Woodworking Books

(and some mini reviews)

I read... a lot.  Beyond subscribing to and faithfully reading about eight of the woodworking periodicals, I also read a lot of woodworking books.  I like to read about how the "respected ones" construct things of wood.  I like to see how woodworkers I admire use tools.  I think it's fun to see how others solve problems.  I like to read about modern woodworkers that teach the old methods.  I like to read about the inspired genius of someone doing something that's already been done a million times.  On the other hand, I've read woodworking books that didn't really do much for me.  I've read some that I just really didn't like.

So, as you read my reviews below, here's my mindset on what a good book is:  I am an amateur, hobby woodworker.  I don't make any money at it, nor do I try.  I'm not in it to "produce" something on a time table.  I do it to get out of the house with the garage door open for a little fresh air; I do it to have fun; I do it to for my family and friends.  If someone were to commision my work, they probably couldn't afford it, and if they could, I'd turn them down anyway.  I've already done so.  I like books that teach traditional woodworking methods, craftmanship, and pride of effort.  I have nothing against power tools... I have a shop full of them, but I put them away after the gross millwork is done so I can get back to working with wood. 

So, take my reviews with a grain of salt.  It may be helpful to seek other opinions, recognizing of course, that if they differ, they're probably wrong.

Quick Notes

[30]  200 Original Shop Aids and Jigs For Woodworkers
[15]  501 Best Shop Tips for Woodworkers:  The Essential Question and Answer Woodworking Guide
[21]  Basic Carpentry - REA's Handbook
[27]  Best of Danny Proulx’s Storage and Shelving, The
[24]  Building a Shed
[01]  Building Doors & Drawers:  A Complete Guide to Design and Construction
[25]  Build Your Own Shed Manual
[31]  Classic Joints With Power Tools
[04]  Complete Book of Woodworking, The:  Step-by-step Guide to Essential Woodworking Skills, Techniques, Tools, and Tips
[10]  Complete Illustrated Guide to Furniture and Cabinet Construction, The
[11]  Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery, The
[12]  Complete Illustrated Guide to Shaping Wood, The
[02]  Complete Manual of Wood Working, The:  A Detailed Guide to Design, Techniques and Tools for the Beginner and Expert
[28]  Designing Furniture:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking
[18]  Encyclopedia of Woodworking, The:  The Essential Reference Guide For the Home Woodworker
[07]  Furniture Making:  A Foundation Course
[23]  Getting Started in Woodworking:  Skill-Building Projects that Teach the Basics
[06]  Hand Tool Essentials:  Refine Your Power Tool Projects with Hand Tool Techniques
[09]  Home Workshop, The
[08]  Illustrated Cabinetmaking:  How To Design And Construct Furniture That Works
[29]  Ingenious Jigs and Shop Accessories
[14]  Jim Tolpin's Woodworking Wit & Wisdom
[34]  Joints and Jointmaking: Professional Skills Made Easy
[33]  Making Workbenches:  Planning, Building, Outfitting
[32]  New Router Handbook, The
[16]  Refinishing and Finishing Wood
[26]  Routher Book, The:  A Complete Guide To the Router and Its Accessories
[17]  Router Projects and Techniques:  The Best of Fine Woodworking
[13]  Router Tips and Techniques
[20]  Small Woodworking Shops:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking
[22]  Understanding Wood Finishing:  How to Select and Apply the Right Finish
[05]  Workbench Book, The:  A Craftsman's Guide to Workbenches for Every Type of Woodworking.
[19]  Workbenches:  From Design And Theory To Construction And Use
[03]  Workshop Solutions
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**
Joints and Jointmaking: Professional Skills Made Easy

Joints and Jointmaking: Professional Skills Made Easy .
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001. ISBN-10:  0600601935,    ISBN-13:  978-0600601937


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**
Making Workbenches:  Planning, Building, Outfitting

Allen, Sam.  Making Workbenches:  Planning, Building, Outfitting.
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 1995. ISBN-10:  0806905352,    ISBN-13:  978-0806905358


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***
The New Router Handbook

Spielman, Patrick.  The New Router Handbook.
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 1993. ISBN-10:  0806905182,    ISBN-13:  978-0806905181


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***
Classic Joints With Power Tools

Chan, Yeung.  Classic Joints With Power Tools.
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2002. ISBN-10:  1579902790,    ISBN-13:  978-1579902797


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***
200 Original Shop Aids and Jigs For Woodworkers

Capotosto, Rosario.  200 Original Shop Aids and Jigs For Woodworkers.
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2003. ISBN-10:  0806989297,    ISBN-13:  978-0806989297


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****
Ingenious Jigs and Shop Accessories

Ingenious Jigs and Shop Accessories.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1999. ISBN-10:  1561582964,    ISBN-13:  978-1561582969


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****
Designing Furniture:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking

Designing Furniture:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2004. ISBN-10:  1561586846,    ISBN-13:  978-1561586844


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****
The Best of Danny Proulx’s Storage and Shelving

Proulx, Danny.  The Best of Danny Proulx’s Storage and Shelving.
Cincinnati, OH: Popular Woodworking Books, 2005. ISBN-10:  155870731X,    ISBN-13:  978-1558707313


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*****
The Routher Book:  A Complete Guide To the Router and Its Accessories

Warner, Pat.  The Routher Book:  A Complete Guide To the Router and Its Accessories.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2001. ISBN-10:  1561584231,    ISBN-13:  978-1561584239


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**
Build Your Own Shed Manual

Byrne, Randy.  Build Your Own Shed Manual.
St. Louis, MO: National Plan Service USA, 1992. ISBN-10:  0934039380,    ISBN-13:  978-0934039383


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***
Building A Shed

Truini, Joseph.  Building a Shed.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2009. ISBN-10:  1561589667,    ISBN-13:  978-1561589661


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****
Getting Started in Woodworking:  Skill-Building Projects that Teach the Basics

Fraser, Aimé Ontario.  Getting Started in Woodworking:  Skill-Building Projects that Teach the Basics.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2003. ISBN-10:  1561586102,    ISBN-13:  978-1561586103


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*****
Understanding Wood Finishing:  How to Select and Apply the Right Finish

Ever pour your heart and soul into a project?  Maybe even put a little blood, sweat, and tears into it too?  You spend hours milling lumber, shaving a piece here, planing a board there, tweaking a fit over yonder, scraping, assembling, and spending what seems like days sanding it... finally, it's ready for the finish.  And, then it begins; the next two days being ever so meticulous putting on one, two, three, and finally the fourth coat of finish.  You stand back to admire your handy work and realize it looked a lot better as bare wood.  What happened?

Well, it ain't over until the finish goes on, and the fat lady's ability to carry a tune not withstanding, there's a lot to consider.  Wood conditioner, Lacquer, spray on, varnish, stain, wipe on, dye, brush on, sealer, pre-sealer, bleaching, ammonia, wax, shellac, linseed oil, or tung oil... I thought I had all this stuff figured out. 

There are a couple of guys recognized as finishing experts, and Bob Flexner is one of them.  In the late 1980's, he became quite aggravated by the lack of accurate information about the various finishes available.  So much so in fact, that he began boning up on the science and chemistry of the various wood finishing products that were available.  He made himself an expert and began writing to unclutter the mess for the rest of us.  He breaks down the confusing jargon into easy to understand and absorb ideas.

Bottom line -- if you're going to finish wood, and you feel you still have a few things to learn, might as well learn from one of the best.  Bob Flexner is certainly one of the best, and this book is too!

Flexner, Bob.  Understanding Wood Finishing:  How to Select and Apply the Right Finish.
Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association, 1994. ISBN-10:  0762106212,    ISBN-13:  978-0762106219


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***
Basic Carpentry - REA's Handbook

This isn't a woodworking book, per se.  Rather, just as the title implies, it's a book about basic carpentry and construction, using wood as a media.  It won't help you build a custom kitchen or a Windsor chair.

Where this book could come in handy is if you wanted to build a shed, or even possibly your own work shop.  Then, it would be worth the $15.00, or whatever the going rate is.  However, if that isn't on your horizon, this may be a good one to pass over.

Research and Education Association.  Basic Carpentry - REA's Handbook.
Piscataway, NJ: U.S. Government Publications, 2003. ISBN-10:  0878914439,    ISBN-13:  978-0878914432


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****
Small Woodworking Shops:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking

Fine Woodworking.  Small Woodworking Shops:  The New Best of Fine Woodworking.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2004. ISBN-10:  1561586862,    ISBN-13:  978-1561586868


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*****
Workbenches:  From Design And Theory To Construction And Use

Conventional wisdom dictates that for the journeyman woodworker, his toolbox is his resumé, but his workbench is his right of passage.  I never could help but think that this wisdom, in general, spoke of times past and generations of yesteryear.  That is, until I read this book.

Schwarz looks briefly at several designs, but he takes us on an in depth tour of a couple of old bench designs in particular.  Primarilly, he reviews a British workbench from the early 19th century book "The Mechanic's Companion, Or, The Elements and Practice of Carpentry" by Peter Nicholson and the classic 18th century French workbench detailed in "L'Art du Menuisier" (The Art of the Joiner) by André Jacob Roubo. 

Specifically, Schwarz looks at the relative strengths (and shortcomings) of each workbench, and practical ways to update and upgrade them to accommodate modern equipment while maintaining the original flavor of these benchs.  And, he dedicates a good portion of the back half of the book on building each.  The pictures are crisp and detailed.  The writing is on par with everything else he's written; that is to say it's excellent.  The instructions, for one willing to build his own bench, are exceptional.

I don't know if this will become the De facto standard on workbench design and assembly or not.  Personally, I believe it has a good shot at it.  Ultimately, I love this book.  And, when I finally get around to building my next workbench, I'll re-read the book by Landis, but I'll probably wear this one out.

As for toolboxes, I've seen articles over the years, but I've never seen any books actually dedicated to the subject of the journeyman's toolbox.  I know Mr. Schwarz has built one, and if he's willing to take it on, I'd buy his book on the subject.

Schwarz, Christopher.  Workbenches:  From Design And Theory To Construction And Use.
Cincinnati, OH: Popular Woodworking Books, 2008. ISBN-10:  1558708405,    ISBN-13:  978-1558708402


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****
The Encyclopedia of Woodworking:  The Essential Reference Guide For the Home Woodworker

Ramuz, Mark, Ed.  The Encyclopedia of Woodworking:  The Essential Reference Guide For the Home Woodworker.
London: Quantum Publishing, 2001. ISBN-10:  0681781092,    ISBN-13:  978-0681781092


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***
Router Projects and Techniques:  The Best of Fine Woodworking

Bosel, Jim, Ed.  Router Projects and Techniques:  The Best of Fine Woodworking.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1992. ISBN-10:  1561580023,    ISBN-13:  978-1561580026


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*
Refinishing and Finishing Wood

Bought this one in a fit of boredom one day, read it, and realized why I had never bought it before.  Black & Decker just shouldn't write books like this... they aren't good at it.

Save your money guys and dolls.  If you need a book on finishing or refinishing, find a book by someone that's good at it like or Michael Dresdner or Bob Flexner, both of whom are recognized as finishing experts. 

Currie, Paul, Ed.  Refinishing and Finishing Wood.
Chanhassen, MN: Creative Publishing International, 1994. ISBN-10:  0865737401,    ISBN-13:  978-0865737402


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***
501 Best Shop Tips for Woodworkers:  The Essential Question and Answer Woodworking Guide

Settich, Robert J.  501 Best Shop Tips for Woodworkers:  The Essential Question and Answer Woodworking Guide.
Cumming, IA: Landauer Corp, 2004. ISBN-10:  1890621587,    ISBN-13:  978-1890621582


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***
Jim Tolpin's Woodworking Wit & Wisdom

Tolpin, Jim.  Jim Tolpin's Woodworking Wit & Wisdom.
Cincinnati, OH: Popular Woodworking Books, 2004. ISBN-10:  1558707190,    ISBN-13:  978-1558707191


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***
Router Tips and Techniques

Wearing, Bob.  Router Tips and Techniques.
Lewes, East Sussex, England: Guild of Master Craftsmen Publications, 2001. ISBN-10:  1861082142,    ISBN-13:  978-1861082145


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****
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Shaping Wood

Bird, Lonnie.  The Complete Illustrated Guide to Shaping Wood.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2001. ISBN-10:  1561584002,    ISBN-13:  978-1561584000


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****
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery

Rogowski, Gary.  The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2002. ISBN-10:  1561584010,    ISBN-13:  978-1561584017


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*****
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Furniture and Cabinet Construction

Rae, Andy.  The Complete Illustrated Guide to Furniture and Cabinet Construction.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2001. ISBN-10:  1561584029,    ISBN-13:  978-1561584024


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***
The Home Workshop

Hicks, Douglas L., Ed.  The Home Workshop
Des Moines, IA: August Home Publishing, 1999. ISBN-10:  0848726766,    ISBN-13:  978-0848726768


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*****
Illustrated Cabinetmaking:  How To Design And Construct Furniture That Works

This is a great book, especially for reference.  The best way for me to describe this book is to say that it is to woodworking as Kernighan and Ritchie's "The C Programming Language" is to computer science.  The C.S. weenies will know what I'm talking about.  Don't know that Bill Hylton will ever read this review, but for Bill and those not familiar, just trust that it's pretty high praise.

What makes the K&R book so great is that there isn't a lot of fluff in it.  Illustrated Cabinetmaking is the same way... no wasted words, but every single word that is there is important.  There aren't a lot of woodworking construction details that get missed here, just a good review/overview of the subject matter without extra stuff to fill the page.

And the drawings.  Gees, there must be over a thousand, and they're drawn with excellent detail and clarity.  They cover everything from wood movement to joinery types and execution to detailed furniture drawings.  It's conceivable that once somebody got the mechanics of tool use under one's belt, one could build fine, functional furniture using this book as a guide.

Bill Hylton has done a fine job on this one.  Bottom line, no serious woodworker should be without this book as a reference.  Old pros will find old, forgotten tricks, and beginners will find a ton of useful information.

Hylton, Bill.  Illustrated Cabinetmaking:  How To Design And Construct Furniture That Works
East Petersburg, PA: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2003. ISBN-10:  1565233697,    ISBN-13:  978-1565233690


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*****
Hand Tool Essentials:  Refine Your Power Tool Projects with Hand Tool Techniques

Thiel, David, Ed.  Hand Tool Essentials:  Refine Your Power Tool Projects with Hand Tool Techniques
Cincinnati, OH: Popular Woodworking Books, 2007. ISBN-10:  1558708154,    ISBN-13:  978-1558708150


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****
Furniture Making: A Foundation Course

Bullar, John.  Furniture Making: A Foundation Course
East Petersburg, PA: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2008. ISBN-10:  1565233808,    ISBN-13:  978-1565233805


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*****
The Workbench Book:  A Craftsman's Guide to Workbenches for Every Type of Woodworking.

From what I understand, since The Workbench Book was published, it has been on the "required reading" list for any and all professional and serious hobbyist woodworkers.  It stands to reason; anyone serious about woodworking needs a good, sturdy bench and this has long been considered one of the quintessential books on the subject.  I haven't been into the sport that long, but it was one of the first books I picked up based on the recommendations of woodworkers I respected.

Anyway, Landis takes us on a journey through time as he covers benches from ancient Egypt to modern times.  Some of the famed benches of yesteryear that he covers are:

  • Joseph Moxon's from "Michanick Exorcises", London 1703
  • The Dominy bench on Long Island, NY
  • Benches from America's Federal period
  • Jacques-André Roubo's bench from L'art du Menuisieur, Paris, 1769 - 1775
  • Several of the Shaker benches

Additionally, we're given info on benches built and used by modern masters.  For example:

  • Frank Klausz's bench
  • Ian Kirby's bench
  • A modern bench by Michael For

Still, there are others.  And, what's more, he covers potential pitfalls as well as strengths of these benches.  He offers many, many alternatives, regardless of your woodworking needs.  Oh yeah, one last thing... Plans are also included for many of these benches.  Mix and match; build to tradition; build a modern masterpiece; build your dream bench.

Ultimately, if you're going to be a woodworker, you need a bench.  And, whether you buy or build, it's wise to know what's out there.  Bottom line, get this book!

Landis, Scott.  The Workbench Book:  A Craftsman's Guide to Workbenches for Every Type of W;odworking.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 1987. ISBN-10:  1561582700,    ISBN-13:  978-1561582709


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**
The Complete Book of Woodworking: Step-by-step Guide to Essential Woodworking Skills, Techniques, Tools, and Tips

Although the book is well written (the only thing that got it a second *), I didn't care much for it.  It would serve as an acceptable primer for the novice, or possibly a good refresher, but experienced woodworkers would become quickly bored.  I suspect the Normites will love it though.  This is part of the conflict of the book... by the pictures and text, they have a $10,000.00 power tool shop set up, and a knowledge base for beginners.  In fact, there is one particular passage that talks about how much money we spent on our power tools and how much more accurate they are than hand tools.  A decent shooting board and a sharp plane, and I can take a .001" shaving off of end grain.  Guaranteed the power tool crowd can't pull that off. 

It's all about power tools and throughout the text, it offers all sorts of alternative power tool methods if you don't happen to cotton up to their initial thoughts on the matter.  It seems to be geared toward the beginners in a production shop, and if that's your business, this may be a good book for you.  Or, if you're a professional cabinet shop, give this to the new kid and test him on it.  Otherwise, don't bother with this one.

Jackson, Albert, David Day, and Somon Jennings.  The Complete Manual of Woodworking.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN-10:  1890621358,    ISBN-13:  978-1890621353


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***
Workshop Solutions

This isn't really a book.  Rather, it's one of those annual "Best of" books about the size of a magazine.  It's usually geared toward shop projects, and this particular one is put out by Fine Woodworking Magazine.  I subscribe to Fine Woodworking, so I have all of these articles already, and still, I buy this every year.  It's a pretty good series, especially if you need a few shop ideas.

McKenna, Thomas, ed.  Workshop SolutionsFine Woodworking Magazine.
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2008.  ISSN:  1936-8127.


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*****
The Complete Manual of Wood Working: A Detailed Guide to Design, Techniques and Tools for the Beginner and Expert

Great book!  This is one of my all time favorite "general woodworking info" books.  It's packed from cover to cover, and they got it all in there somehow.  It's sort of a Readers' Digest for woodworking. 

The book begins by looking at wood... kind of funny for a woodworking book; it's like looking for a tool in a tool box.  Seriously, it discusses the properties of wood, including characteristics, common uses, habitat, sustainability, and silvics.  Over 50 hardwoods and 20 softwoods are discussed as well veneers, plywoods, and other common engineered wood based materials.

After shop setup and a chapter on joinery, dovetails are cut by hand, not some flashy dovetail jig and router.  Other sections cover topics on things like carving, veneering, finishing, and wood bending to name just a few.

The book does a good job of reviewing power tools, and is old enough that it goes over radial arm saws while omitting the newer sliding compound miters.  To me, what stands out about this book is its review and usage of hand tools... Don't have to spend a fortune to get started.  Good stuff.

This is a good one for the book shelf.

Jackson, Albert, David Day, and Somon Jennings.  The Complete Manual of Woodworking.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN-10:  0679766111,    ISBN-13:  978-0679766117


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****
Building Doors & Drawers: A Complete Guide to Design and Construction

This is a pretty good book.  That's not a shock considering Andy Rae's pedigree.  He worked with both, George Nakashima and Frank Klausz, before starting his own woodworking shop.  He's also a former editor of American Woodworker.

Typically, the most viewable portion, the majority of what one sees in a piece of furniture, be they kitchen or bath cabinets, dressers, built-ins, or other stand alone furniture are the doors and drawers.  Add a little trim and some molding, and you got yourself some furniture.  How all that fits together defines the style or period that it's suppose to represent. 

From design and building methodology through assembly to final hardware installation, this book covers it all.  The full process of making durable and attractive doors and drawers with good fit and finish is covered.  As a bonus, this is the only book I know of that discusses the making of full size doors... Handy info indeed.

The final product of this book is good ole fashioned know how.  Whether carpenter or woodworker, this would be a good book for beginners and old pros alike.  Once you have the carcass built, read this book to help fill it out.

Rae, Andy.  Building Doors & Drawers:  A Complete Guide to Design and Construction
Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2007.  ISBN-10:  1561588687,    ISBN-13:  978-1561588688.


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