Updated: Aug 8
These woodworking book recommendations range from basic beginner and advanced techniques to the inspirational biographies of master artisans to identifying different species of trees and woods. I also threw in a couple of classic design books. These top woodworking books are recommended in order of most important and helpful to beginners.
Everything you need to know about woodworking in one book.
It contains amazing pictures and diagrams. Perfect for beginners or those looking for a reference guide to a variety of techniques. Each entry is well-structured, easy to understand, and has lots of pictures to help with the explanation.
Lots of practical and informative articles have been compiled into this one comprehensive volume. Expert tips and tricks inside panels round out the book. The book includes sections on woods, tools, basic techniques, joint-making, finishes, and repair.
Good all-around book for beginners and professionals. A classic of woodworking, it contains more than 1,800 pictures on the craft. Discusses all the principle hard and softwoods and details each major woodworking technique, including jointing, bonding, fastening, and more.
The composition of this manual is excellent. It begins with how wood is extracted from trees and cut into different grades and their uses. It then looks at the history of woodworking tools worldwide before going into detail with the practical tools of trade today.
Its comprehensive coverage combined with a compelling narrative that then moves into a practical guide is just an excellent all-around experience.
Great techniques and philosophy.
Mike Pekovich explains the why and how of handmade woodworking for a simpler, more minimal lifestyle. By being attentive towards each stage of the woodworking process, from choosing the wood to cutting and joining accurately, one can apply a similar philosophy to more areas in one’s life.
The book is beautiful and useful all at once. It contains lots of essential information while remaining true to its central message. Great imagery and photography throughout.
The book takes you on every step of the journey and provides insightful content for any level.
I love this book. Everything you need to know about the material we work with, wood. This is the definitive reference guide to wood in every woodworker’s library. Initially printed in 1980 and revised in 2000, this work contains more than 300 photographs of wood. It explains everything you need to know about composite materials, adhesives, and finishes, along with every type of wood.
Written by a scientist with a technical level of precision, the book doesn’t aim to be a how-to guide but instead goes into minute detail about the growth and functions of wood.
English Arts & Crafts dives into the rich world of the arts and crafts movement in England and the great diversity of styles this has entailed.
This guide looks through the history of this movement, from Victorian times, medieval-inspired works like that of William Morris, and austere works like Voysey or the Barnsleys.
You’ll learn how all these different techniques are done and how they came to be, giving you a detailed perspective on English Arts & Crafts designers. Tutorial photos with construction details are included with historical and instructional information.
This is not a beginner’s manual and is meant for those already with a strong understanding of modern woodworking. However, the ‘soul’ and philosophy that led to each different style of the piece is thoroughly explained.
Excellent joinery book.
This is the ultimate reference guide to joinery for a workshop. Provides comprehensive information on what joint is best for each job. The guide has step-by-step, illustrated instructions for over 70 joints covering every joint family.
The pictures in the book are all drawn, and the book is pretty small for quick and easy referencing. However, there’s enough how-to information for a beginner to understand while detailed for advanced projects.
As a student of The Center for Furniture Craftsman, this was the first woodworking book I ever bought. Practical techniques for a beginner.
Peter Korn’s Woodworking Basics provides an approach to woodworking that has been established for over 20 years. It explains proper techniques from the beginning and builds off of a fine craftsmanship tradition. The book includes two projects from start to finish, a small bench and a side table with a door and drawer.
It’s an excellent book to work through as a beginner and build some foundational skills without getting bogged down with too much encyclopedic information.
Elegant furniture. Craftsman lifestyle. Living and design with profound furniture in mind. George Nakashima specializes in elegant, fine craftsmanship furniture with a deep philosophy of woodworking.
This book examines his artistry, philosophy, and life in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Combining the ideals of utility and beauty, Nakashima believes that a well-made woodworking piece will stand the test of time as an object of beauty and purpose. The book documents his journey as he found the joy of living in harmony with nature. It doesn’t have detailed information on his actual pieces and how to build them but contains the essence of his life and explains how one can follow in his footsteps.
James Krenov is a fantastic woodworker who started the College of the Redwoods.
One of the classic books for woodworkers, A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook is another book about life and artistry to create great woodworking. It explores Krenov’s cabinetmaking philosophy and the deeper meanings of his works.
His view is that students of furniture making have mainly been taught to build furniture that failed. His designs are meant to succeed with test fully tested results that work for anything made of wood. Instead of a “how-to” manual, it is a “why-do” manual explaining the deep principles behind woodworking. In addition, it contains many photographs of Krenov’s works.
This book is a detailed guide on finishing the main material of woodworkers, wood. It has lots of technical information on different wood finishing techniques, from spray guns to French polishing. In addition, it contains more than 300 color photos and 40 reference tables to help aid understanding.
This book is a kind of textbook for students of the furniture industry and provides some of the most detailed, accurate, and best-written articles on finishing.
The Great Book of Woodworking Tips is an excellent source of overall tips and tricks of the trade from American Woodworker magazine. It provides over 650 solutions to common woodworking problems, complete with workshop photos and testing by the editors.
This book is like getting to go to the candy store as a woodworker. It is like someone took all the best tips from different woodworking resources and compiled them all into one place. So much of the techniques contained within can help you avoid huge pitfalls and sharpen your fundamental skills.
George Nakashima is a world-renowned furniture designer and architect, and his work has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums and exhibitions across the globe.
His work is often characterized by a feeling of lightness and simplicity, and he has been called "the father of modern furniture." This book's new retrospective shows how he shaped his distinguished career using his minimalist sensibility to create an ever-evolving body of work that has helped shape the path of today's furniture craftsman.
Another great Krenov book, this one containing almost 150 photographs and text from the man himself at the peak of his talent.
Krenov is plain insightful on what it means to be a woodworker and perfectly expresses how it feels. The photos in the volume speak volumes about the mastery of his work and the passion he puts into them.
Since Krenov is instrumental in the movement towards creating furniture, rather than following guides and patterns, it should come as no surprise that the book is not a detailed how-to guide to his pieces. Instead, he provides mentorship to so many aspiring woodworkers as to how to go about the path.
Joint-making is one of the fundamental techniques of woodworking. This comprehensive guide explains the process thoroughly, including choosing, designing, and cutting all the different woodworking joints.
Author John Buller has a systematic approach to joint-making that guides one into the precise and thoughtful cuts of wood joints. The book details the exact hand tools and machines that will do these joints and how to modify them for different tools.
Most importantly, it details which joints will look the best and strengthen the joint optimally for a given project.
A great all-around guide, the Complete Book of Woodworking helps woodworkers of all levels with the foundations of the craft. The book contains more than 40 projects and over 1,200 photographs with detailed instructions on how to do each.
It includes everything from setting up your shop safely to which tools to get, plus all the basics of the projects themselves.
The book is better for beginner woodworkers looking to get their bearings on the whole of the craft. It doesn’t dive into too much detail which would be useful for more advanced woodworkers.
The New Traditional Woodworker explains how to use hand tools rather than machines for your woodworking. It explains how to set up a hand-tool workshop and develop the right mindset to accomplish your woodworking traditionally.
This book is only helpful to those looking to try the traditional way of woodworking. It is an excellent resource to embark on that path.
An excellent resource for shop storage, this guide has 28 storage projects from American Woodworker magazine. In addition, it contains step-by-step instructions for benches, toolboxes, shelving, and cabinets.
The purpose of the book is to help you achieve the perfectly efficient workshop you’ve always dreamed of. Key projects include a heavy-duty folding shop table, a tool cart, and a sawhorse.
Commercially available solutions rarely cut it once you are deep into the craft, and so the ability to custom build your solutions helps to solve your specific needs.
Joinery is one of the key facets of woodworking, and with Gary Rogowski’s expert hand, you can learn everything you need to know about the craft from this one volume.
The Complete Illustrated Guide uses full-color, step-by-step imagery to help explain making all the major woodworking joints, with over 1,400 color photos. Each joint is explained in the form of an easy-to-follow visual essay, explaining its uses, purposes, and how to make it.
Classic woodworking book. Has been revised in 2000. This is the textbook on furniture making and has been for most of the 20th century. The revised edition updates some of the topics to modern standards and understanding of modern power tools.
An invaluable reference for any furniture maker, many of the designs are pretty dated, but the book as a whole still holds up. In terms of understanding fundamentals and techniques, this book is an excellent guide to classic methods.
This is a traditional woodworking guide made by period furniture expert Zachary Dillinger. It provides instructions on how to construct six pieces of classic American furniture.
With this guide, you’ll learn how American forbears built furniture and why they used the techniques they did.
The book is partly a historical account of major styles from the mid-19th century to the 1960s, an instruction guide on six actual pieces, and partly miscellaneous advice.
There is excellent detail in the photos, with a clear emphasis on the proper tools for each piece. It clarifies the intricacies of traditional furniture-making along with the why of each method.
Another classic book.
One last Krenov for the list, highlighting his lyrical style and passion for making the very best of his craft.
First published in 1979, the volume still speaks to the modern woodworker about his philosophy, techniques, and uncompromising approach to the craft. The book contains photo sequences outlining his methods and discusses using multiple strategies to solve complex problems.
The book has layers upon layers of value for woodworkers, from the novice to the expert.
The overharvesting of wood has left the world with less and less of the best and most beautiful woods in the world. The Real Wood Bible is a plea towards sustainability and an understanding of the life cycle of trees being incorporated into the craft.
You can find extensive information about all different types of wood in the book plus explanations of how wood is made into boards, veneers, and similar products.
Add to that stunning full-color photographs plus information on sustainability, and endangerment of each wood. You can learn a lot from this work.
Wooden bowls are a favorite for woodturners and innovative artists in the craft. The Little Book of Wooden Bowls features 31 best wooden bowls made by elite craftspeople such as Virginia Dodson, Binh Pho, and Marilyn Campbell. They share their thoughts on their pieces, as well as some of their techniques and practices.
Each artist's profile includes full-color photographs of their work alongside their writings and thoughts.
It is a great browsing book. The inspiration and love for wood you can gain from its pages is profound.
The Complete Table Saw Book features over 600 photographs, nine custom projects, and clear explanations for different table saw techniques.
This reference guide provides up-to-date information on everything you need to know about table saws both before and after purchasing one.
Techniques include how to tune up and prepare lumber, selecting the best saw blades, and mastering both basic and advanced cuts, plus a whole lot more.
The book also has a focus on safety and efficiency which is much appreciated.
Another beautiful wooden bowls book, The Art of Turned Bowls focuses on the art of creating the form for yourself. It doesn’t fully explain different techniques but details other design possibilities while displaying many examples from different artisans.
Richard Raffin is a famous woodturning expert, and his teachings profuse the book. In addition, there are countless full-color photographs in the book showing off his points.
Design is the crucial element of woodturning, so even a well-turned bowl will end up badly without a thoughtful design behind it. This book remedies that problem.
I assisted him many years ago in a class at Arrowmont in Tennessee. He certainly knows a ton about wood turning and is the master of Hollow vessel turning.
Ellsworth’s book on woodturning harkens back to the early 20th-century masters of the art. He’s known as the grandfather of contemporary wood art, and his book makes plain his philosophy and secrets of the art.
He provides detailed, step-by-step instructions to get started and explains his signature hyper-thin designs. For new users of the lathe, there are many valuable tips and explanations.
Most notably, there’s a stunning gallery of his works included in the volume. Finally, the book is just a great practical guide to the art and explains many of the fundamental techniques thoroughly and with pride.
This woodworking book is all about making great Shaker furniture projects. It contains 31 of the best projects they could find that represent iconic Shaker furniture.
The straightforward joinery work means these projects are suitable even for the low to immediate-skilled woodturner.
Unfortunately for those who are fans of hand tools, all the projects contained within use machines, so take note. It’s also edited strangely in places, as the projects were mostly taken from magazines, but not always properly retooled for the book.
An amazingly detailed illustrated guide to cabinetmaking. The book contains more than 100 classic furniture pieces distilled into highly detailed drawings. The standards used with options and alternatives provide everything you need to make what you want for your home. In addition, there are more than 150 joints explained and 1,300 drawings to help you build each project.
However, something to note is that most projects contained within are not cabinetry but all kinds of furniture. The title is just a theme and focus. This book is excellent for learning joinery.
Written by expert woodworker Andy Rae, this is a detailed how-to for furniture creation. He breaks down each piece into component parts and explains each thoroughly.
The guide presents a detailed illustrated guide to the fundamental techniques and methods of furniture and cabinet construction.
However, there are no sample building plans contained within the guide. As a result, it is excellent on the details but not as helpful in doing actual projects.
Tool expert Leonard Lee wrote The Complete Guide to Sharpening. It provides excellent advice on all the most effective techniques for tool sharpening from everything including chisels to drill bits.
This book will let you understand the science behind why specific techniques work and others don’t for making your tools as sharp as they can be for as long as possible. The book is a bit dated at this point but still relevant to this today.
Hybrid Woodworking refers to the use of hand and machine tools together to perfect one’s mastery of all techniques. It allows the practitioner to quickly do the bulk work with power tools before diving into the handcrafted final result with hand tools.
Marc Spaguolo offers the most efficient approach to doing this in the book. This book is actually great for beginners looking to master a wide range of techniques and create beautiful furniture. You won’t need to buy duplicate tools with the insights from this book, either.
Marc explains what basics you need to start and then build up from there as a hobbyist woodworker.
One of the greatest how-to practical guides for using a router for woodworking. It does exactly what it promises and explains how to cut moldings, edgings, shape furniture, cut curves, and everything else a router does.
The book has been a sensation since its initial release and has gotten a greatly revised edition. It’s clear, reliable, and practical information. In addition, there are 100s of full-color photos showing exactly how each technique is meant to function.
The bandsaw is one of the essential tools for woodworking and this is one of the great woodworking books on its use. Lonnie Bird provides excellent advice in this volume which acts as a general owner’s manual on all bandsaws.
They explain how to make your bandsaw as efficient as possible while remarking on its use’s everyday problems and pitfalls.
After reading it, you’ll be able to understand most bandsaw lingo and understand the reasons behind many bandsaw techniques.
This is the core woodworking book of master woodworker Paul Sellers. After nearly 50 years of woodworking experience, he wrote these books and developed a course they form a part of to help younger woodworkers learn the craft. In addition, he’s designed furniture for US Presidents.
The book is part philosophy and method, part instructional guide. It contains over 800 color photos and illustrations, with every stage carefully explained.
This is a comprehensive course on hand tool woodworking and works for both beginners and advanced woodworkers.
The Essential Woodworker covers everything from the fundamental use of hand tools to more advanced woodworking techniques. However, it is fast-paced, so it doesn’t cover everything for each technique.
It’s great reference material for serious woodworkers and an essential book for hand tool users. Each basic technique is carefully explained and heavily illustrated.
Nothing amazing but has some good projects for beginners.
A great beginner’s woodworking book, it has 41 complete projects and over 1,200 photos. The detail on each project is solid, with step-by-step instructions on each. The projects are made to be beginner-friendly with helpful instructions for the novice.
It explains everything from setting up a workshop to each technique and selecting the wood. The projects aren’t the most exciting but are excellent learning tools.
This book contains 50 intermediate woodworker projects that include kitchen upgrades, storage solutions, classic furniture, small projects like jewelry boxes, and more. Step-by-step illustrated instructions are included for each project.
Made by experts at American Woodworker, the book covers a solid range of styles, including Craftsman and Adirondack. The projects all use machines, so keep that in mind. Some of the steps could be more detailed in how they are worked out but are useful for the intermediate to advanced woodworkers.
Another great Illustrated Guide, this time on finishing, the detailed photos of each process are invaluable in learning the proper steps to finishing and how it should turn out.
Jeff Jewitt is a world-recognized wood finisher who provides all the in-depth coverage you need for each style. The book goes deep on advanced and special finishing techniques, including adjusting the color, hiding defects, glazing, toning, and more.
Featuring over 850 photos and drawings, the depth and usefulness of the finishing techniques here are unmatched.
This book is a complete guide to band saws for beginners. This book tells you everything you need to know before and after purchasing your first one.
It contains four projects to develop your band saw skills after getting one and thoroughly explains how to set up, maintain, and use your new band saw.
Woodworking experts agree that the bandsaw is the first significant piece of woodworking machinery you should buy. Some sections explain everything about accessories, common problems, and efficiency. No topic is left uncovered.
This is the must-have reference for band saws.
The New Bandsaw Box Book is a book all about making boxes out of wood. Boxes offer many different challenges that can be used as great gifts or something to keep around the house.
Since they are so popular as basic projects, there’s a whole book dedicated to them. David Picciuto’s a huge fan of them, and they’ve done well on his youtube channel. Here he collects together a bunch of the boxes you can make with a bandsaw and adds his fresh and modern take to each. His approachable style makes each very easy to get into, yet the results are one of a kind.
Another guide to woodworking with hand tools is an excellent guide to the nuts and bolts of hand tool use, serving as a practical reference to how to get into it.
It is a collection of 35 articles from experts at Fine Woodworking magazine, so the styles and ideas can differ from article to article. But the knowledge contained within is beneficial.
Don’t get the Kindle version, though, as many have had problems with it. Stick to physical copies.
This illustrated guide helps you to understand a bunch of the most important techniques for woodworking and explains the process of woodworking from start to finish. Everything from finishes, glues, joinery, design, and more is covered.
The illustrations are very helpful, and there are lots of projects within the pages that the intermediate woodworker can do.
A great beginner’s guide to woodworking, the book addresses the user in an easy-to-understand and straightforward way to get started immediately.
The projects in the book only require some hand and portable power tools, so they are some of the easiest to get started with. They are also focused on functional furniture for the home.
This is one of the only books around that allows you to do every project in it without a decently outfitted workshop. So it’s perfect for those just looking to see if they are interested in the craft.
Reclaimed wood has been a celebrated material for a while now, with lots of interesting possibilities for its use. This book goes into great detail on the special techniques and sourcing needed to work with reclaimed wood.
The book has a lot of great photography of all the different wood pieces it discusses and furniture made from them enjoyed by everyone from European royalty to American taverns.
Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening provides a detailed reference guide to this craft. It contains more than 750 photos and drawings illustrating the different equipment for sharpening and the various tools.
What stands out about this guide is the combination of photos with each sharpening procedure to help fully understand what each tool and technique can do.
Obviously, this is a niche woodworking book meant only for those seriously looking into the craft of sharpening. It is incredible as a resource for that, but don’t expect anything else from it.
The New Woodworker Handbook is an excellent explanation of fundamental knowledge for woodworkers.
The goal is not to get you to complete mastery but to help beginners master a set of core skills that will help guide you to the level of woodworking you want - complete mastery or weekend projects.
The book is the author's attempt to answer the major questions he often asks from his blog in one concise resource. The information contained highlights everything from safety and shop setup to the wood selection and joining techniques.
It has over 300 color photos to help explain all these facets of the trade.
This is an excellent book on Craftsman-style furniture, featuring 61 classic pieces with complete shop drawings. This means you get full perspective views and details on every possible angle on the project.
These projects are great for intermediate woodworkers in terms of their difficulty but provide clear guidance.
Robert W. Lang has been a great source of workshop drawings for pieces designed by Gustav Stickley for over 30 years. He’s also an executive editor at Popular Woodworking magazine.
The Smart Workshop Solutions book is specialized for making your workshop as efficient as possible. It explains different solutions for different-sized spaces as well as different levels of expertise.
The projects contained in the book are all about making any workshop a more efficient and productive place. It provides enough instruction to build the items it offers as useful.
Specific to the art of whittling wood.
Whittling wood is a unique woodworking technique that is fun to do as a hobby. This starter guide will help you move from simple to more advanced whittling techniques, including step-by-step instructions for 24 easy-to-make whittling projects.
It also includes how-to photos and patterns to help you out. The knife techniques included in the guide are very useful and help you to choose a good whittling knife and teach you how to sharpen it.
50. Good Clean Fun
I threw this woodworking book in for the people who like Nick Offerman. It makes an excellent gift for someone who loves the actor and may be interested in getting into the craft.
His humor is present throughout the book as he explains how to do some woodworking. It shows an appreciation for the art of woodworking and inspires beginners to accomplish new projects.
Thankfully, Nick also had an idea of how experienced woodworkers read books, and has a few interesting techniques and ideas strewn throughout that can be easily picked up and used for woodworkers of many levels.
Disclosure: I only recommend products that I have used myself or have in my workshop. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.