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A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers, and Baseball Bats Hardcover – August 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061373567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061373565
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Carlsen (Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual) gives a solid history of wood as he travels the world, analyzing the vast number of uses of a mundane natural resource. In doing so, Carlsen also uncovers the wide variety of personalities that work with wood every day, from the chainsaw artist appropriately named the Wild Mountain Man to the blind cabinetmaker who can see things with [his] fingers that you may not see with your eyes. He uncovers places where wood golf clubs are still manufactured today; explains which type of wood is best for a baseball bat; takes readers through the painstaking process used to make the beautiful Stradivarius violins and Steinway grand pianos; he also demonstrates how the gondola is a floating work of efficiency and ergonomic art. At one point, Carlsen visits a company in Maine that produces 50 billion toothpicks and 12 billion wooden matches each year. Carlsen includes photographs throughout this engaging and exhaustively researched work. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Carlsen explores our reliance on wood from numerous angles. A carpenter, woodworker, and author of dozens of books and articles on home improvement, he knows his subject well, and his love and respect for trees and all things made from them are evident on each page. The author includes just enough of the science of trees and wood, and of the technology of wood products and woodworking, to inform but not burden lay readers. Numerous stories add immeasurably to the books appeal. Readers are told how a Steinway piano is built, why a Stradivarius violin is so special, about the role of the long bow in military history, and how pens and pencils evolved. In addition, there are discussions of the offbeat, including a full-scale (and functional) Ferrari carved of wood, the 36-year remodeling project known as the Winchester House, a staircase with no visible means of support, and the use of wood forensics in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Carlsen explores the extraordinary variety of woods on our planet, the profession and hobby of fine woodworking, the tools used to work wood, and the many uses of it in our lives–in music, sports, shelter, furniture, weapons, and transportation. The volume ends with a word on the highly complex issues surrounding human use of the worlds forests and the consequent effects on the global environment. Black-and-white photos are included. Thoroughly researched, thoughtful, and entertaining.–Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Spike Carlsen (visit www.facebook.com/spikecarlsenbooks for tips, quotes, projects and information) is an editor, author, carpenter and woodworker, who has been immersed in the world of wood and woodworking for over 30 years. He is former Executive Editor of Family Handyman magazine where he wrote hundreds of articles on home improvement and oversaw the creation of dozens of books including the revised Readers Digest, Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. He has written articles for Old House Journal, Fine Homebuilding, Workbench, The Minneapolis Star Tribune and other publications. He currently works as Projects Editor for Fresh Home magazine and serves on the Advisory Board for Men's Health magazine. He has made appearances on Modern Marvels, the CBS Early Show, The Weekend Today Show, WGN-TV, Good Morning Texas, HGTV's "25 Biggest Renovating mistakes" special, USA Radio and many other national radio and television shows.

Prior to becoming an editor he worked as a carpenter for 15 years, and ran his own construction and remodeling company, working on projects ranging from energy efficient homes to historic restorations. He and his wife Kat have five adult children and live in historic Stillwater, Minnesota. In his spare time he enjoys biking, restoring vintage radios, woodworking and renovating (and renovating and renovating) their 1850s Greek Revival home.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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A very informative and entertaining book.
Mr. M. Smith
They were presented with so many fun examples and unique expressions that it was really hard to put the book down.
Guy M. Marzano
Spike Carlsen's "A Splintered History of Wood" is a book you will not easily put down.
Barry Humphus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Rooze on September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a book about wood that will amaze you, inform you, make you wise and make you laugh. Where else, between two covers could you hope to learn about the history of the catapult, the worlds largest wooden airplane, a model city built of 2 million toothpicks, how a grand piano is made, the world championship belt sander races, and much, much more. On top of that you will get more solid, well-informed information about wood and trees than you ever thought you'd want to know. And you'll keep reading right to the end because it's beautifully and smoothly written and great fun throughout.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Spike Carlsen took a topic that could have been as exciting as, well watching wood grow, carved it into a well written story, with lots of humor and tales of how us humans---our very society itself---would not, could not be the same as it is today without this precious resource. This book, and the folks in it (and their unique personalities), and the woods themselves (each exotic specimen having its own incomparable story) is written with the same reverence an author would bring to a well researched and documented historical novel. He explains in exquisite, easy to read detail why certain woods are used for specific applications and how highly skilled craftsmen produce one of a kind pieces, which because they are made from material that were once alive, have taken on a life of their own. Great book I know will enjoy as much as I have!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. B. Amundsen on September 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Because this book is as much about people as it is about wood it's incredibly readable -- and funny. The author got out from behind the desk and got into the stories as much as possible and shares self-effacing tales along the way.

The book is set-up as individual essays so readers can pick and choose where to start. I was drawn to the one on Jimmy Carter and how wood forensics helps to solve crimes.

It's good for the Cliffy Claven in your life as well as the public radio essay listener looking for a human lesson behind the facts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Laura M. Hoffmann on September 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I noticed this book in the new release section of my local bookstore and picked it up to take a look-see and I am glad that I did! This book truly was a fun and enjoyable read. It is broken down into chapters that talk about different types of wood, it's uses and qualities which turn out to be infinitely varied and really interesting. And just as interesting are the stories of the people, the cultures and even the author who we get to learn about in this book. I really enjoyed picking this book up learning about table sander races, maple bats, how Venice was built, bow and arrows, mysteries and miracles.

I am not a wood worker and before I read this book I would never have thought to have listed "wood" as a hobby or interest but after reading this I realize we all are. And I already caught myself looking at the wood of my cello which I don't think I had ever done before and thought about the chopsticks I used last night. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys "characters" because this book is full of them- the people and the wood kind. The book is conversational and you read it that way; you also learn a few things along the way. Whether you are wood worker or just a curious kind of person.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By rory wood on April 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished the best wood book i have ever read- a splintered history of wood.

I chuckled from beginning to end and from someone who is known throughout Africa as "MR WOOD" i learnt plenty of new and interesting facts about wood.

Your sense of humour made it such easy reading and the chapter on bows/yew/brits/french going to war had me hosing myself.

i have a personal library of over 1200 books on wood and this one goes to the front shelf

i look forward to your next edition
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Girl from the north country on December 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Spike Carlsen has taken a pedestrian subject -- dare I say a wooden subject -- and breathed life into it. From his fascinating study of tree mechanics, to the short but compelling essays about folks whose lives have been changed by wood, he uses the English language as a master woodworker uses a lathe, carving out a book that is rich with intricate detail, twists and turns. It's humorous without being snarky, and filled with astute observations of the human condition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Larson on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a fabulous "fill-in" book. It fills in when you just have a few minutes to read at a time, like during the week for me. But I don't mean that negatively. You can start and finish however many little interesting stories you can cram in within the time allotted. I happen to be a carpenter and woodworker but nearly every tidbit in here was still new and interesting to me. (Well, at least with the exception of what framing lumber dimensions actually are). I'm kind of a minutiae nut and if you're the same way, you'll love this book. He does an uncanny job of painting mental pictures of arcane topics like the building of guitars, pianos or baseball bats. It's fortunate that the writing is so understandable and concise because the pictures are a bit lacking. OK so there's one negative comment!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tessa L. Wolff on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book could so easily and undeservedly fly under the radar. I picked it up on a recommendation from my father-in-law and am really glad I did. Carlsen writes this "splintered history" in a way that has really opened my eyes to the soul of such a basic element in my every day life. This book is for everyone. Wood is everywhere--so this isn't just a book for wood workers. It's for anyone who is looking for a little added appreciation for the world they live in--for the gifts given to us by mother nature to the things created for us (toothpicks, grand pianos, houses, baseball bats) by skilled hands and innovative machines. This isn't a text book. It's comprised of anecdotes and interviews with masters and quirky personalities representing the gamut of wood related areas. But that's not to say it's not scholarly. Carlsen goes just deep enough into fascinating topics so as to fill us with his knowledge with out beating us over the head with jargon and science (though you'll find just enough of both to understand how well Carlsen knows his stuff). It's truly one of the best books I've read this year.
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