Books by Mike Abbott

Mike Abbott has now written three books on various aspects of working with green wood:

Green Woodwork – Working wood the natural way – published by GMC publications, 1989

  • Only one edition but reprinted 10 times
  • Now out of print
  • Translated into German, available as Grunholz

Living Wood – From buying a woodland to making a chair – published by Living Wood Books, 2002

  • Second edition, (totally redesigned with a new cover) 2004
  • Third edition (corrected version of weaving an Irish pattern seat plus minor changes), 2004, reprinted 2008
  • Fourth edition (with a new cover and a short update with four colour pages of Mike’s final woodland workshop at Brookhouse Wood), published June 2013, reprinted 2018.
  • Now out of print

Going with the Grain – Making Chairs in the 21st Century – published by Living Wood Books, 2011

  • First edition May 2011
  • Second edition (with several changes and new content on seating materials and weaving patterns), published October 2013, reprinted 2018.
  • On a separate web-page, in 2020 Mike updated this book chapter by chapter with various links to appropriate videos and blogs.
  • Now out of print




Living Wood – From Buying a Woodland to Making a Chair

This book is intended both as a practical manual and an inspirational guide and falls into four distinct sections:

Living Wood, 4th edition
  • Becoming a green woodworker – Mike’s story, from growing up in the woodlands near Bristol to owning a share in a woodland in Herefordshire;
  • Setting up a woodland workshop – the process of buying a woodland and developing the facilities including an access track, a woodland workshop and kitchen and a compost toilet. Mike also covers methods of harvesting wood both by hand and with machinery for woodwork and for firewood;
  • Fitting out a woodland workshop – plans for a shelter, updated designs for a shaving horse and a height-adjustable pole-lathe, new information on tools and a detailed chapter on sharpening;
  • Making ladder-back chairs – new techniques for ultra-tight joints without glue, which make use of the irregular shrinkage of wood as it dries out. Also new designs including armchairs and rocking chairs and details of seating with bark and with rope.

The book concludes with a chapter outlining the green-wood revival over the last thirty years plus useful information on “woody” organisations, suppliers and books. Now in its 4th edition, Living Wood has 240 pages, with an eight-page section of colour photos including an inspiring selection of photographs of Mike’s final woodland workshop at Brookhouse Wood. It also contains over 120 black & white photos and 200 line drawings.

Reviews of Living Wood

“The book is beautifully illustrated by Mike’s wife Tamsin, and has useful colour and black and white photos. This book is packed with accessible information on how to make woodland products ranging from Mike’s famous baby-rattles to a portable woodland shelter. If you are dreaming of buying a wood, have already bought one, or just love woodland, Living Wood is a book that will inform your mind and lift your spirits.”
Smallwoods Magazine – Summer 2002

“The autobiographical section is both amusing and educational. This book is beautifully produced and I will definitely be putting a lot of the information it contains into practice. A must for anyone interested in green woodworking at any level.”
Permaculture Magazine – Summer 2002


Going with the Grain

Going with the Grain is about how to make a chair – simply and with tools you can easily obtain or construct for yourself.

In 1985, when Mike Abbott started running courses using the traditional tools and techniques of the Victorian chair-bodgers, many people said it was about time he moved into the 20th Century.

Following the success of his first two books Green Woodwork and Living Wood, Mike’s third book shows that he has now moved happily and unashamedly straight into the 21st Century. With the help of over 600 colour photographs he guides you, step-by-step, through:

  • The tools and techniques needed for cleaving, shaping and assembling a chair
  • Constructing a few simply homemade devices to aid the process
  • Making 2 stools and 3 chairs, each with its own unique character.

Going with the Grain is not written for cabinet-makers (although they are welcome to read it too) – the techniques described in this book have as much in common with cabinet-making, as does a jacket potato with haute cuisine. It is written for anyone who shares Mike’s passion for trees and wood and is interested in getting to know them better through the fulfilling process of turning a tree into their very own chair.

The structure of “Going with the Grain”

Going with the Grain falls into six sections:

  • Chapters 1-2 Background: a brief background to how this book came about;
  • Chapters 3-10 The bare necessities: the materials, techniques, tools and equipment needed;
  • Chapters 11-18 The wooden frame: construction of the frames for two stools and three chairs;
  • Chapter 19 Seating: a wide-ranging description of seating patterns and materials;
  • Chapter 20 Scrapbook: a collection of photos with ideas for taking your chair-making further;
  • Appendices Resources Lists with further reading and suppliers of tools and materials.

All three of the above books are now out of print but you should be able to find second hand copies.

Alternatively you might be interested in The Forest Woodworker.   which is very loosely based on Mike’s previous three books, and Mike helped with the final edit and wrote a foreword.



Reviews of Going with the Grain

Woodworking Plans and Projects Magazine: Book Of The Month, September 2013 “A thorough, coherent and accessible guide to making chairs. Mike Abbott brings traditional craft into the 21st century, using modern and ancient tools in unison”

Looking at Amazon, the first edition of Going with the Grain has received five 5-star reviews and one 3-star. The 3-star review said:
“I was looking for a book that included information on Windsor chair making, so in this regard I was a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, a good book on green woodworking.”

Our favourite of the 5-star reviews is:
“A very good book that I cannot recommend highly enough. Mike Abbott, the Godfather of green woodworking in the UK has done it again. Once again a very well written and photographed book that takes you through all the steps in chair making in a simple and clear format. You cannot help but be inspired by this great teacher to have a go at your own chair. Mike strips away all the mystery surrounding the process, recommending cost effective tools and techniques to allow even the most inexperienced of woodworkers to achieve a beautiful chair. Buy this book, even just to read because before you know it you too can build a chair. Thank you once again Mike for a wonderful practical read.”