“The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov”

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Review by Don W posted 08-28-2011 01:36 AM 6582 views 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
“The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov” No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

A few months ago I found the 1975 version of “The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking James Krenov” at a flee market. It was well worth the $5 I paid for it. There are newer reprints that I haven’t read, but I’ll assume they are similar.

This book is probably the first woodworking book I’ve actually read cover to cover. There is usually a chapter or section I’ll skip because of non interest or “I already know that”. This book isn’t perfect, it has some flaws I’ll point out, but all-in-all, I’d recommend reading this book.

First the bad part.
There are times when it seems he was writing words just to fill the pages. I think this book could have been about a third shorter and still got the message across. I would often put this book down for extended period of time before picking it back up to continue. I did struggle to push through certain parts.

The good part.
This book is filled with ideas, opinions, theories, thoughts, processes and out right ramblings about wood working. It made me think in a whole new way about putting pieces together. The way I look at wood grain will never be the same after reading this book. The way I think about putting pieces together will now require a lot more thought.

If your looking for a great “How to” woodwork book from a traditional step by step using tools and techniques, this isn’t it. If, however, you want to start to “think” about how you select projects and the wood that goes in them, then this book will work for you.

I have built several project since reading this book because. I built a different sharpening rest for my grinder based on this book and a smoother that was detailed. The directions were vague, and as I said in the blog posted to building this plane, you’ll need some help with the instructions.

This book is a “why” you build it, not so much a “how” you build it. This is the kind of book you may struggle to get through, but you won’t want to skip a part, just in case the next thought provoking idea is in the section you think you could skip.

Its absolutely worth the time to read it.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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Don W

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12 comments so far

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#1 posted 08-28-2011 01:46 AM

I agree. Worth reading. It has been 5-6 years since I read it. Probably time to read it again.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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136 posts in 3845 days

#2 posted 08-28-2011 03:29 AM

I am almost done with it I really enjoyed the section about how he got into woodworking.
I am not sure how to say how much I enjoy the book, but I really did and keep telling my wife about what he says here and there.
I am reading cabinetmakers journal.
Hope to be reading this one soon though.

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4 posts in 3321 days

#3 posted 08-28-2011 10:32 AM

I also enjoyed this book a few months ago. It is slow at times but a must read for a woodworker.

-- It's your lucky day!!

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12609 posts in 3936 days

#4 posted 08-28-2011 12:42 PM

Thank you for the review, another one for my list.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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3372 posts in 3501 days

#5 posted 08-29-2011 12:58 AM

This is one of my favorite books. I always hated cabinets in big box stores but I could not figure out why…then I read the section about the way he plays with the grain and it clicked…the grain in those cabinets was never given a second thought, it’s just chaos. With a bit of care a whole new dimension can be added to a project.

Thanks for doing this review.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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#6 posted 08-29-2011 02:15 PM

thank´s for the rewiew :-)


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#7 posted 08-29-2011 02:30 PM

Couldn’t agree more ! Krenov is the master for a common sense approach to the beauty of woodwork. Now if you want an advanced course in rambling, but with fantastic insights you might try & find a copy of “The soul of a tree” George Nakashima ! He passed several years ago, but his work & words are timeless.

Don Schneider, Havana Florida

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View SSMDad's profile


395 posts in 3443 days

#8 posted 08-29-2011 06:02 PM

Thanks for the review Don. I’ll keep an eye [in] for a copy. :)

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3540 days

#9 posted 08-29-2011 06:30 PM

I love this book. I agree that it’s more of a why than a how book.
Not to hijack, but I would include the following book of an interesting “how” book that still manages to address a bit of the history:

Modern Cabinet Work: A Comprehensive Treatise on Making Fine Furniture from the Golden Age of Craftsmanship
Percy A Wells (Author)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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311 posts in 4132 days

#10 posted 08-30-2011 06:41 PM

Great review Don,
I bought this book when it was first released…whoa 1975 are you sure?
I refer back to this book often, sometimes to answer a question and sometimes for a little inspiration.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

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9017 posts in 3689 days

#11 posted 09-04-2011 05:02 PM

Damn! You beat me to it. Having my morning coffee, decided to look at reviews thinking insight to equipment? Another type of equipment?

This is one of several books by a master craftsman who always said “I’m an ameture (sp?). “The Impractical Cabinet Maker” is another of Krenov’s works. not necessarily How, more Why we connect to wood. Your “Bad Part” is my “Good Part.” How do we put what we do into words? Touch, feel,smell,visions of the next step, the evolution we go through in making me…And being inspired yet not understanding “How come?” Like his discussion on how wood ages? Or why is that piece of curly maple so precious?
Sorry, guess I’m ramlbing as well? LOL

I have most of his books. Sometimes at the end of a really bad day, I’ll pick up one of his books and go through a topic or look at what came out of his hands, heart, and soul. I fall asleep inspired.

Thanks for your review!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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395 posts in 3443 days

#12 posted 09-04-2011 07:45 PM

I just ordered a [reprint 2005] copy on Thursday. Looking forward to reading it after all these praises for the book!

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

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