5 Machining Books to Keep on Hand

April 23, 2019 1:02 pm


No matter whether you are a skilled machinist or an apprentice approaching the trade, handbooks, and manuals will always be one of your main resources to find the information that you might need to complete your job.

We already talked about books extensively in a few of our previous posts, but this time we decided to ask the opinion of an expert.

We asked Marc Cronin, Senior CNC Machine Tools Engineer, and founder of GCodeTutor.com, to make a list of books and manuals that every machinist should always have on hand.

Here’s what he recommended:


The manual for your machine

Most modern CNC machines are based on FANUC G-Code with extra commands and cycles that are exclusive to the make or model of your machine.

A good example of this is the use of M-codes. One dual spindle CNC Lathe may use the M-code M110 to open the collet of the sub spindle while another may use M220.

Reading through the book that came with your machine tool while the cycle is running is a great way to understand the features that set your machine apart from machines that you may have operated and programmed in the past.

If your place of work has misplaced this reference/programming manual don’t panic. Most can be downloaded for free from the manufacturer’s website.


The Zeus book



This book came with the first toolbox that I was given as a first-year apprentice. I soon realized that it was the most important item in that box. 28 years later it still lives in my top pocket when I am at the machine as the information within is required on a daily basis.

Thread charts, trig tables, limits and fits and conversion charts are just some of the pages that I glance at each day.

My favorite thing about this book is the thick, laminated pages. It is built for a machine shop. After sliding out of my top pocket into the coolant tank on many occasions, a wipe off on my overalls and it’s ready to survive another 30 years of life in a workshop.

This book is indestructible!



Machinery handbook


No machine shop book review would be complete without mentioning the Machinery Handbook.

The original full title explains the book well :

Machinery’s Handbook for machine shop and drafting-room; a reference book on machine design and shop practice for the mechanical engineer, draftsman, toolmaker, and machinist.

The first edition was written in 1917 and over 100 years later, it is still the best reference book available.

The 2800 pages of this book are packed with charts, calculations and information for machinists and engineers and you will find yourself opening this book time and time again over the course of your career.

It may be the best, but it is also one of the most expensive, weighing in at just over $70 a copy, the Machinery handbook is an investment, an investment that will last you a lifetime.

Lucky for the poor apprentice a second-hand copy can usually be picked up for less than half the price of a new version. Each edition adds more pages and more information to stay relevant in a modern engineering workshop so I would recommend buying the latest edition that you can afford.



Machinists’ And Draftsmen’s Handbook


Another book that is over 100 years old.

The Machinists’ And Draftsmen’s Handbook was first printed in 1899 and much of the content is just as relevant today as it was when originally printed.

This book contains numerous tables, formulas, and rules related to mechanical engineering and machining.

Once obtaining a copy of this book was expensive but recently it has been republished with the original content so is now available at a more affordable price.




The Machinists handbook


This book cannot be compared to the volumes listed above, it doesn’t have 1000s of pages, it’s not a best seller but it also doesn’t cost any money.

The main reason I am mentioning it.

I wrote it.

I quite literally threw together this free 65-page ebook with the handwritten notes that I have in my toolbox.

It includes:

  • Conversation charts and calculations
  • Thread charts for the most popular screw threads
  • Trigonometry tables
  • Standard G and M code lists
  • Milling and turning canned cycles
  • Tool cutting angles for a range of materials

And lots more.


You can download it for free here.


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.




    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-19346">

    Thanks. I still have my Zeus book from my appieship days.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-19394">

    This is an excellent list. I’ve had a Machinery’s Handbook for several years now. I will look into the Zeus Book as well. Another book that is excellent for a beginner is the original “How to Run a Lathe” by the South Bend Lathe Company. It’s no longer in print but many used copies are available at book sellers. A machinist friend gave me a copy many years ago to help me get started in machining.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-19471">

    A Navy Machinist Handbook was excellent also, wish I could find one, since I had to return it to its owner.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-19473">
    Cast iron

    Can’t function properly without the Zeus book and the machinery handbook is a must have, get one and you’ll see what I mean.

Leave a Reply