50 Best Woodworking Books (2021 Review)

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

These 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 classic design books. These top woodworking books are recommended in order of most important and helpful to beginners.

1. The Encyclopedia of Woodworking Techniques

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.

2. The Complete Manual of Woodworking

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.

3. The Why and How of Woodworking

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.

4. Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology

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.

5. English Arts & Crafts Furniture: Projects & Techniques for the Modern Maker

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 the 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.

6. The Joint Book

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.

7. Woodworking Basics

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.

8. The Soul of a Tree

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.

9. A Cabinetmaker's NoteBook

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.

10. Understanding Wood Finishing