A Maker’s And Engineering Bookshelf. Lets Build Resource

I buy lots of books, on everything.  As an engineer and a maker, I’ve managed to acquire a large collection of books on how to make just about everything.  This list is going to be the books that should be anybody’s bookshelf if they want to know how to get stuff made and don’t have the skills right to hand. Any book on this list will be a book I own and like.  I’m going to pick the that I have in a bunch of relevant areas.  Most of these books have been a round for a long time and stood the test of time.  Some of them may be out of print, but you can look online and in used bookstores.  Many of the engineering books can be had very cheaply as they are not fast movers.  Unless you are a millionaire and don’t care, or need a reference immediately, don’t pay full price if you don’t have to.  This post is going to be updated as I pull more books or buy more books and read them.

The List::

A book every maker should have but you can’t buy.

McMaster Carr Catalog

Now why would you want a catalog when you get everything they have online.  Well the online system is fine when you know what you want, but more or less useless when you don’t know what you need.  When you can flip through and bounce ideas off your head you come up with amazing stuff.


Metalworking, Sink or Swim


Tom Lipton’s youtube channel and blog are amazing resources on how to make stuff.  His book is full of those little secrets that an experienced maker has.

Sheet Metal Technology

Gingery’s sheet metal book.  David Gingery was a master in working with essentially minimal resources and getting good work all of his stuff is excellent:


Machinery’s Handbook.

I bought my copy right before I started my first engineering job.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy a copy earlier.  It might seem pricy to a beginner, but you will always be grabbing it for something, whether it’s for a welding call out on a drawing, a tap or milling cutter depth or the dimensions of a screw.  Highly recommended:

Fundamentals Of Machine Tool Technology


What it says.  A good book for fumble fingers who’ve never encountered machine tools.

Manufacturing Processes


Another text for beginning machine tools. This was written by teachers at my local tech school.

Tabletop Machining


This book was written by the owner of Sherline tools for the owners of his small lathes and milling machines.  Since those machines are simple the book is a good guide to basic practices.  I will admit that I own a Sherline mill and lathe.  The basic principles are the same.

The Home Machinist’s Handbook


Another book using the Sherline tools. More useful than the one up above as the author doesn’t spend the time telling stories like Joe Martin does.

Carr Lane Jig And Fixture Handbook


Carr Lane sell this book direct.  They also sell just about every kind of tooling you may need. Excellent reference.


Design Of Welded Structures


Design Of Weldments


As Tom Lipton says you want anything from Mr. Blodgett.

Mechanical Engineering:

Theory Of Machines and Mechanisms.

Joseph Shigley was a master of making complicated subjects understandable.  All of his references that I own are useful.


Look for older editions in used bookstores.  The current textbook prices are highway robbery.

Standard Handbook of Machine Design.

All the little details for designing a machine in one book.


Shigley’s Mechanical Engineering Design


Unless you are in college look for a used older edition. This was my machine design text.  A good book.

Marks Standard Handbook For Mechanical Engineers


This is another title that’s pricey that I would suggest looking for used.

Illustrated Sourcebook of Mechanical Components.

Back in the day, the advertiser supported magazines would put all the stuff that companies sent in the magazines as illustrations.  They have been compiled and put into books so you don’t have to look for them.  As I say, don’t reinvent the wheel:

Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook


Another engineering idea book.

Handbook of Mechanical Design


Another magazine aggregation. From 1942.  Springs are still springs and parts are parts.  This stuff doesn’t change that much.

Product Engineering Design Manual


Mechanical Details For Product Design


Engineering Data For Product Design


These three books are aggregations from the long defunct “Product Design” magazine.  They are also among the most useful “idea books” that I own.  As I say, “don’t reinvent the wheel.”

1800 Mechanical Movements, Devices and Appliances


Late 19th Century book with mechanism ideas.  These used to be important teaching tools back before engineering schools were common.  Useful today for ideas.

Electronics and Electrical engineering:

Practical Electronics For Inventors


This fairly new book covers all the basics in electronics.  It’s a good way to get start.

Ten Essential Skill for Electrical Engineers


You are going to need these.

Electromagnetic Fields And Their interactions


There was a time when I worked with magnetic fields.  You might need to as well.

Drawing and Drafting:

Technical Drawing


This is a classic reference for technical drawing. Buy used if you can.

Drawing For Product Designers


Excellent book on how to draw your designs on paper.

Product Design:

The Design Of Everyday Things


Good book on design principles

Making Stuff:

Making Things Move


Good book for beginners.

Prop Builders Molding and Casting Handbook:

A useful reference for making quicky molds and mocking stuff up.

Prototyping And Model Making For Product Design


Good book on how to mock up your ideas.  A cardboard, styrene, acrylic or foamboard mockup can give your ideas shape.

Secrets Of Expert Mold Making & Resin Casting


Useful little book on the basics of casting resin parts.

Styrene Modeling


This book is put out by Evergreen models. The emphasis is scale models, but the techniques work for prototyping as well.

The “Let’s Build” Series




  1. M Simon · March 15, 2015

    Ever consider converting your Sherline to CNC?


    • jccarlton · March 15, 2015

      Yes. Especially lately. I don’t have the money right now. It’s not just the computer and dirver, it’s do I buy a second mill and setup specifically for CNC. I also need a permant place to set it up, with an enclosure. It’s on my very short list though. I think I will post about what I’m thinking about from one of NYCCNC’s old videos.


      • M Simon · March 15, 2015

        I have some designs that are quite low cost. About $25 per axis plus $25 for a master controller. Microsteps to 16X. A power supply will run you about $40 or less.



        Get one with a dual shaft. I have a very cute low cost auto zero circuit. Should be able to hold “zero” to within .00025 or better on a Sherline. By checking for zero periodically you can see if you are missing steps.

        Of course if you wanted to join the group working on this….


  2. Pingback: Five Things You Should Do If You Want To Be A Design Engineer | The Arts Mechanical
  3. Pingback: Prototyping Techiques, Let’s Build | The Arts Mechanical
  4. Pingback: My Hardware Favorites Folder, A Let’s Build Resource | The Arts Mechanical
  5. Pingback: Laser Resources, Let’s Build | The Arts Mechanical
  6. Pingback: Dimensioning And Detailing Your Parts, A Lets Build Resource | The Arts Mechanical
  7. Pingback: Why Do You Strive For Quality? A Let’s Build Essential | The Arts Mechanical
  8. Pingback: KISS | The Arts Mechanical
  9. Pingback: Designing, Forming And Joining Sheet Metal, A Lets Build Resource. | The Arts Mechanical

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s