David Mathias' Book List

When Senior Editor Robert W. Lang asked me to provide a list of my favorite woodworking books, I quickly agreed thinking it would be an easy assignment. That should have been the first clue that I was in trouble. But I didn’t catch on until I was sitting in front of the bookcase trying to cull the herd to a reasonable few.

Some readers may have noticed that I am partial to Greene & Greene. Really partial.  Unreasonably partial. Alright, obsessed. Consumed. You get the idea. So my first inclination was to simply list all of my books about the brothers and their work. That’s not really the spirit of the project, however, so I rejected that idea and decided to include just one. Which, of course, resulted in an increased sentence in front of the bookcase.

In the end, something approaching reason prevailed and I winnowed the candidates to a reasonable few. Those of you who are paying attention will note that Greene & Greene appear more than once. I broke my own edict. The thing about obsession is that it’s uncontrollable…

Greene & Greene, The Passion and the Legacy by Randell Makinson
This is the first Greene & Greene book I read. Though I was already very interested in their work, Randell’s beautiful book was a knockout punch. I was done for. Fantastic photos and descriptions. Works by Edward Bosley (Greene & Greene) or Bruce Smith (Greene & Greene: Masterworks) could have filled this spot as well but I have a sentimental attachment to “Passion.” Even if you don’t particularly like Greene & Greene, look through this book for the endless examples of first-rate craftsmanship.

Hand Applied Finishes by Jeff Jewitt
This is another first for me: my first book on finishing. As a home woodworker with a basement shop that has little ventilation, I don’t spray. Finishing is done with brushes or rags. Jeff’s book (and his web site) has helped me through more than one finishing quandary. His second book (“Great Wood Finishes”) is flashier but I return most often to this one.

Shop Drawings for Greene & Greene Furniture by Robert W. Lang
I first “met” Bob some years ago when I was planning to make a Stickley bow arm Morris chair. I’d discovered his Craftsman Plans web site and e-mailed to ask if he had a plan of the chair (I think I got the first set he printed). After that, we stayed in touch off and on. At some point I asked if he’d ever thought about adding a Greene & Greene book to his Shop Drawings series. Though Bob played it close to the vest, he had already thought of it. Fortunately, for all of us, he did more than think. The result is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to make a G&G piece.

The Handplane Book by Garrett Hack
Pure, unadulterated tool porn. Of course, I only read it for the articles. Before I’d ever held a plane that cost more than a McDonald’s value meal, I was a fan of this book. Gorgeous and informative are a formidable combination.

Hand Tool Essentials from The Editors of Popular Woodworking
This choice might seem like blatant pandering. I almost left it off of the list for that reason. But if Jack could choose Bobby for Attorney General then I should be safe in including this book. A collection of articles from about a decade of Popular Woodworking, “Hand Tool Essentials” is a fantastic resource. The list of authors reads like a who’s who so naturally, the information is top-rate. Though rather well known at this point, David Charlesworth’s ruler trick is worth the price of admission.

- David Mathias

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