In Chris Schwarz Blog, Required Reading, Woodworking Blogs

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Our bookstore got a lot
bigger this week – more than 500 new titles. And we didn’t just fill it
with junk. Publisher Steve Shanesy has been working for the last few
months on selecting the best books and DVDs from a variety of publishers
(even our competitors).

If you’ve been to a bookstore lately,
you’ve probably been disappointed at the woodworking section. Heck, at
my local Borders they’ve started mixing the woodworking titles in with
the decorating books. That’s genius.

Yesterday I got a chance to
browse through all the books we’ve added, and I think Steve did a really
good job. Even though he’s a professional woodworker with a power-tool
bent and a soft spot for contemporary furniture, he’s no fool. He picked
some great books for the hand-tool traditionalist such as myself. Here
are five books that are new to our store that I’m particularly excited

The Book of Shaker Furniture
By John Kassay
woodworker who likes Shaker design should own this foundation book.
Yes, it’s expensive, but it delivers the goods on all levels. The
information is outstanding, the binding is superb and the printing job
and paper are excellent. Whenever I’m looking for inspiration on basic
forms, this is one of the books I crack open first. Kassay filled this
book with black-and-white photos and detailed line drawings of many
Shaker masterpieces. The book is organized for woodworkers (not for
academics), with sections on tables, chairs and the like. Heck, I even
like the interior design of the book, with its uncluttered and
almost-Spartan page layouts. It suits the furniture.

Masterpieces of Shaker Furniture
By Edward Deming Andrews & Faith Andrews
say you are too parsimonious (cheap) to shell out the money for John
Kassay’s book. Or perhaps you don’t quite trust my recommendation. Well
at least buy “Masterpieces of Shaker Furniture.” The Andrews were some
of the first champions of Shaker furniture and objects, and they had
access to pieces that are under lock and key now. There’s also a chapter
on the under-appreciated Western Shaker forms. For less than $10 it’s
hard to go wrong here.

The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge
By Roy Underhill
is Roy Underhill’s latest book, and in my opinion, it is his best. Why?
Part of it is the line drawings, which were made by Roy’s daughter
Eleanor. They give the book a classic feel that photos cannot deliver.
But the real reason I like this book (I read it for the first time in
two days) is the way that Roy starts the book in the woods with a tree
being felled, and then organizes each chapter around a traditional
craftsman. In each subsequent chapter the tools and operations become
more complex (on up to the cabinetmaker), but the central theme – that
every operation is done with a wedge and an edge – flows through all the
woodwork. While Roy is known primarily for his TV work, he is a gifted
writer and storyteller.

Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings
By Aldren A. Watson
always wanted to be an illustrator. Perhaps in another life. Until
then, I think we should all live vicariously through Aldren A. Watson,
who is a woodworker, a fine writer and an illustrator of enormous
talent. If you’ve ever wanted to give a woodworker a book that will fire
their interest in hand work, this is the one I recommend. With more
than 450 line drawings, Watson introduces the reader to all the
important hand tools in the shop and shows you how to use them. The
drawings are so good that you don’t even need to read the text to learn
the skills. In my book, Watson is the modern-day Charles Hayward, who
set the standard for woodworking writing and illustrating in the 20th

Country Furniture
By Aldren A. Watson
book is a nice companion to Watson’s “Hand Tools: Their Ways and
Workings” above. While “Hand Tools” focuses on the details of the tools,
“Country Furniture” focuses on the techniques, the objects being made
and the makers. Watson romanticizes (in a good way) the woodworker of
the pre-industrial Americas and shows how simple tools and techniques
were used to make the furniture that today commands crazy prices
compared to the more “refined” British stuff. In many ways this book is
like James Krenov’s books for traditionalists – any time I require
inspiration about the craft, this is the book I turn to.

— Christopher Schwarz

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Bob Jones

    Stupid question – what is the best book with plans for furniture like the chest of drawers in The Jointer and Cabinet Maker? I like that simple style, but it looks more robust than Shaker plans that I have seen.
    Assume I do not know what I am talking about.

  • Anthony

    I have to agree with Dean, my wallet is painfully empty and my credit card is screaming to be used for this. I do though have Aldren Watson’s book (it was probably the first woodworking book I bought) and it’s on my list of "must keep" books. The illustrations are lovely and more useful then photos in this case.

  • Dean

    Okay, quit tugging at my wallet! I agree with the comments on the "Hand Tools" book. In fact I prefer his drawings to photographs.

  • Ron

    Oh lordy this sounds expensive. But I’m game.

    Does sound painfully similar to Astronomy books; they get mixed in with the Astrology books. It’s a crime.

  • Michael

    Hi Chris,

    Since I’m close to the shop, is it possible to come by and take a look at the books and to buy from the shop?


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