze eventually transcended such barriers when it came to projects outside the confines of the home shop.
Not just women's magazines, however, supported the popularity of the do-it-yourself concept. Popular Mechanics, Popular Science Monthly, and Mechanix Illustrated, journals that had long enjoyed a largely male readership, also jumped on the bandwagon. They moved from their traditional articles about science and mechanics to an increasing emphasis on how-to pieces. In no time, they watched their circulations rise. For example, 1951 saw the launch of a magazine called The Family Handyman. Within a few issues, it had attracted over 200,000 readers. The Better Homes and Gardens Handyman's Book, also first published in 1951, quickly soared to number five on some nonfiction lists for the year. Fawcett Publications is-sued a number of magazine-like paperbound books such as How to Use Power Tools and a series of Build It! plan books. One magazine, Profitable Hobbies, stressed making money from projects, an approach that caused some hobbyists to become entrepreneurs—often with the result that lei-sure turned into work. At hobby shows across the country, many home-crafted items could be found for sale, not just for display.
Source: William H Young, The 1950s. Westport, CT: Greenwod Press, 2004, pages 122-124.
The Phrase, "How To Plan a Home Workshop", Gets Lots of Attention
How to Plan a Home Workshop is a 56-page pamphlet issued in the 1950s by Delta Manufacturing, located in Milwaukee. (Click on the link above for a pdf online copy.) The cover includes the info, "Book No. 4541", and indicates the price: 25 cents. Inside we learn that the little book is edited by Ed. Hamilton. Replete with many photos and drawings, diagrams and other types of illustrations, this publication would definitely be a helpful source for anyone planning a home workshop in the 1950s, or even today.
In this same booklet on planning your home workshop space, the debate about potential size ranges from 7' X 10' to 9' X 12' to 15' X 20'. In the boxed section below are the table of contents and the introductory paragraphs.
HOW TO PLAN A HOME WORKSHOP
YOU are interested in starting your very own workship. We can tell you how to proceed to obtain the maximum in enjoyment and usefulness from the start.
The home workshop hobby is perhaps the oldest and most versatile hobby followed today. The thrill of actually creating something with your hands ; the feeling and longing for just such an accomplishment is universal and without comparison. Submerge yourself completely for five or six hours a week at this creative work. You will relax, your cares and worries will vanish. It's never too late to start. Creative work is more important today than ever. Self-confidence comes only from seeing something take complete form under your own hands, bringing truth to the statement that "Happiness is actually in your hands." If your first efforts are clumsy, you will not be discouraged, your interest will be redoubled and in a very short time you will be amazed at the results you can obtain.
Make use of the unlimited material at your command. Tools with which to begin are exceptionally cheap. Sources of materials such as wood, metal and plastics are cheap and easily obtainable. The craft magazines are full of plans, drawings, and suggestions on useful and attractive projects.
You can express yourself in your own workship and you can start that workshop today. We will show you how to go about securing your own measure of success and happiness in this fascinating hobby. That's the thing you want most and we shall here convince you that it is no longer a dream but an accomplished fact.
In the pages following you will find the necessary information to put you on the road to complete relaxation and joyful self-expression that hundreds of thousands have found before you.
The American Man's Urge to Create Theme -- Begun by Pop Mechanics Mags Decade Before -- Continued With Publication of TWO Multivolume "How-To-Do-It" Encyclopedic Sets
The two sets are:
Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encycopedia and
Popular Science Do-It-Yourself Encycopedia
Both published in 1955, both sets are also marketed through local supermarkets, at $3.49 per volume. Homeworkshops -- in the basement, in the garage, even in the apartment -- are featured. My immediate reaction to such news is, basically, cynicism. How can such crude mass-marketing turn out "good"? Well, frankly, it does. The sets, for their times, each contain hundreds of well-written, (mostly) well-illustrated articles that were good then and many, today, even though dated, still have usefulness.
Popular Science's Take on the Home Workshop Space
Once you have gathered a few hand tools, you will undoubtedly start planning a workshop, some convenient place to put a workbench, to store your hand tools and to keep your power tools. Whether you are just planning a workshop or already have one, here are several points to consider. For those without a workshop, they will serve as a guide to making one; for those who have a workshop, these pointers will help in evaluating the current shop and indicate where changes might be necessary.
1. Choose the location of a workshop carefully -- remember that tools make noise and sawdust can cause "tracking" across a rug.
2. Plan adequate electrical outlets and good lighting -- it is best to put the shop on its own separate electrical circuit and provide individual outlets (with grounds) for each tool.
3. Provide adequate ventilation -- an elaborate system is not necessary but an exhaust fan can be helpful.
4. Start with a good workbench and ample storage space -- the workbench is the heart of the workshop and it's often the beginner's first project.
5. Get a good set of hand tools -- you'll save money by buying good ones at the outset.
6. Select the proper power tools -- add to your power tool collection as your needs increase.
Locating the Workshop
A workshop can be built in the basement, in an enclosed porch, in the utility room or in the garage. If you live in an apartment, you can make your workshop so that it fits into a closet.
One of the early decisions you must make in setting up a workshop, after deciding upon its location, is its size. If you speak with experienced handymen, they will tell you to make it large enough for comfortable working. Exactly what size depends upon the number of power tools you plan to own and the work you plan to do. It may be possible to use an 8' section of wall space and have a compact shop while, on the other hand, a space 10'x 20' may be just enough to house all your equipment. It is essential to remember that you need elbow room in a shop, especially if you plan to work with large 4'x8' panels.
Popular Mechanic's Take on the Home Workshop Space
WOOD WOODWORKING leads all other hobbies. It is the most last- ing and also the most satisfying. One of the most powerful appeals of wood to all workers is the ease with which it can be fashioned into useful products. Power tools have made it possible for the average skilled worker to saw four legs, cut and mold a top, make the mortises, and emerge from the basement with a nice table -- all in one evening. He can make novelty lawn figures in a matter of minutes by simply tracing around a plan and then cutting it out on the jigsaw. Before the clock folds its hands he can turn a neat bedroom lamp, fashion a jewel box of exotically grained wood, or shape and nail a picture frame.
The typical wizard in wood is a married man. He has about five power tools and four motors. His shop is in the basement and measures about 12 x 20 ft. The whole layout cost him about $500. He works in it on an average of about two nights a week, with occasional spells of concentrated effort. He allows the whole works to rust during the summer months. He turns out an amazing number and variety of projects, most of which are doomed to collect dust in the attic or supply splendid splinters for a quick morning fire. As time goes by he becomes increasingly critical of both his tools and his projects. Eventually he falls in love with wood itself—the cool, smooth caress of maple, the rippling crossfire of mahogany and the intricate patterns of crotch walnut.
Wood seasons slowly, and so must the man who works it. The actual beginnings of a woodworking shop are simple and prosaic. All you do is buy a jigsaw or a circular saw for your first tool. You put it down in the middle of the basement and hook it up with an extension cord to the nearest available electric outlet. Obviously 'you have no need of a floor plan. If this first tool is a circular saw, you will spend some time reading all about how it is adjusted and operated, because you have read somewhere that a circular saw can cut off your fingers with dreadful accuracy when improperly handled. After ripping and crosscutting a few boards, you come to realize that your saw is not exactly a monster if you treat it right. You make a few shelves as dictated by the lady of the house. After that, most of the enthusiasm will evaporate, since the circular saw is not in itself a complete shop. You start thinking, "What I should have bought was a jigsaw; then I could have made a rocker for the baby." So you start saving your money and anticipating the things you will make after you get a jigsaw. You are on your way.
The location of the shop is the first problem. Generally it means that you are going to take over at least half, if not all of the basement. If you don't have a basement, you'll be planning your shop for an extra room in the house or in the attic. Garage workshops are not so hot (the expression is well-chosen for winter, the workshop season). Obviously the best location is a spot where you can have available the heating, Lighting and plumbing facilities of the home. If you do average woodworking, the basement is just right as to temperature, because it will be about 65° to 68° when the rooms above are from 70° to 80°. The garage workshop or the separate outdoor shop becomes increasingly practical as enough time is spent in it to justify a heating system. But as a starter, one lone power tool sitting in a cold garage is no incentive to production. Some of the "plushiest" shops are built in a separate wing of the home, but these supershops are reserved strictly for men who have been in the craft long enough to justify the expense.
You will want to acquire new tools as quickly as possible. You will buy or build a workbench and put up a tool panel. You will make a shelf and line it with glass jars for hardware. All this comes in the first year of woodcrafting. Even when money is no object, it is not too smart to install an entire shop in one move you rob yourself of a lot of pleasurable anticipation and end up with a bunch of strange machines for which you have no feeling and which you cannot run as expertly as tools which have been acquired individually.
The exact order in which you buy your tools will be dictated by what you do. You will need at least four of the six basic machines before you can even consider any of the more specialized tools. Broadly speaking, the jigsaw is the best first tool. This might be followed by a drill press, a circular saw, and a wood lathe. When you have these four tools you can build almost anything in wood. The cost of these four machines, in light but good-quality equipment, is about $190, without motors.
The problem of motors is the beginner's main headache. A good motor costs about as much as a light power tool itself. Usually, you double up at first, making use of some system which permits the running of two or more power tools with one motor.
All of these problems -- the selection of the first power tools, the arrangement of the shop, and the purchase of additional equipment are treated extensively in other sections of this book. But it is well to be forewarned of lie ahead.
MORE WOODWORKING TOOLS
AFTER you have acquired about four of the six basic tools, you will begin to cast your eye at other equipment. By this time you will be appreciative of the fact that hand sanding is hard work. "Boy, if I just had a belt sander qr a portable job!" And so, first the thought and then the deed. Prices for sanders start at about $40 and it takes a little picking to decide exactly what you want. Definitely, it must be belt-faced. In floor or bench machines, these can be obtained in 4 or 6-in. widths. Like the jointer, the 4-in. is as good as the 6-in. for edge work, while the 6-in. or any other size is never big enough for surfacing jobs. Combination units combining a belt and disk, as in the photo above, are excellent for general craftwork. The individual belt sander in a 6-in. width is a justly popular machine. Most belt sanders can be tilted to work either horizontally for surfacing or vertically for edge work. However, the conversion feature is of no great value—you use the machine one way or the other and that's that....
Pennsylavania School's 'Enrichment' Plan a Marker for Community Knowledge of Numbers of Home Workshops
With such evidence, can we argue that considerable credibility exists about the validity of the claim about well-stocked home workshops in the article below?
When lack of "workshop space" for high school students in Chester, PA, became an issue in the 1950s, to accommodate the need for courses like woodworking, the city's l newspaper supported a proposed solution that would not require tax payers to fund new buildings or additions to existing buildings. Instead, the paper noted that
"the Parents' League of the Penncrest Junior and Senior High School, secondary school of the expiring Central Delaware County Joint School District (EMU becomes a union in July), believes it is possible. As the Chester Times states
There is an expandable "classroom" equipped with expert instructors, training aids and libraries, available to every school district in the county at no cost other than a little effort.
This classroom is the surrounding community. Who are the instructors? The fathers and mothers of the children attending school. or perhaps their relatives or just concerned neighbors.
They are earning livelihoods each day as research physicists and chemists, accountants, biologists (doctors and dentists), teachers, mechanics, skilled technicians, stenographers any endeavor you can mention.
What of the equipment and the libraries? Think of the workshops in the basements of talented persons in the neighborhood. Woodworking and machine shop equipment abounds in most. Some go in for electronics, others for chemistry, or perhaps some are operating "ham" radio stations.
As for books, each person engaged in a hobby, or studying to further himself at his work, collects the latest books and periodicals on his specialty.
Can these resources be made available to the schools? Will persons with special backgrounds volunteer their services, homes and the use of their libraries? Will other citizens volunteer the time necessary to organize and operate such a project, do the stenographic work and maintain enthusiasm?
The Parents' League of the Penncrest Junior and Senior High School, secondary school of the expiring Central Delaware County Joint School District (EMU becomes a union in July), believes it IS possible....
Source: Chester (PA) Times 12-05-1957
See Mansfield (OH) News Journal January 17 1954 page 29 for a report and six images of three amateur woodworkers, George Drumm, Mahlon A Judy, and W L Miller, engaging in elaborate woodworking projects.
The article's first sentence declares,
Basement Workshops in Mansfield (OH)
Like millions of other throughout the nation, Mansfield businessmen in all professions are turning to hobbies for relaxation, and one of the most popular is woodworking. In hundreds of homes all over Mansfield basement workshops are becoming the favorite spot for relaxation and few wives are bemoaning the fact that they are "basement widows" because they are finding their husband's hobbies paying dividends.
Source: Mansfield (OH) News Journal January 17 1954 page 29
The posting below comes from Mario Dal Fabbro's How to Build Modern Furniture , volume 1, 1957, page 155. (For an extended discussion of Dal Fabbro, click here.)
IN THIS COUNTRY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE SMALL WORK-SHOPS IN THEIR HOMESis interesting -- and believable -- because of the numbers of amateur woodworkers recorded as members of the National Homeworkshop Guild in the 1930s. Further, Phil Creden -- writing in Collier's Magazine 1953 -- declares:
[Notice the highlighted sentences in paragraph 1]
... On the average, there is now one home workshop in every fourth home in every residential block in America. To equip these workshops, homeowners are buying 80 per cent of all the hand tools sold by hardware dealers, and are spending $100,000,000 for power tools this year , compared to $6,000,000
FURNITURE FOR THE HOME CRAFTSMAN
IN THIS COUNTRY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE SMALL WORK-SHOPS IN THEIR HOMES, WITH THE NECESSARY TOOLS TO MAKE REPAIRS AND TO BUILD VARIOUS USEFUL OBJECTS. THE MAJORITY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE ALSO INTERESTED IN BUILDING VARIOUS PIECES OF FURNITURE. I HAVE DEVOTED THE LAST 15 PAGES OF THIS BOOK TO A SERIES OF EASY FURNITURE PIECES WHICH THEY CAN MAKE.
I HAVE SIMPLIFIED THE METHOD OF PRESENTATION BOTH IN DESIGN AND IN CONSTRUCTION SO THAT THE READERS CAN READILY UNDERSTAND ALL THE PROCEDURES. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BUILD THESE PIECES WITH THE ASSURANCE OF SUCCESS.
AFTER YOU HAVE SELECTED THE PIECE OF FURNITURE YOU WANT TO BUILD, THE NEXT STEP IS TO ORDER THE LUMBER. ONE WAY IS TO COPY A LIST OF THE MATERIALS REQUIRED AND ASK ANY LUMBER DEALER TO CUT THE PIECES FOR YOU. ANOTHER WAY IS TO USE LUMBER CUT IN STANDARD SIZES.
IF THE MATERIAL IS PURCHASED IN THE SECOND WAY, IT IS ADVISABLE TO DRAW AN OUTLINE OF THE PIECES DIRECTLY ON THE WOOD. CUT OUT WITH A SAW. PLANE THE SAWED PIECES AND USE A FILE ON THE CURVED SURFACES. MARK AND EXECUTE THE JOINTS OF THE VARIOUS PIECES, CHECKING TO SEE THAT EVERYTHING FITS CORRECTLY. THIS DONE, PROCEED WITH THE ASSEMBLING AS SHOWN IN THE DRAWINGS, USING GLUE AND SCREWS. BE SURE TO FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS INDICATED IN THE LEGEND.
AFTER BUILDING THE PIECE OF FURNITURE, SANDPAPER ALL PARTS FIRST WITH COARSE SANDPAPER AND THEN WITH FINE SANDPAPER, RUBBING IN THE DIRECTION OF THE GRAIN. APPLY A COAT OF FIRZITE AND ALLOW IT TO DRY FOR ABOUT EIGHT HOURS; THEN SANDPAPER THE SURFACE AGAIN. WITH A CLEAN BRUSH APPLY TWO COATS OF SATIN LAC (ALLOWING FOUR HOURS BETWEEN COATS), AND FINISH WITH FURNITURE POLISH.
But, nonetheless, from whence does Mr. Dal Fabbro's figures come? With all my research, I have yet to discover the source. Below is more from Dal Fabbro:
Rockwell Manufacturing - through its subsidiary, the Delta Manufacturing Divison -- Offers 'A Tool-At-Time' Plan
Uniontown PA Morning Herald :
The "tool-at-a-time" plan is aimed at making it easier for home do-it-yourself enthusiasts to assemble a DeItashop. The Deltashop -- a multipurpose woodworking tool that will do approximately 98 percent of all home workshop operations -- is a new machine announced by the Delta Power Tool Division of Rockwell Manufacturing Company.
Available heretofore only as a completely assembled unit, the Deltashop is now available in four separate packages which can be purchased "a-tool-at-a-time"
The first of the four packages consists of a tilting arbor circular saw and the basic Deltashop stand to which the three other tools are later attached. These three tools, listed in recommended order of purchase are
a drill press
"Our decision to offer this equipment 'a-tool-at-a-time' is in response to the rapidly-growing 'do-it-yourself' market", F. P. Maxwell, Vice President of Delta Power Tool, said.
"Hardware retailers across the country have reported hundreds of instances where homeowners have expressed a desire to own a Delta-shop, but have been unable to make the entire capital outlay at one time. The design of the Delta-shop is such that it lends itself to 'a-tool-at-a-time' sale without any mechanical modification whatsoever".
The Deltashop was originally introduced two years ago. Its wide acceptance by home workshop owners has been predicted on its compactness and on the fact that it consists of four separate power tools -- rather than a series of attachments. Its footprint is approximately three square feet and so engineered that change-over from one tool to another is quick. No changeover is required to move work from the circular saw to the. Jointer, the two most often used tools.
Source: Uniontown (PA) Morning Herald April 21, 1955, page 24
The "Expandable House" Set Rockwell's Juices Flowing, Or,Rockwell Manufacturing -- of which Delta is a subsidiary -- is closely watching ways in which the corporation can tap into the exploding house building boom. (The housing boom started in the late '40s, and continued into the '50s.)
How Rockwell Tried to Compete With Shopsmith
An FHA loan could help the new owners, but -- for many -- jumping into home ownership was still both "pricey and dicey".
Keeping construction costs down was helped by having future owners agree to move into an unfinished structure, with an understanding that the home's new owners would finish the incompleted parts.
To get started, these new owners needed woodworking tools that they could afford. Buying a Unisaw was -- for the most part -- out of the question, a situation that encouraged instead several options:
either a major purchase like the Delta multiplex radial arm saw or the Dewalt radial arm saw. (The latter are domesticated versions of their industrial level cousins, detailed here) a Shopsmith, which provided an 8" circular saw, a drill press, a disk-sander, a 30-inch lathe.
To compete, Rockwell that ought that it needed a Shopsmith-like product.
The result -- pictured here -- was the Deltashop. Hence the Deltashop was launched in 1953, and still being marketed in 1955. However, the Deltashop was not seen by prospective buyers as a logical alternative to the more thoughtfully engineered Shopsmith, and the Deltashop had a short life.
(Click here for a Delta Homecraft Power Tools leaflet on "The Deltashop";
click here to see the discussion of home-ownership and woodworking.)
Deltashops In HomesExpandable house, which in gaining popularity In the South and Southwest. may soon include power tools as standard equip ment, enabling the man of the house to finish the extra rooms at low cost with a professional touch.
The Idea has already been put Into effect in Chicago, Illinois, where Quinn Home Builders has built a 40-home development. Four basic styles of homes are available in the Quinn development. Two of the models are expandable, and these include the Deltashop as standard equipment.
"The expandable home and the Deltashop naturally go together," according to Harry J. Quinn, architect of the homes. "Our homes are built with one or two rooms unfinished so that as the homeowner's family grows and more apace is needed, the house can be "expanded" by completing the unfinished rooms.
"The Deltashop gives him a tilting arbor circular saw, drill press, jointer and disc sander, yet take up only a three-foot square of floor apace and operates from just one motor."
In addition to furnishing a Deltashop, Quinn Builders help the owner even further by providing him with a complete set of plans and sketches, instructions, materials list and estimated cost sheet for completing the rooms.
Mr. Quinn estimates that the owner can finish a room for about one-third of the cost that a builder would have to charge That is because the owner supplies his own labor and does not have the builders overhead costs.
"That's where the Deltashop comes in so handily," Mr. Quinn added. "With the Deltashop, the homeowner has all the basic power tools needed to complete his home."
Source: Uniontown (PA) Morning Herald April 21, 1955, page 22