Most helpful positive review
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Best in Its Class
on March 16, 2007
It is a pity that Watson's book is not better known among woodworkers, as it is the most comprehensive guide to using hand tools that I have yet seen on the market. Watson devotes chapters to workbenches and vises, braces and bits, chisels (which he covers quite extensively), files and rasps, mallets, saws, sandpaper, squares, and planes (the most extensive chapter in the book). He also covers less common tools such as the drawknife, the marking gauge, scrapers, the inshave, and the spokeshave, as well as very common tools like wire brushes, levels, nail sets, and screwdrivers. Watson's descriptions of each tool's function are clear and concise. His book is not cluttered by text, though it does a thorough job of explaining not only common uses for hand tools, but also advanced techniques. For example, this is one of the only woodworking books I know that explains how to cut a chamfer with a hand plane, or how to use a rasp to cut a round tenon on square stock. Perhaps the book's only fault is that it does not discuss either wooden planes or Japanese tools at all. But the book's greatest strength is its illustrations, all drawn by the author. Photographs in many other woodworking books have too many shadows to be very useful, and often a crucial tool operation is hidden by the hand that is performing it. Watson's masterful drawings overcome this problem--they illustrate tool mechanics, user posture, and wood texture, all with a minimum of extraneous detail. This work is the best single-volume book on traditional woodworking tools and techniques currently available. It is also significantly longer--over 400 pages--than most other woodworking books. Watson is required reading for anyone interested in the topic, and his book is the standard by which all other woodworking books should be judged for years to come.
Edit to add: Seven years after I wrote the above review, I find that there are one or two books on hand tools that are more comprehensive, such as Chris Schwarz's _Anarchist's Tool Chest_, but Watson is still head-and-shoulders above most of the competition. I still recommend it as the best general introduction to working wood with hand tools.