In the early 1990s, Nick Engler and a team of woodworkers and designers took on an incredibly ambitious task: Create a series of how-to books that encompass all of woodworking, from the router to the router plane, table saw to scroll saw.
Called the “Workshop Companion” series and first published by Rodale Press, the 21 volumes were a huge hit with woodworkers. The books were, clear, concise, easy to read and (very important) free from dogma. That’s because Nick and his team embraced all aspects of the craft.
When I walked into my office on my first day of work at Popular Woodworking, this set of books was the first thing I saw. They were lined up on the shelves and served as the backbone of a basic reference library for editors and writers.
There have been many attempts to get the books back in print. But now Popular Woodworking has pulled it off by offering all 21 books on a single DVD for $69.99. These are more than just crappy scans of the books – the entire collection is searchable by word.
I’ve always been a big fan of Nick and Bookworks, the small publishing company he ran in southern Ohio. I was his editor when he wrote his “Ingenious Jigs” column for Popular Woodworking and I followed Nick and his wife, Mary Jane Favorite, as they built replicas of all the Wright Flyers (a crazy story that continues to this day).
In fact, if you’ve read Popular Woodworking magazine or its books during the last 20 years or so you have been exposed to a lot of Bookworks DNA. Linda Watts, the long-time art director for Popular Woodworking when I was there, was a designer for Bookworks. Mary Jane, another designer and illustrator for Bookworks, still creates the illustrations for the Tricks of the Trade column.
So I can personally vouch for the “Workshop Companion” series. If you are just getting into the craft or are looking to explore new parts of it, you won’t find a better place to start than by reading this series. And the price is a good deal – some volumes of the series go for $20 on eBay or Amazon.
To read more, or order a copy, visit ShopWoodworking.com.
— Christopher Schwarz