'Exercises in Wood-Working' Book, Enhanced PDFs and more | Popular Woodworking Magazine
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Just about every week, someone asks Chris, “How can I get started in working with hand tools?” Sure, there’s a lot of information on the Internet…¦not to mention in our magazine, in other magazines and books, and on this blog and others. But it can be difficult to sort through the scads of information (some of it contradictory) and pick out what you need. That’s why we’re particularly pleased that we are reprinting a classic but little-known book: “Exercises in Wood-Working,” by Ivin Sickels.

First published in 1889 and written to educate college students in the woodworking craft and business, “Exercises in Wood-Working” is an excellent introduction to period hand tools , most of which are still used today. After a fascinating chapter on wood, wood pests and the process of milling lumber, the book teaches you the most essential woodworking operations , how hand tools and wood interact , and takes you through all the basic skills you need to build furniture. It is well-organized, beautifully illustrated and easy to digest.

So now Chris has a simple answer for the question: Get “Exercises in Wood-Working,” do the 39 exercises and practice. Then practice some more. The book is available now for pre-orders; it’s expected to ship at the end of August, and until then, is 20 percent off the retail price of $17.99.

Chris has also recorded a series of short video lessons (about 12-15 minutes each) to accompany the book’s exercises, and we’re presenting three of them right now as “enhanced PDF” downloads. What that means is, we’ve embedded the video with the text in one document, so you can read the words, study the pictures, then watch while Chris demonstrates how to correctly hold the relevant tool and performs the exercise. Available now are “Use of the Chisel: Part1,” “Use of the Chisel: Part 2” and “Use of the Gouge,” and we’ll have more videos coming soon. (The first eight videos are also being collected on a DVD; it should be ready to ship at the end of August.)

To have a little fun with it, and to pick up on the idea of instruction from the past, we recorded these videos with an old-timey feel (OK , 1950s or so) , it’s the only time I’ve seen Chris in a tie. And he’s wearing it under an apron. I’ll have to don a shirtwaist dress with a big skirt just, and dig out my high-heeled pumps and pearls to fit in (that’s appropriate shop wear, right?).

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 23 comments
  • Dean

    Well, I look at it this way. I downloaded the 30MB pdf, and it is as stated, a “photocopy” of the original book. You can search text. However, I noticed that the navigation panel only has a thumbnail of all the pages and not a go-to index as some documents do. Also, table of contents and the index do not have hot links that allow you to click and go to that page.

    I personally don’t like to look at a “book” in a vertical linear way by scrolling or paging down. I much prefer a printed book that I can carry with me and quickly go to the index if I want to look up a particular item. I prefer my thumb and fanning through the pages of a printed book. If you want to print out a page for the shop, then open the pdf and print the page based on the page number in the book.

    Some of the comments indicated that they would get this pdf printed out. I’ve had several pdf documents printed out and for more than the cost of the book ($17.99), with a similar number of pages, I got a coil bound book printed out on copy paper. Certainly not the caliber of a hardbound book, and not the nice cover the PW book has.

    Of course the book now costs $14.40 until August 31 so I see no reason to get a second class (third?) print job for more than the list price of the book at Kinko’s or some other such service. For me I will have the pdf and the hardbound “cleaned” copy of the book (see Megan’s comment). The DVD’s would be a bonus.

    And, no I am not affiliated in anyway with Popular Woodworking nor do I personally know any of the editors. This is just my take based on what I’ve read here and my experience with pdf documents and printed books.

  • Any ideas to offer this as an e-book? I would be interested in purchasing such a downloadable version.

  • Megan

    Ha – we must have hit "enter" at the same time – thanks for the link Rob!

  • Megan

    Rob – I’m trying to find that picture — but "Exercises in Wood-Working" is 158 interior pages…so what is this book of which you speak (it must be a different period tome)? I’d love to reprint that, too, if simply for the excuse to make my boss dress like that embarrassing picture of my brother taken Easter 1972…

  • Rob Young

    OK, not paying attention to where I end up after playing clicky-monkey on the Google Books page. This is the book with the sailor suit (not suite either) kiddo:



  • Rob Young

    So, how come you dressed Chris up with a white shirt, tie and apron when instead you could have dressed him in a little-boy sailor suite like the chap in figure 658 (page 471) of the Google Books copy?

    Short pants and all!

  • Mike

    You know, first it was the "dressed up" version of Chris and now Pomade-slathered Chris. It was almost enough to compel me to avoid the book.

    Yes, it is available for free all over the internet. I, however, hate trying to printout items of value to me. They end up in a 3-ring notebook I rarely try to actually refer to. I prefer books and at the price Chris & Co. want for it? Well, it was an easy decision. Well worth having the bugger to take along with me.

    All our best to The Team. High Heels or not.

  • megan

    Yes, the text is in the public domain. But, we’ve cleaned up the type where it was hard to read, and of course, this one is hardcover, in a cloth binding as close to the original as we could manage – and printed in the U.S. (and of course, has a book jacket with CS in a tie…and a lot of pomade).

  • Asher

    For the folks looking for an electronic copy, there’s a much smaller PDF (or ePub, if you want) file available for download from Google Books:


  • Bruce Meikle

    FWIW, there’s a PDF of the book here:
    It’s almost 30MB. They also have Kindle and epub versions.
    Archive.org has a good selection of historical public domain woodworking books, all nicely scanned, all free.

    Of course, they have zero Chris-in-a-tie content. That costs money. (I hope he includes tie-tying instructions on the videos.)

  • Ed Furlong

    I second the idea of a combined Book/DVD version–I really liked that setup when using "The Unplugged Workshop" in my shop; bring down the book, pull the DVD from the handy little slipcase in the back cover, plug it into the laptop (handily present on the bench), open the text and DVD to the same information, try the technique and review–a great way to figure things out! This approach really appeals to my style of learning.

    If this kind of change can be accommodated at this point in production process (or at least a combo Book/DVD deal), it could prove to be a real winner.


  • Rob

    I have dipped into this book before at:


    where it is available foc for reading online, albeit without the fancy dress!

  • Megan


    I don’t _think_ we have plans to offer the book in its entirety as a PDF, simply because it was scanned from the 1889 original (after which we cleaned up some of the hard-to-read text and images). That means every page is an image file, and thus it would be a huge PDF, not suitable for download.

  • Megan


    The book and the DVD are separate – I’m sorry that’s unclear. I’ll ask the sales staff to work on that as soon as they can.

  • David

    Any chance of this book being available in PDF form?

  • dave ball

    So is the book going to have the video DVD with it, or is that a separate purchase? The desc. in the bookshop is not clear to me.


  • LizPf

    Megan, you need to wear pedal pushers with a camp shirt, and Keds. The apron of course, and never forget the lipstick!

  • Mike Siemsen

    Don’t forget your apron, Maybe you could also remake the Donna Reed Show.

  • John Doe

    Yes Megan that sounds right, we’ll be waiting for head to toe photos/videos.

  • Megan

    Right- so far, I’m batting 1,000. That’s fixed, too. Thanks!

  • The link to the first download "Use of the Chisel: Part 1" is broken.

  • Megan

    Thank you Dean. I added the "f"

  • Dean

    So the book is going to cost $3.60? I’m guessing that you want an extra "f" in the following "…and until then, is 20 percent of the retail price of $17.99.". i.e. "off" instead of "of".


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