The Essential Book For Your Hand Tools

I’ve written so much about my using hand tools in my daily woodworking through the years, as a full-time maker my reasoning is sound. Combining writing with teaching many thousands in my woodworking classes one-on-one (over 6,500 to date) enabled me to better understand the need. I have now taught woodworking in the USA, England, Wales and Israel, it equipped me me to see and show how very few people in our present-day understood the Evolution, Efficacy, Efficiency and Economy using hand tools brought to those who master the art of hand-tool woodworking. You might not quite believe it, but my belief is that everyone and anyone can master hand tools and become highly proficient.

I chose the four ‘E’ words above carefully. It is all too easy for anyone to believe that in the evolution of working, we might also believe that we have evolved into better woodworkers than the previous generations. That is far from true. I doubt that anyone can really argue that many woodworkers today produce what artisans 200 years ago made. In my view, the only way to truly do that is to adopt the methods and techniques they had centuries ago. Does that mean we must be old-fashioned and outdated? Not at all. It is doubtful that anything has improved on the quality of design, skilled artisanry, or whatever, simply because industrializing processes mostly resulted in an industrial and utilitarian output. There is nothing wrong with that . . . industry demands meet the needs of consumerism. But it does not need to influence the work of those of us striving for craftsmanship in the truest sense. Most of the woodworkers I have met and come to know have wanted something very much more from the world of woodworking than simply mass making. What I and they wanted and worked towards was to develop true skill, and then too, knowledge about the methods and techniques, the tools and so on. Through my interest in training up a new generation of woodworkers, I discovered a generation that wanted some if not all of what I had enjoyed throughout my own life. They wanted hand tool skills, true hand tool skills, skills that would result in the fine craftsmanship of ancient makers through the centuries but without being outdated and old-fashioned. For my part, I simply wanted the emerging generations to take the baton from me to ensure that my craft didn’t die. I had only a little hope 30 years ago when I started taking on apprentices and developing the idea for a woodworking school. Today, that is not the case at all. I believe that my dream is now a reality in the lives of thousands of individuals around the world.

My book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools has undergirded many elements of my dream and not the least of which is research and development, training apprentices, and then, beyond that, working with autism using the curriculum I have developed to this end. Writing, creating masses of curriculum for training and self-development, took many years for both myself and Joseph. We wanted the core of what I had learned through many decades of hands-on hand tool woodworking to come together symbiotically across many platforms and then, additionally, in a single publication. It runs parallel to all that we do through our Woodworking Masterclasses video output of over 500 hours of online training. We brought together our commonwoodworking.com foundational work for new beginners turning to hand tools and our social media including YouTube and Facebook, etc.

We are down to around 1,500 remaining copies of Essential `Woodworking Hand Tools in this print run. It’s a 485 full colour tome just about the hand tools I rely on in my daily woodworking and the tools I most strongly recommend to any and all woodworkers. From restoration to refinement, setting up and using the individual tools along with sharpening and tool techniques, I poured everything I knew about these tools into this one volume knowing that it would be in the hands of thousands of woodworkers through the coming years. Woodworking with hand tools has a way of changing people’s lives in ways that they never expected. Please order your copy if you haven’t already. The sales support everything we do in conserving the art of woodworking. If you already have the book please let me and others know what you think of it in the comments below. You can buy the book from our family business using the button below.

45 thoughts on “The Essential Book For Your Hand Tools”

  1. Hi Paul, sorry to post on this one as opposed to the relevant article but I recently watched your YouTube video on door hanging. In the video when recessing the hinges you mention that sometimes the hinge gap might vary even if you accurately gauge the depth of the hinge recesses. I know if the hinge gap is too large one could slightly increase the depth of the recess but what about if the gap is too tight?, is it bad workmanship to put cardboard behind the hinges to widen the hinge gap? If not what else can one do to increase the hinge gap?

    1. You can Scotch the hinge by creating a pivot point in the recess along the length of the recess, effectively beveling from one third in and paring down a small amount. This pivots the flap of the hinge to ‘throw’ the hinge. Also, I have no issue with shimming with cardboard either. It’s been done for decades and centuries.

      1. MARK POULSON

        Paul,
        Your comment above about shimming with cardboard really illustrates, to me, the difference between you and so many other hand tool commentators.
        You are a teacher, not a preacher.
        Thanks again for all you do.

  2. I bought your book as soon I knew it did exist. I read it from the beginning to the end at first, and I come back to it very frequently, to refresh some concrete aspect: sharpening of a saw, adjusting of a tool, what to look for in a tool I’m considering to buy… I take it and read this or that part only for enjoying with all the knowledge that it has inside. I think, with no doubt at all, that it is the BEST book I know about woodworking hand tools. There are a lot of books out there and many of them are very good books, of course, but the one you have written is the best. I have learned a lot with it, and I re-learn something everytime I take it. On hand tools, it is my reference book.

    There is only one thing that I don’t like on your book: the size of the letter (font) that has been used. It’s very small, almost footnote size. I suppose too that a bigger font would have made the book thicker, heavier and uncomfortable, with too many pages or perhaps more expensive to publish, and the size of font is a compromise to maintain the book in a reasonably size, price and publishing costs.

    I think that is a great book, anyway. A treasure for all of us who love the real woodworking. I really think that you can feel proud with it, Paul. Thank you very much for writing it.

  3. Peter Fitzpatrick

    I bought a copy of this book as soon as it was published, and I have no regrets at all. It is a superb reference for the hand-tool woodworker, certainly the best and most comprehensive I have in my library.

    I don’t know if secondary schools still offer woodworking classes much any more, more’s the pity, but I’d certainly include this volume in any school or public library.

  4. Dave Larson

    I couldn’t do without your book, and keep it as a permanent resident of my nightstand.
    Almost all of my tools have been acquired from people that may not have known exactly what they were for or how to use them properly — a condition I would have been in myself without your book.
    As improve in my understanding a use of these tools, I continually go back, to gain a new understanding of each tool.
    To me the book is indispensable, and an absolute must have for anyone working with hand tools.

  5. I agree with al the kudos about your book. An essential classic, often referred to for learning or refreshing.

  6. Jean Claude Peeters

    ‘Essential Woodworking Hand Tools’ is the book I buy for my friends. Which isn’t a very smart move, because they used to think I was a wizard who could sharpen planes , knives, chisels, and even SAWS!
    Unlike other ‘bibles of woodworking’, written by ‘woodworking deities’, this book is exactly what the title says: ESSENTIAL.
    Not only a coffee table book for armchair woodworkers, like too many other much more expensive publications.

  7. Hi Paul,
    I have a copy and purchased a copy for my dad. We have both read it cover to cover.

    I think this book has the best instructions I have ever seen for how to manually sharpen a saw as well as some really helpful simple jigs.

    My dad, 83 years old and having used hand tools for a long time, found things in the book he had never seen written elsewhere.

    It’s a great book.

  8. I bought this book a few months ago. There is no other book like it. Great photos, and a wealth of wisdom and detail you won’t find anywhere else. It is a genuinely remarkable achievement.

    1. Thank you Carla, I am reworking my first book Working Wood currently out of print and not available for an upgrade, and a second edition with completely revised text, new photography throughout and so on. I am hoping for a hardbound companion to Essential Woodworking Hand Tools so spending full days on that as well as my usual workload but I have lots of gifted help and I am enjoying throwing myself into it all.

  9. Wonderful as an reference book or just for dipping into, this book is simply one of my most essential tools in the workshop. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Rob. I wrote it and I still dip in and out of it. I have a follow up of a companion of the other tools I use that may not be as essential but still worthy of honourable mention. Hopefully I will get the time to work on that more fully one of these days. My work is never what I read about but what I do, did and will do so . . .

      1. A companion is coming! That is wonderful news!

        Essential Woodworking Hand Tools is a great book! I have already commented on it; writing, photos, design, printing … everything is top quality. But especially the writing.

        …my honorable mentions would be a 5 cm long trimming plane which I use for arrises and little single-handed tasks and a 15 cm metallic ruler, great for many measurements.

        Keep up the great work! Special thanks from Albania!

  10. Tobias Bauer

    I bought your book a few years ago. Every page was a little treasure for me to discover. It is comprehensive, very well illustrated and knowledgeable, and I always felt like it was written for me.
    The best thing however was that it gave me confidence. Confidence in believing that I can learn and can do. And confidence on what I need for it and what I don’t need. My power tools, power hand saw and 2 power routers, have not seen daylight ever since and I ultimately will sell them. I have been making with my own hands instead and never felt as fulfilled about any other work or hobby.

    1. You and others commenting are the exact outcomes I planned for when I started writing from my life and lifetime as a maker. Thanks for the positive input.

  11. Scott Carro

    Just a fantastic reference book that has helped me immensely. I look forward to updates on your next writing ventures!

  12. I’ve got your book. It’s a fantastic resource. I wondered whether I would need it given all your content on YouTube, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it expands further on that, plus does a great job of having everything all in one place for quick reference.

    For a reference book, it’s actually enjoyable to read as the depth of knowledge means there is always something new to learn in every paragraph. The illustrations and photos are attractive and clear and the print quality is superb.

    Thank you for making it.

  13. John Morrison

    Its the tool bible. I’ve never found anything else as detailed and comprehensive. It was got me into the craft and I still regularly dip into it. And overseas orders are no problem. Definitely worth grabbing a copy if you haven’t already – you’ll be glad you did.

  14. It really is a fantastic book. I’ve said it before on here, but the quality of the book itself – beyond what’s written – is just perfection. It’s beautifully laid out, spacing and font just really, really good. I should really but another copy, as I haven’t yet taken my current one out to the garage in case it gets ruined!

  15. Werner Cook

    I purchased Essential Woodworking Hand Tools as soon as it was published and have to say (like so many others) that it is superbly written and illustrated, I never regretted its purchase. The hand drawn diagrams as well as the photographs really do explain what the text may miss or where the reader may not quite grasp what is being explained. Each recommended tool is covered in such detail that I don’t think there’s anything left out. It’s been said before, this has to be the woodworkers hand tool bible.
    I also have the soft back copies of your Working Wood 1&2 (The Artisan Course) that was purchased prior to the publication of Essential Woodworking Hand Tools. This book is also very good (I covered my copy in clear self adhesive plastic to try to preserve the more flimsy jacket) but for me the later book is the best where just the full ins and outs of the individual tools are so very well explained. Thank you for your dedication and careful thought that you obviously put into all your writings and of course the video’s that you produce.

      1. Thanks Paul for sharing your knowledge and your artistic talent in your book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools. I am on my second time through reading it cover to cover. You are a great inspiration to the craft and on another level “life”. Thank you

  16. I have been watching your videos and reading your content for man years now. I’ve begun focusing on using hand tools as I progress in woodworking. It is quieter and less dusty. More zen.
    I’m two years into retirement and am building your workbench. I have learned a ton of nuanced skill by watching your videos (repeatedly) as part of each step of the build.
    I greatly appreciate the contribution you make to the world in passing along and preserving these skills.
    Thank You.

  17. Brian Adams

    I purchased this book in February 2020, read it cover to cover while recuperating from ankle surgery. I then gave it to my brother, he also has found the worth and satisfaction of working wood with hand tools, as a Christmas gift that year (I believed that I could buy another through the Lee Valley store, alas they do not carry it now). I found it very informative and will buy another copy at some point. Thank you Mr. Sellers for writing this book.

  18. Hello Paul
    I have been aware for some time that you have many years experience teaching and working with those on autistm spectrum (mentioned above)
    My 15 yo Son is Autistic and I have been trying to teach him some woodworking skills for a while now.
    He is due to leave his educational system in a few years and there will be no support for him, hence my attempts to give him something he can turn his hand to, so to speak.
    It is difficult to know how well I am doing as my own experience is very limited and I do not have any power equipment such as table, bandsaw thicknesses planer etc.(not that I would let my son use them anyway!)
    I would though, be very grateful if you would at some point post an outline or an education plan, or talk about how you managed to teach woodworking to someone like my son and also have you any advise such as do’s and don’ts, pitfalls, most suitable tools and projects etc.
    Any help would be gratefully accepted.
    Many thanks

  19. Hey Paul!

    Any interest in making it an ebook or kindle book or whatnot? I think you’d reach a lot more people but Amazon (shorthand for other corporations with e-publications) will indeed rip you off if you do. Might be worth it to extend your message to more people.

  20. Peter Compton

    I bought the book many years ago. Read it from cover to cover. A book full of interesting facts, diagrams and photos. Why would you need any other reference book. It is all here.

  21. Matt Evans-Koch

    I purchased your book last year. It was one of the last few from your original printing. I have read it from cover to cover twice and refer to it every time I get ready to do a task I haven’t done for awhile such as sharpen a saw. It has been the best woodworking book I have purchased in nearly 30 years of on again/off again woodworking. It sits front and center on the shelf in my small garage shop, a place it rightly deserves. Thank you Paul and the Paul Sellers crew for all you provide the this community.

  22. I got the book Paul and it is very informative. The problem is,though, we want more, one can never get enough help. Since starting to use hand tools more I have been able to do things with them that make me very satisfied. I have started to examine the old furniture from my wife’s parents house and been able to understand how they are built; this has led to reproducing the various joints. Common woodworking has also helped me to reproduce the joints needed. I told my friend, who has been a professional home builder since the 1970s, that I made a bunch of tables with hand made mortise joints,( your site showed me how), he thought it must have been quite hard. He has never made handmade joints and he is sought after as a kitchen cabinet maker. I told him it was simple and fast, it just took a saw, chisel, and markers. Actually he built my house.
    As long as trees exist, which will be forever, we will work with them. Also metal, rocks, animal life and not to forget; other humans.

  23. Donald Lawrence

    Hello, I live in Canada. What will this book cost in Canadian dollars, and what type of payment will you accept? I do not use credit cards.

    Regards.

    Donald

    1. Hello Donald,

      They also use Paypal which can be linked to a bank account. You can follow the links from the Other tab at the top of this page to get to the Rokesmith website where you can order the book. It will give the equivalent price in Canadian dollars, to which shipping cost will be added. I ordered it from Canada and received it promptly. Well worth the investment!

    2. Oups.. Sorry, the price is shown in Pounds or USD. But you can convert yourself to Canadian dollars using the current exchange rate to give you the approximate amount.

  24. I made myself a Christmas gift and got a copy of the book. I took my time to read it during January and I was very pleased with the contents. This is such a great book! Paul goes into a lot of details to describe the functioning and the important aspects of these essential tools. Having seen many of Paul’s videos on YouTube I could hear his voice while reading each sentence. The sentences all carry a lot of important information. I found myself re-reading sentences to really absorb the points that Paul makes, and cross-referencing the pictures and illustrations that are well inserted within the text. The book becomes a true reference. And to make sure this book can last as a reference book, Paul has chosen very good quality paper for the pages and a solid binding that prevents the pages to detach. Now I just have to find the good quality version of these tools on my side of the ocean. I have yet to find a burnisher with an oval shape like Paul’s one. I’ll have to settle for a round one I guess. I am looking forward to receiving my router plane hardware kit that is currently in transit. Thank you Paul for spending the time to prepare this book and to prepare such nice illustrations. Looking forward to the re-edition of your other books.

  25. BackYardJackOfAllTrades

    Paul, you’ve taught 6.5K people one on one. In reality you’ve taught Billions on an exponential level. I’ve built countless items by watching your YouTube videos and with my limited amount of space plus helping my family out with their buys lives you have also taught me how to manage my time. I can’t thank you and your team enough. Whenever there’s an end there’s a beginning. Reg

  26. Edward Blomme

    This book along with Working Wood 1&2 all all one needs to master the hand tools and then put them to use. These two books compliment each other perfectly. After retiring from a life as a tool and die maker, I took up woodworking. I watched all the shows on T.V. and purchase all the machines I thought I needed. As my modest shop space shrank along with my savings, I knew something had to be done! I happened to see one of your videos, and it was then that I made the change. The machines were sold, and hand tools acquired. I purchased both of these books and as they say “The rest is history.” I’ve found that I can do anything a machine can do, without the noise, the dust or danger! The hours spent in the shop using hand tools is better than any medicine one can buy. As I work the wood I think about the craftsman before me who used my 75 year old Record Plough Plane or my 100 year old Stanley #4. Keep up the good work and until then I’ll be waiting for your next book.

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