Go: Intro Hand Tools Main Page | Table Of Contents
References are normally listed at the end, but I want to give credit where credit is due and show you where you can go for more information. I've distilled things into primary and secondary references below, in roughly chronological order.
All of the individual images are links taking you to a source where you can buy the item online. I earn a small commission from sales as a referring site. But more importantly, the authors and associated people who put time and effort into them, and who are trying to earn a living from them, are rewarded for their efforts. Without their hard work, this information might have been lost. By supporting them, you enable them to produce more.
These are the sources I've learned from over the past 4 years. I continue to learn from them as I progress and go back to re-evaluate them.
Primary references are the ones I feel provide the best instruction for the beginner trying to learn the fundamental techniques. Secondary references provide supplementary information or are good substitutes if the primaries aren’t available.
The books range from reprints of centuries-old historical works through early- and mid-20th century to contemporary. That provides nice historical continuity and different perspectives. Some are no longer in print but are available used. Two nice recent trends are the digital publication of historical works in the public domain, and republication of out-of-print classics; these help make obscure or out-of-print materials accessible to the rest of us.
The online forums listed on my links page are an excellent additional resource. You can dig through huge treasure troves of knowledge, and post questions to a wide base of fellow woodworkers. Just be prepared for the occasional stormy rough and tumble of conflicting opinions!
These aren't the only worthwhile references. They just happen to be the ones that I own and think are good for getting started. There are many other good books and videos available; I don't mean to imply that they're not useful by their absence here.
Of the contemporary authors, I'm most partial to Chris Schwarz and Roy Underhill. Chris' work has completely transformed my hobby, and he got me to pay attention to people like Roy, who's been out there waving his arms at us for nearly 30 years.
Occasionally you'll see some pretty baldly-stated opinions about what works and what doesn't, especially in the forums. I always take anything that claims to be "the best method" or "the only method worth knowing" with a grain of salt. There are also opinions of the "that just doesn't work" type, even when someone has been doing perfectly fine using it.
There are many ways to do the same things. That's why it's good to use multiple sources. In addition, each teacher has a different emphasis and presentation. Details that might not be apparent in one may show up better in another.
That also answers the question, "If these books and videos are so good, why are you doing your own version?" I have my own interpretations to offer, skewed to the beginner, since I was only recently a rank novice myself. I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I know enough to get people going and spread the knowledge.
I like to know the variety of options available. Then I can select the one I feel is most appropriate to the situation, given the tools available. As a hobbyist, I'm also free to try a method purely on whim, without deadline pressure or the need to earn a living from it. I may or may not decide to continue using it.
Keep an open mind. You never know when a method you've previously rejected may be the only way you can get a particular job done.
|The Essential Woodworker, by Robert Wearing, 1990, republished 2010. Covers basic skills with exercises, then goes through the techniques of table, carcase, and drawer/box construction.|
|The Complete Dovetail, by Ian Kirby, 1999. Covers a progression of dovetail styles with detailed drawings and photos. Also covers basic stock preparation, with good advice on practicing techniques.|
The Woodwright's Apprentice, 1996
The Woodwright's Guide, 2008, by Roy Underhill. The two most recent companion books to the long-running PBS series "The Woodwright's Shop", and I believe the most practical of them for someone learning hand tool skills. Apprentice contains a number of projects that start using basic techniques and work up from there. Building them in order would constitute a fairly complete course in woodworking. Guide is a spectacular detailing of skills from the felling of trees through a variety of fine joinery. While the initial raw timber processing may not be of use to most readers, the rest of the book is extremely useful. Rather than projects, it focuses on the individual techniques.
|Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings, by Aldren A. Watson, 2002. A superbly illustrated and detailed compendium of hand tools showing basic usage, including a chapter on sharpening a variety of items.|
|Working With Handplanes, by the editors of Fine Woodworking, 2005. A collection of articles on setup and usage, including specialty planes, spokeshaves, and scrapers.|
|Success With Joints, by Ralph Laughton, 2005. Covers a range of joints with detailed photos.|
Magazine Back Issues
Videos and CDs
|Handplane Basics, by Christopher Schwarz, 2009. A followup to Coarse, Medium, and Fine (see below) that does a better, more focused job of showing basic handplane usage. His best video, this one really distills it down to essence.|
The Three Kinds of Saw Cuts, by Christopher Schwarz, Lee Valley/Veritas Woodworking Newsletter Vol. 1, Issue 5, July 2007. Details third- through first-class saw cuts, the coarse, medium, and fine of sawing, as Schwarz originally read in Robert Wearing's The Essential Woodworker.
Coarse, Medium, and Fine, by Christopher Schwarz, 2008. Distinguishes between handplanes as coarse, medium, and fine tools. This first crystallized the proper setup and order of use of bench planes for me.
Sharpening Plane Irons and Chisels, by Christopher Schwarz, 2008. Details sharpening with jigs and waterstones. While I now use India stones without a jig, this was the article that finally set me on the road to good sharpening.
How to Clean a Saw
Saw Filing--A Beginner's Primer
The How's of Setting Saws
by Pete Taran. Restoring and maintaining hand saws, from his Vintage Saws Library of Fine Tool Journal articles.
Sharpening Part 1: Plane Irons
Sharpening Part 2: Flattening Stones, Notes on Chisels and Re-establishing the Primary Bevel
Videos with Deneb Puchalski of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks using waterstones and jigs.
Saws Part 1: Techniques and Sharpening a Rip Saw
Saws Part 2: Sharpening a Cross Cut Saw and Setting Saw Teeth>
Saws Part 3: Jointing, Care & Maintenance>
Videos with Tom Lie-Nielsen of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.
Shoulder Planes Part 1: Setup
Shoulder Planes Part 2: Use and Care
Videos with Angie Kopacek of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.
Sharpening A Cabinet Scraper , by Dougal Charteris. Video showing a simple and effective method. This was what finally enabled me to get shavings from a scraper.
|The Art Of Joinery, by Joseph Moxon, with commentary by Christopher Schwarz, 1678, republished 2008. Schwarz describes this as the earliest English-language book on woodworking. He does a nice job of bringing the presentation up to date for contemporary readers. Moxon is sometimes criticized because he wasn't actually a woodworker, and he made some technical mistakes. But what I find most fascinating is that over 330 years later, the tools and methods described are still used.|
|Planecraft, by C.W. Hampton and E. Clifford, 1934, republished 1959 and 1997. Apparently originally published by the Record tool company, covers some history, basic setup and usage, as well as use of specialty and combination planes.|
The Woodwright's Shop, 1981
The Woodwright's Companion, 1983
The Woodwright's Work Book, 1986
The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop, 1991, by Roy Underhill. The earlier companion books to the "The Woodwright's Shop". These range all over a variety of traditional woodworking skills.
|Japanese Woodworking Tools, by Toshio Odate, 1984, republished 1998. While I'm not using Japanese tools or methods here, this excellent book is one of the few covering them.|
|Practical and Decorative Woodworking Joints||Practical and Decorative Woodworking Joints, by John E. N. Bairstow. Quickly moves past beginner stage, but describes a number of joints, including several intricate Japanese styles. Something to work up to.|
|Understanding Wood, by R. Bruce Hoadley, 2000. The encyclopedia of wood technology.|
|The Seven Essentials of Woodworking, by Anthony Guidice, 2001. While this has excellent information, it also has some strong opinions. Guidice uses German bowsaws rather than English saws.|
|Tool-Making Projects for Joinery and Woodworking, by Steve A. Olesin, 2005. A nice collection within the range of the beginner.|
|Made By Hand, by Tom Fidgen, 2009. Some basic instruction, building a Krenov-style trestle sawhorse, followed by a number of very nice contemporary projects. And his pile of books sure looks a lot like mine!|
|Coarse, Medium, and Fine, by Christopher Schwarz, 2005. An expansion of the concepts covered in the article by the same name, demonstrating handplane usage.|
|Building Furniture With Hand Planes, by Christopher Schwarz, 2007. Setup and use of handplanes building a small Shaker cabinet.|
How To Make Woodwork Tools, by Charles H. Hayward, c1945. Available as a free download from Toolemera Press. Another nice selection of toolmaking projects within the range of the beginner.
The Woodwright's Shop, videos with Roy Underhill. Several recent seasons of the program. While his presentation can seem haphazard, he crams an enormous amount of incredibly valuable information into a short time. Try to keep up!