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A Good Reference Book
on April 15, 2001
This book reminds me of several other books in my collection: The Readers' Digest Complete Do it Yourself Manual, and similar books being published by Home Depot and Lowe's. The book attempts to cover an astonishing range of topics, and what it lacks in depth is made up in encyclopedic coverage. It is well done, but shows both the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. If you are looking for something along this line, you won't be disappointed. It is a useful reference, which will probably see a lot of use. On the other hand, if you are looking for in depth instructions on how to do something in particular, you are better off looking elsewhere.
The book begins with a very strong section on the properties of wood, discussing 20 distinct types of softwoods, 56 types of hardwoods, as well as veneers, plywoods, particle boards and fiberboards. Each type is discussed with comments on sources, characteristics, workability, weight, and common uses. After a brief section on furniture design, it proceeds to three sections on tools. These take up the bulk of the book. There are few recommendations on which tools to buy first, or which to put off until later. The authors don't tell us much about what to look for when choosing a tool. Each tool is recommended just as highly as all the others, with sections on typical uses and how to perform them. On the other hand, the coverage of techniques is incredibly thorough in the handful of pages devoted to each tool. There are also a number of techniques here specifically aimed at those of us who have a less than complete collection of tools.
The authors follow this with a brief section on setting up the home workshop, and then a chapter on joinery. Like most older books, the construction of dovetail joints is shown entirely by hand, rather than with a router and set of dovetail jigs. This is followed by sections on wood bending, veneers, carving and finishing.
My copy, though printed in 2000, was written in 1989. The book is showing its age, particularly in the sections on power tools. The most striking examples are the pictures of DeWalt power tools in a sickly green color, which must have preceeded their current trademark yellow. In most sections, this makes very little difference, but in places one wishes for a second edition. The authors discuss combination tools and radial arm saws in great depth, while ignoring modern additions like the compound miter saw. The book reads like one written by a committee, with bland, unopinionated language. This is not a book you would enjoy reading from cover to cover, but that is probably not the intent. It is properly viewed as an encyclopedic reference work.
This is a good book to buy in the early stages of learning about woodworking. I would recommend this book as a good second book, rather than a first book, because there is too little guidance for the neophyte.