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Illustrated Cabinet Making - Book Review

by Lorenz Prem
published on October 27 2012 8:54 pm

Every woodworker has a set of reference material he or she turns to when designing a project. Few books are good enough to stay in this collection for very long. [I]

Illustrated Cabinetmaking by Bill Hylton is such a book. I regularly consult it for inspiration on furniture projects. Let's take a look at what makes "Illustrated Cabinetmaking" such a good reference manual for woodworkers.

Illustrated Furniture making

The book's title is an unfortunate choice. While the book touches on cabinet making, it is actually a reference for making furniture of all kinds. On the flip side, the chapter on cabinet making is not deep enough to make this book a one-stop reference manual for cabinet making.

What's in it

The book opens with a chapter about joinery and sub-assemblies. Rather than explaining how to produce each joint, Hylton offers an overview what the joint can do. A competent woodworker can browse through the pictures and learn everything he or she needs to know. Few books contain so much information in such a small space. There is no page filler to seen.

The back of the book is full of chapters about different types of furniture: beds, tables, chair, ... they are all covered. Each chapter opens with a description of what makes each piece of furniture work. Common dimensions and critical design decisions are explained.

The back end of each chapter is a collection of projects. Each project takes up exactly two pages in the book. The centerpiece of each project is a 3D exploded view of the piece of furniture. The drawing is annotated with details about important areas of the project. Default dimensions are provided in different diagram.

Combined with the reference at the front of the book a competent woodworker has everything he or she needs to recreate the project. The main diagram alone communicates the bulk of the information.

Bring your imagination

At it's core "Illustrated Cabinetmaking" explains how well made and designed furniture is put together. It provides every detail necessary for imaginative minds to design their own variation of a piece.

Readers looking for perfect details will be disappointed. None of the project include detailed measurements. Each project does, however, contain enough detail to draft a full project plan with relatively little effort.

The project selection is a bit dated for the present day. Most projects are inspired by the traditional craftsman and shaker styles. Only a handful of modern projects made it into the book. Experienced woodworkers will realize that any of the projects can be modified to match the look of today. Hylton simply describes what matters. It's up to the woodworker to define the exact look of the finished piece.


"Illustrated Cabinetmaking" is a timeless reference manual for furniture makers. It illustrates how furniture is put together, exactly what an experiences woodworker needs. Rather than explaining how to cut wood, Hylton explains what makes a piece of furniture work.

If you know your way around your shop and are looking for a reference manual then [I]Illustrated Cabinetmaking[/I] is the book for you. It will remain on your self long after you have moved beyond books for beginners. Bill Hylton has written a truly timeless book. "Illustrated Cabinetmaking" should be on every woodworker's bookshelf.


"Illustrated Cabinet Making", byBill Hylton - ISBN 1565233697

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."