Most helpful critical review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Interesting pictures. Very badly written.
on October 7, 2013
First, the good. The pictures are lovely(except the particularly ugly and slightly suggestive pagoda box which looks more like something found in the seedier regions of the internet), and I quite like the shapes of the acorn and finial topped boxes. Bowers uses exotic woods in all of the projects and the results are beautiful. The shapes are interesting, and the book progresses from simple to complex. There is good detail at the beginning on how to turn a simple cylinder box, and there is a discussion on friction fitting the lids and the impact humidity has on the fit.
In terms of technique, I would have liked more hints on how to hold the tools and how to move them when hollowing and shaping. I found Michael O'Donnel's books on technique and on turning green wood to be much much more detailed and useful than this one.
This book is written in a strange verbose fussiness which reads as if the author always had a thesaurus at hand. It also has an odd mix of detail and vagueness. For example, the author describes the golden mean as 1.6180339887, a completely useless level of detail, since the tools wood turners use to measure and turn wood are nowhere near capable of that sort of accuracy, and then proceeds to go on about how fractions such as 3/5 and 2/3 are ratios that are off by 0.014 and 0.059. Is this helpful? Not at all, and leaves off the other 7 digits of accuracy the author seems to think important. In order to get down to that last digit of accuracy, for a box where the diameter is 5.0000000000 inches, you would need to measure the height to be 8.0901699435 inches. Good luck. Think this entire paragraph is wasted space on Amazon? Well it's free and it cost you 30 seconds to read. The book, on the other hand cost you $11 and should be better written than its reviews. With all that detail you would expect specific instructions on the angles to hold tools, what difficulties you might encounter and how to avoid them, and how to make the modified tools that are used. More vagueness comes in the form of finishing. There are references to diluted lacquer, but no suggestions on what kind of lacquer or how to dilute it.
Then there's the odd assumptions. Here is a quote from the first page of Chapter 1, The Cylinder Box: "After measuring the 1-1/2 inch opening of the O'Donnell jaws, mark the measurement on both ends of the stock." I'm not sure why the author assumes we all use O'Donnell jaws on our lathes. I think they are mostly used on Axminster chucks and I don't think I've ever seen an Axminster lathe or even an Axminster chuck. (Yes, I know they can be bought in the US.) In fact, it seems that the author assumes we all use Axminster lathes. In any case, it's not like the book starts with a list of recommended equipment and special tools. As another reviewer points out, there are some references to modified tools, but no discussion of what the modifications are. One exception to this is a picture of a "square-nozed scraper with the corner rounded." The picture looks as if the actual cutting edge is actually rounded (as opposed to the sides as I've seen in other books) and I'm not sure how that is used. It looks like it is just used to rub the bottom and sides of the inside of the box but there are no instructions. The author also assumes, that we all know what the Ray Key hollowing tool is, and for some reason thinks it's important that we use a Oneway live center and a 1-1/4 inch Ashley Iles roughing gouge, but doesn't mention the maker of other tools. He also refers to a "modified hollowing tool" and there is no discussion of what the modifications are. Could it be the modified spindle gouge, the Ray Key hollowing tool he mentions in the first chapter? It's not clear.