Instructional books on practical activities like woodturning can be a bit tricky. In my experience it’s difficult to get a balance between providing useful information and disappearing down rabbit holes discussing the minutiae of things like bevel angles. The books below are the ones that I’ve repeatedly found to be useful both as a reference and as for inspiration for projects. However note that none of them would be suitable for learning from scratch, there’s no substitute for personal, hand-on tuition in that situation.
There are of course any number of instructional videos out there, some in the form of DVDs from professional turners and some by enthusiastic amateurs, usually on YouTube. I have some VHS videos from professional turners and generally they’re OK but not always inspiring. I would suggest caution when looking at YouTube, there are a number of well known channels all confidently presenting what I think are rather dodgy lathe techniques. However one channel that I can recommend in Frank Howarth. He does a lot of amazing things and his lathe technique looks pretty good to me.
Click on the images below to take you to the Amazon page for the book. Note that some of the books now come with DVDs which I don’t have so can’t comment on their usefulness.
Reg Sherwin is a well known and well respected figure in woodturning circles. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him demonstrate a few times and been on a half day course with him. He’s written a few books and this one is a bit old now ( published 1988 ) but still relevant as it contains a wealth of information about all aspects of woodturning, not just tool techniques, and there are plenty of useful pictures and diagrams. Reg has also written a number of articles for woodturning magazines over the years, many of them discussing techniques in more detail. They’re mainly aimed at beginners but in reality they’re a useful reminder for everybody and it’s worth hunting these out.
I think that this book is now out of print but should be available online if you hunt for it
Mark Baker is the editor of the Woodturning magazine and is a popular demonstrator in the UK and internationally. He’s written a number of books but this one is my favourite. Although it has some instructional content it’s more about ideas and inspirations. The projects cover bowl type work rather than spindle turning but there are about 50 different ideas described plus a number of variants on each one. I like the way that there’s just enough information to allow you to understand how to make each project but doesn’t descend into too much unnecessary detail. The complexity of the projects range from beginner through to expert and there’s something for everybody.
This is a similar book to Reg Sherwin’s but is not quite as wide in scope and covers the use of each type of woodturning tool in a little more detail. What I like about this book is that Keith explains and discusses the reasons behind the techniques so you can hopefully understand a bit better why things go wrong. Again there are plenty of pictures and diagrams which really add to the explanation. Throughout the book there are a few projects, aimed at all skill levels, to reinforce the information presented in that chapter.
This book is similar in approach to Mark Baker’s. It’s presented around a series of projects with both faceplate and spindle turning. There are fewer, slightly simpler projects but more instructional detail. Yet again there are numerous helpful pictures and diagrams. I’ve used this book mainly for inspiration for projects and shapes but also for suggestions on working processes and how to safely hold work in the lathe.