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Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From  


I routinely get asked about what books I recommend for people trying to learn this or that. In the holiday season books make a pretty good gift so I might as well make a list.

This list is about what I recommend for the first book I would give to someone on a specific subject. A lot of great books aren't on this list. For example is a great book, and I learned a lot from it, and eventually everyone should read it, but it's not a beginner's book.

Joinery and Cabinet Making
. My book. The only book ever written to teach woodworking from the pre-industrial age. The original text is from 1839, I wrote the historical commentary, Chris Schwarz built the the projects in the book and give a modern perspective on the construction which is very valuable. The original text from 1839 has the only narrative lessons I know of that teach woodworking and it is a very entertaining way of learning basic joinery. I might be biased but the original 1839 text makes this one of the most important books on using and learning handtools I know of. If you build the three projects in the book you will learn all the important skills of joinery and basic cabinetmaking.
is a fairly short book that tries pretty successfully to distill all the important basic hand tool operations into a simple set of instructions. I am very glad to see it back in print and it's a great book for learning about using hand tools from a modern context.

I have owned a copy of this book since I was a boy. The projects range from trivial to really complicated. From the 1930's it's a great way for someone who is pretty tool friendly to start to learn to whittle and carve really cool stuff.
If you are interested in learning the nuances of the tools used in carving, along with proper sharpening geometry Chris Pye's is the de facto standard on the subject. I love all the books by Pye - he is one of the best writer's in wood writing today. His is out of print but we still have a fair number of copies and it's just wonderful.
For a more casual approach to teaching carving by Richard Butz is a long-term favorite.

is a good choice for introducing young people to carving.
Architectual Woodworking

Our new reprinting of Paul Hasluck's brings back the most important book every written on traditional architectural woodworking. If you are remotely interested in the subject as a builder, restorer, or architect, this book is a real must have. This new edition has a new introduction by Roy Underhill.
is probably the most course-like book on turning we offer.
Veneering and Marquetry
is a systematic approach to teaching veneering and marquetry in an organized fashion.
is the starting point for understanding the world of woodworking tools and the nuances that differentiate tool by their use and trade.

For purely mercenary reasons I'm only listing books we sell. There are a lot of great books out that that I would normally recommend, or that we used to stock, but they are out of print at the moment. Bernard Jone's The complete woodworking is one of these books - and we hope to bring it back in print shortly.
Other good books we don't stock - usually because either deep down I think another book we do stock is better, or because the book is so heavily discounted by our competitors a small vendor like ourselves cannot afford to tie up inventory in such a low margin item.

I should also mention that last year we sold two limited run series of the Joiner and Cabinet Maker bound it leather. The series each sold out quickly but in cleaning our warehouse we discovered one copy from each run where the customer who reserved a copy changed their mind. These books are bound in either red or black leather, and are numbered and signed by both myself and Chris Schwarz. If you are interested in a copy they are $175.00 delivered anywhere in the US. Call or email me at if you are interested.
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Comments: 1
12/07/2010Larry James 
Joel, good selection of books.

Highly recommend -The Essential Woodworker- a must if you work with hand tools.

The author says in his intro that the book is aimed mainly at those woodworkers working alone, like me. If you are learning to use hand tools on your own - this is a book for you. Very, very helpful. I refer to it often. Only con is there is not an index.

The Joiner and Cabinet Maker is also a good book from a historical perspective.

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