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American Boy's Handy Book

American Boy's Handy Book

4.8 5
by Daniel Carter Beard

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Long before "danger" was a book for boys, there was The American Boy's Handy Book by Daniel Beard—a beloved classic by one of the original founders of the Boy Scouts of America. The American Boy's Handy Book was designed to provide hundreds of activities for restless young boys—adventures and games, indoors and out, in every season of the


Long before "danger" was a book for boys, there was The American Boy's Handy Book by Daniel Beard—a beloved classic by one of the original founders of the Boy Scouts of America. The American Boy's Handy Book was designed to provide hundreds of activities for restless young boys—adventures and games, indoors and out, in every season of the year. It was originally published in 1882 and became an instant bestseller.

Now, this much-loved classic is back in print for a new generation to enjoy. If you're not too young to fly a kite, or too old to enjoy a day of good fishing, The American Boy's Handy Book is chock full of games and activities just for you! There's something for boys of every age and for every day of the year in this book:

  • Building and flying your own kite
  • Making an aquarium
  • Rigging and sailing small boats
  • Camping without a tent
  • Making a corn stalk fiddle
  • Building a snow fort
Daniel Beard, a founding member of the Boy Scouts of America, firmly believed in letting boys make their own playthings with their hands, to encourage them to value their own work and gain skills needed to successfully invent, construct and dream. This is truer today than ever before—in a world of video games and cell phones. Welcome the joys of childhood back into your children's lives with The American Boy's Handy Book, and help them discover hobbies, games and activities that will stimulate their imagination and create a sense of adventure in the real world around us.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"'Uncle Dan' Beard was a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America and longtime editor of Boy's Life magazine. He published this book in 1882, and its greatest benefit is to show us how much more effort and ingenuity was expected of boys back in the 19th century than is expected today. There are projects for every season, ranging from making a whirligig to making and sailing a boat. Hunting with blowguns, homemade crossbows and other improvised arms is covered, as is practical taxidermy for the trophies collected. To read this book is to realize what has been lost in 130 years." —Shotgun News

"The capacity of the small human male to prevail in the face of adversity is grossly underestimated in today's society. It seems to me the solution to most of our ills is simply to let him go outside to run around a bit more. The American Boy's Handy Book will show you how to do it properly." —William Dabbs, MD, Guns magazine

Product Details

Tuttle Publishing
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
4 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt


By Daniel Beard

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-31897-4



It is a pleasant sensation to sit in the first spring sunshine and feel the steady pull of a good kite upon the string, and watch its graceful movements as it sways from side to side, ever mounting higher and higher, as if impatient to free itself and soar away amid the clouds. The pleasure is, however, greatly enhanced by the knowledge that the object skimming so bird-like and beautifully through the air is a kite of your own manufacture.

I remember, when quite a small boy, building an immense man kite, seven feet high. It was a gorgeous affair, with its brilliant red nose and cheeks, blue coat, and striped trousers.

As you may imagine, I was nervous with anxiety and excitement to see it fly. After several experimental trials to get the tail rightly balanced, and the breast-band properly adjusted, and having procured the strongest hempen twine with which to fly it, I went to the river-bank for the grand event.

My man flew splendidly; he required no running, no hoisting, no jerking of the string to assist him. I had only to stand on the high bank and let out the string, and so fast did the twine pass through my hands that my fingers were almost blistered. People began to stop and gaze at the queer sight, as my man rose higher and higher, when, suddenly, my intense pride and enjoyment was changed into something very like fright.

The twine was nearly all paid out, when I found that my man was stronger than his master, and I could not hold him! Imagine, if you can, my dismay. I fancied myself being pulled from the bank into the river, and skimming through the water at lightning speed, for, even in my fright, the idea of letting go of the string did not once occur to me. However, to my great relief, a man standing near came to my assistance, just as the stick upon which the twine had been wound came dancing up from the ground toward my hands. So hard did my giant pull that even the friend who had kindly come to the rescue had considerable trouble to hold him in. The great kite, as it swung majestically about, high in the blue sky, attracted quite a crowd of spectators, and I felt very grand at the success of my newly invented flying-man; but my triumph was short-lived. The tail made of rags was too heavy to bear its own weight, and, breaking off near the kite, it fell to the ground, while my kite, freed from this load, shot up like a rocket, then turned and came headlong down with such force, that dashing through the branches of a thorny locust-tree, it crashed to the ground, a mass of broken sticks and tattered paper. Although the sad fate of my first man-kite taught me to avoid building unmanageable giants, the experiment was, on the whole, satisfactory, for it proved beyond a doubt that it is unnecessary to follow the conventional form for a kite to make one that will fly.

Man Kite.

To make this kite you will require four sticks, some rattan and some paper. In regard to his size, I would suggest that the larger the man is, the better he will fly. Now let us suppose you are going to make this fellow four feet high. First, cut two straight sticks three feet nine inches long; these are to serve for the legs and body; cut another straight stick two and one-half feet in length for the spine, and a fourth stick, three feet five inches long, for the arms. For the head select a light piece of split rattan—any light, tough wood that will bend readily will do—bend this in a circle eight inches in diameter, fasten it securely to one end of the spine by binding it with strong thread, being careful that the spine runs exactly through the centre of the circle (Fig. 1). Next find the exact centre of the arm stick, and with a pin or small tack fasten it at this point to the spine, a few inches below the chin (Fig. 2). After wrapping the joint tightly with strong thread, lay the part of the skeleton which is finished flat upon the floor, mark two points upon the arm-sticks for the shoulder-joints, each seven inches from the intersection of the spine and arm-stick, which will place them fourteen inches apart. At these points fasten with a pin the two long sticks that are to serve for the body and legs (Fig. 3). Now cross these sticks as shown in diagram, being careful that the terminations of the lower limbs are at least three feet apart; the waist-joint ought then to be about ten inches below the arm-stick. After taking the greatest pains to see that the arm-stick is perfectly at right angles with the spine, fasten all the joints securely. Upon the arms bind oblong loops of rattan, or of the same material as the head-frame. These hand-loops ought to be about three inches broad at their widest parts, and exact counterparts of each other. The loops for the feet must approach as nearly as possible the shape of feet, and these, too, must be exactly alike, or the kite will be "lopsided," or unequally balanced. Now cut two sticks three inches long for the ends of sleeves, and two others four inches long for bottoms of trousers (Fig. 4); fasten the two former near the ends of the arm-stick, and the two latter near the ends of the leg-sticks, as in the illustration. The strings of the frame must next be put on, as shown by the dotted lines (Fig. 5). Commence with the neck, at equal distances from the spine, and about seven inches apart; tie two strings to the arm-sticks; extend these strings slantingly to the head, and fasten them to the hoop, one on each side of the spine, and about five inches apart. Take another thread and fasten to the top of cross-stick of right arm, pass it over and take a wrap around the spine, continue it to top of cross-stick upon left arm, and there tie it. Fasten another string to bottom of cross-stick on right arm, draw it tight and wrap it on spine four inches below intersection of arm-stick, pass it on to the bottom of cross-stick on left arm, draw taut and fasten it Tie the body-string at the right shoulder-joint, drop the thread down to a point exactly opposite the termination of spine upon the right leg, take a wrap, and draw the line across to point upon left leg exactly opposite, bind it there, then bring it up to left shoulder-joint and tie it. For the trousers fasten a string at a point on right arm-stick, eleven inches from the intersection of spine, extend it down in a straight line to inside end of cross-stick of left limb and fasten it there. Tie another string at a point one inch and a half to the left of spine upon right arm-stick, extend it down in a straight line to outside end of cross-stick of left limb. Go through the same process for right leg of trousers, and the frame- work will be complete.

For the covering of a kite of this size I have always used tissue paper; it is pretty in color and very light in weight. Paste some sheets of tissue paper together, red for the trousers, hands and face, blue for the coat, and black, or some dark color, for the feet. Use paste made of flour and water boiled to the consistency of starch. Put the paste on with a small bristle brush, make the seams or over-laps hardly more than one-fourth of an inch wide, and press them together with a soft rag or towel; measure the paper so that the coat will join the trousers at the proper place. When you are satisfied that this is all right, lay the paper smoothly on the floor and place the frame of the kite upon it, using heavy books or paper-weights to hold it in place. Then with a pair of scissors cut the paper around the frame, leaving a clear edge of one-half inch, and making a slit in this margin or edge every six or seven inches and at each angle; around the head these slits must be made about two or three inches apart to prevent the paper from wrinkling when you commence to paste. With your brush cover the margin with paste one section at a time, turn them over, and with the towel or rag press them down. After the kite is all pasted and dry, take a large paint-brush, and with black marking-paint, india ink, or common writing fluid, put in the buttons and binding on coat with a good broad touch. The face and hair must be painted with broad lines, so that they may be seen clearly at a great height. Follow this rule wherever you have to use paint upon any kind of kite.

The breast-band, or "belly-band," of the man kite should be arranged in the same manner as it is upon the common hexagonal or coffin-shaped kite with which all American boys are familiar; but for fear some of my readers may not quite understand I will try and tell them exactly how to do it. First, punch small holes through the paper, one upon each side of the leg-sticks just above the bottom of the pants, and one upon each side of the arm-stick at the shoulders. Run one end of the breast-band through the holes at the bottom of the left limb and tie it fast to the leg-stick; tie the other end at the right shoulder. Take another string of the same length as the first and fasten one end in the same manner at the bottom of the right leg, pass the string up, crossing the first band, and tie the end at the left shoulder. Attach your kite-string to the breast-band where the two strings intersect in such a manner that you can slide the kite-string up or down until it is properly adjusted. For the tail-band, tie a string (to the leg-sticks) at the bottom of the breast-band and let it hang slack from one leg to the other. Attach the tail to the centre of this string.

The Woman Kite,

though differing in form, is made after the same method as the man kite, and with the aid of the diagram any boy can build one if he is careful to keep the proper proportions. Remember that the dotted lines in each of these diagrams represent the strings or thread of the framework (Fig. 6). Use small, smooth twine on large kites, and good strong thread on the smaller ones. A very comical effect can be had by making the feet of the woman kite of stiff paste- board, and fastening them on to the line which forms the bottom of the skirt with a string after the manner here illustrated (Fig. 7), allowing them to dangle loosely from below, to be moved and swayed by each motion of the kite, looking as if it was indeed a live woman or girl of the Kate Greenaway style, dancing and kicking in the clouds. Fig.8 shows a girl kite with feet attached.

The costume given in the illustration may be varied according to fancy, with the same framework. A Dolly Varden or a Martha Washington costume can be made. A blue overskirt and waist covered with stars, and a red and white striped skirt, give us Columbia or a Goddess of Liberty. Attach the breast-band in the same manner as upon the man kite. Let the tail-band hang loosely below the skirt. By a slight modification of the frame of the man kite you can produce that will create an unlimited amount of fun whenever he makes his appearance in his æsthetic Kate Greenaway suit. By carefully following the construction according to the diagram (Fig. 9) the average boy will find little difficulty in building a twin brother to the kite in the illustration (Fig. 10).

A Boy Kite

Still another strange looking kite can be made by using a piece of pliable wood bent in a circular form for the body, and allowing the leg-sticks to protrude above the shoulders to form short arms, the spine extending below the trunk some distance to form the tail to a

Frog Kite.

It is not worth while to build one less than two feet high. Let us suppose that the particular batrachian we are now about to make is to be just that height; in this case the leg-sticks must be each two feet long, and as you will want to bend them at the knees, these points should be made considerably thinner than the other parts of the sticks. The spine must be about one foot seven inches long, or a little over three-quarters of the length of the leg-sticks. Place the two latter one above the other, lay the spine on top of them, and see that the tops of all three are flush, or perfectly even. Then at a point eight inches from the top, drive a pin through all three sticks, carefully clamping it upon the other side where the point protrudes. For the body, take a piece of thin rattan two feet five or six inches in length, bend it into the form of a circle, allowing the ends to overlap an inch or two that they may be firmly bound together with thread by winding it around the joint. The circle will be about eight inches in diameter. Take the three sticks you pinned together and lay them on the floor, spreading them apart in the form of an irregular star, in such a manner that the top of the spine will be just half-way between the tops of the leg-sticks and about five inches from each; when you have proceeded thus far place the rattan circle over the other sticks; the intersection of the sticks should be the centre of the circle; with pins and thread fasten the frame together in this position. The lower limbs will be spread wide apart; they must be carefully drawn closer together and held in position by a string tied near the termination of each leg-stick. Cross-sticks for hands and feet may now be added, and the strings put on as shown in Fig. 11. This kite should be covered with green tissue paper. A few marks of the paint-brush will give it the appearance of Fig. 12. The breast and tail-band can be put on as described in the man kite.

The Butterfly Kite.

Make a thin straight stick of a piece of elastic wood, or split rattan; to the top end of this attach a piece of thread or string; bend the stick as you would a bow until it forms an arc or part of a circle; then holding the stick in this position tie the other end of the string to a point a few inches above the bottom end of the stick. At a point on the stick, about one-quarter the distance from the top, tie another string, draw it taut, and fasten it to the bottom end of the bow. Take another stick of exactly the same length and thickness as the first, and go through the same process, making a frame that must be a duplicate of the other. Then fasten the two frames together, as shown by Fig. 13, allowing the arcs to overlap several inches, and bind the joints securely with thread.

The head of the insect is made by attaching two broom-straws to the top part of the wings where they join, the straws must be crossed, the projecting ends serving for the antennæ or, as the boys call them, the "smellers" of the butterfly. Now select a piece of yellow or blue tissue paper, place your frame over it, cut and paste as directed in the description of the man kite. When the kite is dry, with black paint make some marking upon the wings similar to those shown in the illustration, Fig. 14; or, better still, cut out some pieces of dark colored paper in the form of these markings and paste them on, of course taking care to have one wing like the other (Fig. 14), as in nature.

The King Crab Kite.

The king, or "horse shoe crab," is familiar to all boys who live upon the coast or spend their summer vacation at the sea-side. It is a comparatively simple matter to imitate this crustacean in the form of a kite; in fact, all that is necessary is a slight modification of the old-fashioned bow kite to which a pointed tail must be attached. This tail can be made as shown in the illustration (Fig. 15), or may be cut out of a piece of paste-board and joined to the kite by a paper hinge; this will allow the tail to bend backward when the wind blows against it, giving it a natural appearance; the kite and pointed tail, which is part of the kite, should be covered with yellow paper. If you think that you do not possess sufficient skill with the brush to represent the under side of the crab, as shown in the illustration (Fig. 16), you can, at least, paint two large eye-spots some distance apart near the upper end, and then your kite will represent a back view. Attach the breast and tail bands as on an ordinary bow kite.


Excerpted from THE AMERICAN BOY'S HANDY BOOK by Daniel Beard. Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Daniel Beard was born in 1850 and lived most of his life in Kentucky. From an early age, Beard decided to devote his life to American boyhood. He was a prolific writer, illustrator, the founder of two different societies for boys and one of the original founding members of the Boy Scouts of America. Beard's writings were a great influence on Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, and helped impress the need for preserving America's forests on them. Before his death in 1941, Beard received the only Golden Eagle badge ever awarded for his work from the Boy Scouts of America, and had the mountain peak adjoining Mt. McKinley in Alaska named in his honor.

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The American Boy's Handy Book 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh its almost better than minecraft
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking for a new way to make Mark Twain come alive in your classroom? Help your students travel back in time by engaging in some of the wonderful projects in The American Boy's Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard. Aside from illustrating some of Twain's work, Beard was an avid educator who also was a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America. He wrote their first Boy Scout Handbook and was a lifelong advocate of making your own fun. This treasure of a book will suggest projects for your class which will help them understand the world of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Make kites in the shape of stars, turtles, shields and dragons. Build your own giant bubble machine or a Puss in Boots puppet show (script is included). Avoid the more violent blow guns and fighting kites but enjoy the simplicity and just plain fun of this book. Along the way, your students will have a new appreciation for Mark Twain's world and the little boys he wrote about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My father owned this book as a young lad. He would have been 80 years old this past April. He loved it so much that he bought my son a copy on his 10th Birthday. I also bought a copy for my two step-sons. Now I plan to purchase a copy for my Grandson who just turned 6 today. It has so many things for a young boy to do and make. Even for the girls. I am a Mother who also enjoyed finding things to do from this book of adventures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Brings us back in time to a place where children learned about the world by touching baby birds and playing with sharp sticks. I recommend this book highly for adults and mature 8-year olds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bought this for my 7 year old. It's excellent. Breaks down activities by season. Great alternative to TV