Review: Collins Complete Woodworker's Manual

Personally, one of this author’s favourite things about the maker movement is not all of the soldering, coding, and robots – much as I love them – but the revived interest in traditional crafts. Fabrics, etched glass, wood. Particularly wood.
Wood is a material that brings uniqueness – through grain, knots, and finish – to the appearance (and feel) of each object made. It carries history too – whether from a conifer planted during our lifetime for low-cost softwood supplies, an oak planted long before Nelson won at Trafalgar, or a tropical hardwood recovered from a demolished Victorian building.

A Raspberry Pi-controlled CNC machine (see issue 38 of our sister magazine, The MagPi) may bring your workshop up to date, but most projects can be completed with simple hand tools and near timeless techniques. Power tools and machine tools will speed up the job, but you also need an understanding of the basics.

Collins Complete Woodworker’s Manual gives you the lot – bar the Pi-controlled CNC machine – and does it extremely well. Before the World Wide Web (the first edition dates from 1989), weighty tomes like these were a great way of collecting knowledge on a topic. Here, design, tools, and techniques are taught, with little presumption of prior knowledge. The book is not project-led, yet the principles and practice of designing and building projects like bookshelves, cupboards, chairs, and tables are covered.

For some, this will be enough to get started; for others a project-based book will be a good companion to this manual, to build the practical experience and confidence to tackle the design and construction of the cabinets you dream of for your projects. In either case, Jackson and Day, aided by Simon Jennings’ wonderfully clear layouts, bring you knowledge far more clearly and concisely than most YouTube videos.

Easily picked up for a pound or two at charity shops and car boot sales, the first and second editions (the latter owned by your reviewer) are astonishing bargains. But the later edition from 2005, bought new, is cheaper than most programming books – yet the skills unlocked within will not go out of date.
An essential for beginners, and you’ll refer to this for decades to come.

Albert Jackson and David Day £30 harpercollins.co.uk

Verdict

Authoritative, clear, concise guide to all aspects of working
with wood.

9/10

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