. - Modern Practical Joinery by George Ellis (Rating: 5)

George Ellis was a joiner working in England at the end of the 19th Century, and realising that he wouldn't be around to mentor my woodworking journey in person, he decided to set down his instruction in this convenient text.

First, he tells me, a joiner must become familiar with the many hand tools that he will encounter, and understand how to use them. He pays special attention to teaching me how to create efficient mortice and tenon and dovetail joints. He also tells me, with a rather stern tone, how not to work. He shows me how to build a bench and fabricate some useful accessories, then, as a treat for my attentive learning, he introduces me to the new fangled woodworking machinery of the day. I'm not sure that they will catch on though, they look incredibly dangerous.

But then the hard work starts. He instructs me, in precise terms, how to produce a full joiner's repertoire; doors, windows and stairs were to be expected, but this was just the beginning. He goes on to teach me how to build everything from a warehouse window shutter, to church pews, from lavatory fittings to air tight museum cases.

Finally, he rounds the work off with a typically thorough word on the types of wood that I will encounter, to aid my understanding of how they will behave and their appropriate use.

As you can probably tell, this book has had quite an effect on me. I can't comprehend how one man could have accumulated such knowledge, then alone produce the 27 chapters, near 500 pages and 600 drawings in one lifetime.

It's very instructional and quite formal, so not the sort of book that you would sit to to read at leisure. But if you have any interest in joinery, particularly of the period, then this will be a reference book that you'll use for the rest of your journey.