The Missing Shop Manuals - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

A basic set of reference manuals that are well suited for novice woodworkers


The Missing Shop Manuals

If you're just beginning your foray into woodworking, you'll find it worth your while to obtain some instruction. There are a number of woodworking schools and courses offered across Canada. If a course is not part of the equation, then you might want to join a local woodworking club; you'll meet lots of friendly people with a shared passion for woodworking. And, of course, you'll find ample resources on the web. In my view, the next best thing to a course is a good reference manual or instructional video. The nice thing about a reference manual is that it provides 'on the spot' reference in the shop; it's almost like having an instructor standing at your elbow.
The new series of 'The Missing Shop Manuals' from Fox Chapel Publishing provides a basic set of reference manuals that are well suited for novice woodworkers. All the books follow the same format. Most topics consists of a half page of descriptive text with a half page photo or illustration to further amplify the text. In general I found the illustrations to be very well done, with the photos less so; many seem over dark and few seem to be color corrected. The text is short and to the point. You'll also find plans for a variety of useful jigs.

Glues and Clamps
This manual begins with an overview of the most common types of clamps and clamp accessories. It then coves basic clamping techniques (edge clamping, panels, drawers, carcasses and more). The third section covers the use of clamps for stock holding, primarily on a work bench. There is a whole section on the important topic of edge gluing and on gluing up cabinets.
Both sections have good content, but I was a bit taken aback to see a photo recommending the use of a belt sander to provide a "quick and efficient start in smoothing the surfaces of a frame and panel". A random orbital sander, or better yet, a #4 smoothing plane, would be a much more appropriate choice of tools for this task.

Drills and Drill Presses
This manual begins with a rather limpid discussion on choosing a drill. It basically recommends purchasing both a corded and a cordless model. It doesn't treat such topics as chuck capacity, clutch, battery voltage, impact drills, or hex chucks. Likewise, the next section on drill bits merely presents the different kinds of bits, and doesn't suggest what they are best used for. However the section on drill basics is much better, with some very practical information.
I was surprised to see a section on sharpening drill bits. In the 30 or so years I've been involved in woodworking I've never seen anyone sharpen drill bits on a bench grinder. Seems rather odd to me, but then, maybe I'm missing out on something. The section on drill joinery is spot on. Dowel joinery, particularly with a good quality jig, is an easy, effective way for novice woodworkers to assemble panels and frames. There is a good section on setting up, aligning, and using a drill press, and another decent section on assembling and installing kitchen cabinets.

Circular Saws and Jig Saws
I'm always surprised at the number of woodworkers who initially used a circ saw as their first cutting tool. I still use one for processing all my sheet stock before making final cuts on the table saw. And, until you can purchase a band saw, a good quality jig saw is indispensible for making curved cuts.
This manual provides a lot of solid information on squaring the blade, setting the proper depth of cut, and then using both of these saws. The authors have included information on making some very useful jigs as well. However they have also included a section on sharpening circ saw blades. Jointing, setting and filing the teeth is time consuming and requires a fairly high level of skill. Expecting novice woodworkers to sharpen their blades seems fanciful.

Table Saw
The first 30 or so pages deal with identifying the parts of, and setting up, the table saw so that it cuts safely and precisely. This is followed by a section on the different types of saw blades and how to maintain your saw blade investment (which can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars). Thankfully there isn't a section on blade sharpening. Table saws are among the most dangerous machines in a workshop and the authors do a good job of discussing the salient points of table saw safety. The balance of the book deals with table saw techniques - rip cuts, crosscutting, angle and bevel cuts, and table saw joinery, along with jigs and accessories that make your table saw safer and easier to use, and extend your productivity with the saw. You won't find this level of information in the instructions that accompany most table saws.

This manual begins with an overview of the various parts of a lathe, and introduces the reader to some common turning woods. It then highlights four basic turning tools and discusses how to turn a spindle and bowl using spindle and roughing gouges.
Oddly, the authors then return to a more detailed discussion of turning tools, tools rests, centers, chucks, measuring tools and related aspects of lathe set-up. They follow this with a primer on safety considerations, and what I thought was a very good section on sharpening turning tools. The balance of the manual presents turning techniques for spindle, faceplate and bowl turning, along with a short section on finishing.
Overall, these are reasonably good reference manuals, ideally suited, I think, for novice woodworkers, and at under $10 per manual for the five-set price, well-priced.



  • Glue and Clamps - 101 pages
  • Drills and Drill Presses - 101 pages
  • Circular Saws and Jig Saws - 85 pages
  • Table Saw - 143 pages
  • Lathe - 149 pages
PUBLISHER:Fox Chapel Publishing
AVAILABLE FROM:Your local bookseller or online
RETAIL PRICE:$44.75 (set of 5)
Individually from $11.95
AUTHOR:Skills Press Institute

Carl Duguay
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