Gazette Archive 1/15/01
A book review: By Jerry Vis
Title: Understanding Wood
This book is divided into three sections, starting with the biology of trees and the structure of wood down to the cellular level, through identifying wood by species, the strength of wood, and understanding the relationship between wood and the water it contains. The second section deals with drying, machining, bending, joining, gluing, and finishing wood. And finally, the last section is devoted to describing wood products, how they are made, and the grading and classifications of those products.
The title of this book is Understanding Wood, and wood itself is the main focus of this book. There is actually very little in the way of woodworking contained in the book, but you will be a much better woodworker for having read it. Mr. Hoadley answers the "why" questions, not the "how to" questions. You will learn what wood is, and what it is not, and why it behaves the way it does, and how to neutralize what it does. You will not learn how to make cut a particular joint, but which joint is the right joint to use in what circumstances. The reader will come away with a full understanding of the medium of wood itself, and will be able to apply that knowledge and understanding to all aspects of woodworking, from drying and milling rough lumber to finishing their project properly.
Understanding Wood is also a wonderful reference guide as well. There are tables and charts included that no one can possibly memorize dealing with such things as the strength of the various species of wood, which species are the least and the most rot resistant, how much each species expands and contracts with changes in moisture content due to changes in humidity to name a few. I find myself referring back to it constantly.
If you are an experienced woodworker,
this book will add context to what you already know and may clear
up some misconceptions which have been promulgated as fact. For
the novice first starting out in woodworking, this book may be
overwhelming in some ways, but it would pay to read it now, than
read it again after you are on the road to proficiency. It is
not the easiest book in the world to read, but it is well worth
the effort it takes to read it. I consider this book a must read
for any serious woodworker.
Editor's Note: Taunton Press has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. You can order this book from their website.