I don’t collect tools. But I do have a book problem.
This morning I went through my two rooms of books and pulled the 10 that made a profound change in the way I work or think. You might not like these books. Sometimes you have to be ready to receive the information before it can take hold.
These are in no particular order.
“Oak: The Frame of Civilization” by William Bryant Logan. I wish I had written this book. It is part narrative, part history, part detective novel. And all engaging. If you don’t love oak, this book might change your mind. I’ve read this book straight through twice.
“The Artisan of Ipswich” by Robert Tarule. This book examines the life of Thomas Dennis in 17th-century Massachusetts. This book will help you tie furniture forms to the economic and social structures in which they are created. Fascinating stuff.
“Woodwork Joints” by Charles Hayward. Buy the Evans Bros. edition — not the junky Sterling edition. Pay whatever. This book is one of the foundational texts – even though it’s just a bunch of reprints assembled together.
“The Essential Woodworker” by Robert Wearing. I’ve written ad nauseam about this title. I love it so much that John Hoffman and I worked two years trying to get the rights to reprint it.
“Welsh Stick Chairs” by John Brown. This book made me want to build chairs so badly that I started building chairs.
“The Woodwright’s Guide” by Roy Underhill. I read it in one sitting. I love all of Underhill’s books, but this one is the most cohesive. And it’s beautifully illustrated by one of his daughters, Eleanor.
“With Hammer in Hand” by Charles F. Hummel. One of my prized possessions is an autographed copy of this book (thanks Suzanne). Like “The Artisan of Ipswich,” Hummel’s book puts the furniture and tools in context. This book made me travel to Delaware to see the Dominy shop.
“Illustrated Cabinetmaking” by Bill Hylton. This book is an encyclopedia of furniture forms that explains things in woodworking terms – rather than antique collector terms. It’s a good place to start when you designing a type of furniture you’ve never built before.
“Green Woodworking” by Drew Langsner. This book is like visiting a foreign country, a delightful foreign country. Even if you have been woodworking for decades, this book offers surprises and insights on every page. It will make you more intimate with your material.
“The Chairmaker’s Workshop” by Drew Langsner. While John Brown’s book made me want to build chairs, Langsner’s gave me the information I needed to actually do it. Though I build chairs differently now, I could not have gotten started without this book.
— Christopher Schwarz