The Oldwolf Library

This will be a list of the woodworking and related subject books I own, ones that have inspired me and helped me along the path. They will include a brief description and review. There are several wants that I will add to another list here, so if anyone feels like buying me a Christmas present. . . :)  Books are presented roughly in the order that I acquired them.

I will admit that when I first started into woodworking I was so hungry for information that I would pick up any book that seemed to work for what I was thinking about at the time. I have had several buys that in retrospect, I probably would have though twice about. In recent years I have become quite a bit more discerning, the real truth is that I have become a little disenchanted with most woodworking publications lately. There is just entirely too much reprinting of the same old stuff, over and over. I find "Fine Woodworking" and Taunton Press to be one of the worst offenders in this. I think my biggest issue is that most books are about basics and beginners guide type stuff, and they were good for a certain time in my learning, but I have grown up a little and I'm having some trouble finding books that document and teach techniques for the intermediate to advanced group. There are some, just not as many as I would like to choose from.

It occurs to me that a rating system of some device would be useful. Books will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 hammers, 1 being the lowest and 5 being the best possible, It should be understood that this rating is solely my opinion.

"Fast and Easy Techniques for Building Modern Cabinetry" by Danny Proulx
2 out of 5 Hammers

This was indeed one of the first dedicated woodworking books I ever purchased, I was looking for help building some custom cabinets for the bathroom I was remodeling. This book did give me the basics of how to put one together, but I have to admit that even back in the beginning I was a little disappointed because most of the techniques in the book call for the use of particle-board, press-board, and melamine, not solid wood construction. The only thing I have every truly used the book to specifically teach me was a process for making raised door panels on the table saw.      

"Joinery Basics" by Sam Allen
4 out of 5 Hammers

A great beginners book and something I still refer back to from time to time to get ideas. I love crafting joinery, it's my favorite part of making sawdust, and this book may be one of the reasons for that. When I was trying to teach myself to cut dovetails, I pretty much memorized that chapter of this book, though it was over my head at the time. It has a complete list of all the proper "Dovetail Rules" that I have learned to mostly ignore since then. (Dovetails took a long time to make sense to me and it wasn't until I read Frank Klausz's "Final Word on Dovetails" from Oct 2005 Pop Woodworking Mag that I stopped taking them so seriously and figured it out) Overall this is a great book that covers making any basic joints using both power and hand tool techniques.

"Tools and Techniques" by Handyman Club of America
2 out of 5 Hammers

For a brief time I flirted with being a member of the Handyman Club of America, honestly I have never been much of a "join the crowd" kind of guy. I'm not even sure if I ever actually paid a due, though I received magazines and as a prospective new member, I received the gift of this book. The book is very much the standard beginners fare, with basic techniques for using basic tools with a couple of tricks added in. All in all a lot of information coupled with a lot of pics, in a "time life books" style.  It wasn't bad for me to have at the beginning, and the fun thing is that there is a list in the first few pages of the book that equates a "handyman's" skill level with the tools they own, or are proficient in,

 Being a little competitive at times I used to look at this list and gauge where I stood in the Lexicon of Handymen. Looking at it again now I guess I need a Hammer Drill, a Dust Collection System, and a Scroll Saw before I can move up into the big leagues. (Shhh. nobody tell the club that I've snuck a few of the advanced items into the shop before getting clearance)

"Renovating Old Houses" by George Nash
3 out of 5 Hammers

Not necessarily strictly a woodworking book, but an important part of my journey, as my introduction to sawdust began with the desire to remodel and renovate a century old house we owned at the time. This book is just packed with information on what to expect to find in older homes, and how to fix, replace, or improve on older construction. It was a big help to me at the time, and it is kind of nice to have in the collection for the occasional reference, and if I ever get hired for a built in in an older house (god forbid)

"The Very Efficient Carpenter" by Larry Haun
3 out of 5 Hammers

Purchased at the same time as the Renovating Old Houses book, again it followed along with learning more to help with remodeling our old house. This one helped cover basic framing and construction. but the best thing this book impressed upon me was the concept of finding efficient ways of working so you can accomplish more faster. Cutting things in production, planning for efficiency ahead of time, and other cool concepts that can definitely cross over into the world of woodworking. A much more readable book than others on the subject, I actually read all of this one instead of just referring to the area I needed  at the time.

"The Complete Deck Book" by The Editors of Sunset Books
4 out of 5 Hammers

Along with remodeling and renovating, we decided to build a big deck onto the back of the house. This book is beat to hell because it lived with me while this project was on going and it gave me all the information I needed to get this job done. Lots of ideas and options, as I painstakingly drew out plan after plan this book answered all the questions I had. If its possible to over plan something, I did that building this deck, I had it planned out almost to the pattern for placing the screws.

"Basic Carpentry Illustrated" by The Editors of Sunset Books
3 out of 5 Hammers

My mother found a decent pair of books at a rummage sale for me, this was one of them. Its a good, basic book with basic carpentry techniques, it is early seventies publication, but this type of info never really changes except there is no mention of a air nailer. . . (my second favorite source of injury I get to see in the OR, my fist being band saw) If you find it at a rummage sale and need a primer on basic framing, buy it. otherwise it's probably OK to pass it up.The other book mom found was much better.

"Woodcarving Techniques and Projects" by James B Johnstone and The Editors of Sunset Books
3 out of 5 Hammers

The second of the rummage sale books from mom. This one was and is much more relevant to woodworking and I have referenced it many more times since I have gotten it. Some of the projects inside are a bit dated from the seventies, but there are some traditional ones represented as well. If anything the failing of this book is it tries to pack too much information into a very thin tome. In the end it has been my experience that woodcarving is something best learned hands on and experienced, It doesn't translate so well into words and still pictures

"Traditional Furniture Projects" by Various Authors from "The  Best of Fine Woodworking" Series
5 out of 5 Hammers

The purchase of this book represented a shift in my thinking from that of someone remodeling a house to someone very interested in learning to build furniture. This book was a great investment because it has a diverse selection of projects contained inside, from pencil post beds to chests to hutches to Windsor Chairs. Now that may sound like a lot but the projects are all covered very well in detail. In retrospect this book was very beyond my skills at the time, but sometimes we learn to swim best by jumping into the deep end, and I've always been someone to get in over my head and have to figure out how to get myself out of it.

"Ingenious Jigs and Shop Accessories" by Various Authors from "Essentials of Woodworking" series from Fine Woodworking
3 out of 5 Hammers

Along with making the conscious decision towards building furniture, I started to try to find books that would relate to a specific area of expertise that I felt like I needed. There were several things I wanted to accomplish in my building shop at this time and this book fit the bill. I think I have yet to actually build any of the jigs from this book, but that isn't necessarily from not wanting to, it ends up being a decision of priorities. Someday soon I will end up building the drill press table from this book, perhaps it's because I have never found anything imminent in this book that it rates only a middling 3 out of 5 Hammers with me.

"The Complete Guide to Home Storage" Published by Black and Decker
2 out of 5 Hammers

This book was a present from my parents after I did a kitchen build in project for them. This book is an OK book for the beginner woodworker, or someone who dabbles and is looking for different storage ideas for in the house. I has some ambitious projects included, like a home entertainment center, which it covers completely in less than six pages, but most of the book is 50 plus ways to attach plywood together to make cabinets or bookshelves of various sizes.

"Complete Trimwork and Carpentry" Published by Stanley Tools
4 out of 5 Hammers

I purchased this book because I needed some additional advice on installing cove molding in a bathroom remodel and none of my other "how to" books covered it in sufficient detail for it to make sense to me. This is a pretty complete book of finish carpentry techniques and ideas which I'm sure to refer back to from time to time in the future. Not a necessity to accompany furniture construction, but it could come in more handy if I ever decide to take another built in commission.

"Constructing Medieval Furniture" by Daniel Diehl and "Medieval Furniture" by Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly
4 out of 5 Hammers

As you might guess, these books are right up my alley. I'm choosing to cover both books at once because, though they could stand alone, they are very nice as a companion pair. The authors have done a fairly good job of giving break downs, measured drawings, and pictures of wooden pieces, mostly from the 15th century, now as an amateur scholar on the subject, I do have some issue with calling this "Medieval" as 15th century would be considered early renaissance, and there are a few pieces that definitely sneak in under the door, I think mostly because they feel medievalish, (a "writing slope" dating from 1670). but those warts can be somewhat understood as there are very few wooden artifacts surviving from the true medieval era and most of what we have is represented in tapestry's and art of the time. I enjoy these books and the spirit they were created in.

"The Mastermyr Find: A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland" by Greta Arwidsson and Gosta Berg
5 out of 5 Hammers

In my eyes, this book is amazing. Now remember that I do Viking Age Living History Reenactment and have a small obsession with the Mastermyr Chest and the tools it contained. This book is basically the archeological report on the find, I could be wrong, but this is one of the earliest, if not THE earliest and most complete find of medieval tools (circa 10th Century), the find had both woodworking and metal working tools, (in my opinion a good selection for a shipwright) but the book completely details the find and the tools with descriptions and illustrations and pictures. Invaluable to me in my other hobby and one of the best books I own period. Though I admit it may not be as great for someone not as involved in Medieval history as I am, but hey, this is my list, go make your own!

"The Complete Guide to Sharpening" by Leonard Lee
5 out of 5 Hammers

I get the distinct feeling that Mr. Lee has probably forgotten more about sharpening than almost anyone else in the world knows. This book is so well done, beautiful and detailed pictures, a ton of good information, and really, really complete in it's coverage of the subject. The only possible caveat is the "scary sharp" method is not included, I refer to this book all the time, to refresh my memory on angles and techniques. If you are woodworking with any seriousness, hand tool, power tool, or hybrid style, you must own this book. Period.

"Practical Design Solutions and Strategies" by Various Authors from "Essentials of Woodworking" series from Fine Woodworking
3.5 out of 5 Hammers

A well done book with excellent advice on design characteristics, sizing your work to fit clients, and other important things that do help with creating pieces from scratch. The book is good and interesting, done in the usual manner of magazine style books, a collection of articles that have previously appeared in magazine. I bought this book when I decided I needed to take my woodworking more seriously and do some actual study and research into things. It really is an excellent introduction, though a bit brief, into the massive world of design in relation to making sawdust.

"Great Wood Finishes" by Jeff Jewitt
2.5 out of 5 Hammers

Another in a series of books trying to find a build a library of good basic reference material for taking woodworking seriously. Truthfully I have always had some issues with finishing, I think it can be a difficult thing. A little chemistry, a little alchemy, a little pixie dust, spin around in a circle three times and Tah Dah. . . it's a french polish. I still struggle from time to time, but this book did help me understand some. When I bought it, I thought it was pretty good and thorough, time has passed and I wish there was more to it, but it is a good basic start on explaining a variety of products and covering several techniques.

"The Handplane Book" By Garrett Hack
5 out of 5 Hammers

A beautiful book, a very cool combination of information on everything you probably wanted to know about planes, from collecting to rehabbing to using them, combined with great photography in abundance. You could literally set this book out on your coffee table and anyone, whether they harbor an interest in woodworking and tools or not, would enjoy looking at all the interesting shapes and artistry that has found it's way into these great tools. No other tool is so intimidating and complex while being beautiful and simple all at the same time. This book covers all those dimensions and more. I highly recommend buying this one.

"Shop drawings for Greene & Greene Furniture" by Robert W. Lang
4 out of 5 Hammers

I love arts and crafts style furniture. Joinery is my favorite process in woodworking and so I guess that makes sense since the joinery defines arts and crafts style. As I first started to really study furniture styles I founs there was a few levels in the arts and crafts heading, One for Stickley and his kin, and another level reserved for the Greene Brothers. If furniture were music, then the Greene and Greene's were writing Mozart. Their work is a step different and above other arts and crafts styles, elegant, with a mixture of simple and complex defined by the details in the work. They stand on their own and I would hazard a guess that their designs one of the top two styles that is listed as "borrowed from," "copied from," "stolen from" or "inspired by" other woodworkers today. Greene and Greene and Shaker dominate the forums. This tome offers very good measured drawings of a large number of pieces. It offers a history of the brothers and their work and a thorough breakdown of techniques used to recreate their work. A possible drawback to this work are that it is definitely written for the experienced woodworker and assumes a knowledge base that a beginner may not have. (I personally do not see this as a deterrent, I appreciate when a book assumes intelligence, but some beginner wood-wrights may disagree) The only disappointment to me is that there are several pieces that offer drawings with no photography of the original. Often it is the photography of the piece, showing me what it could be, that inspires me to apply tools to grain to attempt it's creation.

"Designing and Building Chairs" By Various Authors from "The New, Best of Fine Woodworking" Series. 
4 out of 5 Hammers

Chairs are kind of their own thing in the world of sawdust. They are, for me anyway, probably the most intimidating of projects. Ask me to build a table for you, wonderful, no problem, ask for chairs to sit around the table and I may ask you "Have you ever considered benches? I hear they're making a comeback."  Kidding aside I have made a chair or two but they are tricky, tricky beasts, straightforward joinery all set awry by multiple angles, and the big deciding factor that has me biting my nails . . . is it comfortable? Chairs are one of the biggest things I need to study much, much more before I embark on custom furniture as a career and purchasing this book was the start of my education. It has a great article to kick it off written by Sam Maloof (he is obviously pictured on the cover) and the information just keeps coming, covering well, like this style of book does, most of the aspects of this subject, giving you a base of knowledge and options for deeper study.

"Traditional Projects" by Various Authors from "The New, Best of Fine Woodworking" Series
4 out of 5 Hammers

Another excellent collection of articles spotlighting various "traditional" furniture projects. From beds to boxes and cabinets to benches to a few chairs, it tries to cover the broad gamete of what can be lovingly created from wood. The projects in this book are solid and timeless in their design and their usability shows in their repetition in similar books and magazine digest type publications. I am very happy with this book, I have paged through it over and over for ideas and plans. What I do tire of is seeing a magazine on the rack at Barnes and Nobles that reads. "20 furniture designs and ideas" only to open it and see the exact same articles. Maybe this is my own frustration but the repetition in the woodworking publishing community is really beginning to drive me to distraction. man has been forming items from wood, for better or worse, since the beginning of our existence on this planet, There has got to be more than 100 odd projects to write about. but I digress, if you are looking for a good book with a lot of general ideas and knowledge, you cannot go wrong with this one.

"Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar" by Johnathan Kinkead
4 out of 5 Hammers

I think that an important part of one's journey as a woodworker is to explore different areas of the craft early and often. I started teaching myself to play guitar when I was 16 (with the kick start from a good friend) by 17 I was sure I was destined to someday be a Rock God, the Eddie Vedder, singer/songwriter, flannel loving kind who would only write music about truth. I suppose we all harbor different illusions at different portions of our lives. I purchased this book while we were living in Maine for a short while. While we were there I spent a lot more time in my shop than I ever had before and I was thirsty for different ideas about what I could do. The book is excellent and exhaustive, covering all aspects of creating several different styles and building the skills needed to accomplish it. It even includes a fold out, full size plan. The thing that slowed me down at the time is that I decided it would be in my best interest to make my first build from a kit, and I couldn't raise the money for said kit at that moment in time. I am not sure if I will swerve back into this territory again myself, but that does not diminish the quality of this book for those looking for start on this interesting woodworking specialty.

"Building 18th Century American Furniture" By Glen Huey
5 out of 5 Hammers

Truly a excellent book, and there are several reasons I think so. One is that I am tired of seeing the same furniture built in the same magazines over and over again, (Popular Woodworking Magazine may be the biggest exception to that rule, is it any wonder that Glen Huey is an editor over there) and this book contains a selection of real quality furniture, that is often at a level and complexity that does not easily fit into the abbreviated medium of a magazine. Another is in the way it is written, I am not a beginning woodworker any longer, and I have trouble finding published materials that I feel are written for growth into the next level of woodworker. This book fills that bill, it speaks to me intelligently, like I should have a basic understanding, yet it is so complete in it's step by step process, in the breakdown of all the aspects and techniques needed to complete these projects, that I believe it would be completely accessible to an advanced beginner level as well. This one is high on my list! I highly recommend getting this one.

"Turning Wood: 3rd Edition" By Richard Raffan
4 out of 5 Hammers

I have played around with a lathe some in my past and I have always enjoyed it quite a bit. Not enough to go at it full time and put away regular furniture making, but it is a very, very satisfying process that is terribly unique from other woodworking operations. The total sum of my woodturning education came from watching Norm Abrams cover it on "The New Yankee Workshop" so we can fairly say my education in this is somewhat lacking. Thus, the purchase of this book. After paging through several different "learn to turn wood" books at the store I settled on this one. I felt like it was a good middle ground, that would cover basics I missed, and would still offer further advanced instruction after I got past reteaching myself the beginning. I bought this book around the same time I bought myself a new lathe after moving back to Wisconsin. As I write this, the lathe is still in the box, waiting to be set up and used and so this book has not been delved into in depth, but the day for setting up the new shop is coming soon and I'll be cracking this book more and more.

"77 One Weekend Woodworking Projects" and "The Woodworker's Shop" By Percy W Blandford
2 out of 5 Hammers

I forget why we had gone to Goodwill that afternoon, but I do remember that it occurred to me that I had never looked in the book section there specifically for woodworking titles. I saw both of these books for 2 dollars a piece on the shelf. I tossed them in the cart and they came home with me. It wasn't until I sat down at home to look at them that I even realized they were both from the same author. Later I did a Amazon search on the guy and came up with a bibliography of 74 items, now, I only glanced over the list and it's not all about woodworking, but man oh man is this dud prolific. (If you want to check out his author page on Amazon you can find it HERE)  This pair of books was published in the late 60's early 70's and honestly, they are barely interesting. Both in relation to projects and information. Anyone who can draw a line on a piece of paper can probably figure out how to design these projects on their own. But that is besides the point, there has to be space for this entry level type of book in this world, and Mr. Blandford, you are the godfather of "how to" books, and he's still writing them, and for that my hat is off to you. 

"Old School Woodshop Accessories" By Chris Gleason
2 out of 5 Hammers

This was a birthday present from my parents. My mom was disappointed when she got it because she ordered it online and felt mislead by the title. She knew I was working on learning hand tool techniques and starting to buy antique tools, and she thought this book would be a great companion to that process. The book is an interesting reprint of several projects from the old Deltagram woodworking magazine. The great granddaddy of the wood mags out these days, and from a historic perspective it is very interesting. My biggest problem is that the read-ability of this book is not great. The projects are broken up by images culled from the old Deltagram mags, but the images are not necessarily related to the upcoming project and though reading the old pages in the images is probably the most interesting thing in the book. It's like someone gave you two pages from the center of a good magazine article and threw away the rest, you get to the end of the page and it's over, middle of a paragraph, middle of a sentence, doesn't matter. If you were interested in what it was saying. . .  too bad, it's gone now. In my humble opinion, you can skip this one, no relation to hand tools at all, just really odd jigs for power tools. to sum it up, disappointing.

"The Joiner and Cabinet Maker" By Anonymous, Chris Schwarz, & Joel Moskowitz
5 out of 5 Hammers

This book was a revelation to read, some deep insight to the work of a joiner in the 1800's was a priceless learning experience for me at this stage in my development as a woodworker. Add on the bonus content of the accompanying DVD, and this book is one of the best investments I've made in woodworking for a long time. (If you have yet to buy this book, do get the version from Lost Art Press and pay the extra couple of dollars for the accompanying DVD, It's almost worth it all by itself) I did really debate about buying this book and if it would be a worthwhile thing, I mused for a few months before I pulled the trigger on it and I am glad I did. Oh and if your still on the fence about it, I have three words to offer that surprised and delighted me when I opened the package. What could those three words be?  !Complimentary Temporary Tattoo! Order it before they run out of these beauties.

"17th Century New England Carving" Video By Peter Follansbee
5 out of 5 Hammers

It is everything that you come to expect from Peter. Packed full of information and a detailed and thoughtful breakdown of every aspect of carving in his style. The patterns are broken down into simple steps and you are shown how to draw them out simply with a compass so you can adjust them for different width boards. In this video you are not just given a fish, as in here is two patterns you can carve if you do it this way, you are taught to fish, so you can take the lessons learned here and adapt them to other patterns and projects. I have found that since this video I look at carvings in a different way than I used to. I am not overwhelmed by the over all effect of them anymore because now I can see the different steps and stages that go into them, and in my mind I can start to break that down into a series of moves.

On the disk there are also a couple of .pdf's that can be printed out. One shows in full scale the impressions of the chisels used in the video, so even in the confusing world of carving chisel numbers and names, you can print the sheet off, take it into your friendly neighborhood woodworking store and score the same thing. There are other sheets that illustrate the starting moves for arches and a break down of the step of carving the pattern.