How Old is Your Machinery’s Handbook?

1928 Machinery's Hanbook
Title page and preface from the 1928 edition of Machinery’s Handbook
Machinery's Handbook, 29th edition
Machinery’s Handbook, 29th edition

When discussing influential books on gears, I like to start with the venerable Machinery’s Handbook. No matter where you go in the industrial world you’ll find well thumbed copies of this handy reference book. My long time friend and noted gear engineer Ed Hahlbeck was fond of saying that if he was ever ship wrecked on a desert island he hoped his Machinery’s Handbook washed ashore too. I have a 21st century copy in my library right along side the 1928 edition I bought for a dollar at an estate sale.

The gear trade and general industry owe a big thank you to Franklin D. Jones and Erik Oberg for first publishing this reference in 1914 and for updating it every few years. Mr. Jones died in 1967 at the age of 88 but even the latest electronic versions still carry his name. He was a prolific writer/editor and I am a fan of two of his other books as well. Gear Design Simplified is a great guide for beginning gear people. The three volume Ingenious Mechanisms for Engineers and Designers is at the opposite end of the complexity scale but certainly shows the creativity of the people who worked in our trade before slide rules, calculators, and computer aided design.

I wonder if the publishers will have a special 100th Anniversary edition? Are there any other scientific or engineering reference books that have been in continuous use for that long? At one point I had a complete set of Gear Technology back issues but unfortunately they got damaged in one of my many moves. On line access to the contents diminishes that loss but I tend to agree with Ed; finding a Machinery’s Handbook is a good first step in resolving many shop problems.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.


  1. Hi,
    Mine is the 22nd revised edition that I found in a garage sale many summers ago…I use it frequently

  2. As a teenage apprentice in my father’s machine shop, I found Machinery’s Handbook fascinating reading, with its seemingly endless tables and solutions to practical issues like the proper chain size for a certain job. But what really cemented its importance to me was the fact that most machinist’s toolboxes had a drawer just the right size to fit this book, right in the middle of the toolbox. It’s as if the box manufacturer knew how important it was, and dedicated valuable toolbox space to a book! And in that drawer you’d find the book, with several handwritten notes, figures, and sketches on scraps of paper stuck inside or tucked next to it, literally the debris of “problems solved.” I cannot begin to estimate the number of times Machinery’s Handbook helped me over a bump on the road to my lifelong career in precision machining. Thank you for reminding us all what an over-sized role this little book plays in the success of our industry.

    • I found a Machinery Handbook in an open market about 20 years ago. I bought it for $5.00. It was very old, was the first edition, and was signed by the author. I wrote to the home office that publishes the book and told them what I had found. I didn’t tell them what I paid for it and asked them if they were interested in purchasing the copy. The book was very clean and its covers’ hinges were about 95%. I told them I wanted $300.00 for the book plus two latest editions of the handbook. The company asked me to send them the book for their inspection which I did. They wrote me back telling me that they were accepting the “deal.” I was sent a check for $300.00 and two latest editions of the handbook.

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