Chris Schwarz's Blog

Joel Moskowitz’s Favorite Books

Editor’s note: Joel Moskowitz is the owner of ToolsforWorkingWood.com, a long-time woodworker, tool collector and book collector. He has the largest woodworking library I’ve ever encountered. During the last few weeks, the magazine’s staff has been asking people for their lists of favorite woodworking books. The results have been very interesting , we’ve even encountered a few books we’re not aware of.

Below is Joel’s list. Well, actually a couple lists. Joel’s an over-achiever.

– Christopher Schwarz

Woodworking Books in Print

Here are some book lists. I know the second I send this off, I will think of other titles that should be included. It’s hard to limit yourself to 10 or 20 “Must Have Titles” on anything. Because I love books, I have hundreds of books in my collection. Some are a learning experience on every page, some are useless but popular in their day, and others are beautiful to look at, but turgid to read. The books listed below are at least a good place for anyone to start. I prefer information that isn’t dumbed down, so my favorites mostly are books that try to talk to me like an adult, expect I’m not an idiot and are comprehensive in professional technique.

This first list is of stuff in print that we mostly stock at ToolsforWorkingWood.com and I recommend to everyone.

“Whittling and Woodcarving” by E. J. Tangerman. My first book on woodworking and still one of my favorites. Best of all: Lots of the samples of carving come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and are still on exhibit.

“The Encyclopedia of Furniture Making” by Ernest Joyce. I have an older edition but it’s a great overall resource on different approaches to making furniture the modern way. Great for figuring out the details of a design; that is, how to do stuff.

“Woodcarving Tools, Materials & Equipment (New Edition), Vol. 1” by Chris Pye. Pye is a great writer and a master carver. The book is a wonderful read, inspiring and systematic.

“The Marquetry Course” by Jack Metcalfe and John Apps. The best book on learning marquetry that’s in print at the moment.

“Modern Practical Joinery” by George Ellis. I recommend this book for anyone doing restoration on architectural woodworking. Not as good as Hasluck, but at least it’s in print.

“Modern Cabinet Work” by Percy A. Wells & John Hooper. A recent reprint; it’s not as good as Bernard Jones, but it’s worth having.

“Dictionary of Woodworking Tools” by R. A. Salaman. Anyone who is even remotely interested in tools should have this book.

“Illustrated Cabinetmaking” by Bill Hylton. A (relatively) new book. I think the drawings are great and it covers a lot of modern-built stuff.

“Japanese Woodworking Tools” by Toshio Odate. The only book on Japanese tools in English worth having. It’s a classic. It explains tons of stuff, and I’ve had a hardcover edition since it came out.

“How to Construct Rietveld Furniture” by Reter Drijver and Johannes Niemeijer. If you like modern furniture that’s easy to build, you can’t go wrong here. It features 1920s modern furniture from the original drawings of a great designer. Simple, classic stuff. The stuff is a lot more comfortable than it looks.

Out of Print and Odd Books

The following books are out of print or expensive, but I think they are some of the best around for their respective subjects. I’ve left off a lot of favorites that are better known, such as Andre Roubo’s works, and included books that I found important to me , even if they’re not directly woodworking related. (I could generate another, different list: the most important books in the history of woodworking. And another list: the most important books on historical woodworking practice.)

“Building the Georgian City” by James Ayres. A tour-de-force that puts the entire construction and woodworking of the period in context.

“China at Work” by Rudolf P. Hommel. Really interesting from an anthropological point of view.

“The Complete Woodworker, Vol. 1” and “The Practical Woodworker, Vol. 2” by Bernard Jones. Probably the best books on hand tool practice out there. A recent reprint is out of print, but easy to get. Volume 1 is essential. Volume 2 is nice to have.

“Notes from the Turning Shop” and “Further Notes from the Turning Shop” by Bill Jones. Fun-to-read books that are very inspiring and can teach you a lot about getting stuff done. Jones is the last of the professional ivory turners and knows what he is doing.

“The Woodwright’s Shop” by Roy Underhill. Roy was a big inspiration for me.

“Marquetry” by Pierre Ramond. A fabulous book on marquetry. Not a great book for beginners, but it features tons of how-to details on advanced subjects.

“Watchmaking” by George Daniels. One of the best books on craft ever written. It makes you want to build a watch.

“Carpentry and Joinery” by Paul Hasluck. The best book ever written on architectural woodworking.

“Woodwork Joints,” “Tools for Woodwork,” “Carpentry for Beginners,” “Cabinetry for Beginners,” “Antique or Fake?” and “English Period Furniture” by Charles H. Hayward. Everything by Hayward is worth reading. These books are the core of everything you need to know about woodworking.

“Adventures in Wood Finishing” by George Frank. Well, it doesn’t really belong on this list but I enjoy reading and rereading this book all the time.

“Memories of a Sheffield Toolmaker” by Ashley Iles. Interesting historically, and especially inspirational and helpful if you are yourself starting a small business.

“The Museum of Early American Tools,” “A Reverence for Wood,” and “Diary of an Early American Boy” by Eric Sloane. These books were very informative and helped kick off my interest in history and woodworking when I was a boy, and they’re still engaging today. Wonderfully illustrated.

“In Praise Of Shadows” by Jun’ichir? Tanizaki. I first read this book when I was in my 20s and thought it xenophobic, but when I met Toshio Odate many years later he said I should reread it. I did, and I think it is one of the greatest written appreciations of craft and how it calms our lives that there is.

– Joel Moskowitz

5 thoughts on “Joel Moskowitz’s Favorite Books

  1. Jim Tolpin

    My all-time favorite/most influential (on me) book: The Wheelwright’s Shop by George Sturt. Written by the grandson of the last owner of the last working wagon and wheel shop in England (closed in mid 1930’s). Incredible insights not just into the tools and the ways of working wood with handtools, but also into the mindset and work life of the pre-industrial woodworker.

  2. rfrancis

    The problem is that James Ayres is a ‘damn yankee’ who lived in England and directed the American Museum in Bath. Wonderful museum, nice man and excellent scholar.
    You should also look at Colin Amery’s Period Houses and their details (1974) which is full of great drawings and not forget John Summerson’s Georgian London, the masterpiece on the subject.

  3. Stanton Ray

    I heartily second the choices of Roy Underhill’s ‘Woodwright’s Shop’ and Geo. Daniel’s ‘Watchmaking’ The latter will improve you even if you never make watch.

  4. Gary Roberts

    Joel

    A great list. I’ve been researching out-of-print woodworking books for the past year so it’s good to see what someone who is very knowledgeable of the field thinks.

    "Building the Georgian City" is a new one to me and now on my ‘buy’ list.

    Thanks, Gary

  5. Chuck Nickerson

    This book-list idea is great (just ordered four from Joel’s list), but you’re spreading them out. I accidentally discovered Kari’s list on the PW blog. How about a central repository?

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