Update: The books are sold out in our store. Both Lee Valley and Tools for Working Wood should soon have limited quantities available (keep your eyes peeled on their web sites). Given the surprisingly quick sell-through (many thanks for that), we may do another small run…but I’m not yet sure. Stay tuned. — Megan
I’ve put my neck on the line with our newest offering – a soup-to-nuts reprint of “The Practical Woodworker” four-volume set edited by Bernard Jones (circa 1915).
There was no question that the material was worth reprinting – because while no one book (or set of books) is truly comprehensive, this one comes pretty close when it comes to covering all things woodworking, particularly hand-tool woodworking (at 1,600+ pages, it should!).
But I insisted that the quality of the books match the information inside, and that they be printed and produced entirely within the United States. I wanted them to look and feel as much like the original as possible – hardbound with a cloth cover, foil-stamped, a Smythe-sewn binding (not only does that last; it stays open on your bench), striped headbands, acid-free paper (that, by the by, is an improvement over the original) etc. And to produce this new set, we had to cut the pages from my vintage books to get high-quality scans – I wasn’t about to replace my nice-looking set with inexpensively produced copies with a glued binding and paper cover.
It took a lot of discussion and cajoling, but I got it.
Now, I’m delighted to announce that “The Practical Woodworker” four-volume set is available in our store…and I hope you’ll agree the end results are worth it. (If you don’t, I’m in trouble.)
So yes – the books look good and will last more than a lifetime; but it’s what’s inside that truly matters. Jones says it better than can I, so I’ll just quote the beginning of his introductory chapter:
“‘The Practical Woodworker’ is believed to be the most comprehensive and exhaustive book yet published on practical woodworking. And yet it does not attempt to give every detail of every aspect of woodworking, because only a library of books could do that. But it does attempt so to instruct the reader as to make it possible for any person, even for one who has never even seen a plane or driven a nail, to be able from this book alone to make any ordinary piece of woodwork by sound craftsman-like methods. The book assumes scarcely anything on the reader’s part, and it omits nothing essential. It leads the beginner forward, step by step, from simple and elementary tool processes to the construction of difficult and advanced pieces of work. Not only that, for every craftsman, no matter how expert, can learn something from its pages.”
And here’s a link to download a scanned copy of his entire introduction (which I had to produce on the copy machine, because the printer PDFs are so large that I can’t down-sample them enough to serve via our blog):
Jones was an excellent editor (who is perhaps best-known for his “Freemason’s Guide and Compendium”), but he wasn’t a woodworker. He relied on experts in various fields of woodworking for the information; his job was to make it easy to read and simple to understand. And it is – every topic is heavily illustrated with photographs and line drawings that make it easy to make sense of the words. Below, you’ll find scans of the table of contents for each volume (click on each to make it large enough to read).
We’re offering the “The Practical Woodworker” set for $85 (and note that is available only from us and from select partners; e.g. check with Lee Valley north of the 49th parallel), and we ordered only in limited quantity. I don’t know if we’ll go back to press with these same production specifications. If the sets don’t sell out, we’ll likely offer individual volumes for $25 each – but there’s no guarantee we’ll have those available (and If we do, I may have to buy them myself and store them in my cubicle to stay out of trouble). And if these do sell out, I have excellent evidence that well-made books are worth the extra cost and trouble (assuming the information inside is equally solid). If you agree, please click here to add “The Practical Woodworker” to your woodworking library.
p.s. If you _are_ going to place an order, please do it through this blog post…I get brownie points. Which I will spend on bourbon. Oh – and at right is my favorite page among the many…I’m sure you can guess why.