The Complete Manual of Woodworking, by Albert Jackson, David Day and Simon Jennings
by J. Norman Reid
The fact that this 1989 classic, newly released for 2014, has gone through 14 reprintings attests to its enduring value as a basic reference resource for woodworkers. It is, and remains, one of the most comprehensive and thorough reference sources on all things woodworking.
The book opens with a chapter on wood itself—how trees grow and are harvested, sawn and dried and how these factors affect wood's use in furniture-making. Especially noteworthy is a section illustrating the grain and color of numerous hardwoods and softwoods from around the world, along with a listing of their properties for woodworking. This will prove useful in selecting wood for woodshop projects.
Chapter 2 focuses on furniture design, first addressing issues of safety, appearance and the characteristics of the wood itself. Valuable presentations on the construction of chairs, tables and cases follow. Each section is lavishly illustrated with construction details for numerous examples and styles and provides a sufficient design guide for woodworkers who intend to plan their own projects.
The succeeding chapters give an overview of woodworking tools. Chapter 3 reviews hand tools of all kinds and illustrates their variety and how to use them effectively. Following chapters do the same for powered hand tools, larger woodworking machines and the planning and organization of home workshops. This section will be especially helpful to woodworkers who are assembling their woodshops.
This is followed by chapters on handling the wood itself. Chapter 7 demonstrates joints of many types and how to make them. Chapter 8 introduces the methods for bending wood in enough detail that it can be accomplished by the home woodworker. Chapter 9 is an introduction to veneering and marquetry. Chapter 10 introduces the basics of wood carving. Chapter 11 gives an overview of basic wood finishing techniques.
The final chapters address related issues. Chapter 12 considers working with non-wooden materials often used by woodworkers—metal, glass, marble and leather. Chapter 13 reviews supplies and fittings, including adhesives, screws, nails, hinges, knock-down fittings, locks and catches, stays and handles. The book concludes with a glossary of terms and an index.
The book's greatest strength is its comprehensive, no, encyclopedic coverage of woodworking means and methods. It is copiously illustrated throughout with photos and detailed drawings that add immeasurably to its clarity of presentation. The book answers a great many questions woodworkers will have about what to do and how to do it. As a result, it is an excellent reference, especially for those relatively new to woodworking and also for those who wish to stretch the scope of their woodworking into new areas.
The negatives about the book are few. Some parts of the book are clearly dated and newer developments, such as the growing reliance on water-based finishes, are either under-emphasized or absent altogether. Fortunately, though, the basics of woodworking have remained constant over time and this only slightly diminishes the value of this book.
The book was first published in England and though an attempt has been made to render the text readable by North Americans, some British terminology occasionally remains. Likewise, many of the tools illustrated are European examples that may not be available in the U.S. or Canada.
Despite these limitations, the underlying discussion remains instructive and, for the most part, timeless. This book is an outstanding shelf reference. It is especially recommended to beginning and intermediate woodworkers, though nearly all woodworkers will find something of value in its 310 pages of tightly-packed text.
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The Complete Manual of Woodworking
The reviewer is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living with his wife in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who believe they are cabinetmaker's assistants.
He can be reached by email at