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The 10 Best Woodworking Books

As an apprentice furniture maker, I read everything I could get my hands on. After twenty years of reading woodworking books, here are the ten best.

List of books

  • The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov.

When I first read this book, I kept putting it down to go stare at my woodpile to see if I had what I needed to make one of his cabinets. Whatever you do, follow the instructions in this book and make at least one Krenov style hand plane. It is a good starter project with simple joinery and you get a great tool. I made my first one 15 years ago and it still works better than the best store-bought plane I have. If you want to get excited about woodworking, reading this book will do it.

  • Understanding Wood by Bruce Hoadley

While it looks like a textbook, it is accessible. Use this to learn how wood is going to move with changes in humidity. This is not the sexy part of woodworking, but if you use this information when you are building, your furniture will last.

  • Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking

A step-by-step guidebook to essential woodworking techniques (Bk. 1 amp; 2). This one is not for reading straight through but with it you will have your joinery. This book is indispensible when you are trying to find the right technique to join some confusing cabinet corner.

  • Instant Boats or Instant Boatbuilding with Dynamite Payson by Harold Payson

As of this writing, Abebooks.com had copies of each for less than ten dollars. Once you have your book, here is what you do. Go to Harold’s website. Order the plans for an Elegant Punt and build it. Instant boats have an entire chapter devoted to building the Elegant Punt. Learning curved case construction like this simple boat will set you up with some amazing techniques for other projects. I built this boat in two weekends and I love it. I take it fishing every weekend I can getaway.

  • Measure Twice Cut Once by Norm Abram

What better way to gain an insightful approach to woodworking than to consult with Master Craftsman, Norm Abram? Norm Abram is the Master Carpenter of Public Television’s This Old House and host of The New Yankee Workshop. Norm gives a guided, hands-on approach to teaching fine, traditional, wood craftsmanship. From his early apprenticeship days working alongside his father, and years of professional experience, Norm lends his readers the invaluable technical expertise needed to work with wood.

  • Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Woodworking by Lonnie Bird, Jeff Jewitt, Thomas Lie-Nielson, Andy Rae and Gary Rogowski

A visual feast for the eyes! Every conceivable woodworking topic is presented in full, colorful detail; and at 306 pages, the book has in-depth, content coverage of each of the topics as well. Chapters include basic woodworking skills such as cutting, sanding, or using cutting lines, to more advanced skills like means of dimensioning, shaping wood, joinery, sharpening, construction, and various finishing techniques. The hardcover offers durability and protection on or off the woodshop shelves.

  • The Woodworker’s Problem Solver by Tony O’Malley

Since most how-to books seldom address what to do when things go wrong, this book provides useful tips to remedy such situations. For example topics like how to address bentwood, wood defects, joinery issues, finishing issues and how to modify a project plan. It’s a Godsend to the beginning woodworker!

  • The Complete Book of Woodworking by Landauer Corporation

This is a collaborative effort of practical, timely information covering the basics of woodworking. The book uses good quality, close up pictures to illustrate the finer details of wood grades, cuts, shop tools, and finishes. There are practical wood projects that benefit the novice as well as more experienced woodworkers. For beginners ones: https://www.sawinery.net/blog/woodworking-projects-for-beginners/.

  • Woodworking For Dummies by Jeff Strong

In a clear, logical, “dummy-proof” style, Jeff Strong takes an unintimidating approach to the subject of woodworking for the beginner. With short, concise paragraphs, the book introduces beginning woodworking subjects with ease. Particularly helpful, are chapters devoted to developing good habits, avoiding typical pitfalls and helpful resources that may be used continually.

  • Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets by Kim Tolpin

Lastly, I would read Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets by Jim Tolpin. If you are a woodworker, at some point, you will be coerced into building at least one kitchen cabinet. I have installed dozens of kitchens cabinets and Jim Tolpin has it right. He shows you how to build a good cabinet that will last and his installation information is right on.


Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.

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