• kyle

7 best engineering reference books

Updated: May 9, 2021

Over my engineering career I have come to appreciate many different reference books.

There are numerous books I reference on a regular basis but these are the ones that I find to be the most helpful. There is a lot more information in these books than what I mention about them. I am just listing what situations I normally pick up each book for.

You don’t have to remember everything, you just have to know where to find it.
  • Engineers Black Book link

- I was gifted this book many years ago and have taken it to work ever since.

- This pocket sized reference book is at home as much in a shop as on an office desk.

- The pages are laminated and easy to wipe down if they get dirty.

- My common uses:

- Socket head cap screw bore dimensions

- Tapping drill sizes

- Surface cutting speed to end mill RPM

- Tolerances for clearance and interference fits during machining

- Keyway dimensions based on shaft size

- Hardness comparison charts

  • Machinery’s Handbook link

- This one should not be too much of a surprise. The machinery's handbook has

been around since 1914 and for good reason. This book covers a wide range of

topics and can easily become the most used reference book you own. I would

highly recommend that you look into getting one of these books.

- My common uses:

- Brushing up on a common topic that I have not used in a while.

- Quick reference of stress concentration factors

- A general reference when doing product design.

- Design time in-depth running and sliding fit tolerances.

- Wrench clearance space around fasteners

- Good starting point for research into a new manufacturing topic

- Fastener and hardware dimensions for bolted joint calculations

- Bearing calculation reference

- Design time keyway dimensions

- Belt selection and calculations

  • Peterson's Stress Concentration Factors link

- This book is used when I have a stress concentration in a critical area of a part and

want to do a detailed analysis of the expected stresses. This book includes a lot of

helpful charts to find the corresponding stress concentration factor for specific


  • Roark’s Formulas for Stress And Strain link

- Roark's contains a large amount of empirical formulas for stress analysis. I find that

this book contains a lot of formulas that I cannot find elsewhere.

- My common uses:

- Flat plate formulas

- Column loading

- Pressure vessels, both common and uncommon shapes

- Lots of small stress concentration graphs

- Straight and curved beam formulas

  • Geo-Metrics III link

- Anything related to Geometric Dimensioning And Tolerancing, GD&T, on


  • Lightning Reference Handbook link

- I was recommended by a fellow engineer to pick this book up for a project where I had

to learn hydraulic design for the first time.

- My common uses:

- Hydraulic schematic symbols and their meanings

- Pressure losses in pipes and tubes

- Standard dimensions for AC motors

- SAE O-ring port dimensions

  • Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design link

- I got this one as a textbook during college and it is probably the textbook that

I pull off the bookshelf the most.

- My common uses:

- Bolted joint design

- General reference when I need to brush up on stress calculations

- Column buckling formulas

- Bearing selection

- Spring design and selection

- Welded joint analysis

- Fatigue calculations and life estimations

- Simple contact stresses

- Bending stress reference

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