I’m going to talk about books. I just thought I would warn you in case you find books boring.

Instead of a resolution this year I chose one word (“Learn”) to guide what I do. Reading a lot of books seemed like a logical step toward this goal. Now that I have the time and opportunity to read whatever I like, it has become fun again. Instead of reviewing each of these books (and really boring you to tears) I’ll just give a short summary and general impression of what I read this month. Not all of them are woodworking books, but all of them have something in them that can make you a better woodworker.


The Seven Essentials of Woodworking by Anthony Guidice (Sterling. 2001.) The content of the book is pretty much the same thing you find in every introduction to woodworking. I read these kinds of books to discover little tips and tricks, but the tone of the book made it difficult to choke down. Guidice comes down hard on the “experts” and magazines about their misinformation. The result? He sounds pretty whiny. If you can get past the rhetoric and you need a decent introduction to woodworking this book might be for you. I, on the other hand, am grateful it was a library book.


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Black Irish Entertainment. 2002.) This book was recommended in the reading list of another book and I thought it sounded interesting. Do you have a problem with procrastination? This book is for you. It is inspiring and motivating (at one point I felt a real urge to throw it down and get to work). However, it does have a slightly hokey spiritual undertone. Depending on your religious beliefs it could be difficult to ignore. But seriously, this is a good book with a lot of wisdom. If you need a kick in the pants this book is for you.



Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink (Riverhead. 2009.) I’m a sucker for business books. I especially enjoy business books with a lot of statistics and research conclusions. But before you move on, here is how this applies to woodworking. Pink argues that we are more motivated when we have autonomy. Does that sound like any woodworkers you know? There is a chapter on the subject of mastery (I know, I can’t leave it alone) that I think every woodworker/craftsperson/maker should read. If you are feeling unmotivated this will get you moving.



French Polishing: Finishing and restoring using traditional techniques by Derek Jones (Taunton. 2012.) This book might make a good pocket reference. Maybe. I was a little disappointed. Perhaps I was expecting a treatise on French polishing. I didn’t find it here. It does, however, live up to the title by introducing restoration techniques. But this isn’t a reference book to keep on the shelf.



Vacuum Pressing Made Simple by Darryl Keil (Taunton. 2011.) Darryl Keil owns Vacuum Pressing Systems, Inc. Since I received one of his presses for Christmas I thought it would be a smart idea to read the book. You could get by with reading the instructions that came with the press if you bought one. But if you don’t own one and are interested in learning this is the book to get. It is a solid introduction to using a vacuum press and has all the detail you would probably ever need. And it comes with a DVD.



The Art of Fine Tools by Sandor Nagyszalanczy (Taunton. 1998.) It’s tool porn. Stunning pictures and short descriptions of some of the most beautiful hand tools. Not only is it inspirational but it would also look pretty sweet laying on a coffee table.



Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. I was a little put off by the title. I don’t condone ripping off someone else’s designs. But that isn’t what this book is about at all. Instead, I would think of it more like creative genealogy. In fact, Kleon offers some really good definitions of what it means to steal from another artist that should be repeated. That’s right, I think we need a little ethics in our use of other’s ideas. That aside, the book is short and offers some common-sense wisdom. If you feel like you’re lacking in creativity this would be a great book to read.


I’m all ears if you have any suggestions for future books.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. andymckenzie617 says:

    I had much the same response to “Seven Essentials of Woodworking”: slightly whiney, very much “everyone except me is doing it wrong.” His techniques work, but I couldn’t get past the style.

    I quite like “The New Traditional Woodworker”, by Jim Tolpin, though. I thought he did a good job of giving enough information to get started, without flooding you with information you don’t need yet. The projects were also pretty well thought out.

    I’m also fond of “Working Wood 1 & 2: the Artisan Course with Paul Sellers”, by Paul Sellers. He also tends towards a tone of “I know better than anyone else”, but I found it less blatant and less annoying. (I’d also seen him at a woodworking show, so the tone from that informed my reading of the book.)


    1. Eric Key says:

      I read Jim Tolpin’s book a while back and I agree with you. It is a really good book. However, I have not read Paul Seller’s books. But I will definitely put them on my reading list. Thanks for sending some suggestions my way!


      1. andymckenzie617 says:

        No problem! I can only honestly recommend the one book from Paul Sellers, because it’s the only one I’ve read. It’s practically a textbook, though, and well worth the price.


      2. Eric Key says:

        I was wondering if it was worth the price. My library has them too so I will probably start there. Thanks again for the feedback!


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