Book of the week: Make It Yourself (1927 edition)

Make It Yourself: 900 Things to Make and Do Book

Book of the week: Make It Yourself (1927 edition)

Words Nicholas Hitchcock

For the first in our serendipitous collection of things that have caught Hole & Corner‘s attention, we delve into the far reaches of the bookshelf for a retro DIY classic…

Ever had a desire to turn your flatbed truck into a family camper van but just didn’t know how? Have you needed to build an aero-propelled sledge but couldn’t find the instructions online? Or how about finding a way to construct a handy fish scaler out of an old rat trap? Don’t worry, Hole & Corner has found a retro solution to all of your tinkering needs.

Published in 1927, Make It Yourself: 900 Things to Make and Do is an encyclopaedic DIY manual providing instruction on household tasks from the most mundane bodging duties to grand projects that even Mr Gadget would struggle to think up. As the book proudly states on its title page, Make It Yourself is a ‘delight to all those who are mechanically inclined.’ In short, it is the craftsman’s bible.

Pages from the book Make It Yourself: 900 Things to Make and Do

A DIY photographic lighting set-up from 1927 (top right): much like the one we used to take this picture

The curious tinkerer skimming through Make It Yourself is immediately transported to another time and place: the early 20th century home. The book’s 800 images depict a world caught between 19th century household norms and the oncoming technology boom. Instructions for traditional toboggan design casually sit next to plans for electrically driven hedge trimmers and attic aerials, while men in shirtsleeves and ties are depicted alongside women speeding along in Model-Ts. Historically speaking, Make It Yourself, from the perspective of 1927, self-consciously attempts to fit masculinity and hobbycraft into the oncoming wave of modernity that was about to permanently transform home DIY with the wide-spread introduction of electricity, plumbing and plastics. The book reaffirms male, head-of-household domestic roles through home DIY whilst simultaneously compensating for women’s new roles opened up by changes in domestic consumption.

Yet it is more than just an interesting historical document: Make It Yourself is an enduring instruction manual on home mechanics. After all, where else can you find guidelines on how to build a homemade hog oiler these days? We at Hole & Corner always keep a copy around the office just in case.