Chinese classical furniture in the Ming style demonstrates some very interesting solutions to typical problems, some fascinating joinery and some timeless elegance in design. I found this book to be a great “read” – its got very little text but lots of inspiration. Upon reading it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the seminal works in this style of furniture. It only has around 40 pages of text which set the scene for the book, but the detail on the plates and the inclusion of measured drawings makes this a great acquisition.
Zany Wooden Tools – By Bob Gilsdorf
Have your kids been nagging you to let them play with your tools? Those tools that my wife refers to as the ones that weren’t very expensive with a raised eyebrow? Or they’ve been telling you how other dads buy playstations for their kids – and when are you going to actually make something useful and not a shop appliance?
Well, if you’ve come to that place in your woodworking career where showing your 6 year old son the super improved version 7 shooting board no longer cuts the mustard … today’s book might just be what you’re looking for.
Hand Tool Essentials by Paul Sellers
At 480 pages long, Hand Tool Essentials is a comprehensive review of a solid core toolset – discussed and selected by a master craftsman who has spent a lifetime working with (and teaching about) the tools. Depending on where you live it might not be the easiest book to get hold of – but I’d suggest that if you do, you will find it well worth the effort.
Another Work is Possible – by Joshua Klein
Another Work is Possible is a very different take on how the task of building a structure can be completed. With the help of Charpentiers Sans Frontieres (CSF) – the folk at Mortise and Tenon set about constructing a new Blacksmith shop. Part philosophy, part construction log, part beautiful coffee table book – this book documents both the steps and ethos behind this project.
I’ve always enjoyed the work of the M&T folk, and this book takes you behind the scenes of an incredible project. You’re never going to smell the pine from a picture and text, but this book is about as close as you will get to being there.
The Craftsman – By Richard Sennett
The Craftsman is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at mankind’s conflicted relationship with technology and craftsmanship. I learnt a lot from this book, but it is a bit of a tough read. You have to be paying attention. A book that I would suggest breaking up over a number of sessions. It’s taken me a few months to re-read it, but I am glad I did!
The Art of Saw-Filing by HW Holly
The Art of Saw-Filing by HW Holly is a fun little book that takes a quite complicated topic and breaks it down into a very easy to understand process – in a book which covers everything from the finest saw to a monster two-man saw to a circular saw and everything in between. It’s free in most parts of the world as teh original was published towards the end of the nineteenth century. I’ve done a separate podcast on the book with a reading of a few pages, because it was included in Handsaw Essentials, but is available on its own.
I’ve found this 52 page book to be a surprisingly useful guide to what may seem to be a dark art! If you’re contemplating sharpening your own saw, you could do a lot worse than downloading a copy of this book.
Handsaw Essentials by Christopher Schwarz
The book that I am most frequently asked about is the book Handsaw Essentials. It’s a book that is very difficult to get hold of and when you do the price is astronomical. In 2019 I paid just over $150 and I was pretty happy that I got a steal. Unfortunately, in my opinion the content doesn’t match the price tag. Sadly, like Handplane Essentials, the book is more a collection of good articles and does not hang together in a cohesive manner as a book. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good content, but I’d expect a lot more from a book that commands such a premium. Join me on the show today as I explore this book a bit further.
Memoirs of a Victorian Cabinet Maker – James Hopkinson
This was a book that I was excited about when I found it in a second hand bookstore. Unfortunately, that excitement soon faded to disilussionment. Sadly, the bok has very little about cabinet making and is more a general autobiography. Unlike Thomas from the Joiner and Cabinet Maker, following James is a disaapointment.
Occasionally there was some reference to woodworking that I found interesting, and the book certainly doesn’t pull any punches about the nature of the workmen in the workshop, but its a forgettable book in the long term.
I wouldn’t waste money on this book, I think there are better candidates for you library.
Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn
This is one of my favorite autobiographical / philosophical books. Peter tells a great story, and this is a deeply personal account of his life and the lessons he has taken from it. From his early days of carpentry on Nantucket, through to the establishment of the school, this is a hard hitting account of his life. I believe that his central premise is valid – we make things as we work on who we want to be. And yet the book is so much more than a few philosophy take-aways. I particularly enjoyed the audiobook, and if that is a format you enjoy from time to time, you could select this as a great companion for a road trip.
However, regardless of format, the book is one that I feel deserves a place in every woodworking library.
A Rural Carpenter’s World by Wayne Franklin
An important book, but one that is not always easy reading. A rural carpenter’s world is an interesting insight into the practice of carpentry in New York state during the nineteenth century. I found the book to be good, but more scholarly than narrative. Franklin cannot be faulted on his research, I just wish that their had been a bit more license taken – ala The Artisan of Ipswich. I do however believe that future scholars and serious students of history will find this book to be an invaluable resource, and I cannot begin to comprehend the volume of research that must have been undertaken to make this book possible.