Books – Personal Favorites

The following books are ones that I personally own and I’m comfortable giving all of them an unqualified two-thumbs up. They run the gamut from wood properties to project planning to workbenches, finishing, and woodworking tool techniques.

Working at Woodworking : How to Organize Your Shop and Your Business
by Jim Tolpin

If you have aspirations of running your own business or just being more productive with your woodworking, you will definitely find this book worthwhile. As a cabinetmaker with 20+ years of experience, the Tolpster knows of which he speaks, providing insight into ways of organizing tools and materials, cutting, and assembly procedures, and generally how to run a woodworking operation. I especially got a kick out of his description of his three mobile work platforms, affectionately known as “The Three Stooges”: Moe, the mobile tool stooge, Larry, the materials stooge, and Curley, the mobile trash bin.

Measure Twice Cut Once
by Jim Tolpin

This book is only 118 pages long but it’s chock-full of useful information. It covers concepts of proportion and measurement, drawing techniques, creating working drawings and cutlists, measurement and layout tools, the layout process, cutting to the lines, and preventing/fixing mistakes. The chapter on creating working drawings provides a good basic introduction to some drawing terminology and how to create a three-view drawing from a concept sketch (I suspect you’ll better appreciate CAD software after reading this chapter). The Tolp-meister’s discussion about story poles is also very illuminating – he points out that a story pole is very likely one of the most accurate and efficient methods of transferring measurements from one place to another – not bad for a piece of wood with a bunch of marks on it !

The Workshop Book
by Scott Landis

Scott Landis traveled far and wide to find out all he could about workshops and the result is a fantastic book. It features every kind of shop imaginable, from 1-person basement, garage, and apartment shops to huge commercial operations, covering topics such as shop location, layout, workflow, dust collection, electrical systems, fixtures, storage, and lighting. I especially liked the chapter on storage, which contains all kinds of great ideas for storing tools, lumber and other materials. Many woodworkers seem to be in a quandary about what to do with “shorts”, left-over plywood, and other odd stock, and there are several interesting solutions presented. There are even a few articles about how different people are using software for tasks such as design, project management, scheduling, and accounting. A lot of time and effort obviously went into making this book and it is sure to be a classic for years to come.

The Woodfinishing Book
by Michael Dresdner

Every woodworker should have at least one book on wood finishing and this is one of two books that I own (the other is Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner). One of the things I really like about this book is that it includes a large fold-out guide to choosing a wood finish. It organizes finishes in three main categories (Brushable, Wipe-on, Sprayable) and then further arranges them according to properties such as durability, stain resistance, moisture resistance, ease of use, compatibility, color, solvent, and so on. I liked this book so much, I went out and bought the companion video tape !

Understanding Wood Finishing : How to Select and Apply the Right Finish
by Bob Flexner

This is another excellent book on wood finishing that is slightly longer than Dresdner’s book (see above). Between these two books, I’ve been able to find answers to just about any wood finishing question that I’ve come up with. I especially like the chapter in this book about finishing different types of woods. For example, Flexner shows how oak turns out with five different types of finishes and how to best apply each finish. The chapter on rubbing out a finish is also well done, providing details that are often lacking in magazine articles on this topic. This book is thoughtfully laid out, full of pertinent information, and seems to have covered all the bases.

Table Saw Techniques
by Roger W. Cliffe

Many woodworkers feel that the table saw is the most important power tool in the shop. If you subscribe to this train of thought (I know I do), then this is the book to have. It covers pretty much everything you need to know about table saws: selection, setup, safety, cutting techniques, blade selection, jigs and accessories, maintenance, and problem-solving tips. In flipping through the book, it struck me that every page contains a photograph or drawing ! Definitely a good thing given how potentially dangerous a table saw can be. Roger Cliffe gets a two-thumbs up for this masterpiece (and you’ll keep both thumbs if you pay attention to his safety guidelines).


Complete Book of Stationary Power Tool Techniques
by Richard J. De Cristoforo

What I like about this book is that it provides one-stop shopping for the major power tools that most every woodworker is likely to own: the table saw, radial arm saw, miter saw, jigsaw, bandsaw, jointer, thickness planer, drill press, lathe, shaper, belt and disk sander, and bench grinder. A separate chapter is devoted to each machine, containing essential maintenance and operation information. If you’re looking for a reference source to keep close at hand, you’ll appreciate this book. (If I have a tool maintenance or technique question, I’ll often consult this book first before delving into lengthier tomes).

Understanding Wood : A Craftsman’s Guide to Wood Technology
by R. Bruce Hoadley

This is a great book and it seeks to answer the question: why does wood do what it does ? For example, why does wood shrink more tangentially (width) than in length? How can you minimize checking in wood as it dries? How can you design furniture to handle wood movement? Why do miters open and glue joints loosen ? If you wonder about these types of questions, this book is a must-read. Hoadley is one of the world’s foremost authorities on wood technology and he’ll provide you with more information than you’ll know what to do with.