2010 Top 10 Woodworking Books and DVDs

Top-10 lists don’t generally come out until the end of December, but we’re releasing this one a month early, so that you know what should go on your own holiday wish list (and to give you some gift ideas for other woodworkers). With no further ado, here are the Woodworker’s BookShop Top 10 Bestselling Products of 2010:

1. “SketchUp for Woodworkers: Part 1: Getting Started” is hands-down the year’s best-seller. And “SketchUp for Woodworkers: Part 2: Advanced Techniques” is right behind it, so we’re lumping it into one entry here. Both Part 1 and Part 2 are video lessons that are available on CD or as digital downloads. Executive Editor Robert Lang (who has more than 30 years of experience with woodworking and woodworking design and illustration) teaches step-by-step lessons on how to use this indispensable (and free) program from Google. To see video clips and learn more about Part 1 as a digital download click here. For Part 2 as a digital download, click here.

2. “The Workbench Design Book,” by Christopher Schwarz and the Popular Woodworking Staff. In this book (a follow up to Chris’s 2007 “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use“) you’ll find complete plans for nine workbenches, and real-world critiques of these benches that point out at what types of work they excel. Plus, a chapter of 10 “before and after” bench makeover illustrations, the latest information on vises and workholding devices and real-world advice on the best woods to use, how big your bench should be, and more.

3.“Handplane Essentials,” by Christopher Schwarz. This book covers just about everything you ever wanted to know about handplanes and their use – from choosing and setting up the right tool for your budget and project, to sharpening, to technique, to history and philosophy and even reviews of specific models (including a look at some high-end “dream planes” that I’ll be lucky to ever see – much less get to use!). It’s comprised of 10 years of Chris’s writing on handplanes – 312 pages of information from his blog, Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine and articles he wrote for trade publications.

4. “Puzzle Boxes,” by Jeff Vollmer. In this book and 90-minute companion DVD, you’ll discover how to cut, glue up, sand, fit and finish these fun and intriguing puzzle boxes that the author describes as “key and slide” (that is, you cut a dovetail key, a slider piece, another key, another slide, and so on. Knowing what slides when is the key to solving the puzzle and opening the box). Plus, Jeff also shows you how best to set up your band saw for the projects.

5. “Handplane Basics: A Better Way to Use Bench Planes,” by Christopher Schwarz. On this 70-minute DVD, Chris simplifies the bench plane system so you learn to quickly and easily choose, sharpen, set up and use three planes (jack, jointer and smoother) to take a board from rough to project-ready with just a little work.

6. “Build an 18th-century Workbench,” by Christopher Schwarz. This bench on this DVD is based on illustrations from Andre Roubo’s 18th-century masterwork, “L’Art du Menuisier” – it’s a simple and hulking workbench that’s easy to build, yet excels at workbench workholding needs – everything the modern hand-tool woodworker needs in a bench. So, Chris decided to build one the old-fashioned way – by hand. He shares 35 minutes of step-by-step instruction, complete and detailed plans, tips on cutting the joints by hand (though you can use tailed tools if you want – I did for my bench!) and tons of digital extras.

7. “Woodworking Magazine 2004-2009 – Issues 1-16.” Here, we’ve collected every issue of Woodworking Magazine we’ve published – including the early issues that have long been sold out. Each issue is in an easy-to-read and easy-to-search pdf format – plus, with the directory, you can search all the issues at once to quickly zero in on the project, technique or tool review you need.

8. “Popular Woodworking 2000-2009.” With 69 issues of the magazine in PDF format, this CD is packed with thousands of pages of pure woodworking information. And with the comprehensive search function, you can search by keyword through all the issues at once, or browse issue by issue.

9. “Flexner on Finishing,” by Bob Flexner. This book helps you take control over finishing by teaching you all about the many types of finishes and techniques available – and it takes the mystery out of finishing products by telling you what those products really are. This is Bob’s first book since his best-selling “Understanding Wood Finishing,” and here he digs more deeply into many of the finishing issues with which woodworkers often struggle, and he does it with an authority that leaves no doubt! Plus, you get a bonus section on furniture care and repair.

10. “Exercises in Wood-Working,” by Ivin Sickels. I’m glad this one made the list, because it’s a charming book – and the cover shot is the only picture we have of Christopher Schwarz in a tie. This book was pr
inted in 1889 to educate college students in the craft and business of woodworking, and the hand-tool information you’ll find inside is just as relevant today as it was more than a century ago. Inside, you’ll find 39 exercises to help you make the most of traditional hand tools in the modern shop. We’ve also filmed two series of video exercises to go along with the book – the first, by Christopher Schwarz, is available now. The second, by Robert W. Lang, will be available soon.

My favorite item we offer didn’t make the top 10 – so I’m cheating and mentioning it here anyway – and that’s our poster of Plate 11 of “L’Art du Menuisier.” It shows the interior of André Roubo’s shop, and it’s the plate that’s served as a design reference for the several “Roubo workbenches” we’ve built during the last five years. The detail in this plate is just tremendous, and there are mysteries still to be sorted and lessons still to be learned from looking at it. But really, I like it because it’s pretty, and it will look great framed and hanging on the wall in my study (just as soon as I get around to making a frame). I think every woodworker should own it.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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