I have been collecting and reading woodworking books for a long time. It has only been recently that I have figured out that while there are a lot of good woodworking books out there that are easy to find, there are a lot of great woodworking books out there if you dig a little deeper.
Here are five of my favorite woodworking books. I couldn't pick just one favorite, so I picked one in each of five categories.
Category I: Philosophy
The Anarchist's Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz
After you read it, you'll want to build one.
There are three main parts to this book, a history, a list of tools, and instructions on building the chest.
If you have a ton of hand tools, you'll want to sell some. If you are just starting your collection, you'll learn which ones you really need. If, like me, you have been hoarding tools for years, you'll know you can get rid of most of them and buy ones you will actually use. Even if your are a power tool junkie, you'll want to try some of these tools out.
Category II: Techniques
The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing
|Dining table constructed with techniques from Robert Wearing.|
I list this book here because of the detail describing each operation. This book will make you want to go to the shop.
Category III: Tools
Hand Tools by Aldren A. Watson
What this book lacks in imagination for the title, it definitely makes up for in content. Find a used copy of this book (it's out of print) or borrow one from the library.
He not only shows you a bunch of really cool tools, he shows the proper way to use them. For a bonus, he demonstrates methods for practicing basic techniques so any dummy can master them.
The section on a brace and bit transformed my accuracy and useability of that tool. The only weird thing he advocates is a jack-rabbet plane for a basic tool. Honestly, he makes a good case for it, though.
Category IV: Joinery
Woodwork Joints by William Fairham
|Example from Fairham's book. This would be a cool joint to use on a Roubo bench.|
I was blown away with the first chapter on lap joints. Who writes a book with a whole chapter on lap joints? Believe it or not, it is really eye-opening. The only thing missing is the details of constructing each joint.
As the above example from the book shows, the author assumes you can figure out how to cut the joint once you see what joint to use. That's what Watson is for.
Another cool thing is this book is reprinted through the Toolemera website. Gary Roberts does this as a hobby, as far as I can tell. His books are printed on demand, and are very reasonable in price and quality.
Category V: Project
Making and Masering Wood Planes by David Finck
|My latest plane built using this method, a big-honking jointer.|
David goes through every tiny little step in constructing this plane, and even gives a few alternative methods as well as instructions on building some of the tools and jigs you may need. He even recently released a companion DVD with 4 1/2 hours of footage going through the whole process. Believe it or not, you'll enjoy watching it more than once.
What I really love about this book is he covers in painful detail for those of us dummies who didn't "get it" before how to use hand tools to get super-hyper accurate results. Before this, I thought only machines were capable of such precision. Silly me, hand tools are WAY more accurate than machines.
There are a lot of great books out there. You can't go wrong at Lost Art Press, from what I can tell so far. Also, don't be afraid to scope out used books. Old books are a great source of information for old tools, after all. If worse comes to worst, go to your local library. Librarians I know will do backflips to get you an old book you want. Inter-library loan didn't disapear with the advent of the internet.
What are your must-reads?