Highland Woodworking
Woodworker's Pocket Book
Edited by Charles H. Hayward
Review by J. Norman Reid

Woodworker's Pocket Book is quite different from the usual fare of woodworking books. It describes no projects. It focuses on no specific technique. It has no storyline. It is, rather, just what its title suggests: a pocket-sized reference guide to all, or nearly all, things woodworking. Compiled by Charles Hayward, longtime editor of the British magazine,
The Woodworker, it draws on his extensive and comprehensive knowledge of woodworking tools and materials.

Measuring just 4-1/4 x 6-3/4 x 1/2 inches, this slim volume is just the right size to drop into a shop apron pocket so it'll be handy for answering the slew of questions likely to come up during a woodworking session. Hardbound and cloth covered, it'll be durable enough to hold up under years of shop use.

And use it you will, for its 110 pages are a comprehensive reference to an amazing range of woodworking topics. Have a question about traditional finish alternatives, like the different types of French polishing? Look here. Puzzled about the many chemicals that can be used in woodworking? You'll find a comprehensive digest of information. Need help with basic geometry? Hayward provides help in creating ellipses, hexagons, octagons, cones, compound sloping lines, arches, and even trefoils and quatrefoils.

It does not stop there. Also covered in brief entries are miters, nail and screw types, sizes, and, helpfully, clearance hole requirements. The range of locks, hinges, stays, and casters are described. Glues are compared. The decimal equivalents of inches are given. Forms of joinery are described. A guide to sizing different types of furniture will help inform project designs.

Yet another section illustrates the range of hand tools — saws; bench and specialty planes; shaping tools such as spokeshaves, rasps, and files; chisels; marking tools; and boring tools. Another section offers guidelines on sharpening angles for different tools and alternative uses of them. Yet another part of the book illustrates key features of furniture from different classical periods, shows the styles of moldings from these periods, and lists the English and French monarchs. A final helpful guide shows how to scale up or down measurements drawn from books or other sources.

For all its comprehensiveness and helpful content, this book does have some limitations. It's a Lost Art Press reprint of a 1949 original, which means that recent innovations, and nearly all reference to powered machinery, are absent. The section on glues, for instance, omits references to PVA or CA glues or liquid hide glue. Likewise, newer finishes have come on the market that this guide does not cover. Newer fasteners, such as square drive screws, are likewise omitted. There is no Imperial to Metric conversion chart, a feature that would be especially handy. There is no discussion of appliances such as shooting boards or other hand tool fixtures. Written in England for a UK audience, many of its references are specific to the tools and materials available to UK readers. The discussion of lumber sizing, largely irrelevant to a North American audience, is a case in point.

Still, all said and done, this little volume packs in an amazing amount of useful reference material and will be a handy addition to any hard-working woodshop. It is especially strong in its catalog and description of finishes and chemicals useful in woodworking. I intend to keep a copy in my shop apron where it will be ready to answer the many questions sure to pop up while I work.

Find out more and purchase Woodworkers Pocket Book
at Highland Woodworking

J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, photographer and woodworking instructor living in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and two cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes: All You Need to Know to Get Started Planing by Hand, and co-owner of Shenandoah Tool Works. He can be reached by email at jnreid45@gmail.com.

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