7 Books for Tool & Die Makers [Updated 2021]

August 26, 2019 9:24 am

Machinists and toolmakers are often confused for one another. Their expertise and job descriptions might seem similar to an outsider, but as our forum members like to point out, there is a significant difference between them.

Tool and die makers are responsible for designing and building molds, dies, and fixtures that allow thousands of products to be made every single day. They are expected to have knowledge of any machine in the shop and must be able to turn a concept (such as a precise drawing or a napkin sketch) into reality.

If you are entering the trade or considering a career in tool and die making, there are a lot of complicated things that you’ll need to learn and master. The best way to master the trade, and usually the most common, is to learn from a mentor. Since that might not be an option for everyone, here are a few books that you should read if you want to become a skilled toolmaker.


1. Audels Machinists and Tool Makers Handy Book

Audels Machinists and Tool Makers Handy Book

Originally printed in 1941, this book provides a complete course of study for those desiring to become machinists, and to help machinists become tool makers. Several years and editions later, this book still contains valuable information.



2. Die Makers Handbook

 Die Makers Handbook

A must-have for a die maker’s toolbox, desk, or briefcase. Everything reads as if an old-timer is giving you great nuggets of knowledge learned the hard-way over an entire career of die making. The Die Makers Handbook is the only book of its kind expressly intended to help avoid the pitfalls associated with stamping designs, die designs, and stamping die function.



3. Die Design Fundamentals

Die Design Fundamentals 

Detailed and technical yet easy to understand, this book is a beneficial reference for die designers and makers. The author, an authority in manufacturing engineering with over 35 years of experience in the aircraft and automotive industries, combines in-depth explanations of die design fundamentals with real-world practices. Each of the 20 chapters included in this book explains and illustrates one step of the die design process.



4. Tool Design

 Tool Design

Although it might seem a little old (the original copyright dates back to 1943), this book presents relevant and fundamental methods, techniques, and practices for designing and manufacturing tools, gages, dies, and fixtures.



5. Progressive Dies: Principles and Practices of Design and Construction

Progressive Dies: Principles and Practices of Design and Construction 

This book contains hundreds of examples and guidelines detailing how to improve your current designs or how to utilize new progressive designs that maximize efficiency while minimizing cost. Among the topics covered are: die material selection and properties, developing progression stages, grinding, EDM and wire-cut EDM operations, die and strip layout manufacture, and die protection systems and electronic sensors.



6. Basic Diemaking

This book provides apprentice die-makers with a thorough knowledge of the basic details and techniques of die theory and practice. It describes essential facts of cutting and forming operations; there are then related to the manner in which the dies must function in order to achieve the desired results. Carefully selected diagrams throughout the book greatly enhance the instruction value of the text. The text treats primary die components such as punches, punch plates, die blocks and strippers; both as individual subjects as well as their function in the overall die process.



7. Old-Fashioned Toolmaking: The Classic Treatise on Lapping, Threading, Precision Measurements, and General Toolmaking

Bringing together the collective wisdom of a past generation of craftsmen, Old Fashioned Toolmaking provides an in-depth record of the skills and techniques that made the mass production revolution of the twentieth century possible. When first published in 1915, this book was an answer to a vast array of tool-room problems and explained many essential toolmaking operations. It includes timeless practices as well as some personally tailored methods by master toolmakers, including how to:

  • make straight forming tools
  • grind curved surfaces
  • gauge the angle of a thread
  • re-flute worn cutters
  • and much more!


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  • Griffon Rolls says:

    Grate that reduces the title Design Draughtsman to a paper napkin Scribbler. Only know of one who was and he was a good deal more than a Design Draughtsman and actually did the paper napkin thing and his name was Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, RDI, FRS, The man that had the concept note concept for the A D O 15 Austin Design Office Type 15 better known as the MINI way back in the 50s I bet that design department got through a good deal of paper napkins. Now I feel that wasted over 40 years of my life using the wrong medium I should have been producing my drawings on a paper napkin don’t know how that would have worked when they took my drawing board away and replaced with a blue glowing screen which at least it was an extended coffee break until the IT man got a round tuit. And oh how I miss it now.

  • Murph says:

    Tool & Die Maker ! Seem those men are almost extinct these days. Sum 40 yrs. ago and right out of Tech School, I loved to watch the Old Timers work. You know the guy with the filthy Machinist apron who would stir he’s coffee with his scale, lick it and put it back. Those guys were the real Machinists. I remember watching a guy strap a block of steel to a faceplate and bore 4 holes in it. Back then I didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but over the years you caught on , on how things were done back before CNC.
    Today’s world I’m the only All Around Machinist / ToolMaker in my shop. We can’t even hire trainees that know what way a bolt turns. As far as I see if you can consider yourself a qualified Machinist, never mind a tool & die maker , The worlds the limit!

    • The tooling we have today has to be designed and built by someone, if they are not Tool & Die Makers then what is their title?

      • Moldmaker48 says:

        “The tooling we have today has to be designed and built by someone, if they are not Tool & Die Makers then what is their title?”

        Well young man, I would say their title now is machine operator.
        Once upon a time not so long ago the there were no CNC. NO CAD. no CAM OR 5 axis, instead there were machine that had hand wheels and cranks every outcome of a job was determined by the man at the machine. And there were things called hand tools such as chisels, hammers, die grinders, files, rifflers etc.
        The surface plate was not a table to rest your coffee cup, Rather it was where you did a thing called laying out, with lay out dye alias marking blue and a things called height gage, surface gage, dividers, toolmakers button and lot more. Do you know that the late have a thing called a face plate?. Do you know that there is a hand tool called a spring caliper that a skilled tool and diemaker can use with an external mike to constantly measure a bore to two tenth constantly.
        You see young man Technology have taken over and now you no longer makes anything the machine does everything, just load it up right.

        • Rivet says:

          I started my appreticeship in the ’60’s in the tool room of an international lawnmower manufacturer, (big numbers, they turned out over a million of one type of mower per year, and there were several other models in lower quantities). A lot of the jigs, fixtures and tools er made were for ‘in house use’. I had a brilliant mentor to show me, what,where and how. I am now 70 and engineering is my principal hobby, using the ‘hand tools’ and getting immense satisfaction from getting something right . (my mentors comment on a good job, was “it fits like a stocking on a chickens lip”
          Long live the bench vise!

    • rbregn says:

      You are correct! There are 2 in this town of 60000 people and I am 1 of them.

  • Fish man says:

    What ever happened to John Ostergards books on diemaking?

  • Oldtoolmaker says:

    I am a tool and die maker and I do believe I am not extinct since I am writing this post. I’m glad to see there are some books out there to help tool makers and apprentices. Judging from the publication dates of some of these, they were out there even when I was an apprentice in the 1970s and 80s but I didn’t know about it. That’s one great thing about the web, so much information is now at our fingertips.
    There is a huge need for tool and die maker’s in the Midwest. So many people Are spreading the word that tool and die maker’s are like dodo birds. Not true, we need them badly as the help wanted signs in my area will testify to. I think the problem is this is a self fulfilling filling prophecy. The more people who talk about it being a lost trade, The fewer young people want to enter it.
    It was a wonderful experience for me personally, but it got interrupted by the export of so many manufacturers at first Japan than Mexico, Malaysia and today China and India. I decided to earn an undergraduate degree in engineering to feed my growing family. Fortunately for me, I have my own shop. But if I wanted to work full-time I could. Manufacturers in my area are dying to get young people interested in an apprenticeship but can’t find anyone interested in working. That’s not my opinion, that is the opinion of the president of one of the largest manufacturers in my area. He is building a high tech center, purchasing an already established tool and die business and will be moving it to the high tech center soon just so that he can make his products.

    • bk says:

      @Oldtoolmaker There are young toolmakers but not enough opportunities.

    • Hexrod says:

      I am a Tool and Die maker with 40 plus years hands on. True it is a challenge to find young folks but it can be done, we just have too approach them a bit different. Yes, I know how too make a great shaper bit.

  • SK says:

    Us tool and die makers are still alive and well. We still have an apprenticeship program too. We’re trying to do a better job in making educators aware that manufacturing is now a more modern and lucrative option to consider vs. college. And a stepping stone to other career pathways: supervisor, estimator, engineer, tool designer, sales person, etc. Best wishes too all for a prosperous year.

  • Max Gluteus says:

    Manufacturing has no one to blame but themselves for the lack of new blood entering the trades. When the rallying cry of “Offshore” sent all the work overseas nobody in their right mind wanted to enter the trades, which already carried the stigma of it being for those not smart enough for college. The old men retired if they could, others jumped careers to wherever they could. Shop programs were gutted in high schools, apprenticeship programs were dropped by companies that once offered them. Now that manufacturing has (somewhat) returned there’s nobody left that knows how to do this. The jobs being offered by companies are ,IMO, not willing to pay for the experience. Most companies seem to feel that they can teach a lesser paid worker to make tooling, dies, and molds. Either that or they’ll short term contract an experienced worker to mentor the under experienced and then toss him when they’ve gotten all they can out of him. Wish I didn’t feel this way but I was a die maker for over 20 years when SHTF in 1999.

  • JRHill says:

    I’ve built a lot of tooling from scratch. And may others too. And hopefully it worked – mine did. In addition I worked a sharpening shop to fix problem tools. But I was never a die maker. To me these folks are the best of the best and have all the ‘ol skills at the same time.

    My admiration and appreciation to the masters.

    Best, JRH

  • Robert Queberg says:

    The world of manufacturing in general has been stretched in many directions since I started in 1966. The field of building the molds and dies required to feed this monster has gone through tremendous changes as well.
    From what I was told in high school and what I hear from young guys today, I would lay a good share of the blame at the feet of our educators. Every teacher or principal attended a minimum of four years in college to learn how to hopefully learn how to help a kid learn. Since they went to college, they think that is the best path for everyone.
    There were quite a few good machinists and tool makers still working their last years in the sixties, that never went beyond the eighth grade.
    Our society wants kids to get into debt so deep for an education to prepare them for a career that may not exist in the next ten years that they have a dim future. Back to college again?
    It is sad that the many large companies who had great apprenticeship programs have decided to out source their tooling, with some of it going across the big waters to help prepare others for the next war.
    There are many cases where designs are driven by the fact that a young person can make a cad drawing with accuracy to .00005″. Now we have to build and buy equipment to reproduce those dimensions. Yesterday’s tool makers are gradually being replaced by five axis machine tools, CAD designers, and set-up persons.

  • Sprally says:

    I’m still toolmaking today.

  • Bill says:

    Exactly. I hung in there though. I’ve been a toolmaker, the only one in the shop, for 34 years now and a LOT of my tools I bought from people leaving the trade back then. I’ll continue to hang in there though because I’m so close to retirement now, lol.

  • Toolmaker51 says:

    I also place blame on education; corporate manufacturers, some on government, even the insurance industry, and liability attorneys. Yet, all told, those elements might be 50-70% of the problem.
    But tremendous actual blame falls hardest on those lamenting change, yet cannot claim one bit of mentorship. Without cultivating an attentive audience, there are no creative outlets, thriving economy, or decent future.

  • toolmaker Ed says:

    just think if Jesus was a toolmaker and not just a carpenter, wow

  • Eisernteufel says:

    I’m 31 and was a very hands on process engineer making and designing tooling and fixtures for medical devices, and now for the last 2 years I became a Tool and Die Maker and am now a very hands on Tool and Die Designer / Engineer making progressive stamping dies and other sheet metal forming machines. We just hired a CNC lathe operator in his 20s to become a Tool and Die Maker. There are still some around, working where the pay is reflective of the required skill. I think finding those intelligent young people bored with pressing a button on production all day who have a few years machining experience but want to do something fresh every day and solve problems is the key to replenishing the older generation.

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