The Complete Manual of Woodworking A comprehensive book that covers tons of woodworking topics: woodworking design, hand tools, power tools, workshops, wood carving, joinery, finishing wood. You will also learn a lot about this natural resource we call wood. Filled with great photos, diagrams, and illustrations. If you want to branch out and explore other woodworking endeavors, you will enjoy owning this book.
You may even want to put yourself in the picture. If your workshop space already exists, find a large piece of cardboard, wallboard, or plywood that’s about the size of the workbench top you envision. Find a couple of stools or chairs, perhaps a few books, and turn them into stanchions to support the “benchtop.” Is it too big for the space? Is it large enough for the tasks you envision will be performed upon it?
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I’ve seen antique cabinetmakers’ benches that are sixteen and seventeen feet long, more than three feet wide, and supported by a dozen drawers and doors—and that weigh as much as a felled oak tree. In contrast, jewelers’ cabinets seem to be on a dollhouse scale, with tiny tools to match. For most of us, however, space limitations preclude the biggest, and the smallest are just not big enough.
But I still wasn’t entirely satisfied with our list. I wondered if we’d read enough woodworking books as a staff to create a solid list. So we surveyed the readers of my blog (the results of that are on our web site), then asked many of the woodworkers who write for us to contribute lists of their favorite woodworking books. Theirs are below, in their own words (publishers have listed only on first reference; but if no publisher has been noted, the book is available on Google Books at books.google.com).
I made my version of a Roubo bench over 20 years ago. According to the latest bench rules it is too tall, too wide, has too many vises (I use both sides of my bench and that might be a no no, not sure ), and has far too many holes. Did I mention that I have a double row of dog holes with a user made dual row wagon vise? I had no idea they were called a wagon vise back then. Being a tool maker and tinkerer at heart I just made a vise that I thought at the time was an original idea for the main side. Couple of dowels in a piece of wood straddling the two rows and I have a bench stop, or a different variation gives me a 3 point clamping system. If that isn’t bad enough it also has drawers on the bottom to store seldom used tools and supplies. Maybe if it had taken me a few weeks to drill all those holes and mount a few vises I would only have one vise and 8 holes too. I dunno
I know, if you had a workbench, you wouldn't be building a workbench. Even so, you'll need some sort of work surface, even if it isn't as stable or capable as a proper bench. The traditional solution is to throw a hollow-core door over a couple of saw horses. The advantage of hollow core doors is that they're flat, stiff, and cheap. I used a folding table and a hollow core door I had bought for a future project.
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A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn't move under you while you're working, and stiff enough that it doesn't rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn't take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart. Traditional bench designs use mortise-and-tenon joinery, which is strong and rigid, but not really suited for a novice woodworker who doesn't already have a bench.
The latest edition of this highly regarded instructional manual. See the great reader reviews posted for the previous editions. With this book and a weekend of your time you can make a plane and learn to use it effectively. You’ll also discover a wealth of general woodworking tips and acquire a solid grounding in many fundamentals of fine woodworking. Now in its third printing, “Making and Mastering Wood Planes” by master craftsman David Finck is the definitive book in the field and a classic introduction to the art of fine woodworking.
As a teacher I find Ernest Joyce’s “The Technique of Furniture Making” (Batson) invaluable, ’tho it is as far away from an enjoyable read as possible. Similarly Bob Wearing’s “Essential Woodworker” (Lost Art Press). Bob is one of the only people who ever gave insight into traditional English technique. I believe the lack of similar books is due to the apprenticeship tradition of teaching, where nothing was ever written down.
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.
This table top is also made from the hardest wood out of any manufacturer we reviewed: oak. In fairness, this can be both a blessing and a curse. The oak wood is extremely durable and noted for its lack of a porous nature. This means the top can withstand plenty of abuse from tool and workpieces. Moreover, you will not have to worry about liquids like lacquers and stains from being absorbed into the top. That said, the hard oak can also do a number on tool sharpness, dulling them prematurely if they are not carefully handled.