The best books on traditional woodworking

Graham Blackburn Author Of Traditional Woodworking Handtools: A Manual for the Woodworker
By Graham Blackburn

Who am I?

Born in London, I apprenticed under cabinetmaker Hugh Harris before moving to New York to study at Juilliard. Subsequently pursuing a career as a professional musician, recording and playing with groups including Van Morrison, Razmataz, and Full Tilt Boogie, I built a house in Woodstock, NY. In addition to operating my own custom-design furniture-making shop, and lecturing and teaching extensively from coast to coast, I’ve written and illustrated many more books on woodworking. I’ve served as Contributing Editor to Fine Woodworking (1985–1999), and Popular Woodworking (1987–1996), and as Editor-in-Chief of Woodwork Magazine (1991–1994) before becoming a featured speaker and presenter at the National Woodworking Shows.


I wrote...

Traditional Woodworking Handtools: A Manual for the Woodworker

By Graham Blackburn,

Book cover of Traditional Woodworking Handtools: A Manual for the Woodworker

What is my book about?

Traditional Woodworking Handtools describes all the major hand tools that were used by cabinet-makers, furniture-makers, carpenters, and numerous other woodworking trades in the centuries before the introduction of power tools and machinery. Every aspect of choosing, rehabilitating, and getting the most out of traditional handtools for woodworking is covered and puts the tools in the context of the complete woodworking process.

In our present age of machines, handtools remain the best and often the only way of creating beautiful details, perfect fit, and an enduring finish. Handtools liberate the furnituremaker, builder, and general woodworker from the limited artistic vocabulary of machinery.

The books I picked & why

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How to Use Woodworking Tools

By R.L. Bridgman,

Book cover of How to Use Woodworking Tools

Why this book?

Published in 1881 this is an absolutely fundamental book for the beginner. Amply illustrated, you will learn important details such as how to hold tools and what to expect from them as well as how basic joints are formed and made. Focused on wooden tools this is information not commonly reproduced in more contemporary books.

This book is not currently available.


Practical Woodwork

By Charles H. Hayward,

Book cover of Practical Woodwork

Why this book?

The most prolific woodworking writer of the twentieth century, Charles Hayward spans the era that started with hand tools and saw the introduction of the first electric tools thus making clear the advantages of the traditional methods. Profusely illustrated with drawings of joints, tools, and actual techniques, this is truly one of the most complete books on the basics of traditional woodworking.


The Practical Book of Period Furniture - Treating of Furniture of the English, American Colonial and Post-Colonial, and Principal, French Periods

By Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot McClure,

Book cover of The Practical Book of Period Furniture - Treating of Furniture of the English, American Colonial and Post-Colonial, and Principal, French Periods

Why this book?

Photographs and detailed line drawings cover virtually the entire history of European furniture construction. Not merely a catalogue this book goes into minute detail about construction of the finest furniture that was ever made by hand from clockcases to bedsteads. It explains stylistic details as well as actual methods.


Antique Woodworking Tools: A Guide to the Purchase, Restoration and Use of Old Tools for Today's Shop

By Michael Dunbar,

Book cover of Antique Woodworking Tools: A Guide to the Purchase, Restoration and Use of Old Tools for Today's Shop

Why this book?

Known primarily as one of America’s foremost Windsor chairmakers Michael Dunbar’s book is a great guide to the purchase, restoration, and use of old traditional wooden tools for today’s shop. This book explains and illustrates how and why so many apparently ‘antique’ tools still do the job they were designed to do, often much better and faster than many contemporary tools.


Ancient Carpenters' Tools: Illustrated and Explained, Together with the Implements of the Lumberman, Joiner and Cabinet-Maker in Use in the Eighteenth Century

By Henry C. Mercer,

Book cover of Ancient Carpenters' Tools: Illustrated and Explained, Together with the Implements of the Lumberman, Joiner and Cabinet-Maker in Use in the Eighteenth Century

Why this book?

From witchets to moulding planes, from Roman tools to eighteenth-century American tools, this was my first "bible" on the subject. A more thorough grounding — with amazing photographs — would be hard to find. Reading this book puts two millennia of woodworking into a useful perspective. Once read it will illustrate in greater detail every other book on the subject. Totally essential.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in woodworking, carpentry, and furniture making?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about woodworking, carpentry, and furniture making.

Woodworking Explore 25 books about woodworking
Carpentry Explore 5 books about carpentry
Furniture Making Explore 11 books about furniture making

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like By Hound & Eye: A Plain & Easy Guide to Designing Furniture with No Further Trouble, Solid-Wood Cabinet Construction: 70 Contemporary Designs with Details, and The Complete Japanese Joinery if you like this list.