Woodworking Books and Videos


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A full bibliography would be endless. These are books I’ve read and videos I’ve seen that I expect would be helpful to people reading or just finishing this book.

Books you should consider reading in place of or in addition to this book.

Working Wood 1 & 2, by Paul Sellers (Artisan Press, 2011).

This is a great book by a master craftsman that has the advantage of companion DVDs and a huge number of pictures. It relies on a reasonably small number of tools, and focuses on shaping wood before leaping into joining wood. It moves much faster than this book, combining many tools into projects quickly. About a third of the book is focused on tool maintenance.

The New Traditional Woodworker, by Jim Tolpin (Popular Woodworking Books, 2009).

This flag-bearer for traditional approaches is a great combination of shop and tool advice and relatively simple projects to get started. Unfortunately, it assumes that readers will jump to buy something similar to Tolpin’s own amazing set of tools, and the projects assume having that set of tools from the beginning. The first project, a beautiful simple straightedge, requires a jointer plane, a tool that starts around $250 for an immediately usable one and which really needs a bench to be of much use. The projects are great, though!

The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, by Christopher Schwarz (Lost Art Press, 2011).

Schwarz does a brilliant job of sorting out which hand tools are really necessary in a functional shop and of providing advice on how to find and choose them. The tool chest itself is great - I took the class - but it’s not exactly a starting project for newcomers. (Making the chest doesn’t require all the tools it stores, either, but that’s an advantage in this context.)

Traditional Woodworking Handtools and Traditional Woodworking Techniques, by Graham Blackburn (Blackburn Press, 1998 and 2004).

These two volumes are a thorough walk through the details of many hand tools and techniques. Tools are grouped by category and described in detail, with explanations of how to use them. The projects at the beginning of Traditional Woodworking Techniques are in many ways a perfect sequence to follow after completing the projects in this book.

Made By Hand (Popular Woodworking Books, 2009), and The Unplugged Workshop (Taunton Press, 2013), both by Tom Fidgen.

Made By Hand, a more explicitly intermediate book, has a broad first half and a project-oriented second half, but the projects are substantially more advanced. Fidgen covers some of the same workshop appliances, but describes them more briefly. It’s a fun, personal book with a neat (much more explicitly beginner-focused) DVD that again is a huge list of woodshop essentials to get or make immediately. His latest, The Unplugged Workshop, is more project-oriented.

The Essential Woodworker, by Robert Wearing (Lost Art Press, 2010).

This book is a treasure trove of great information and useful drawings. Unfortunately, despite the Introduction’s describing it as a "pre-textbook", it’s definitely not a first book. Even the opening on "Basic Woodworking Skills" starts with an exploded diagram of a hand plane, discusses maintenance and sharpening, explores planing, and then runs through marking, sawing, drilling, and screwing. The brief section on sawing has great advice for clean cuts, but oddly never gets to ripping with saws. It is an excellent book, but not a place to start.

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee. (Lost Art Press, 2012).

This book also has an opening tools section followed by projects. It assumes a fair amount of prior knowledge and access to tools - but because it expects readers to be very new to the kind of project it demonstrates, it presents things more slowly. Because it focuses on a single project, it is also less tool-hungry, though it still requires a substantial collection. Its focus on green woodworking also distinguishes it. It isn’t quite meant for someone completely new to woodworking with no tools, but in many ways it’s more a beginner’s book than the rest.

The Woodwright’s…. by Roy Underhill. (UNC Press, various.)

Roy Underhill always does a great job explaining projects and crafts in ways that make viewers and readers think "yes, I could do this!" At least some of the projects he describes and shows can be built with a minimal toolset, and he’s especially good at pointing out ways of making and repairing tools rather than buying expensive new ones. The main challenge for beginners in these books is where to start, as there isn’t much natural sequence to the projects or tools.

The Joiner and Cabinetmaker, by Anon., Christopher Schwarz, and Joel Moskowitz (Lost Art Press, 2009).

This reprint and expansion of an 1839 fictional introduction to woodworking is in many ways the inspiration for this proposal. Following the apprentice Thomas through his learning process is wonderful. Unfortunately, the path Thomas takes works well in a large shop but isn’t of much use to learners in home shops. Maintaining the glue pot is probably not the place to start for today’s beginners, though the sequence makes more sense as Thomas starts building projects. Schwarz’s project demonstrations follow a reasonable if rapid learning curve, moving from a packing box to the schoolbox to a much more complicated chest of drawers. Because the story takes place in a fully-outfitted shop, projects assume having a large set of tools already at hand.

Exercises in Wood-Working, by Ivin Sickels. (Popular Woodworking Books, 2010).

This reprint of an 1889 book is a fast-moving textbook of hand tool usage, but the exercises, especially the first few exercises, are great for developing and testing skill. Flatten and square a piece of wood with just a chisel? Make a molding with just a gouge? Of course! Popular Woodworking has also released DVDs covering the first twelve exercises, which are extremely useful for seeing what the text briefly describes. (For beginners, the videos are much more helpful.)

Assorted Sloyd books

The other key source of inspiration for this project is again one that doesn’t quite fit solitary learners.

The Sloyd books of the late 19th and early 20th century outline a series of projects (models) for students to make in a progression of skills. While brilliantly written for teachers, they aren’t exactly step-by-step directions, and they expect a full shop to be available. They also aren’t teaching woodworking as a trade, but rather as a way of teaching students to think. (For more, see ???.)

Books that mix hand and power tools

Woodworking Basics, by Peter Korn (Taunton Press, 2003).

If you’re just starting out, this classic textbook will walk you through a basic set of power and hand tools plus two projects.

Hybrid Woodworking, by Marc Spagnuolo (Popular Woodworking Books, 2013).

If you’re a power tool user coming over to hand tools and you want to mix and match, Hybrid Woodworking does a great job of explaining how to use a coherent set of tools.

The Foundations of Better Woodworking, by Jeff Miller (Popular Woodworking Books, 2012).

This book mixes hand and machine tool information, and lacks a projects section, but is worth noting for its emphasis on the proper use of the original human tools, the body and the senses. Miller does a better job than anyone else I’ve seen in explaining how humans fit into the woodshop.

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking, Books 1 and 2, by Tage Frid (Taunton Press, 1994).

A classic high-speed tour of a wide variety of woodworking techniques using both hand tools and power tools. He starts with joinery and then covers bending, carving, and veneering techniques. Many many many photos.

Books you should read, regardless

A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook (Linden Press, 1976) and The Impractical Cabinetmaker (Linden Press, 1979)

Both books mix the how of woodworking with the why of woodworking, challenging you to reconsider the way you look at wood, at the way you work, and the reasons you work.