Instead I am going to list a handful of books I own as "recommended" in each of several categories.
Resources For Beginners
I refer to selections 2 - 4 as the woodworking trilogy, and for a long time they were my go to advise for starting woodworkers, and they still are, but they are bettered by the addition of number 1.
1. "The Naked Woodworker" By Mike Seimsen (Video - Lost Art Press) - Mike is the Garrison Keilor of woodworking, his dry timing and pacing is entertaining and straight forward and he is an incredible woodworking teacher as well. The video is beginning woodworking 101. Mike takes you to a tool meet, buys old tools, cleans up those tools and puts them to use building a good but economical workbench. No gnashing of teeth, no cheep thrills, no himming and second guessing. Get to the work and get it done because you have other stuff to build.
2. "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" By Christopher Schwarz. (Lost Art Press) - Chris sets out in a no nonsense way to list a complete set of tools that will allow you to build nearly any furniture endeavor and then walks you step by step through the process of building a traditional tool chest that will hold and protect those tools until the end of the universe.
3. "The Essential Woodworker" By Robert Wearing (Lost Art Press) - This is a go to resource for making things from wood with hand tools. It has strong roots in the English master/apprentice system and shows you the basics of nearly everything. From surfacing and truing stock to fitting a door into a cabinet. This will get you on your way.
4. "The Joiner and Cabinetmaker" By Joel Moskowitz and Christopher Schwarz (Lost Art Press) - After the first three selections you have tools, workbench, tool chest, and knowledge, now what do you do with it? I think this book is a great place to start. It's a story about an apprentice in a woodworking shop and it details the building of three basic projects; a packing crate, a small dovetailed box with a till, and a chest of drawers.
5. "Working Wood 1 and 2: The Artisan Course" By Paul Sellers (Artisan Media) I like the basic approach taken by Paul in this book (there are also accompanying videos) His advise is good and his take on starting out woodworking is just a little different from others on this list. It's good to know there's more than one way to get started and the most important thing is to get off the fence and get started (the second most important thing is to work through a project and finish it)
Furniture References and Styles
You cannot understand a single person, place, or thing without being exposed to the many sides it offers. Exposure helps you learn what's successful and what is not, and it helps show you where the limits are - so you can push against them.
1. "The New Fine Points Of Furniture" By Albert Sack (Crown Publishers) This book should be on the shelf of any serious woodworker, Its success is in listing similar historical pieces of furniture side by side, then explaining the success and failure of each by rating them Good, Better, Best, Superior, and Masterpiece. It is important to learn what sets masterpieces above their brethren (Hint: It's always in the details)
2. "Traditional Japanese Chests: A Definitive Guide" By Kazuko Koizumi (Kodansha International) I spend a lot of time wrapped up in European and American historical woodworking styles, so for me this book is a breath of fresh air every time I crack it open. It has beautiful pictures and details a maker tradition from the Far East that includes mind boggling detail and tradition. The information on styles and construction is strong as well.
3. "Oak Furniture: The British Tradition" By Victor Chinnery (Antique Collectors Club) I carry a love of the gothic furniture of the 17th century, the styles, the carvings, and the straightforward way it was constructed, therefor I have a real affinity for this book. After searching for a few years I finally found a copy I could afford and I page through it all the time. There is so much information in this book, it's a woodworking classic.
4. "Four Centuries Of American Furniture" By Oscar P. Fitzgerald (Krause Publications) Looking for an arching history of furniture? This book contains all the basics needed to whet your vernacular and introduce you to the details and design ideals that drive different furniture styles. It is written for the collector but contains a lot of authentication information that will provide the details any good maker can extrapolate from.
5. Any Book Focusing On A Furniture Collection. I own a great many of this type of book and I'm always on the look out for a new one. From the Chipstone Collection to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, find one for a good price on eBay or Amazon and bring it home. As I said, the more you expose yourself to the furniture forms and ideas, the better your eye will become. The better your eye, the better own work.
Art students spend a significant amount of time looking at many different styles and works of masters to better inform their eye for right and wrong, I believe woodworkers should be doing the same.
Questions come up in the shop, "What bevel is good for my smoothing plane blade?" You need a place to find the answers to those queries and more. Technique books can be a rehash of old ideas but they can also offer different ways of pulling off a specific task. The broader your glossary of "how to do it." the better your problem solving abilities will be at the bench.
I would consider the Resources For Beginners section to be a precursor to this list. Start there and continue here.
1. "The Complete Guide To Sharpening." By Leonard Lee (Taunton Press) I bought this book early on in my woodworking odyssey and it has been the only guide to sharpening I have ever needed. Sharpening is a basic skill, a gateway to severing wood better, It is something that you improve on over time. Even if there are things this book doesn't cover (Not many) the sharpening concepts introduced inside give you enough information to judge on your own.
2. "Country Woodcraft" By Drew Langsner (Rodale Press) There is more than one side to the woodworking world and this book will broaden your horizons. There is something freeing about working a chunk of wood so fresh from the tree the moisture and scent are part of the experience. Woodworking was not always done as recreation, there was a time, no so far removed, where things were made out of necessity, because you couldn't, or wouldn't buy them, because you had the ability to make them. This book is a great gateway into green woodworking.
3. "Modern Cabinetwork: Furniture and Fitment" By Percy Wells and John Hooper (Fox Chapel Publishers) Note: This book was republished through Fox Chapel in '06, I am fortunate to own an original copy of the coveted 3rd edition published 1922. Originally published in 1909 this book sought to cover all aspects of woodworking in a teaching manual. By the 3rd edition power tools were coming into popularity and the books shows methods for both hand and power side by side. So the original "Hybrid" woodworking book. I suggest finding an old copy yourself, the fold out plates are worth it by themselves.
4. "Chisel, Mallet, Plane, and Saw" By Tony Konovaloff (Self Published) A student of James Krenov, Tony Konovaloff uses this book to introduce the radical idea of building furniture as a career, using only hand tools. He carefully weaves his way through all the basics of setting up a shop and building, to design concepts and thoughts on selling your work. my copy, purchased directly from the author, is creased and dog eared and well read.
5. "By Hand and Eye" By George R Walker and Jim Tolpin (Lost Art Press) For years I wondered about how my ancestors set about designing something they needed to build. Certainly the apprenticeship system afforded some pre-loaded knowledge and ability, but that still didn't explain the nuts and bolts of their thought process. George and Jim together picked the lock hiding the secrets of artisan design and wrote this book to give us all the keys.
6. "Turning Wood" By Richard Raffan (Taunton Press) Another facet of woodworking. I do turn, but I consider myself a woodworker who turns, not a turner per say. As I was starting and learning the basics I purchased this book and it's proven to be the only printed word I've needed. My practice just skims the surface of what's possible on the lathe, but this book has been a welcome resource on that journey.
7. "Mouldings In Practice" By Mathew Bickford (Lost Art Press) Mouldings are an important part of every piece of furniture and this book teaches you to free yourself from the "preapproved" shapes configured by the manufacturers of router bits and cut your own using simple hollow and round shaped planes. This book is about more though. It's about ornamentation, proportion, and the details that makes a good piece of furniture better.
8. "Chairmaker's Notebook" By Peter Galbert (Lost Art Press) At this point I have not read this book, it hasn't been mailed out yet, but taking into account the things I've heard, the things I've seen, and what I know about the author. It will be an true and thorough account of Windsor chairmaking, something I am desperate to have a solid go at one of these days.
There are books that are influential to me as a woodworker and maker that don't fit clearly into any of the other categories. Truth be told I find all the books listed here and more to be inspirational but these books specifically get me excited and help fill my gas tank for time in the shop.
1. Anything Written By James Krenov - I own three of Krenov's books "The Fine Art Of Cabinetmaking" "A Cabinetmaker's Notebook" and "The Impractical Cabinetmaker" And all three are full of my own notes in the margins and underlined or highlighted passages. Krenov had a knack for getting at the soul of building in the shop.
2. "A Reverence For Wood" Eric Sloan (Dover Publications) Eric Sloan's writings speak to everyone I've ever met who carries a passion for traditional craft, from woodworkers to blacksmiths to organic farmers. This book specifically speaks to the importance of wood to our past, to our everyday lives, and somewhat, to where we're all headed.
3. "L'Art Du Menuisier: The Book Of Plates" Andre Roubo (Lost Art Press) Around the time of the start of the American Revolutionary War a master cabinetmaker from France compiled a massive tome of writing and engravings concentrated on carpentry, carriage building, cabinetmaking, veneering and marquetry, and more. Lost Art Press and Don Williams are in the midst of bringing translations of Roubo's words to the english speaking world, but the words are only half the story, the engravings, often created by Roubo himself, offer volumes of knowledge by themselves. This book is a printing of high quality scans taken from an original, first edition of Roubo's work, in the original size. The ideas and inspiration from these pages cannot be explained.
4. "The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rholfs" By Joseph Cunningham (Yale University Press) The Arts and Crafts movement was a big piece of our history and material culture, Charles Rholfs was by all accounts an unsuccessful and under appreciated force surrounding that movement, whose genius and vision went unnoticed until well after his death, (a similar fate faced by many artists) when the debate between art and craft rears it's ugly head I think of this book and the inspirational work inside, and how it simply bridges both sides and negates the debate.
5. "Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley" By Don Williams (Lost Art Press) There are only a handful of complete or fairly complete historic tool collections tied to a specific maker or makers. The Dominy Workshop, Duncan Phyfe's Tool Chest, Benjamin Seaton's Tool Chest, and the tool cabinet of H.O Studley. None of the others offer the same sense of mystery, wonder, and inspirational connection as the Studley cabinet. Even non woodworker's who see images of the cabinet are fascinated, In this book Don Williams embraces the mystery of the tool chest and documents it in a way it never has been before also uncovers details of the life of the man behind the chest.
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That's the list as it stands now. I'm sure it will grow and change as time moves forward, making this a living document. For certain there are many other books on woodworking I love and cherish and do not want to live without, but then I have a serious case of what Don Williams calls Book Acquisition Disorder.
It's important to note I am not connected to the sales of any of these books, I make no percentage nor collect any fee if you choose to purchase any. I simply believe these are fantastic books everyone should have in their personal arsenal. I have included no links to the books above. Do a google search, an eBay search, an Abe Books search and find them for yourself. Buy them from the author if possible, (It's only polite)
Ratione et Passionis