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History of Machinery's Handbook

Celebrating More than 100 Years in Publication

Alex Luchars

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

Having celebrated 100 years of continuously updated publications in 2014, Machinery's Handbook is now in its 30th edition.

Machinery's Handbook: Then and Now 

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 (18811951) and Franklin D. Jones (18791967). Both possessed a command of mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering, and were able to explain complex topics in clear, readable English.

1896 Ad from Machinery Magazine

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.  

The Birth of Machinery's Handbook ... 

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, the pair produced a robust manuscript for the first edition.   

The 1914 1st Edition  

First Edition, Machinery's Handbook, 1914The inagural 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 mushrooming 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, totally more than 30 pages and 4,500 references. From these index references, the location of any subject in Machinery's Handbook could "quickly" be found.

After the war, Iindustrial 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.

By reader demand, logarithm and trigonometry tables, bolts and screws, screw threads, limits and gauges, small tools, feeds and speeds, steels and alloys, motors, weights and measures and the full index were included on these first thumb tabs.

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 of whom 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 4.625 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 that is easier to read, yet fits the page setup as the Toolbox version.  

The 2012 29th Edition

Published simultaneously in both Toolbox and Large Print Editions, the 29th retained the very popular thumb tabs and grew by 90 pages to 2,800 pages. It offered major revisions of existing content, as well as new material on a variety of topics, including and entirely new micromachining seciton, expanded content on calculation of hole coordinates, and a useful introduction to metrology.   

The 2016 30th Edition

Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition, debuted in March 2016. This new edition has grown by nearly 100 pages to 2,896 pages. It  offers major revisions of existing content as well as new material on a variety of topics, including: 

  • Expanded metrology section including v-blocks and micrometer, vernier, and dial calipers.
  • New fluid power section covering pneumatic, hydraulic, and vacuum theory and applications.
  • New powder metallurgy section, including additive manufacturing.
  • Even more useful specs, including tap drill sizes for Unified threads, reaming allowances for drilling, standard mesh and grit sizes, rules for figuring tapers, and assembly with pins and studs.

It also includes additional content on:

  • Sheet metal and presses
  • Keys and keyways
  • Shaft alignment
  • Taps and tapping
  • Helical coil screw thread inserts
  • Metric screw threads
  • Miniature screws
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Solid geometry
  • Statistics
  • Calculating hole coordinates and thread dimensions
  • Distinguishing between bolts and screws


Numerous sections have been thoroughly refreshed, reworked, or renovated. The metric content continues to be expanded. Throughout the book, wherever practical, metric units are shown adjacent to the US customary units in the text. Many formulas are now presented with equivalent metric expres­sions, and metric examples have been added.

The design and typography of the 30th Edition also has improved, with an expanded table of contents at the beginning of each section. Our editors have fine-tuned these navigation aids to make it easier to locate the information you seek. Numerous figures have been refined and redrawn for enhanced clarity.

As our long-time customers attest, Machinery's Handbook is the world's most popular reference work in metalworking, design, engineering and manufacturing facilities. It is in broad use in technical schools and colleges throughout the world. It is universally acknowledged as an extraordinarily authoritative, comprehensive, and practical tool, providing users with the most fundamental and essential aspects of sophisticated manufacturing practices. The 30th Edition is the “Bible of the Metalworking Industries.” It is an essential reference for mechanical, manufacturing, and industrial engineers, designers, draftsmen, toolmakers, machinists, engineering and technology students, and the serious home hobbyist. 

30th Edition eBook

The Machinery's Handbok eBook version provides the full 2,896 pages of the 30th edition in quickly accessible digital form. Using a proprietary reader, reading, referencing, quickly accessing, and searching for topics of interest throughout the Handbook is at your fingertips. The 30th Edition eBook enables navigation via thousands of clickable bookmarks, cross references, and index entries. Clicking these takes you instantly to the linked page.

The Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition, eBook and all Industrial Press eBooks can be accessed online, as well as offline, and can be viewed on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android devices. For more information about the Machinery's Handbook family products, click here to go to the Industrial Press eBookStore. 

30th Edition CD-ROM

The progress of technology in manufacturing has had enduring impact on each new edition. Likewise, the computer age has spawned its own unique version. Two years after the release of the 25th Edition, popular demand gave birth to the first Machinery's Handbook CD-ROM, released in early 1998. 

Today, Machinery's Handbook's 30th Edition, CD-ROM has a total page count of 4,024 pages and includes:

  • The complete and identical 2,896 pages of the print editions.
  • The entire contents of the Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition, Guide
  • Nearly 1,000 pages of added content, mostly material that was published in previous print editions but subsequently removed due to space restrictions
  • Quick Page Finder for fast access to any page
  • Plus 34 pages of instructions on installation and use of the CD

     The CD-ROM is presented in Adobe PDF format. Using the tools available in the free Adobe Reader software, users may do the following:

    •  Search all content using Find (for keywords).   
    •  The latter function includes search operators Whole Words, Case-Sensitive, Bookmarks and Comments
    •  Read at any magnification (designed for PCs, it may work on other Adobe Reader-compatible platforms)
    •  Semi-permanently annotate text with comments, using Adobe Sticky Notes
    •  Semi-permanently highlight text in color
    •  Rotate selected pages
    •  Take a snapshot of selected text and illustrations. (Useful for making a paper record of magnified detai)
    •  Print selected pages
    •  Navigation via thousands of clickable bookmarks, cross references, and index entries that take you instantly to the linked page. 

    MH30 Group

    Machinery's Handbook Family of Products

    In addition to the Toolbox, Large Print, eBook and CD-ROM formats, Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition is also available in several value-priced combination packages.  

    Complementary titles include the Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition, Guide, and Machinery's Handbook Pocket Companion. 

    Click here to see the full Machinery's Handbook, 30th Edition, product family.