This list contains museums that have a substantial tool and/or furniture collection on their website and that I have found useful in my research.
- Ceredigion Museum
- Colonial Williamsburg DeWitt Wallace Museum
- Glasgow Museums
- The Burrell Collection (Furniture)
- National Library of France (in French only)
- The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art aka The Met
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art
- The Rijks Museum Amsterdam
- St Fagans National History Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
General interest books on furniture that didn't make it into my other list here.
- Beckerdite, Luke (Editor). 1993-2020. American Furniture. Havertown, PA; Casemate Academic.
- American Furniture is an annual publication of the Chipstone Foundation and a scholarly journal focusing on 18th and 19th Century American furniture, though other periods sneak in from time to time. This is a superb series and I look forward to the new edition each year. They run 300-400 pages and from 1993 to 2010 they were available in both hardback and softcover. Since 2011, they are only printed in hardback. The publisher, Casemate Academic stocks the entire series from 1995 onward ($60 softcover, $65 hardback). Though you can find them on Amazon, eBay, and ABE for less. That said, you can read all but the more recent issues online. Though they beautifully produced books and layout is superior in print.
Tool Sale Reference Books
These are my go to reference books when researching tools I am putting up for sale.
- Elliott, Thomas L. 2018. A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes 5th Ed. Lanham, MD; Astragal Press. ISBN; 978-1931626385
- This is the canonical reference for American wooden planes, especially molding planes. Now in its 5th edition, this encyclopedic volume includes; 4590 biographical entries; 6160 imprint illustrations; 3030 wedge outlines; and over 3000 individual ratings for judging relative scarcity and value.
- Pearson, Ronald W. 1994. The American Patented Brace 1829-1924: An Illustrated Directory of Patents. Lanham, MD; Astragal Press. ISBN; 978-1879335484
- A great reference for the many braces made in the U.S. So many ingenious ideas were explored to hold interchangeable bits into a stock for boring holes. Pearson exhaustively searched the Patent Office archives for all patents related to braces. The book contains the drawings of them all. Plus, handy cross-references by inventor and state.
- Rees, Jane. 2020. Goodman's British Planemakers 4th Ed. Lanham, MD; Astragal Press. ISBN; 978-1-931626-44-6
- The 3rd edition was long out of print and was fetching $150 on the used market as it was such a valuable reference. However, Jane Rees finally finished up a thorough rewrite and expansion. This remains THE canonical reference for British wooden plane makers. It starts with 165 pages giving background on the trade and how it all worked in Britain especially in the 18th ; 19th Centuries. Also, a good treatment of the different profiles used. It covers makers from the late 17th Century to the end of wooden planes in the early 20th Century with over 2400 makers identified and over 2250 maker marks. It also includes Extensive biographical information on some of the important planemaking families.
- Smith, Roger K. 1981. Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, 1827-1927 (Vol. I) North Village Pub Co. ISBN; 978-0940458004
- Not all the antique metal planes you come across are Stanleys. There were literally 100s of other planemakers out there, large and small. Smith has gathered a comprehensive survey of all of those we can find evidence for. The book is lavishly illustrated with pictures of surviving planes, reproductions of advertisements. Arranged in alphabetical order it's a handy reference for any non-Stanley plane. Of course, most planemaker's (including Stanley before the 1920s) didn't label their planes. So you are reduced to flipping through the book looking at pictures.
- Smith, Roger K. 1981. Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America, 1927-1967 (Vol. II) Lanham, MD; Astragal Press. ISBN; 978-0940458055
- More of the same from Volume I. Both of these are readily available in the tool world. You could by them on Amazon, but Roger still frequents the bigger tool shows in the area (PATINA's March one in particular) and new copies can be had in the $50 range.
- Walters, John. 1996. Antique & Collectible Stanley Tools; Guide to Identity & Value. 2nd Edition. Merietta, OH; The Tool Merchant. ISBN; 1-878911-02-3
- Long out of print and fetching $100 or more on the used market, this is probably my most used reference for preparing my tool listings for eBay. It has a pretty encyclopedic listing of all tools made by Stanley up to the 1960s. After that, it's sketchy, but that's because they started turning out junk sourced from overseas and it has no collector's value. There is rumor of a 3rd edition in the works, I hope the guy gets it out the door before he dies...If you have any interest in Stanley tools from the beginning of the company until they sold their souls in the 1960s, you need this book.
Second Tier Tool References
Sometimes you have to dig deeper to identify or fill in the details on some obscure tool. These are the next set of books I turn to for that.
Old Tool Catalogs
References of the last resort are reprinted or scanned copies of old tool catalogs. Organizations like EAIA and MWTCA reprint such catalogs or books once a year and distribute them to members. I have all of the ones they've produced since I joined and have acquired some older ones in box lots at auctions. If you don't get them that way, they can be pretty hard to come by. Some can be found on eBay from time to time.
At some point, I will make a list of the print catalogs I have that are not in the scans below. But not right now.
These are all way in the public domain. In many cases, the companies are long out of business. The quality varies widely, but I do refer to some of these regularly if I have to dig deep. You can find my collection here: Old Tool Catalog Scans.
Modern Books Featuring Tools
Modern in this context means they have an ISBN and are easily obtained.
- Arwidsson, Greta, and Gösta Berg. The Mästermyr Find; A Viking-Age Tool Chest from Gotland. Lompoc, CA; Larson Publishing.
- A detailed examination of an 11th-century Swedish tool chest and its contents. The tools consist of a variety of wood and metalworking tools, including several chisels and a small saw.
- Gardiner, Julie. 2013. Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose 2nd Ed. Oxbow Books. ; 978-1842175040
- The Mary Rose was one of the key ships in Henry VIII's fleet and it went to the bottom with nearly all hand on 19 July 1545. In 1985 the wreck was located and since has been raised and been the subject of much archeological research. This book is the 4th in the series to publish some findings and the most interesting from our perspective. The wreck contains all the belongings, fittings and possessions of the crew and allows a snapshot of material culture in the mid-16th Century.
- This edition is a reprinting of the earlier 2004 edition but in two volumes instead of one very large one. It's not easily obtained from US sources (running over $900 on Amazon), but you can order it directly from the Mary Rose Trust in the UK for £55.00 + shipping. Well worth it.
- Gaynor, J. M. and N. L. Hagedorn, 1993. Tools: Working Wood in Eighteenth-Century America, Williamsburg, VA; Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. ;978-0879350987
- A look at the tools of the 18th Century cabinetmaker and jointer from the Director of Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg. Unlike the Seaton book below, this gives more context in how the tools were used.
- Mercer, Henry Chapman. 1920. Ancient Carpenters’ Tools Illustrated and Explained, Together with the Implements of the Lumberman, Joiner, and Cabinetmaker in Use in the Eighteenth Century. 5th ed. New York, NY; Dover.
- Originally written in 1920 and still a classic in the field. While the book concentrates on 18th and 19th-century American tools, there are several illustrations from period sources scattered throughout the book.
- Rees, Jane and Mark, (2012) The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton 2nd Ed, Tools and Trades History Society.
- This is a very in-depth look at the Seaton tool chest by experts in the field. The Seaton chest is a complete cabinetmaker's tool chest with most of the tools unused or only lightly used. Over 200 tools are contained in the chest. A great look at the tools available in the late 18th Century.
- Salaman, R.A. 1989. A Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, c. 1700-1970, and Tools of Allied Trades. Mendham, NJ; Astragal Press.
- A guide to an extremely wide variety of woodworking tools from a variety of trades. Although it concentrates on the 18th and 19th centuries, there are some references to earlier periods. Very useful for identifying obscure tools from the less common trades.
- Whelan, John M. The Wooden Plane; Its History, Form, and Function. Mendham, NJ; The Astragal Press.
- A general history of planes. Not as much on medieval planes as Greber, but still a good book. One of the standard references. Includes an extremely detailed typology of molding plane shapes.
Historical Books Featuring Tools
Old books or reprints of old books, in the public domain.
- Amman, Jost and Hans Sachs. The Book of Trades (Ständebuch). New York, NY; Dover.
- Dover’s reprint of a 1568 work depicting the stations of life in 16th century Germany. The pictures and accompanying poems depict a number of woodworking tradesmen at work along with their tools.
- Moxon, Joseph. Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-Works. Morristown, NJ; The Astragal Press.
- A facsimile reprint of the first English “Do it Yourself” book, covering smithing, joinery, carpentry, turning, and bricklaying. The most valuable parts of the book for the student of old tools are the engravings, which depict tools of the period and are largely drawn from older Continental works, and the descriptions of the tools.
- Roubo, André-Jacob. 1769. L'Art du Menuisier. Paris, France.
- André-Jacob was born in Paris in 1739, he was a trained craftsman who wrote in great detail about the minutiae of his trade. His work is one of those great eighteenth-century encyclopedias that feature high-quality engravings. The New York Public Library has made available 107 images from Volume 2 of L'Art du Menuisier. The scans are 5428 x 7230 so you can see every detail.
- L'Art du Menuisier includes sections about several branches of woodworking; geometry, joinery, cabinetmaking, coachbuilding, marquetry, garden woodwork - all published under the overall title of between 1769 and 1775. If your Old French is good enough, the whole work is available as four huge volumes to view or download at the Hathi Trust. Be aware that the downloads are large.
- Volume 1 covers geometry and joinery and has no pictures.
- Volume 2 has plates 1 to 170 and includes the plates also available at the NYPL.
- Volume 3 has the most illustrations - plates 171 to 337, covering coachbuilding cabinetmaking and marquetry, including quite a lot of specialized tools.
- Volume 4 has plates 338 to 382 and is about garden woodwork - trellis, glasshouses, palatial planters and so on, with pictures but not of tools.
- Unknown. Mendelschen and Landauerschen Hausbücher Nurenberg, Germany.
- The Hausbücher (Housebook in German) is a great resource. In medieval Germany, monasteries provided housing for retired craftsmen and published books showing the various trades and the tools used in them. These were produced over a long period - from 1426 through to 1806 - their five constituent volumes contain over a thousand illustrations, mostly in color.
- The website at www.nuernberger-hausbuecher.de lets you read through all five volumes, page by page, which is fine for scholars, but it also provides a searchable database of subject terms, in English.
Here is a list of magazines I followed while learning woodworking. Most of them have died in the Internet age and only live on as gigabytes of PDF scans on my hard drives. My favorites:
- Fine Woodworking - When I started getting this one, it was pretty much over my head. But I liked the Gallery of user projects, the Tips and Hints and dreamed of tackling some of the serious projects. Now, I can make most of the stuff in there if I want, but there's a lot of modern art crap type stuff.
- Popular Woodworking - For years I avoided this one because it sounded like Popular Mechanics which was (and is) a total rag and thought they might be by the same company. But I was very wrong. It was a great magazine, especially during the tenure of Chris Schwarz as Editor. Sadly, things have gone steeply downhill of late and I've dropped my subscription. Though they still send my issues hoping I will renew. But, it's down to 64 pages and I expect it to sail into the sunset before too long.
- ShopNotes - Grew out of Woodsmith (see below). Focused on tools, tips and techniques. I think it was quarterly? Not sure, I don't subscribe to this anymore either. I'll pick up a copy now and again while at Lowes just for fun.
- WoodSmith - It has a journal format (no advertising) and had one big project and a couple of supporting projects per issue. Some good stuff in there, but mostly modern stuff or modern riffs on older stuff.
- Woodwork - I caught this at the end of its life. It was pretty good as well. More on the artsy side, lots of interviews with what is now called makers.
- Woodworking Magazine - A quarterly that only ran a few years. It was the brainchild of Chris Schwarz when he was the editor at Popular Woodworking. It was a journal, no advertising, and focused on hand tool woodworking. It was awesome while it lasted.
This is a list of organizations that have useful publications and / or events.
- Early American Industries Association (EAIA)
- Society for American Period Furniture Making (SAPFM)
- Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (M-WTCA)
- Potomac Antique Tools and Industries Association (PATINA) - A regional tool club based in the Washington, D.C. area qith over 350 members. It's mid-March tool show and auction is generally considered the start of the tool season each year and is one of the largest on the east coast. Also has mini-sales and auctions associated with their every other month membership meetings.
- CRAFTS of NJ - A New Jersey based tool club with over 400 members and a lot of activity. They hold a well attended sale and auction each April that's part of the spring tool season kicked off by the PATINA sale.
- Tools and Trades Historical Society (TATHS) (UK) - A society whose aim is to preserve the knowledge of hand tools and the trades that use them. A pretty active group with a journal, newsletters, and books, much of it online as PDFs.
- Regional Furniture Society (RFS) (UK) - A smallish society in the UK aimed at documenting and preserving local (to the UK) furniture traditions. They publish a nice annual journal as well as a newsletter. All online except the most recent 2-3 years on a rolling basis.