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JOEL Joel's Blog

Three Favorite Woodworking Books To Read While Traveling


Three Favorite Woodworking Books To Read While Traveling 1
In a recent blog post I listed some books worth checking out, which garnered some requests for another round of recommendations.

With the holiday season coming and so many of us traveling from one place to another to visit friends and family, I thought I’d start out with some suggestions especially for some books to read on a plane, airport, or while waiting for a nice big meal (I’m assuming that after dining, your tryptophan haze might preclude comprehending much).

Three of my favorite woodworking books ever are "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker ,"The Wheelwright's Shop," and "The Village Carpenter." These are my favorite woodworking books to curl up with.

"The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" blew my mind when I first got my copy. It's the only book written that's a narrative of how to train a joiner that dates from pre-industrial times. While the language of 1839 is sometimes crunchy, it also contains three projects that you can build. In the version reprinted by Lost Art Press, I've added a lot of historical commentary (something I’m always seeking as a reader to help put things in context). Chris Schwarz built all the projects in the book and included full instructions for a modern how-to. The theory is you read the narrative part on the plane, visit relatives and friends, and then come home and start making the projects.

My next favorite woodworking book is "The Wheelwright's Shop" by George Sturt. Sturt grew up in his father's wheelwright's shop, and instead of ending up in an academic career, he ended up running the shop when his father passed away. He was acutely aware that his was the last generation for this type of work, and he wrote about it in a wistful, nostalgic and wonderful way. The language is modern and it's an easier read than "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker." We used to carry this book but because of a change of publishing distributor it became difficult to stock. It's easy enough to find copies on the used market. If you can find a copy, get it.

"The Village Carpenter.", by Walter Rose, which we do stock, is in a similar vein of the "Wheelwright's Shop." It's an awesome glimpse into a late 19th century woodworking shop. And again I found it a wonderful cheerful read, with a dose of nostalgia.

Part of the problem with books is that I can read them faster than most people can write them (with the possible exception of Chris Schwarz. Click here for his latest.) Fortunately magazines and blogs can take up some of that void. While I enjoy writing my own blog, reading it myself is understandably not the same as reading something someone else wrote. We stock two great magazines that I enjoy. "Mortise & Tenon" magazine comes out periodically and is a book-type magazine. It contains diverse long articles on assorted woodworking subjects, mostly from the historic technique / research standpoint. Quercus magazine, from England, is a throwback to your classic woodworking magazine of 20 years ago. Lots of short articles on a variety of subjects about hand tools - DIY, new tools, historic preservation, and profile interviews. It's a truly international publication, with writers based in the UK, Canada, US and Japan and dispatches from other countries. We stock all the issues that are currently in print, since many customers want all the issues after trying out one issue.

Obviously if you're going on a local flight for the holidays, a couple of magazine issues should keep you busy. But these days, with long airport delays, you might want to consider an actual book. Lost Art Press has just published a new edition of Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, the first book on woodworking in English. Mechanick Exercises was published in the late 17th century and is an unbelievable compendium of the tools and techniques of the trade of the era - not just joinery and carpentry, but also blacksmithing, bricklaying, turning and other crafts. It’s fascinating to see how much has changed - and how much has stayed the same since Moxon’s era. IT's a facimile edition and some of the "f"s are actually "s"s but once you get the hang of reading the language it goes pretty smoothly. If you are just interested in the joinery section we also have "The Art of Joinery" which is just Moxon's joinery section, in a modern typeface, photos, and Chris Schwarz's commentary and explanations.

For international flights, another great series is of course everything we have by Charles Hayward. Just poking through the drawings on three or four volumes will take up the entire flight, with so much to learn there. The only issue I would have is the books are big and heavy. I don't really have a solution for that other than if you hold them under your arm while you're passing through the gate, they probably won't count them as hand luggage. If you only have strength for one volume, Volume I on tools is my favorite. Volume II on techniques might be better on a long flight.

Happy Travels!

Almost packed (okay
Almost packed (okay, this is actually a simulation as the bag is my carry-on and I would take books I haven't read yet )

Join the conversation
11/16/2022 Brian M
Joel… it is rare that I would dare to take exception with a master such as yourself, but I believe you are mistaken in your recommendations above. For long plane rides, or sitting on the beach in my case…”Honest Labour” by Charles Hayward is the best choice. (Also available from Chris at Lost Art) As you pointed out, these volumes are large and heavy, but this one is a compendium of relatively short independent articles from Charles on a delightful variety of topics, put together by the folks at Lost Art Press. The advantage to this volume, is you can finish an article, look up to check flight status or interact with the flight attendant, (or look up and watch dolphins swim by)and then delve back in without interrupting your train of thought. Just my humble opinion sir…
Honest Labor
11/16/2022 Jim Tolpin
You must have been reading my mind...I took the Village Carpenter with me just last week on a trip to Victoria, BC. Full emersion into the pre-industrial carpenter's life and world is always a pleasure.
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