jump to example.com

If you haven’t checked out the “home improvement” or “woodworking” (or sometimes “crafts”) section in your local used bookstores, get in the car and head that way right now. The skills and methods applied in woodworking haven’t changed significantly in the last hundred years or so, which means that you’ll find your local reseller chock full of great, useful how-to books cast off by those whose New Year’s resolutions didn’t stick a few years ago.

And guess what? They’re a hell of a lot cheaper than new ones at Barnes and Noble.

A tip for those of you visiting a small mom-‘n-pop shop: negotiate. Really, it works.


11 Responses to Project: Hit The Used Bookstore

  1. Nick Carter says:

    Don’t forget to check out the “Engineering” section as that’s often where the metalworking books are hidden, and check the “hunting” section for gunsmithing books.

    Prices at used bookstores have gone up thanks to the internet, so you should also check thrift stores, I just picked up a slightly damaged copy of Machinery’s Handbook (18th Ed.) for $5.00 which is well under the $20.00 that used copies usually go for, at a local junk shop.

  2. ned.ludd says:

    Last couple smalltown shops I was in were quite, um, special. Average about 10 aisles of paperback romance novels, and a large box of “other” titles, including knitting patterns from the 1960s, water stained playboy bartender books, and microwave cooking manuals. A colossal waste of time.

    That being said, the shops in Philly are pretty good, with a fair selection of just about everything, along with stacks of old woodworking magazines upstairs for less than a buck each.

  3. KMR says:

    The best used bookstores I’ve visited were all located in the Ithaca NY area. They were great for picking up text books I needed for my engineering courses at the time. If you venture a little outside of Ithaca (10 minutes or so), there are two HUGE “book barms” with huge selections. Prices are fair, and you’ll probably leave with something. Some of the books have quirky comments/reviews on the inside cover from the book shop owner – one of the welding instruction books located in an engineering stack once read “Useful only if you ever plan on building an aircraft carrier in your backyard.”

    The last time I was in Ithaca, the Bookery in the Dewitt Mall had some nice low priced vintage engineering / machinists books. Including one I now regret not purchasing, published by Ford Motor Co for their in house machinists on the proper use of many types of equipment.

    Ithaca also hosts the nation’s third largest used book sale each year. It is held in a warehouse in town, and you never know what you’ll find. Prices are very cheap… allowing you to leave with lots of books for very little $$$.

    In the Philly area (where I’m now), the Doylesdown area in Bucks County has some nice used book shops that have decent variety and decent pricing.

  4. Chris W says:

    In Niantic CT the charming Book Barn claims to have over 350,000 books and is definitely worth a visit. They have several small buildings, each with a theme. For example, Ellis Island is for new arrivals, and The Haunted House has horror, mystery, sci-fi, and a black cat. There was even a guy guiding people to open spaces in the crowded parking lot. We went to the nearby beach at Rocky Neck SP in the AM and the Book Barn in the PM. It was a great day. Go when the weather is nice and the gardens are in bloom.
    Powell’s Books in Portland OR is HUGE!! They have new as well as used books and you can shop online.
    The Montgomery County MD Friends of the Library has several ongoing used book sales with great prices.

  5. Michael W. says:

    Just found a great book, “Country Furniture” by Aldren A. Watson, for a $1. Originally published in 1974, I bought the softcover that was published in 1976. Found at a book stall (actually a large tent) at a large local Harvest Festival.

    Highly recommended if you ever spot it. Watson approaches American Country Furniture making (think Colonial, Shaker, etc.) from a unique direction, basically laying out why particular woods, tools and joints were used using a vast amount of research from original drawings, bills of lading, journals, diaries and pieces.

    He includes a large number of illustrations that he did himself.

    Excellent book for anyone interested in making classic American furniture in a quality way.

    Watson also wrote and illustrated “The Blacksmith, Ironworker and Farrier” and “Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings”, both of which I bought used from a store (sadly no longer open) in Hudson, NY. Highly recommended also.

    His writing is lively and informed, and his drawings are clear and not at all fussy. My son loves the blacksmith book and makes it a point to discuss blacksmithing (knowledgeably) with a local blacksmith whenever he sees him.

  6. PutnamEco says:

    Don’t count the internet out when your searching for books. AbeBooks.com has had every book that I’ve ever searched for, for sale, (and I’ve searched for some pretty obscure titles.) Powwells books also has an online presence. Not nearly as much fun as an afternoon browsing the stacks, but access to many more titles.


    94 results for the above title “Country Furniture” at AbeBooks

  7. Kurt Schwind says:

    Just last month the county library system had a ‘book sale’. I picked up 2 hard cover wood-working books (around 300 pages a piece) for $2. Sure, they are from the 70s, but little has changed. And the captions under the pictures are pretty funny.

  8. Carl N. says:

    Looked over the collection of how-to books at my nearest Lowes and HD (Shed building, Framing, Plumbing etc). Checked out the same on Amazon and was able to purchase the used- (but like new) versions much cheaper. Occasionally they are just dusty or “shelf worn” with no other wear. I especially like saving on the Taunton’s books.

  9. PutnamEco says:

    Don’t count the internet out when your searching for books. AbeBooks.com has had every book that I’ve ever searched for, for sale, (and I’ve searched for some pretty obscure titles.) Powwells books also has an online presence. Not nearly as much fun as an afternoon browsing the stacks, but access to many more titles.


    94 results for the above title “Country Furniture” at AbeBooks

  10. Kif says:

    I think Chuck really brought up a great topic here! His references to “Half Price Books” when referring to Harbor Freight on the Podcasts suggests he knows his used bookstores.

    Whenever I’m traveling, even if I pull over for just a night, I check the yellow pages in the Hotel for used books. My thing is searching for manuals for obscure, or “orphan” cars. I also hunt for the last manuals that will complete my John Muir Publishing”Idiot” manuals. (If anyone has the Toyota Pickup version it is worth a pretty penny). I keep a bookshelf dedicated to automotive books, 2 out of three in the shelf come from used bookstores.

    When visiting my mom in Flagstaff, AZ, I picked up a two-volume comprehensive set of service manuals published in 1941. I think the store was called “Bookman’s” or something like that. Used bookstores are all over the place, and the nature of the publishing industry makes them gold mines! If you have to suck in your gut to navigate the place you know you found a good one. For an online source I like half.com

    One last thing to throw out: If you have a community college in your area, check out their bookstore for good used text books in fall and spring.

  11. Teacher says:

    Our Goodwill store has hundreds of books, but they’re not organized in any way. I don’t have time or patience to browse through hundreds of mixed up books trying to find a title that catches my eye. They would sell a lot more books if they took the time to organize them. Our local library has two book sales a year where I’ve picked up several hardcovers in great shape. Not just mechanical but also first editions by Bruce Catton, Robert Ruark and others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *