The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing

I have spoken quite a bit to anyone that cared to listen about how easily frustrated you can get trying to learn this craft on your own.

I’ve gone on about how what is out there on television, in magazines, and online really assumes someone has some knowledge already, and how there’s a need for material that makes this craft accessible to people that are curious and want to find out if it’s something they’ll enjoy.

Heck, it’s essential for the future of the craft.

Here’s what I wish someone had told me, no later than the second time I went on about this:

“Shut up already and quit your whining. Go buy The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing.”

Somewhere yesterday I ran across another accolade for this book, decided I’d heard enough good things, and bought it. I’ve only had time to read through the first twenty pages or so at this point, but it appears to be everything I’ve been complaining about not being available for solo hobbyists.

From the introduction:

This is really a pre-textbook. It is aimed mainly at those working alone. The apprentice has the guidance of a master craftsman, while the college student has tutors. Keen amateurs, often working in total isolation, lack this advantage.

Just a bit further on:

It is not sufficient to watch a craftsman planing and then to attempt to copy him. He is not just standing beside a plane and moving it back and forth. It is necessary to realize that he is doing much more than that. If the craftsman is not there to ask, the beginner needs to be given a description of what he is doing and what it feels like.

If you’ve decided that you’re interested in woodworking, after a scant twenty pages I can already say with confidence: go buy this book. If you’re still a beginner and don’t feel like you know what you’re doing all the time yet: go buy this book.

I imagine it would be a great refresher for someone more experienced, but that’s beyond my purview.

I spend a lot of time in front of computer screens, so I purchased the digital (pdf) copy for $12. The physical book is $25. Just go get it.

In twenty pages I’ve already had a number of things made crystal clear that I hadn’t a clue about before.

Again, the book is The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing. It’s available from the fine folks over at Lost Art Press. I’ve purchased a handful of things from them so far, and have yet to be disappointed – or really anything short of impressed – with a purchase.

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8 Responses to The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing

  1. Reblogged this on Running with Sharp Objects and commented:
    What he said.


  2. My only problem is I wish I’d bought the hard copy of this book.


    • Wesley Beal says:

      Nothing more than $25 stands in your way. I suspect I’ll buy the hard copy too, even though I’ll miss out on the buy-them-both-together-and-save-$2-discount.


    • Wesley Beal says:

      Though I am also tempted to buy some paper and ink for the printer and print out the pdf. I can see this being useful laying around the shop. They make their books to danged nice at Lost Art Press. I’d end up feeling bad about mucking up the pages.


  3. snwoodwork says:

    This book, the Anarchist Tool Chest, and With the Grain were my first set of books from Lost Art Press and my first real woodworking books. I read through Wearing’s book trying to file away different parts for when I reach whatever technique he describes. A great book in general and especially for those half a country away from proper classes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      I haven’t read With the Grain yet. I think this book, The Naked Woodworker DVD, and with some disclaimers the Anarchist Tool Chest are early entries into what I’d like to develop: a beginner’s library.

      I want beginner’s to understand that everything in the Anarchist Tool Chest is true, but not to be put off and give up on the hobby just because they aren’t ready to go buy a $2000 plow plane. I think his essential kit is directed toward someone who wants to become a master of the craft, and that beginners need to know that they can get by for a long time without purchasing all the tools at that high end a level from the get go. They’re better off not getting cheap stuff, especially for certain tools. As an example, consider the rasps. I’m not ready to shell out over $300 for hand-cut french rasps. I think there are some intermediate quality tools that will serve me well for quite a while.

      I think the real value of that book though is to understand the concept: buy quality. Don’t try to work with junk.


      • snwoodwork says:

        To me, With the Grain is more of a reference book. I went through most of it but it does not read like the ATC or Wearing’s book. Very informative though.

        I think I got more of your second point from ATC rather than the need to buy the monk-made tools. I’m a big fan of “buy once cry once” but there are limitations. At this point I have most of the tools on Schwarz’s list but there are a couple that I’m looking at and wondering how long can I put off buying them. The rasps are one and a shoulder plane is the other. But this is an expensive craft; I’ll just buy the rasps one at a time. I have not quite figured out how to mentally get over the shoulder plane hurdle.

        I think the ATC (for it’s more manifesto qualities) and the Naked Woodworker DVD would be a great starting place for someone looking to get into woodworking via hand tools.

        Liked by 1 person

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