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This morning I stumbled on a cool movie from 1940 that explains the types of woodworking jobs available at the time and has some really fun shots of veneering, furniture-making and patternmaking. If for some reason your browser won’t display the movie, scoot on over to and you can choose from a wide variety of video formats.

My favorite part of the video is where they show the vocational students attacking some boards with tools. One of the students is planing a big old hollow in an edge. Then it shows him checking the edge to ensure it’s square. Though you cannot hear the student, I’m sure he said something like, “Jeepers that edge sucks eggs.”

If you have 10 minutes to spare, I think you’ll enjoy this little flick.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 7 comments
  • Ed Lomax

    A very cool video that brings back some warm memories. My woodworking adventure began as 10 year old making boxes in Mr. Henessey’s workshop in the basement of the South End Boy’s Club. In the late 60’s I was a student at Boston Technical High School where I took a Pattern Making class, Foundry shop, and Mechanical Drawing. Like Mr. Ashford, as I get older, I, too, "look back with gratitude" on those learning and life experiences I had in these classes and workshops.

  • Alex LaZella

    cool video. the cross braces for the floor joists was easily the best part. what a great advertisement for hand tools. I also love the quality of houses being built, no OSB on those babies, 3/4 sheathing and roof deck. The guy putting in the hardwood floors was going at a pretty fair clip, I have seen the "pros" on TV taking longer with the air nailers than that guy. very entertaining

  • Doug Brummett

    Okay, so I wasn’t the only one wondering if that kid was going to stop before going all the way through that board. Seriously those contractors are kickin but. Thanks for sharing this one.

  • Ron Ashford

    I remember watching this sort of film in the 50s and 60s in elementary school, and at Benson Polytechnic High School, Portland, Oregon. Chris commented on the pattern making piece in the film. We had a Pattern making and Foundry shop, though I never took the course, as it was not a requirement (unless one was majoring in it), but the moulds they made were exactly as shown. They used to cast them in lead, tin, copper, brass and steel.

    I have come across a book that looks very interesting: The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. Frank R. Wilson (available: Amazon). This book details how the use of the hand helps people develop in a multitude of ways. I have found this to also be the case in teaching woodworking to Mental Health clients. I hope to get the book soon, to see what it has to say in depth.

    As I get older, I look back with gratitude on the formal (school) and informal (employment) training, experience and opportunities I had as a young man. It makes it so much easier to again pick up the tools. I am certain, however, that the Internet, with the numerous sites and blogs, such as this one, has been an invaluable addition to what was available in the ‘ole days’.


    Ron Ashford
    New Zealand

  • James M

    Did you notice the way they were making the cross braces for the floor joists, looked quick and easy? I need to look around that site more to see what else is there.

  • Chris Vesper

    Cool movie. Love the patternmaking too, almost a lost art these days in that form.
    Also love the quote: "Use your spending money to build up a set of tools, and purchase materials to work".
    Thats the story of my life really, and so true that not much has really changed in some ways in all that time.

  • Wilbur Pan

    "Cabinets of various kinds and sizes which have been assembled in the mill are grouped together in the finished house to form any cupboard arrangement that may be desired. In former days, such cabinets were entirely built by the carpenters on the job. Today the field of cabinetmaking has been reduced greatly by the substitution of other materials for wood and the use of specialized machines in woodworking mills….Although most furniture is machine-made in large quantities, there is still some employment for well-trained workers in the building of made-to-order furniture and cabinets….Fine furniture making is a fascinating field, but one which is somewhat limited, because the higher cost of skilled handwork reduces the market for such articles."

    Seems like not much has changed in the past 68 years.

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