Machinery’s Handbook: 100 Years of Know-How

The Machinery’s Handbook is, for many mechanical engineers, considered the highest authority on the details of our trade. I don’t know that I’m worthy to review a book of this magnitude, but perhaps I can write a humble introduction for the electrical engineering community. Engineering school may touch on this tome, but perhaps it’s yet another thing that you learn more of in the field.

The Handbook originally came out in 1914, making 2014 the 100th anniversary of this work. It was originally written by Erik Oberg and Franklin D. Jones. My grandfather had the 13th edition, which now sits on my shelf near the 27th edition that I use at home. Although a lot has changed in the 100 years between the first edition and more modern volumes, it’s certain that much of the information contained in any of these books would still be useful today.

It would take many pages to list all that’s contained in this epic engineering tome. There is information about how to cut, fasten, and bend metal, numerical control (CNC), bearing use and maintenance, as well as thousands of other bits of information in between. Electrical engineering information is generally out of the Handbook’s scope, but some of the information held within the Handbook would certainly be relevant to it, as well as to other disciplines.

This and the plethora of other information available is useful, but one of the most useful applications of this work is for specifying and finding information on fasteners. Whether you’re using metric, British, or ASME, you’ll find that the Machinery’s Handbook contains an incredible amount of information. Of course you can find out what the diameter of a certain screw is, but you can also find out the diameter of the head, how deep the hex goes, and many other useful bits of information. When details matter (when do they not?) this information can mean the difference between a great machine and one that never really worked how you intended it to.

I find it useful to mark the pages that I reference most often with sticky page markers that stick up out of the book’s pages. This helps me quickly find the information (normally screw sizes) that I use the most. I also don’t hesitate to highlight or make marks inside of my Handbook.

In an age where information is readily accessible through the Internet, it’s easy to think a book like this as simply an elegant tool for a more civilized age. True, much of the information contained therein could be found on the Internet using your preferred search engine. It’s very hard, however, to compete with the completeness and authority of a book that’s gone through 28 editions over 100 years as the final word in machine shop practice. I use it often in my work as a manufacturing engineer, and if you deal with physical machinery, this book is a must-have on any engineer’s bookshelf!

— Jeremy Cook is a manufacturing engineer with 10 years’ experience and has a BSME from Clemson University. In his spare time he enjoys writing for