Saturday, March 15, 2008

Woodworking 101

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about one of my favorite woodworking authors, Tage Frid. His books were instrumental in filling in all holes I had in my Furniture Design degree. When I graduated, I realized exactly how much more I needed to learn. Frid's books were invaluable.

So it was only natural when I started teaching, that I would put together a list of woodworking books that I felt were helpful. Sure, I'm overlooking many books, because I'm not particularly interested in certain niche areas like pen making or decoy carving, or antique reproductions, for example.

What follows is a hand-out that I used to give to students, listing some of the great woodworking books that I have in my library. I hope it's helpful to you.

Basic Woodworking: recommended reading

A visit to any bookstore will confirm that Woodworking is one of the more popular hobbies. There are specific books available on just about any area you might be interested, from jig-saw cut-out patterns to lathe turning to Shaker Furniture and on and on and on! Below are some recommended books, with a short description of each. The books in red are highly recommended.

Woodworking Basics

The Complete Manual of Woodworking
by Albert Jackson, David Day and Simon Jennings

I think this book is one of the best overall texts that you'll find on this subject. It's similar to an encyclopedia; the illustrations are really good, as is the photography. It contains more information that any other book I've seen- about wood and identification, hand and power tools, joinery, finishing and even chapters on carving, veneering and bending wood. This is a great book. (My top recommendation for someone wanting an overall guide to this subject.)

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Joinery, Tools and Techniques
Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Shaping, Veneering, Finishing

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Book 3 Furniture making

I could retire on a desert island with a woodshop and these three texts and never want for another reference book. His set of books contain pictures explaining every sequence, and charts for various calculations. He writes the book as if he’s standing next to you explaining everything, and all the information is very well organized.

Working With Wood by Peter Korn

Someone told me that this book is out of print, though I think you can find this on eBay or It may be hard to locate, but it's worth it. This book is a good basic guide for woodworking, although Korn has this romantic notion that it’s better to perform certain operations by hand than to use power equipment. I say that’s crazy....if I can machine-plane a board in 30 seconds that it would take me a half hour to do with a hand plane, what’s the advantage? Some purists say the enjoyment is in “the dance of doing” but I would rather sit back and enjoy my creations with fewer sore muscles and scraped knuckles.

Fine Woodworking the Publishers of Fine Woodworking Magazine

Fine Woodworking Magazine reprints some valuable articles from it’s magazine into small books, which are very helpful and specific. Their books range in topics from Joinery to Setting up a Small Woodshop, from Sharpening to Helpful Tips. If you have access to all their back issues, then you already have this information.

For Inspiration and Appreciation

A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook by James Krenov
The Impractical Cabinetmaker by James Krenov

The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov

This is not an understatement: My work and outlook has never been the same since I first read Krenov’s books. He is the ultimate woodworker, teaching us about “seeing” wood as opposed to working with it. He writes about specific skills, shows simple ways to perform complex operations and most of all, teaches us an awareness of working wood that has never since been discussed as eloquently.

For Ideas

Fine Woodworking Design Books 1-7

Every few years or so, Fine Woodworking Magazine publishes a book featuring some of the best woodworking projects from around the world. The books are broken down into different categories, from Architectural Designs to Chairs, Tables to Casework, even Musical Instruments and Toys. These books have hundreds of top quality photographs, and offer a vast array of ideas when you need some inspiration.

Advanced Studies

Designing Furniture by Seth Stem

Working at Woodworking by Jim Tolpin

Both these books offer more specific information about working with wood.

Stem’s book contains many design formula’s, such as the golden triangle, for designing pieces with properties that have held up throughout the ages. This book goes into detail about designing a piece, which is helpful to those who follow their own designs, instead of using someone else’s plans.

Tolpin’s book is more suited to someone who is starting into a woodworking business. It discusses more business related topics, such as marketing, pricing and business structure. There is some very good information about setting up a shop, including tool and jig information and shop

Night time Reading

Tools of the Trade by Jeff Taylor

An interesting collection of essays about various tools that we use everyday, but of which we know little. I love this book! It's a great gift for someone who enjoys tools and working with their hands. Even long time woodworkers will enjoy reading about the trivia contained here, and everyone can learn something. Very easy to read- I guarantee you won't be able to put this book down.

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