Back to Basics: Straight Talk for Today's Woodworker

Introductory guides that will be of particular interest to novice woodworkers.

Straight Talk for Today's Woodworker

Back to Basics: Straight Talk for Today's Woodworker

While the subtitle, 'Straight Talk for Today's Woodworker', the Back to Basics series might imply that these books are designed for all woodworkers, they are, in my view, particularly relevant for novice woodworkers. Woodworkers with intermediate skills will likely benefit from more comprehensive treatment of the subjects covered in these books, while advanced woodworkers aren't likely to find any new material. Currently there are 8 titles in the series; I had an opportunity to look through 5 titles.
My first impression was not overly positive. The photography is very poor; many of the photos are barely distinguishable, and most are too small to see much detail. Fortunately, there aren't many photos. The authors rely largely on illustrations, and these are, in general, quite good. Almost every topic is accompanied by at least one illustration. The authors clearly have a good grasp of their respective subjects and know how to explain both simple and complex concepts clearly. After going through the books I've revised my initial impression - while not of the high quality I am used to seeing from Fox Chapel Publishing, these books contain a lot of reliable information that any novice woodworker will benefit from.

Woodworker's Guide to Wood (ISBN: 978-1565234642)

Overall I found this book covered the topic well. Topics include the anatomy of wood, properties of wood, how to select, store and prepare lumber, estimating wood movement, sheet stock, and a fairly lengthy section on working green wood. I would have liked to see more on techniques for dealing with wood movement, and the role of various finishes on wood movement.
At the back of the book is a wood directory that provides useful information on a range of commonly used timbers. The authors identify those timbers that are endangered. I would like to have seen those that are sustainable harvested identified as well. As woodworkers we have an obligation to refrain from using timbers that are rare or endangered, and where possible to use sustainably harvested woods.

Constructing Kitchen Cabinets (ISBN: 978-1565234666)

It's been my experience that most people get into woodworking for one of two reasons - to make furniture, or to make cabinets. This book covers layout and design issues and general construction techniques for the major components in cabinet construction - casework, doors, drawers and countertops.
For example, the section on doors begins with an overview of various door designs, moves on to primers on making board and batten and frame and panel doors, and concludes with a section on mounting doors. There is also a section on installing cabinets.


Woodworking Machines (ISBN: 978-1565234659)

In this book you'll find general introductions to stationary machines, portable power tool and blade and bit sharpening, along with detailed chapters on the table saw, band saw, radial arm saw, drill press and jointer. Almost as an afterthought these is a small section on 'other tools', including scroll saws, sanders and air compressors.
There is barely a mention of planers (2 pages), and nothing on miter saws. The section on radial arm saws is a bit strange - there aren't many models available, they're expensive, and I can't imagine a novice woodworker including one as a first purchase. Nonetheless, the content is good, and it's certainly worth a read if you're new to woodworking machinery.

Woodworker's Guide to Joinery (ISBN: 978-1565234628)

This is a fundamental topic in woodworking, as without knowing the basics of joinery you aren't going to manage to put together much of anything. The author begins with a primer on joinery, and includes a useful table showing the types of joinery that are appropriate for solid wood, plywood and particleboard construction.
There is also a chart showing adhesive characteristics and typical uses. The rest of the book covers joints - butt, miter, lap and groove, mortise and tenon, dovetail, and box. For each joint the author tells you what it's typically used for, and how to make the joint. Lots of good information here, and several useful jigs.

Setting Up Your Workshop (ISBN: 978-1565234635)

Once a person gets the woodworking 'bug' and begins to accumulate tools, they begin to look for a suitable space to pursue their new avocation - basement, garage, rented space, or even a spare bedroom. 'Setting Up Your Workshop' provides useful information on organizing the available space you have so that you can use it most effectively.
There is a section on building a conventional workbench, and some bench accessories. The sections on shop accessories, storage, and work surfaces present ample useful information, and lots of ideas for user-built jigs and accessories. The book ends with a discussion shop safety, which is requisite reading for anyone new to the craft.


  • Woodworker's Guide to Wood
  • Constructing Kitchen Cabinets
  • Woodworking Machines
  • Woodworker's Guide to Joinery
  • Setting Up Your Workshop
  • Fundamentals of Sharpening
  • Woodworker's Guide to Carving
  • Woodworker's Guide to Turning
PUBLISHER:Fox Chapel Publishing
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
ISBN:See Review
AUTHOR:Skills Press Institute

Discover more great woodworking reviews!
Subscribe Now and get instance online access to our library filled with exciting woodworking information.
Continue to stay connected to the latest tool reviews with our bi-monthly woodworking magazines!