I've recently become interested in delving into the practice of incorporating veneer into
some of my projects. To get started in this, I've read several books on veneering.
While each has its strong points, none, in my opinion, is as complete an introduction to
veneering as The Craft of Veneering by Craig Thibodeau. In it, the author, a longtime practitioner with
many innovative and creative projects behind him, lays out the methods he uses to
achieve exemplary creations. The result is a ready guide to a wide range of veneering
practices that will get you started with this interesting material and whet your appetite for
increasingly challenging projects.
With most of us officially sequestered for who knows how long, both boredom and the stress of anxiety seem inevitable. To combat this, it's important to stay as active as we can during this challenging time, to engage our minds, and maintain a strong sense of purpose. Spending time in the woodshop is certainly one good way to escape from the awful reality of COVID-19. Reading good woodworking books is another.
Over the last few years, I've reviewed dozens of good books (I've never reviewed a bad book!), so I well know there are plenty of them out there from which to choose. But to guide you in what I hope will be helpful directions, I've grouped a smaller number of the best into categories that may better reflect your reading objectives.
READING FOR DIVERSION
You may simply want to read something to take your mind off the awful prospects of the pandemic. One such book is Nina McLaughlin's Hammer Head, which recounts, in a lighthearted way, her dive into general carpentry and the process of learning she underwent. Another is Nick Offerman's Good Clean Fun, which includes some project ideas along with diverting tales of working wood in his California shop. In A Carpenter's Life as Told by Houses, Larry Haun offers an unusual perspective on carpentry by describing the succession of types of housing he experienced when growing up and in his life as a carpenter. A deeper study of fine wood carving is given by David Esterly's The Lost Carving, in which he details his efforts to restore Grinling Gibbons's magnificent carvings destroyed in a fire at England's Hampton Court. Finally, any issue of Mortise & Tenon Magazine (Issue Eight has just been released) will be full of engaging and educational articles that will stretch your mind while it keeps you occupied.
POLISHING UP ON TECHNIQUES
Another objective may be perfecting your woodworking techniques. Jeff Miller's Foundations of Better Woodworking is an excellent place to start for instruction and tips on how to improve your skills. Ron Hock's The Perfect Edge is an outstanding resource on steel blades, their composition, and in particular their sharpening and care. Given the critical importance of sharp tools, no woodworker can go wrong by studying and implementing Hock's guidance. A different approach is taken in Robert Wearing's The Solution at Hand, a collection of Wearing's best jigs and fixtures drawn from the pages of Woodworker magazine, of which he was longtime editor. This little volume, assembled by the staff at the Lost Art Press, is filled with surprising and innovative ideas to ease woodworking tasks and improve accuracy with hand tools.
LEARNING NEW SKILLS
And this may be a good time to venture into new woodworking directions and learn an additional skill or two. If you want to incorporate veneer in your woodworking projects, large or small, Craig Thibodeau's The Craft of Veneering is a good place from which to start. Working with green wood is another area of growing interest. Peter Follansbee's Joiner's Work offers one approach to riving and decorating oak furniture. Drew Langsner's Green Woodworking is a classic introduction to country furniture and other objects that's a complete start to finish guide.
Several excellent books examine chairmaking. I previously described Peter Galbert's Chairmaker's Notebook as a perfect guide and a model other books should strive to emulate. No chair maker will go wrong by consulting this book. Jeff Miller's Chairmaking and Design is a practical guide to the construction of several styles of chairs that brings these within reach of woodworkers new to this aspect of the craft.
Some other resources are Mary May's Carving the Acanthus Leaf, which is not only beautifully produced but is an outstanding walk-through of enhancing your woodworking with carved details. Finally, Jögge Sundqvist's Slöjd in Wood is an introduction to carving spoons and other wooden objects following the Swedish craft tradition of slöjd.
If you're looking to find ideas for new projects in the shop, several books can help. Fine Woodworking's Small Woodworking Projects is filled with readily built projects and is a good source of ideas for staying occupied. Any of the many books on building boxes, such as Doug Stowe's Build 25 Beautiful Boxes, will feed you ideas for crafting these items of utility and beauty. Building boxes or other small items as thank you gifts for healthcare workers and first responders would be an excellent and timely way to give back something to those who are putting their lives at risk for us all.
You may prefer to tackle a larger furniture project. Chris Schwarz's Campaign Furniture takes a decidedly different tack from the ordinary, and if you're looking to challenge yourself right now, this is one place to turn. Another is David Finck's Making & Mastering Wood Planes, now available in a revised edition, which will inspire and guide you through building and using your own wooden handplanes.
Perhaps something that raises your consciousness to a new and higher level will be welcome just now. One book that especially appeals to me is David Savage's The Intelligent Hand, which underscores the importance of both drawing and design in the conception of new pieces. Another is Christian Becksvoort's Shaker Inspiration, part biographical, part instructional, part inspirational, which shows faithful adherence to Shaker principles of design and craft while breaking away from slavish copying of extant designs. Marc Adams's The Difference Makers will inspire you in another way by highlighting exemplary makers of furniture, arts, and crafts who have had an association with Adams's Indiana woodworking school. Finally, and by no means least, is Nancy Hiller's English Arts and Crafts Furniture, which not only introduces this lesser-known English genre to North Americans but also instructs on how several pieces can be built.
So here you have a plethora of ideas about how to employ your reading time, and perhaps your shop time, during the present hiatus in normal living. Though these days are by no means sunny, there still truth in the old farmer's adage, “Make hay while the sun shines.” When else are you like ever likely to have such unfettered time for reading or woodworking? Now's a perfect time to relax with a good book, retool your technique, recharge your storehouse of ideas, and put your new learning to work.
I hope this review has given you some helpful thoughts about where to start. But most of all, I encourage you to practice safe distancing and sanitary care to keep you and your loved ones healthy.
Find all of these books and more at Highland Woodworking
J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of
Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.