PERHAPS THIS is our Yankee heritage: that anything can be done by man, as long as his wife will stand for it and he has a good book to tell him how.
In the '60s, the do-it-yourself movement held forth a philosophical option and people went back to the earth. In the '70s, we learned about inflation, and former options became economic imperatives. Now we approach a new decade, and for many it has already come to pass that you cannot even sell a house without financing it yourself.
Business has seldom been better for the people who publish the books, the ones that tell you how to do all these things.
Here are a few of them: ENERGY
"Complete Guide to Woodburning Stoves," by Jason Schneider (Sovereign Books, $6.95). Schneider's is the latest entry in the field. It is also the most sober. Wood may not be as readily available as stove fanciers would like to believe, Schneider says. Already demand has caused cord prices to shoot upward. If you are agonizing over which stove to buy, and not necessarily concerned about how to put it in, this will tell you most of what you need to know. With plenty of diagrams and good photographs to illustrate, Schneider explains how stoves work and the differences between various models.
"Wood Heat," by John Vivian (Rodale Press, $7.95). Vivian's 428-page epic, now in its second printing, remains the most complete on the subject. It is because of such books that the publisher, Rodale, has emerged from humble beginnings in Emmaus, Pa., to become a major force in the back-to-basics market. Following an explanation of solar energy, Vivian leads the reader through a complete course in heating with wood, from chopping it down, to burning it safely, to proper stove and chimney installation and maintenance. Vivian even takes time to tell how to make soap from the ashes. Illustrations by Liz Buell are purposeful and charming. The index serves well.
"The Art and Ingenuity of the Woodstove," by Jan Adkins (Everest House, $12.95). Adkins illustrated this book himself and lent a warm tone in the process. But some slower brains, such as mine, want their drawings clear and to the point, not cozy and rough. Some readers may also have trouble with the storybook format. The lack of delineating chapters makes it difficult to go back and find instructions. A number of photographs in the rear portion of the book are of different stove models.
"Barnacle Parp's Chain Saw Guide," by Walter Hall (Rodale Press, $7.95). Perhaps the weekend marshmallow roaster is content to pay the price of a split cord of hardwood. The dramatic increase in sales of chain saws indicates that more serious wood heaters are spending their Saturdays in the woods gathering their own. A newcomer to the art of felling trees and chopping them into fuel should have a good chain saw and a guide to using it. This one explains how saws work, how to operate them properly and how to keep them in good shape. It lists most of the name brands, and their prices, according to the different uses they were designed for. A final chapter gives instructions on building a log cabin.
"Goodbye to the Flush Toilet," edited by Carol Hupping Stoner (Rodale, $6.95). With water levels dropping in the West and a lack of space for sewage holding up development, we may be building privies again sooner than we think. If you believe that, then you will find plenty to ponder in this collection of ideas on managing human waste in the household. Included are a number of plans for recycling water to make plants bloom. But before plowing ahead, consult local health codes.
"Pedal Power," edited by James C. McCullagh (Rodale, $4.95). Old patent office and line drawings trace the history of leg muscles in industry. Photographs show examples of how pedaling has been adapted to modern farming, small shop manufacturing and generating electricity for the home. One contraption aspires to mowing the lawn. HOME BUYING, REMODELING
More home buyers than ever complain about shoddy construction in new houses. Yet surprisingly few are versed in the complexities of choosing a well-built house, looking for problems in an older one, getting financing and the all-important closing of the deal.
"How to buy a Home at a Reasonable Price," by Robert Irwin (McGraw-Hill, $12.50). Irwin explores only superficially some of the problems that seem to plague new home buyers most. But for the first-time buyer this book is a worthwhile introduction to such things as financing, going condominium, adding onto a house, buying low-cost housing and building your own. The final chapter is devoted to domes, log cabins, barns, kits and prefabs.
"The Complete Book of Home Buying," by Michael Sumichrast and Ronald G. Shafer (Dow Jones, $12.95). Some people have enough trouble just making a down payment, let alone worrying about whether their new house is an investment. But Sumichrast and Shafer go to considerable lengths to argue the merits of buying a house and where the bargains are. Their book contains some good tips on what to look out for, whether buying new or old. It includes one list of some of the most common problems in houses, and another showing the average expected life span of major parts and appliances, plus how to choose a good builder and a warranty.
"The New Complete Book of Home Remodeling, Improvement and Repair," by A. M. Watkins (Scribners, $15.95). This one is a classic and has gone through several editions. It is a no-nonsense guide to most major home remodeling and repair jobs, from building a new kitchen or attic room to insulating hot-water heaters and caulking around windows. The photographs are somewhat outdated, and readers looking for step-by-step guides may be disappointed. But Watkins treats the subject throughly and clearly.
"Adding On" (Time-Life Books, $7.95). As is Time magazine, Time-Life books are written by a team of editors and writers. For clarity and concision, they are unexcelled in the field. The illustrations, too, are unlike any others in their ability to explain at a glance. Adding On discusses the various aspects of building additions to your present house, starting with esthetics and continuing straight through cutting into roofs, grafting new walls, constructing dormers and installing electrical wiring.
"Doors and Windows" (Time-Life Books, $7.95).Another in the "Home Repair and Improvement Series," this one covers everything from fixing a stuck window or replacing the sash cords and screens to installing a door frame and building a new bay window.
"Handbook of Noise Control," edited by Cyril M. Harris (McGraw-Hill, $39.50). Not everybody gets used to ambulances screaming by their front door at 2 a.m., or to the neighbor who appreciates Gustav Mahler's symphonies best with 150 amps of power behind them. Likewise, not everybody will understand this book on how to control audio intrusions. But if there's an engineer in the family, you might try it on him. WOODWORKING
"Working With Wood" (Time-Life Books, $7.95). The title is as appropriate as the step-by-step illustrations. The color photographs of unusual carpenting are equally handsome. This book will explain to the amateur some of those most vexing mysteries, such as making arches, perfect circles and holes; how to use a miter box and a carpenter's square; how to maneuver a router or plane to fashion molding and trim and how to care for blades.
"Build It Better Yourself," by the editors of "Organic Gardening and Farming" (Rodale, $16.95). This 928-page volume is a veritable encyclopedia for the home repairman, gardener or small-scale farmer. It shows how, with the simplest materials, to make everything from a wheelbarrow to a plant arbor to a smokehouse. It also offers helpful suggestions for dealing with such household problems as collapsing foundations, rotted posts and rotted floor joists. And it includes a complete course in building from the ground up. Definitely aimed at the determined do-it-yourselfer.
"Working Wood," by Mike and Nancy Bubel (Rodale, $4.95). Like "Build It Better Yourself," the Bubels' book has a distinct country flavor to it, but it should be useful to rural and city folks alike. Again the emphasis is on simplicity and conversation, with instructions on gathering lumber from various sources, salvaging old buildings, correcting bent nails and ripping lumber with a hatchet. Interspersed are such ingenious ideas as building a garage from log chunks or a sawbuck from wood scraps.
"Country Woodcraft," by Drew Langsner (Rodale, $9.95). Not for organic farmers only. This book can be appreciated by anyone with a bent for simplicity. Initial chapters instruct in the ways of making tools from the most basic materials -- raw timber -- leading to methods of making such farm, garden and household implements as pitchforks, workbenches, bow saws, tool handles, a spring-pole lathe, bark boxes and wooden spoons. After you've got the knack of wielding a hatchet instead of a rotary saw, you can try your luck with mortise and tenon joinery.
"Creative Woodworking," by Jayne Drotning and Rosemarie Masotto (Contemporary Books, $6.95). Many of the projects are for children's toys, the remainder for knickknacks, decorative containers, spice racks and the like. Each is accompanied by a pattern to assist the aspiring weekend jigsaw artist. TOOLS
"American Woodworking Tools," by Paul B. Kebabian and Dudley Witney (New York Graphic Society, $22.50). The true tool buff will find a place on his homemade coffee table for this volume.The 31 colorful photographs, 142 halftones and 27 line illustrations handsomely display early tools used by carpenters, cabinetmakers, shipwrights and coopers. One photo shows the thumbnail-size planning tools of musical-instrument makers.
"The Complete Book of Home Workshop Tools," by Robert Scharff (McGraw-Hill, $15.95). Anyone who's been through a Brookstone catalogue, knows this book could have been 10 times thicker. Even so, the amateur home repairman will likely pick it up and exclaim: "Aha! So that's what that thing is for." Scharff divides tools into general functions, such as striking tools, woodcutting tools, turning tools, holding tools, etc. The many photographs aid in explaining how these are used in various tasks.
"Step-by-Step Knifemaking," by David Boye (Rodale, $6.95). Those with a cutting torch or a band saw in their workshop may discover herein a use for them they hadn't thought of. Boye uses them to cut knives out of old saws. Photographs and drawings accompanying a clearly written text are all you'll need to start filling your cupboards with new cutlery. He also shows correct methods of sharpening blades and drill bits. Even those with only a passing interest in knives will appreciate the explanations of how expertly crafted cutting tools are meant to be used, as well as the handsome illustrations of artistically etched blades. FIXING FURNISHINGS
"The How-To Book of Repairing , Rewiring and Restoring Lamps and Lighting Fixtures," by Rachel Martens (Doubleday, $5.95). The photographs are nothing to write home about, but the text and diagrams are to the point and perfectly understandable. Those participating in the old electrical and gas lamp mania will find ample instructions for restoring and electrifying them. Other chapters explain how to make lamps from vases, pottery, even a Premium Saltine Cracker container.
"Reupholstering at Home," by Peter Nesovich (Crown Publishers, $7.95). The author should have taken a how-to course in photography before he wrote his how-to on reupholstering. Illistrations notwithstanding, this book is enough to start on your way to re-covering those bargains you picked up at the Goodwill or flea market.
"Care and Repair of Furniture," by Desmond Gaston (Doubleday, $9.95). Gaston, an Englishman, makes his living restoring furniture and has written his book with the care and precision of a craftsman. The text is personal and straightforward. Gaston neatly shows the tools needed for various jobs, from mending broken chair legs to fashioning missing parts. The latter half of the book is a guide to reupholstering, with step-by-step instructions. A valuable resource. HONE DECORATING
You might call this Beyond Painting, for do-it-yourself decorating has come a long way since latex, one-two linoleum and instant wallpaper. Simple tools and materials, and a little patience, can result in stylish, professional looking results.
"Staple It!" by Iris Ihde Frey (Crown Publishers, $8.95). Frey demonstrates that some fine fabric and tools no more complicated than a scissors, straightedge and stapling gun can combine to put new life into a design scheme. Decorating ideas range from panels and screens to walls, beds, chair and tables. A section on assembling artist's canvas stretchers shows how these can be turned into colorful wall hangings using bright fabrics. "Tile Decorating With Gemma," by Dona Z. Meilach (Crown Publishers, $6.95). Ceramics have long been used for decorating walls. But these days you don't see much creative use of it. One reason for this of course is that tiles that are both decorative and tasteful cost an arm and a leg. If you have time to spare, and access to a kilin, however, this book will provide instruction and plenty of ideas for making your own. Some of the compositions used to illustrate glazing techniques indeed pass as art. Meilach describes several different methods of glazing, making tiles, loading the kiln and provides as well a number of simple patterns. Illustrations are handsome, with many in color. COMPUTER HOME
"Personal Computing: Hardware and Software Basics," by Electronics magazine (McGraw-Hill, $14.95). There's been much talk of personal computers ending forever such household drudgery as balaching the checkbook and ordering the groceries. So far however, sales have been limited mostly to hobbyists and those shopping for new electronic games. Read this book and you'll find out why: Computers are not simple. The number of programs readily available is limited, and writing you own takes an expert. But if there's a computer enthusiast in your house who knows more about electronics than screwing in a lightbulb, give him this and let him figure it out.