Toolbox: Shop bookshelf (mechanics, tools, and misc)

Toolbox: Shop bookshelf (mechanics, tools, and misc)

In the Make: Online Toolbox, we focus on tools that fly under the radar of more conventional tool coverage: in-depth tool-making projects, strange or specialty tools unique to a trade or craft that can be useful elsewhere, tools and techniques you may not know about, but once you do, and incorporate them into your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. And, in the spirit of the times, we pay close attention to tools that you can get on the cheap, make yourself, refurbish, etc.

Last week, we looked at books for your shop related to electronics and microcontrollers. This week, it’s mechanical systems, tools, and miscellaneous. As with last week, I polled maker staff, friends, and members of Dorkbot DC and HacDC.

And, as with the first installment, we want to make it clear that this is a seed list, not a comprehensive one. We want to know about your favorite shop shelf titles. Let us know in the comments. We’ll be posting this list permanently on the site at some point and adding to it as we get more input from readers.



Machinery’s Handbook, 28th edition
Erik Oberg and F.D.Jones
It’s not often that you see “28th edition” next to a book’s title, or see a non-fiction book that’s celebrating over 100 years in print. It’s no wonder that at least three people, Marc de Vinck, Lorin Parker from Electric Western, and Tom McCarty from Dorkbot DC, recommended this venerable tome. It’s not cheap, at $60 used, but it is over 2700 pages long!


507 Mechanical Movements: Mechanisms and Devices
Henry T. Brown
Dorkbot founder and MAKE columnist Doug Repetto and our very own Marc de Vinck recommended this title. Here’s the description from the book itself: “This compendium of ingenious mechanisms employs simple drawings to explain 507 of the small components that constitute complex machinery. Left-hand pages feature illustrations, facing pages offer brief descriptions of use and operation. Ranging from simple to complex, the mechanisms include cranks, pulleys, drills, wheels, and screws.”


Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook
Neil Sclater and Nicholas Chironis
The fourth edition of this engineering reference looks at mechanisms and mechanical devices past, present, and future. The latest edition now covers robotics, rapid prototyping, MEMS, nanotechnology, and other cutting-edge technologies.



Home Machinist’s Handbook
Doug Briney
Machine shop basics, geared (er… pardon the pun) to the DIYer, with everything from how to set up a home shop to how to use the various machine shop tools in it. Dorkbot Doug recommended this one.



Machine Shop Essentials
Frank Marlow
Another comprehensive guide to the machine shop, covering everything from setting one up to operation, to shop tips and tricks.


Illustrated Sourcebook of Mechanical Components
Robert Parmley
Elliot Williams, of HacDC, says: “This one’s not on my shop shelf, but on my coffee table. It’s a mind-expanding book.  Turning to a random page, ‘Unusual Applications of Miniature Bearings,’ has designs for shock-absorbing pivot points, cam-follower rollers, and bearings used as gears.  Random page #2: ‘Flat Springs Find More Work: Five additional examples for the way flat springs perform important jobs in mechanical devices.’  This book also appeared on the PIClist,  in their “Beginning Engineer’s Checklist.”

Tools and Hardware


Carroll Smith’s Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners, and Plumbing Handbook
Carroll Smith
Tom McCarty, of Dorkbot DC, says: “Written by an auto racer, with an emphasis on practicality, this a good book for the hobbyist, too.” This doesn’t appear to be in print anymore, but used copies can be had for under $30.


Tools and How to Use Them
Albert Jackson and David Day
MAKE and CRAFT’s Becky Stern recommended this one. I checked it out on Amazon and was able to grab a copy, a nice, tight, hardback in very good condition, for .38 (plus $3.99 S&H). I’m really happy with it and learned a lot just thumbing threw it. Now I know why Becky swears by it. There are still use hardback copies available for under a dollar.



The Jeweler’s Bench Reference
Harold O’Conner
This spiral bound reference for jewelers is out of print and much sought-after. Used copies of this 68-page guide can go for hundreds. Keep your eyes peeled on eBay and Bookfinder and you might get lucky. (Recommended by Marc de Vinck)


The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair: For Road and Mountain Bikes
Todd Downs
Sam Murphy, our Photography Editor, suggested we have a good bike repair manual. I still have Tom Cutherbertson’s Anybody’s Bike Book, which was my bible as a ten-speed teen. If I was buying a bike repair guide now, it’d likely be this one, which has come highly recommended by a bunch of bike nerds.



The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook

CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer
Both from the American Red Cross
Lorin Parker reminded us that you should have first aid guides on your shelf. Here are two from the American Red Cross, a basic first aid handbook, and a guide to CPR and how to use of an automated external defibrillator.



The Maker’s Notebook
The staff of Maker Media
And last, but certainly not least, is The Maker’s Notebook. A number of people wrote in to say that they don’t actually have many books in their shop. They have a laptop and a net connection for accessing reference material, component datasheets, and the like, and they keep their notebook and various notes on projects nearby. Well, we hope it’s a Maker’s Notebook they’re using! I proudly sport three on my bench.

[Thanks to Douglas Repetto, Lorin Parker, Marc de Vinck, Becky Stern, Sam Murphy, Alberto Gataacute;in, Tom McCarty, Elliot Williams, Nate B, and all of the other folks at HacDC, Dorkbot, Dorkbot DC, and Maker Media who contributed book suggestions]


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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