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Go-to Woodturning Books

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I've seen a handful of threads here that immediately made me think of my two "go to the grave with" books for woodturning (not that there aren't others in the shop library). They are:

The Art of Turned Bowls by Richard Raffan -- great for understanding design, self-evaluating your product, and getting ideas when you're stuck in a groove. Amazing illustrations and photos; good basic instruction on cutting blanks from raw wood too.

Fixtures and Chucks for Woodturning by Doc Green. Great all-around book for mounting things on the lathe, very practical (some DIY), good illustrations

I recommend these two books "for starters" for any students who are serious about woodturning, especially (in the case of Doc Green's book) if they are turning at home and want to understand options for mounting various projects.

Would love to know what books you have that you could not live without!
 
Joined
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Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnel has a particularly good section on looking for grain in various sections of the tree, and rudiments of wood characteristics. I suppose if I had to I could live without it, but it’s enriched my understanding of the material and process.
 
Joined
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I have several of Richard Raffan's books and they were essential when I was starting 12 years ago, but today, even DVDs may be surplanted by online videos.

One book that really opened my eyes and expanded my thinking was Ernie Conover's book "The Frugal Woodturner." Not only did it introduce me to the idea of dreaming up and making various jigs and fixtures and contraptions and appliances, but it was a really good summary of the whole array of woodturner gear and gadgets, whether purchased or made.

Alan Lacer's skew DVDs were extremely helpful to me in learning to sharpen and use a skew.
 
Joined
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Media, PA
I bought “Woodturning: foundation course” by Keith Rowley when I started. One thing I really like about it is that it covers safety first and does a better job on the topic than any other books I’ve read since. As someone starting on my own without hands on guidance, that was a key.

Some of his technique in the book I’ve come to view as somewhat eccentric, but it starts with a variety of spindle turning practice and also covers bowls as well. It also has projects at the end for a number of interesting things like (if I remember right) a stool, lamp, goblet and peppermill. If someone was starting out that’s the one I would hand them.
 
Joined
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Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnel has a particularly good section on looking for grain in various sections of the tree, and rudiments of wood characteristics. I suppose if I had to I could live without it, but it’s enriched my understanding of the material and process.
Yes! I use that one in a Wood for Turners class that's taught every quarter or so.
 
Joined
May 28, 2015
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Location
Bainbridge Island, WA
I have several of Richard Raffan's books and they were essential when I was starting 12 years ago, but today, even DVDs may be surplanted by online videos.

One book that really opened my eyes and expanded my thinking was Ernie Conover's book "The Frugal Woodturner." Not only did it introduce me to the idea of dreaming up and making various jigs and fixtures and contraptions and appliances, but it was a really good summary of the whole array of woodturner gear and gadgets, whether purchased or made.

Alan Lacer's skew DVDs were extremely helpful to me in learning to sharpen and use a skew
I'll have to look for the "Frugal" book, sounds like fun. Videos are ever so useful, but I can't think of a substitute for Raffan's "Art of..." book. Have seen Lacer's video, it's great.
 
Joined
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Location
Bainbridge Island, WA
I bought “Woodturning: foundation course” by Keith Rowley when I started. One thing I really like about it is that it covers safety first and does a better job on the topic than any other books I’ve read since. As someone starting on my own without hands on guidance, that was a key.

Some of his technique in the book I’ve come to view as somewhat eccentric, but it starts with a variety of spindle turning practice and also covers bowls as well. It also has projects at the end for a number of interesting things like (if I remember right) a stool, lamp, goblet and peppermill. If someone was starting out that’s the one I would hand them.
Sounds like a great choice for someone who's on their own, glad you found it. Your conclusion about technique isn't too surprising, You never know what works for others.:p
 
Joined
Dec 15, 2021
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West Memphis, AR
Turning Bowls with Richard Raffen was my first book, but most of what I have learned came from a couple of Mike Mahoney DVDs, 'From the Tree to the Table' and his DVD on the McNaughton Center Saver', then 'The Skew Chisel, The Dark Side, The Sweet Side' with Alan Lacer helped me get up the nerve to put the skew to some wood. I spent many hours watching Mike Darlow in his two DVD 'The Practice of Woodturning' though I could only watch for short periods of time, would fall asleep......lots and lots of information though.
 

Bill Boehme

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The book that I find the most useful is one that may not come to mind as a woodturning book, but I find it more useful as a woodturner than when I only did flat woodworking: "Understanding Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley. Wood is complex, but it needn't be a mystery.
 
Joined
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Erie, PA
I have every book mentioned and many more, but my first two were Dale Nish and then followed by Raffan's books
 

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john lucas

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I have a rediculous number of books including all of the above. I would have to say Raffens have been the most useful. Mike Darlow's books have a lot of good information but incredibly hard to read. He us the kind of guy you ask what time it is and he tells you how to build a clock. Lots of great info but man it's hard to wade through.
 
Joined
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Lebanon, Missouri
My most used woodturning books are "Ellsworth on Woodturning" and Raffan's "The Art of Turned Bowls". I would not consider either "starter books". The Fixtures and Chucks Doc Green book is a good starter, providing good guidance through the maize of accessories available. A starter book needs to be elemental and not opinionated. I have a 1966 textbook, "Technical Woodworking", that served as a high school industrial arts textbook, that does just that.

My most used woodworking book, over a ~40 year period of flatwork and woodturning, is "Understanding Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexner, followed by "Great Wood Finishes" by Jeff Jewitt. Gaining a bit of technical knowledge about how different finishes work and compatibility of various types goes a long way to explain what is otherwise a very confusing topic.
 
Joined
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Derry, NH
He us the kind of guy you ask what time it is and he tells you how to build a clock.
John, I laughed right out loud at that statement. You could not be more accurate in describing Mike Darlow. Not only will he tell you how to build the clock, but he will also engineer 20 different varieties, spanning several centuries of clock making.
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2010
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Kentucky
I have a rediculous number of books including all of the above. I would have to say Raffens have been the most useful. Mike Darlow's books have a lot of good information but incredibly hard to read. He us the kind of guy you ask what time it is and he tells you how to build a clock. Lots of great info but man it's hard to wade through.

I also have an absurd number of books, also including all the above, and the recommendations for beginners are excellent. Doc Green's book is important, because it helps expand what you can do on/with a lathe. It's interesting that most of the suggestions lean heavily toward bowls and hollow forms, giving less attention to spindle work.

I think that beginning turners ought to see that so much more than bowls, hollow forms, etc are possible with a lathe. There are so many other basic (and not so basic) things to try. From that standpoint, Darlow is invaluable although sometimes requiring a lot of effort. Perhaps Keith Rowley's books, since he starts from the basics and offers wide range of things to turn. If beginners can see not only the "how to" but also the many possibilities, they may find what really interests them. That's what I did -- started with bowls and hollow forms -- but found other interests. On a more advanced level, Stephen Hogbin "Hogbin on Woodturning" provides many uses of turnings, often with relatively straightforward processes. Barbara Dill is great for a systematic to multiaxis work and doing more with spindles. And so many others.

My primary interests in turning in recent years have been in the byways and little-traveled sideroads of the turning world, mostly spindle work and multiaxis. All that said, perhaps the most important influence on my turning (aside from an anonymous turner in 18th century Cairo) has been Derek Weidman. I saw all his rotations at the OVWG symposium some years ago, then took a weeklong class with him at Arrowmont. I haven't turned an animal head in the years after, but the basic lessons from his class, such as "mounting here to cut there", opened up many paossibilities and have been crucial in much of what I have turned since.
 
Joined
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If you want to really learn about wood and I mean "really" learn as mentioned above by Bill is "Understanding Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley"! Another good one for wood is Romeyn B. Hough. The Woodbook. The Complete Plates, this book gives you 3 different views of each species. I use both of these a lot.

 
Joined
Nov 15, 2020
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Location
Huntington, VT
I refer often to Raffan's Turning Wood and Art of Turned Bowls and Ellsworth on Woodturning. For approaches to design I have benefited from Terry Martin's the Creative Woodturner and New Masters of Woodturning by him and Kevin Wallace. I would like to get some books on Oriental ceramic design, if anyone can suggest such.
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2018
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Location
Ponsford, MN
The book that I find the most useful is one that may not come to mind as a woodturning book, but I find it more useful as a woodturner than when I only did flat woodworking: "Understanding Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley. Wood is complex, but it needn't be a mystery.
Ditto that I have my own hardcover copy probably the 8th printing and still refer to it often. One of the current uses is to verify the accuracy of internet sources.
 

Bill Boehme

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Ditto that I have my own hardcover copy probably the 8th printing and still refer to it often. One of the current uses is to verify the accuracy of internet sources.

I know what you mean. I actually found a mistake on the Internet the other day.
 
Joined
Dec 15, 2021
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Location
West Memphis, AR
My most used woodturning books are "Ellsworth on Woodturning" and Raffan's "The Art of Turned Bowls". I would not consider either "starter books". The Fixtures and Chucks Doc Green book is a good starter, providing good guidance through the maize of accessories available. A starter book needs to be elemental and not opinionated. I have a 1966 textbook, "Technical Woodworking", that served as a high school industrial arts textbook, that does just that.

My most used woodworking book, over a ~40 year period of flatwork and woodturning, is "Understanding Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexner, followed by "Great Wood Finishes" by Jeff Jewitt. Gaining a bit of technical knowledge about how different finishes work and compatibility of various types goes a long way to explain what is otherwise a very confusing topic.
One of my greatest needs of many, in my opinion, is finishing. After reading your comment concerning the two books on finishing, I went to E-bay and found both Bob Flexner's and Jeff Jewitt's books and purchased them both for less than $10.00. Just an idea for those looking for certain books, not a bad place to start.....
 
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