Even in today’s world of electric machinery, when most people were asked to name a woodworking tool, planes and scrapers would probably be at the top of the list. They are as useful now as they were years ago but, because of their electrified cousins, they are often overlooked in favour of a faster option. In this compre­hensive book, John English explains what each type of plane is for, how to set it up for optimal performance and how to use it. The text is thorough and the photos are informative. All in all, this is a good read for a beginning or intermediate woodworker. Or a woodworker who simply never gave hand planes and scrapers a fair shake.
One thing that surprised me about the forthcoming article is that while some authors – James Krenov, George Nakashima, Roy Underhill and Bob Flexner– feature in both the list below and the “Young Makers’ Bookshelves” article, a lot of the titles on the upcoming list are new to me. So of course, I’ve ordered them (a disease for which there is no cure).
As I was handling the 2x4's, during the routing, I realized that I really wouldn't be happy with the look of the bench, if it were made from these unfinished boards. They had stamps, pencil marks, and more importantly, incipient splinters left by the saw, none of which I wanted. And I was remembering what other shop furniture made from unfinished pine had looked like, after a few years in the grime of a shop.
Then I flipped the top and the base, lied up the base in the proper location relative to the top, I then positioned the front vise and the support MDF for the end vise, and marked the locations of the bolt holes. Then I flipped the base right side up, drilled small pilot holes from the bottom side where I had marked the locations, and then drilled shallow countersink holes from each side, then a through hole that matched the bolts. Finally I tried out the bolts and washers, and deepened the countersinks until the heads of the bolts were just below flush.
Cut the 6-1/2-in. x 3-in. lid from the leftover board, and slice the remaining piece into 1/4-in.-thick pieces for the sides and end of the box. Glue them around the plywood floor. Cut a rabbet on three sides of the lid so it fits snugly on the box and drill a 5/8-in. hole for a finger pull. Then just add a finish and you’ve got a beautiful, useful gift. If you don’t have time to make a gift this year, consider offering to do something for the person. You could offer to sharpen their knives! Here’s how.
Professional woodworker Jim Tolpin offers solid instruction on the principles of measurement and proportion, walking you through every step of the woodworking process. From design and layout to developing a cutting list, his easy-to-follow style introduces a variety of tools (new and old) used to transfer measurements accurately to the wood. You’ll learn the best cutting techniques, how to prevent mistakes before they happen, and for those unavoidable mistakes, you’ll learn how to fix them so no one will know!
As I try to improve as a woodworker and artist, I really want every piece to be better than my last. But this piece will always hold a special place in my ❤️ This table is made of 1250+ pieces of recycled skateboards and walnut, but If you count the individual veneers of the recycled skateboard pieces then it’s made of over 6,800 pieces of wood. 📷 @fvcksandflamingos 😘 #upcycledskateart
Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is not to brag, but to alert you to a great deal. Recently, we had a chance to acquire the last print copies of these five books, which were sitting, overlooked, in a warehouse. The books mainly have black and white interiors and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. And every one offers more than 300 pages of excellent advice on woodworking projects and techniques.
A bewildering variety of tools, clever marketing copy, and lack of knowledge can lead even the most determined new woodworker to make many unnecessary purchases, causing frustration or retreat. Written for true beginners, Your First Shop offers inspiration and encouragement, guiding readers toward smart tool choices by providing realistic, reliable information. Best-selling author Aimé Ontario Fraser started working with wood in high school, and has taught extensively in workshops and classes since. Your First Shop brings that experience to readers. Woodworkers of every taste can find a shop style that works for them in one of the book’s four sections: The Essential Shop, The Basic Shop, The Efficient Shop, and The Well-Rounded Shop. Topics include how each tool is used and what it is used for. The book also offers extensive advice on choosing a location for the shop, maximizing available space, and planning for future expansion.
You can bookend my 30 years of woodworking with two volumes. Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop: A Practical Guide to Traditional Woodcraft” (U of North Carolina P) marks the beginning. Today, Steven W. Semes’ “The Architecture of the Classical Interior” (Norton) makes sense of all the conflicting mishmash of “design speak” tossed about. Hope I have another 30 years in me so the Semes book will someday be a midway milepost in a long, rewarding journey.

When the shelf was full, we called the list done. The results of that debate is the list of books that follows (publishers listed are for the editions we own). It’s by no means a perfect list. It is a list that would probably change a bit if we had the debate again in a couple months. Some of these are classics, some are contemporary. But these are the books that are first in our hearts.


I am surprised the the Hand and Eye combo by Tolpin didn’t make anyone’s list. I have also really found Chris Schwartz’s Anarchist’s design book very useful. Everything else that I really like is already in here somewhere; Moxon, Roubo, Estonia, Peart. The beginners book by Wearing is excellent, and I have taken to giving it to Eagle scouts at their Eagle Courts of Honor of late. (with an inscription about taking the raw stuff of life and developing the skills and tools to make from it what you need…); cheesy, I know, but it is a really good book to start folks off with.
Projects to build on. Korn's book includes basic projects that you can put your own spin on. This Shaker footstool was inspired by one of the projects in his book. The last side-table project in his book (pictured) has the same pedigree as these two other FW projects: Tim Rousseau's small cherry cabinet and Stephen Hammer's small stand with coopered panels.
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One aspect of the Windsor Design that is hit or miss is the vice. Notice we have to use the singular when describing it because this is the first workbench that we have reviewed which features only one vice. To make matters more frustrating, the vice cannot be repositioned along the bench. That said, the vice does at least have the largest capacity out of any we reviewed. At 7” capacity, the Windsor Design vice can secure any size workpiece you may have.
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