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JOEL Joel's Blog

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 To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry 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
Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 3 Joiner And Cabinet Maker. 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.
Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 4The Essential Woodworker 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.

Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 5 Whittling and Woodcarving 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.
Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 6For a more casual approach to teaching carving How to Carve Wood by Richard Butz is a long-term favorite.

Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 7 is a good choice for introducing young people to carving.
Architectural Woodworking

Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 8Our new reprinting of Paul Hasluck's Carpentry and Joinery Illustrated 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.
Coursework - Books that You Can Learn From 9A Lesson Plan For Wood Turning is probably the most course-like book on turning we offer.

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.

UPDATE: I have removed links to all books that are now out of print since this entry was initially written - joel 2019
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12/07/2010 Larry 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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