History of Machinery’s Handbook

More than 110 Years in Publication  

Launched in 1914, Machinery’s Handbook has been in continuous publication for more than 100 years and is still being sold around the world. At this time, we are thrilled to announce: The new 32nd Edition, along with updates of the whole Machinery’s Handbook Product Family, is about to launch. (See below.)

This indispensable handbook was the brainchild of Alexander Luchars, founder of Industrial Press, Inc. The photograph at the right is of his great-great grandson Alex Luchars, the company’s current President and CEO. He can be reached at aluchars@industrialpress.com.

An immigrant from Scotland, founder Alexander Luchars started Machinery, a monthly magazine, in the late nineteenth century. Machinery reflected a healthy competitive spirit in a robust post–Civil War America, and the Industrial Revolution was in full bloom. Machinery focused on industrial metalworking. To produce the magazine, Luchars employed two knowledgeable editors, engineers Erik Oberg (1881–1951) and Franklin D. Jones (1879–1967). Both possessed a command of mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering, and they were able to explain complex topics in clear, readable English.

Machinery dealt with the practice of using metalworking to build machines and the role of machines in manufacturing. The editors published articles about making and using various metals. And they provided descriptions of machines and processes. The magazine included diverse advertisements (see the photo at right) for machine tools, sponsored by the fast-growing, technology-driven companies that propelled the Industrial Revolution. Throughout, emphasis was placed on the need for pragmatic information. Developing, building, and improving machines, mechanisms, and processes with practical advice was an early recurrent theme. It served the legendary entrepreneurial spirit of young America. Due attention also was paid to the theory and nascent science of mechanical and industrial engineering.

From time to time, Machinery published articles that contained rich, basic, technical information on various core issues of industrial manufacturing. Examples include trigonometry, rearrangement and development of formulas, mechanics, strength of materials, threads and fasteners, stamping, welding and cutting, machining of various metals, gear design and manufacture, cutting speeds and feed rates for machining, and similar content. These articles appeared in addition to Machinery’s regular application-specific pieces, covering advances in the industrial movement.

As magazine publication continued into the twentieth century, a substantial collection of key data developed around these topics. The data was stored in the company’s file cabinets. We are not certain who gets the credit, but either Luchars, Oberg, or Jones sparked the idea, and the team began to discuss how to further compile and make use of the vast trove of knowledge credited to Luchar’s brainchild, Machinery. In the end, all three men certainly deserve credit, because they collaborated on the original idea for a comprehensive handbook that would benefit the engineering, manufacturing, and metalworking community, while generating profit for the publishing company. At this point, the plan for a handbook included the most useful selections from the available data. The plan became a working project in 1909. In what little time could be spared from editorial work on the magazine, Oberg was placed in charge. Working with Jones over a span of five years, they produced a robust manuscript for the first edition.

The 1914 1st Edition

The inaugural edition of Machinery’s Handbook was published in January 1914. It was a toolbox-sized volume measuring 4.625 X 7 inches. It was well received, and more than 30,000 copies were sold within the first two years. (Industrial Press is proud to offer a Machinery’s Handbook Collector’s Edition: 1914 First Edition Replica of this landmark work.) Several revised editions were issued in the years following. During World War I, the Handbook was in great demand to serve a global call for machines of war.

The earliest Handbooks were bound in flexible leather. They featured rounded corners to allow easy insertion into a stout cardboard slip case, designed to preserve the book for many years of service. The edges of the page were hand finished with gold leaf to protect them from soiled fingers seeking references. The title on the cover also was embossed in gold leaf. Because the content was so varied, little attempt was made to arrange it by subject matter. It was thought sufficient to include an extensive index, totaling more than 30 pages and 4,500 references. From these index references, the location of any subject in Machinery’s Handbook could be found.

After the war, Industrial Press began revising and expanding the material to include more tables and working rules, formulas, practical data, and manufacturing standards developed in wartime. The revised and enlarged 6th edition was published in 1924. The number of pages increased by nearly 200. New material, selected from suggestions made by engineers, shop managers, and skilled workers in the metalworking field, reflected technical developments that had taken place since the last edition. The 6th edition was the first to include thumb index tabs that gave users direct, rapid access to specific subjects. These were instantly popular. 

Since 1924, the Handbook has been revised on a regular basis, usually on a four-year cycle (approximately coinciding with the rate at which significant technical developments occur in metalworking). The 10th Edition, published in 1939, contained 1,816 pages. New and revised material not in the 9th Edition consumed over 585 pages. With the start of World War II, there was another spurt in demand. But wartime shortages resulted in production without thumb tabs. This was bemoaned by users (many made their own tabs from adhesive tape).  

The 1998 Large Print Edition

Following close on the heels of the 25th Edition (1996), many Handbook users were rewarded with the version they had long been waiting for, Machinery’s Handbook, Large Print Edition. Identical to the traditional 4.6 X 7-inch Toolbox Edition in every way, except size and weight, the Large Print Edition measured 7 X 10 inches (a 140% increase) and weighed nearly 6 pounds. The Large Print Edition remains a top choice for readers. The edition employs a type size the same as standard reference books that is easier to read, yet fits the same page setup as the Toolbox version.  

The 2020 31st Edition

The Machinery’s Handbook, 31st Edition debuted in March 2020. As with the previous editions, it grew in content and coverage, offering major revisions of existing content, as well as new material on a variety of topics. Numerous sections were refreshed, reworked, or renovated. The metric content continued to be expanded.

The 31st Edition was available in both toolbox and large print edition sizes, as well as in an eBook format. Other products included the popular Pocket Companion and combination packages and new add-on products, such as industry-specific calculators and a nifty new magnifier for viewing fine details and data in the smaller Toolbox Edition.

Announcing the New 2024 32nd Edition!

The new Machinery’s Handbook, 32nd Edition, remains true to the original as an indispensable, comprehensive, yet highly practical and easy-to-use tool. Having grown once again, now totaling more than 3,000 pages, and with thousands of revisions and essential updates since the last edition, it includes vital information on basic and crucial aspects of sophisticated manufacturing processes, along with applicable industry standards throughout. This latest, greatest version is the must-have technical resource.

The original, compact Toolbox Edition, still features handy thumbtabs (shown at left above) as does the standard reference size Large Print Edition (pictured at right with other Machinery’s Handbook family products). Both size editions contain the same vast wealth of invaluable text, tables, formulas, and figures, including the latest Standards data and essential updates.

In addition, the Machinery’s Handbook, 32nd Edition, is available in a versatile digital format: the Machinery’s Handbook 32 Digital Edition; the Digital Edition Upgrade is for previous owners of Machinery’s Handbook CD-ROMs or eBooks. An Internet connection is needed for initial setup of the Digital Edition; it can be used online or offline on a PC or Mac desktop or laptop, iPad, iPhone, or Android device. And it includes nearly 800 pages of added content.

To consider all of the individual product and package options, click here to view the full Machinery’s Handbook product family.