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.
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.
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:
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.
Another text for beginning machine tools. This was written by teachers at my local tech school.
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.
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:
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.
The Design Of Everyday Things
Good book on design principles
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.
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