15 Timeless Books Every Machinist Should Have [Updated 2020]

October 4, 2018 10:08 am

In machining, as in any other field, knowledge is power.

No matter how intuitive technology becomes, the ability to manufacture a good part lies in the expertise of the machine operator and their understanding of how the machine, the tools, and the material work.

Although expertise comes from practice and hours spent making chips in the machine shop, a good level of basic knowledge is required to get started in any trade, and there’s no better way of learning the basics than digging into an old-fashioned book.

There certainly isn’t a lack of machining books in the market.

From generic publications to machine-specific manuals, the choice is nearly endless and selecting a good book can be tricky.

We decided to ease up your selection by putting together a list of what we think are the best machining-related publications available, a collection of manuals, books, and textbooks that should be found in any machine shop.

As always, to compile our list, we collected and combined recommendations found on the forum and across our social media channels.

Here are the top 15 books that every machinist should have and read.

Machining Fundamentals

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Machining Fundamentals is a comprehensive text that provides an introduction to the various machining operations, setups, and procedures. This colorful and detailed textbook covers all traditional machining methods as well as newer and nontraditional methods. This edition includes expanded coverage of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, additional features on careers, workplace skills, and green machining practices, and updated illustrations.

Machinery’s Handbook

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The 31st edition of the ‘Bible of the Mechanical Industries’ continues in this tradition, providing users with fundamental and essential aspects of manufacturing practices, including hundreds of ASME and ANSI standards updates and thousands of revisions to text, tables, equations, and figures.

The Machinist’s Bedside Reader

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The machinist’s bedside reader is a trilogy of books published with the aim of providing technical information to machinists in a more relaxed style. The first volume contains hints, tips, and anecdotes about the trade.

The Machinist’s Second Bedside Reader and the Bullseye Mixture


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Like the first book, the second volume of the trilogy is filled with hints, tips, and projects. Topics include: cutting multiple start threads, how to make a square hole sleeve, how to design self-holding and self-releasing tapers, and many more.

Machinist’s Third Bedside Reader

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The last volume of the trilogy contains even more pages, photographs, and technical how-to info including in-depth sections on approaches to taper turning, how to overhaul drill chucks (including how to do a deluxe overhaul on keyless drill chucks), and much more.

CNC Machining

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This book focuses more on the modern side of metalworking and is one of the most used textbooks in technical schools. It extensively covers topics related to CNC milling machines, lathes, and electrical discharge machines.

Machining for Hobbyists: Getting Started


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Although more geared toward hobbyists and beginners, the amount of information, illustrations photographs, and tables included in this book make it a great resource for experienced machinists as well. This book guides the reader through the use of specialty tools used for measuring and handling small metal parts, along with providing suggestions for shop layout, including space requirements, lighting, ventilation, and safety.

Machine Tool Practices

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This book provides a richly illustrated, practical, and understandable treatment of machine tool technology and related subjects, including measurement and tools, reading drawings, mechanical hardware, hand tools, metallurgy, and the essentials of computer numerical control. The text’s teaching and learning package includes an Instructor’s Manual, PowerPoint slides, and computerized testing.

Modern Metalworking

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Modern Metalworking provides a comprehensive introduction to the various tools, machines, and materials involved in metalworking. The text features expanded coverage throughout to introduce students to the equipment and processes required to pursue a career in the metalworking industry. The text covers both traditional and modern metalworking technologies and includes step-by-step procedures with a focus on safety.

CNC Programming Handbook


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This is one of the best-selling books about CNC programming for all levels. Used daily by CNC programmers and machine operators and adopted as a textbook in CNC classes all over the world, this book features detailed sections on CNC lathes with live tooling, additional formulas, calculations, and more.

Zeus Precision Data Charts and Reference Tables for Drawing Office, Toolroom & Workshop

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The 28 laminated pages of this portable booklet contain data on standard drill sizes and decimal equivalents, tapping drills and clearances for metric and imperial threads, BS4500 tolerances, hardness comparisons, and much more.

Machine Shop Know-How

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This text is packed with useful and practical ideas to become a master machinist. Machine Shop Know-How proves that there are no secrets in the machine shop, just information that is rarely documented-until now. With its focus on manually controlled machine tools, Machine Shop Know-How moves beyond the basics to offer the problem-solving insights, imaginative short cuts, and clever tips and tricks of the trade that normally take years of hands-on shop experience to learn.

How to Run a Lathe: The Care and Operation of a Screw Cutting Lathe

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This book covers everything you need to set up a lathe and get it running. From setting up and leveling lathes to taking accurate measurements, this book covers all the basics of lathe tools and their applications.

Tool Design

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This book presents fundamental methods, techniques, and practices for all areas of the design and manufacture of tools, gages, dies, and fixtures, stressing the use of standard parts.

Audel Machine Shop Basics

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This text will help you: understand basic machine shop practices and safety measures, recognize the variations in similar tools and the purposes they serve, and obtain a complete working knowledge of numerically controlled machines and the operations they perform.


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    • Mathew Molk says:

      Kind of missed the Cinci book “A TREATICE ON MILLING, but I do agree the South Bend book is absolutely essential reading before you even put a finger on a lathe. It amazes me on how many CNC operators of 10+ years experience cannot grind a round nose tool,,,,or even touch up a drill bit. ,,,,,

      And speaking of grinding the KO Lee book has saved my keester more then once. Well worth having

      • toolmaker16 says:

        That is why they are called CNC operators, not a machinist. It takes years to become an accomplished machinist; a good one learns every day until he retires.

  • zachary says:

    moore’s foundations of mechanical accuracy

    • pgsaltydog says:

      Could not agree more!!!! Without a clear understanding of machine tool geometry and metrology, which I consider the “what”, the how provided in the rest of the books, while helpful, will always leave the machinist/toolmaker slightly uninformed.
      A FANTASTIC reference/coffee table book that can be enjoyed for the history as well as the technical information!

  • MechEngr07 says:

    I discovered an interesting book while thumbing through a Grizzly catalog. “Machine Shop Know-How; The tips & techniques of Master Machinists” by Frank Marlow, PE

    Even after teaching Took & Die at the college level for 40 years, I was quite impressed with the book.

  • None says:

    No Peter Smid
    Custom Macros for Fanuc
    BOO BEST book ever if you want to learn Macro programming

  • CeeGee says:

    Some good books here, but prices are obscene(here in the UK at least- can’t comment on elsewhere!)

  • Turnaround007 says:

    A lot of libraries will order an otherwise “too expensive” book for you.

  • louosten says:

    South Bend’s “How To Run a Lathe”, and the Henry Ford Trade School’s “Shop Theory” are two well worn classics…

  • pgsaltydog says:

    Some fine choices, but respectfully suggest addition of Wayne R. Moore’s “Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy”

  • Paul A. says:

    Thanks for an interesting and informative list. I am going to keep it and try to purchase at least some of them as I can.
    Two interesting things that I see about it: the inclusion of a book that, by it’s very title, is aimed at amateurs is a bit strange on a site where amateurs are discouraged to participate. I do not believe that it should not be on the list. In fact I am a great believer in keeping the basics in mind. I just find it a bit strange.
    My second observation is that the list might have been a bit more convincing if those “Order Now” links were not present. They all seem to point to Amazon.com and shout that this is just a disguised sales ad with the entries dictated by payments from the sellers.

  • Richard H. says:

    FWIW, I greatly appreciate the Amazon links, because they save searching for the correct title (though newer additions appear as the article ages). Affiliate links are commonplace and well-disclosed, so I see no issue there; but yeah, maybe the “Order Now” is a bit much since the images and titles are clickable.

    However, this article is a couple years old and has some great suggestions in the comments. It really should be updated to include them.

    That Moore book though… has been out of print so long it’s not to be found anywhere, except a Used offer on Amazon for $2400!

  • michael says:

    Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy is not out of print. You can still get it directly from Moore Tool. It’ll set you back $150, plus $25 for shipping.

  • Dr.B. says:

    Good selection of reference material. I’m an admitted amateur, engineer but not in this genre. Thanks for the data. All data are data; all learning is learning. Dr. Robert Beeman

  • Harvdog42 says:

    One of the best books on machining was left out of this list. It’s called Machine Shop Trade Secrets.

  • Kieran says:

    I have just come across this wonderful website. What an excellent resource for the hobbyist to the professional. I will read this website whenever I need trusted information or have a minute to spare on my phone.

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