Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Top Ten Woodworking Books

Here is a link to my list.

Some people have emailed me and suggested that I read the books by James Krenov, George Nakashima, and Eric Sloane, but I'd like to hear your recommendations as well. 

What books are your must-haves and why?


Bill Stankus said...

Great idea!
I'm going to make a list and will post it in a day or so.

mdhills said...

All quality books, but.... I gotta say that you are choosing all main courses and missing the dessert. One of my top-5 would have to be Tolpin's Woodworking Wit & Wisdom -- the illustrations are outstanding:


Joe Cottonwood said...

Good idea, Kari. You've inspired me to post my own top 5 - with a slightly different focus than yours.

Sean said...

Board of the Rings. A classic.

Jeremy Kriewaldt (jmk89) said...

All the books are good, but surely someone outside the US might have written something in the top 10 - Charles Hayward?, Bernard Jones? Ernest Joyce?

I also recommend getting hold of Jim Kingshott's book on Making and Modifying Hand Tools. I think it will make it into your top 10.

Luke Townsley said...

"Working Wood with Edge and Wedge" by Roy Underhill

In 200 years, instead of quoting Moxon, people will be quoting "Underhill"!

Ethan said...


Would love to pick up a Charles Hayward book, but our friend Chris Schwarz has reviewed enough of them that the prices are outrageous these days!

(Chris, if you could give me a heads up a day or two before you publish your next "Must Read" blog, I'd appreciate it!)


Bill Stankus said...

Kari, I posted my list... couldn't do 10, did 12 instead.

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks for the great ideas, everyone. I've started jotting down "must-reads" in a notebook.

Stephen Wilson (Shropshire, England) said...

Some of my favourites have already been covered, but these three are "must-haves" and worth every penny, even if they are now scarce...

1. Woodwork Joints/Charles Hayward
2. Cabinetmaking for Beginners/Charles Hayward
3. The Essential Woodworker/Robert Wearing (go on a David Charlesworth dovetailing course and he keeps getting this one out to refer to)

P Follansbee said...


you're in Pennsylvania - where's Henry Mercer's "Ancient Carpenters' Tools" in your list?

Charles Hummel "With Hammer in Hand" is also unsurpassed.

My personal favorite of the past few years is not strictly a woodworking book, but a book about making things: Wm Coperthwaite "A Handmade Life"

The Village Carpenter said...

Thanks guys, I'm just adding book after book to my must-read list.

Stephen, you can find a digital version of Hayward's book "How to Make Woodwork Tools" on Gary Robert's site if you're interested. It's pretty awesome.

Peter, yeah, I know. I was limited to 10, what can I say? :o) I have the first two you mentioned, but not the last. It's on my list now.

Christopher said...

Hi, love the blog.

I'd throw Wallace Nutting's Furniture Treasury on the list.

The 5000 or so photos of period furniture always remind me that there are many ways to get from here to there with a piece of furniture

Gary Roberts said...


D. Denning
W. Fairham
C. Hayward
T. Frid
P. Hasluck
B. Jones
J. Moxon
P. Nicholson
A. Benjamin
C. Hummel
and I just ran out of ink

Anonymous said...

May I recommend some British selections – though they may be sadly out of print and hard to find, these would be in the crate of books I want washed up on my desert island, together with my sea-chest of tools.

‘Dictionary of Woodworking Tools’ by R A Salaman, 1975 last in print by Taunton Press.

‘Welsh Stick Chairs’ by the late John Brown. 1990 ISBN 1 872887 00 7. A wonderful book to read by an irascible old-style craftsman. Enough information here to enable anyone with competent skills to make a Welsh Chair.

British Plane Makers from 1700, W L Goodman, Roy Arnold, Needham Market, ISBN 0 904638 09 X The definitive handbook to British planes.

An American one, this time,
‘The Wooden plane’ J H Whelan. Astragal Press, 1993, ISBN 1 879335 32 8.
Complements the above perfectly.

LizPf said...

I have to put in a good word for Tage Frid.

His 3 book set was my inspiration for making furniture ... Shaker Modern.

Why I waited 20 years after buying the books to get my hands dirty is a mystery. Oh, yeah, I bet the kids have something to do with it.

Jeff said...

Charles Hayward should be the first purchase by any woodworker. I heartily second John Brown.

Also consider,

Modern Practical Joinery by George Ellis (Modern being ca 1908)

Green Woodworking by Drew Langsner

Green Woodwork by Mike Abbott

Make a Chair From A Tree by John Alexander. (Why this is not still in print along with Wille Sundqvist's Swedish Carving Techniques is beyond me.)

The Village Carpenter said...

Well, I've completely filled an entire page in my notebook with your recommendations. I checked John Alexander's book out of the local library some time ago, so if you're unable to find some of these books, that's a good place to start. Also used book stores. I found Pennsylvania Spice Boxes this way, but it was $275, so did not follow me home.

Chris Schwarz also posted a list of sources for out-of-print-books on his blog:

The Village Carpenter said...

A reader wrote me directly and suggested that I add this to the list. As quoted from the reader:

"The Wheelwright's Shop", by George Sturt. Sturt was a quasi-contemporary of Walter Rose, and his book details both the technical aspects of wheel and wagon building in turn of the century England, and the social impact of approaching mechanization on the trades, on communities, and on labor in general. Fascinating book, often mentioned along with V.C. [The Village Carpenter].