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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.
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on November 16, 2000
I got this book shortly before getting "The Basics of Craftsmanship", and enjoyed the detailed discussion of wood types. However, I was looking for a little more "how-to" information. It's not enough to say how such-and-such a tool is good for ripping; as a beginner I want to know WHAT ripping is, and how to do it with different tools. I found that "Basics" gave more coverage to this kind of information. With all its pretty pictures I'll probably be more likely to put this book on my coffee table than in my shop.
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on November 30, 1999
This book is an A to Z guide describing topics as diverse as the type of woods, their uses, power and manual tools, fittings to be used, wood carving, veneering, joinery, designs etc etc.
I will guarantee that this is an investment - a fully illustrated (in colour) reference book - a complete manual.
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on May 16, 2000
I have used this book on various projects. This book tells you HOW to work wood efficiently without getting caught up in the details of the actual techniques. It tells you in laymans terms (for the layman also) how to accout for expansion of wood, the differences in types of woods, and dimensional analysis of the average piece of furniture, etc...
** Touches on nearly all aspects of woodworking.
** Tells you about the material that you are working with ... WOOD.
** Detailed dimensions of the average "good feeling" piece of furniture. EX: Counter top height of kitchen base cabinet is generally 36"
** If you are the type of person who likes project books, this has none.
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on January 13, 2000
Having purchased this book, I would be remiss if I did not recommend it to other beginners. The book covers everything you would need or want to know about the basics of woodworking, including types of wood, tools, joining techniques, etc. Also, the book's layout is clear, containing rich photographs with text a layman can understand.
I consider this book a great investment.
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on November 7, 2001
I bought this book hoping to obtain useful nuts and bolts information about practical woodworking for an amateur level woodworker. Instead, this book is beautifully written and serves as an overall academic reference to woodworking in general. However, I didn't find any immediately practical information by which I could walk outside and apply to my meger woodshop so I returned it--it would have ended up collecting dust on my coffee table rather than becoming a dog-eared information source in my workshop.
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on August 19, 1999
A well-crafted and nicely illustrated reference manual for the woodworker. It covers all the basics for hand and power tools, and has chapters on wood as a material, workshops, bending wood, veneering, wood carving and finishing. You'll probably keep this book as long as you can make sawdust.
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on January 30, 2006
I purchased this book along with The Complete Book of Woodworking by Tom Carpenter. Although I like the later more, these two books compliment each other.

Perhaps it is a little to strong to say this is a mile-wide and inch deep, but it really is more for the person who knows absolutely nothing. One thing that I especially like is the list of different wood species -- it gives a good comprehensive list.

Otherwise, it spends most it's time going over every tool known to God giving a short blurb on each one. If you don't know your tools, this is a great place to start.

Anyway, if you were to buy one book, I would recommend the other one mentioned above, but this is still good for a beginner.

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on July 1, 2001
It doesn't go into a great deal of depth, but this is a tremendous resource to have on hand if you're a beginning or intermediate woodworker. If you have a question, the start of the answer is in here.
Highlights of the book include a great 15-20 spread on design basics for common projects, like cabinets, tables, chairs, etc. Provides good technical drawings that are easy to follow, and gives you the information about what design elements should be followed, in case you're just beginning. (e.g. how big should the toekick be on these cabinets? Why?)
The introduction to different types of woods is also excellent. Basics of different finishing techniques is also very good. I refer to this book often, and strongly recommend it, particularly for people who haven't gotten really specialized yet -- this book will expose you to a number of different ideas on areas you may want to learn more about.
Mine's already dog-eared and covered with maple dust, so I obviously think highly of it. :-)
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on March 18, 2001
This book started off with everything I expected; the growth of wood, types of joints, basic construction, and so on. The illustrations and pictures are first rate. As the study turns to tools I felt that the writers were very traditional if not old-fashioned in the emphasis on hand tools. Everything about power tools related to European models and many all-in-one types. I suppose Norm Abrams might refer to parts of this book as history instead of useful information. Nonetheless, this book will remain part of my reference collection.
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