Chris Schwarz's Blog

Poll: You Can Have One Woodworking Book

We are
currently at work on our June 2011 issue, which we have dubbed “The
Bookcase Issue,” and it is the first jab at steering the magazine’s
content so that the articles relate to each other in obvious and
sometimes not-obvious ways – a la Woodworking Magazine, may she rest in peace.

that end, we are working on a couple articles for the issue that I
don’t want to say too much about because it will give it away to our
competitors, and I happen to be a bit of the Type A personality.

one of the articles, I’d like to ask your assistance. Just answer the
following question: If you could own only one woodworking book, what
would it be? You can make your choice based on sentimental or practical
factors. Maybe you like the pictures. Maybe you use it every day in the
shop. Perhaps it opened your eyes in some significant way. It can be a
book that’s in print or long out of print.

Simply post the title
of the book and the author as a comment below. You don’t have to say why
you like it, or why you chose it. You are welcome to do that, however.

So thanks in advance!

Oh, and to kick things off, here’s my pick: “Illustrated Cabinetmaking” by Bill Hylton.

— Christopher Schwarz

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97 thoughts on “Poll: You Can Have One Woodworking Book

  1. B Jackson

    Anyway, to continue my oversell job of last post, Guidice’s book did convey some real gems that might save somebody else some money if they are just starting out. One is, since you’re working dry, rather than green, wood, you don’t need a crosscut saw; a rip saw will do nicely and more efficiently. Another is, he’s puzzled, and frankly so am I, by the American failure to adopt the bow saw in place of the carpenter’s Western-style saw for furniture-making.

  2. B Jackson

    I know I’m way late, but my library is ….. scattered? Anyway, my vote would have gone to Anthony Guidice’s Seven Essentials of Woodworking. It’s pointed, blunt, which is why I suspect it never made anyone’s list, because it sounds like a lot of the Michigan “dutch uncles” to whom I was honorably forced to hear over and over till I tossed my cookies while I was growing up.

  3. Stephen V

    American Furniture of the 18th Century: History, Technique, and Structure by Jeffrey P Greene.

    This would be my choice for one book that is both inspirational – Newport style furniture, claw feet, mahogany for miles,and practical – hand cut dovetails, veneering, turning. You could take the construction techniques and joinery illustrated for 18th Century furniture and apply it to many other styles.


    1. sapfmgateway

      Yes! An amazing book by an amazing cabinetmaker. I was so impressed with American Furniture that I wrote Greene to tell him so. His gracious reply was encouraging and sincere.

  4. Kurt Schmitz

    Essential Woodworker – Wearing

    Close Second, though: Workbenches (D&T to C&U) – Schwarz.

    The first because, going forward, I’d need to as a reference. The second place vote gets cast for the book that inspired hand tool use, the building of my bench, work holding strategies, re-introduced me to vintage tools, etc. etc.

  5. Peter Baines

    1) The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery by Gary Rogowski

    2) Fine Art of Cabinet Making – Krenov

    3) The Impractical Cabinetmaker – Krenov (although i think he takes a pop at us lefties in this one, and certainly takes a pop at what he considers to be "Hobbiest")

    4) A Cabinetmakers Notebook – Krenov

    5) In the Shaker Style: Building Furniture Inspired by the Shaker Tradition Fine Woodworking

  6. John Cashman

    Wow, lots of votes for Tage Frid. His three volumes were among the first woodworking books I got, back when they first came out, and they still hold up really well. I had the good fortune to see him give demonstrations several times many years ago, and he was every bit as good an entertainer as a woodworker and teacher.

    It seems there are two categories here. The first is a practical, hands-on "how to" sort of book, while the second is a more philosophical, inspirational tome.

  7. Fred West

    Chris, I have virtually every book listed above but my new favorite is Spons on Carpentry and Joinery. I can’t believe all of the little things I am picking up in this book. I am actually treating as a reference book complete with highlighted passages. 31 years out of college but would have loved this book then as well. :o) Fred

  8. Jamie Bacon

    My vote goes for The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft by Roy Underhill. All of Roy’s books are great.
    Number 2 would be American Furniture of the 18th Century by Jeffrey Greene. Great book. Give’s a history of furniture styles from Jacobean to American Empire and everything in between. It also discusses quite a bit of technique and has some great pictures and measured drawings of pieces.

  9. Bill Melidones


    As a beginner the book I found to be irreplaceable is
    "Woodworking Basics, Mastering the Essentials of Craftsmanship" by Peter Korn. A book you recommended to me back 4-5 years ago when I first started.

    Now that I’ve been woodworking for a few years "Illustrated Cabinetmaking"


  10. Josh B

    The Essential Woodworker, Robert Wearing

    I’ve read it straight through and keep it out in the shop as a reference. I’ve found it contains the answer to just about any question I have about a hand technique.

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