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Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology Hardcover – October 1, 2000

106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Wood is a complex, dynamic material that can only be used successfully if the craftsperson understands it. It reacts to changes in humidity, and the various species have widely different working and structural properties (in addition to their many colors and textures). Both Hoadley and Peters do a good job of helping readers understand the factors that must be considered when using wood and products such as plywood. A frequent writer on home improvement topics, Peters offers a colorful book geared toward hobbyist woodworkers. He covers the process of making lumber from start to finish, including how trees grow, their structure, common ways of milling and drying lumber, grading, and possible defects found in wood. One section shows wood samples (both finished and plain) and describes their basic working characteristics. This particularly attractive book is filled with colorful photographs and illustrations and includes both a glossary and an excellent appendix showing the hazards posed by the sawdust of specific wood species. Hoadley, a professor of wood science and technology, has revised his classic title for its 20th anniversary. While the original is still great, the new title incorporates the latest technologies in adhesives, finishes, and wood products. Color photographs are a welcome addition as the original edition's photos were drab and unappealing. Hoadley covers much of the material that Peters does but in far greater depth. While this complexity may intimidate beginners, it is just what advanced users and professionals need. For example, Hoadley's wood identification section consists of macrophotographs of wood samples magnified ten times so that the correct species can be determined from the pattern of wood cells. This title also includes an in-depth glossary, bibliography, and index. Hoadley's work is an improvement of a classic while Peters's is good enough that it will likely stand the test of time as well. The difference is in complexity, not quality. General public library collections will get more use from Peters's title, while in-depth public and academic libraries will want Hoadley. Jonathan Hershey, Akron-Summit Cty. P.L., OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

R. Bruce Hoadley is a contributor for Taunton Press titles including Understanding Wood.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Taunton Press; 1st edition (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561583588
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561583584
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.3 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 112 people found the following review helpful By William A. Huber on December 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book takes you from qualitative to quantitative understanding by means of accurate, readable explanations and a minimum of fuss. For instance, after explaining why a house settles, Hoadley shows us clearly how to estimate how much it will settle and what a knowledgeable builder could do about it.
Or take this simple woodworking situation: you are building a towel rack from two side pieces of white pine drilled to accept a maple dowel. Exactly how much wider should the hole be than the dowel so that expansion and contraction due to moisture changes in the bathroom won't split the sides?
A little time spent with this book will give you the ability to answer questions like these, quickly, exactly, and with authority. No more guessing about the effects of moisture, temperature, finish, and loads on wood: just look up the data in the clear and handy tables and graphs Hoadley provides and do the simple calculations (it's multiplication and division, folks, with nothing harder than an occasional exponent).
Almost every chapter contains revelations for the newcomer to woodworking. Early on we learn not only that wood changes size with moisture, but by how much (according to species), in which directions, how this affects its shape, and what are the common and best techniques to compensate for or design for these changes when building anything with wood. Later we learn how to relate these moisture changes to humidity--there's a clear and handy chart, as well as an easily memorized rule of thumb--and how to build and calibrate a simple shop hygrometer. In another chapter Hoadley applies this information to a discussion culminating in valuable information on sanding and finishing wood.
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By P. van Rijckevorsel on November 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This second edition is "completely revised and updated". This does not go for the text: of the text of the first edition better than 99% is present here, only minutely altered. A six-page new chapter (#16) on Engineered Wood has been added. The chapters on panels and boards are somewhat revised as is the chapter on Finding Wood. In the other chapters text has been swapped around, but has not been changed.
The "revision" is mostly in the layout and pictures. The line drawings are substantially unaltered, but of the photographs most were replaced by color photographs of a generally very good quality.
As a wood anatomist my attention was drawn to the chapter on identifying wood. Since this subject is covered in much more dept in "Identifying_Wood" (same author, same publisher) there were two ways to go, either 1) eliminate the overlap by replacing this with a presentation of woods by pictures of longitudinal grain (as in "The_Good_Wood_Handbook") which would have been user-friendly and would have had my preference or 2) upgrade this book to the level of its companion. The latter strategy has been chosen and the black&white end grain pictures of the 1st edition have been replaced by pictures found in "Identifying_Wood". These are reproduced here at a higher magnification, allowing more detail to be seen. The selection of woods has been altered, with more tropical woods included.
Summing up: although this is a lot more attractive book than the first edition it is only worth replacing that first edition if the book is to be used frequently (for example as a teaching aid). For those who think this is a fairly expensive book I can recommend "The_Good_Wood_Handbook" by Jackson & Day which although much more modest in every respect is good value-for-money, and is a more accessible book.
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Alan Morgan ( on February 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book will prove to be my best in-depth resource for critical information about the materials with which I make my living. As a woodworking professional, I must fully understand my materials to avoid costly mistakes(and a bruised reputation). With Bruce Hoadley's manual, I can make practical decisions or calculations about wood movement, moisture levels, strength and machining characteristics. I can confirm what I already know or suspect of the species I am most familiar with, or start from scratch with a new species I have never worked with.
Not a "how-to" manual, it has allowed me to use less guesswork and to broaden my professional knowledge - which helps me win customers over 'the other guys'.
This is NOT an easy bed-time read. It is filled with tables, formulas, charts and photos to help get the points across - which Hoadley is able to do well enough in his text with real-world examples and comparisons. But I was a little discouraged (and I doubt it could be helped) by the way this book resembles those dreaded textbooks of my university days.
This book is relevant, realistic, and practical. If you are serious about understanding wood, this book should at the top of your list.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book discusses wood as a "material" of interest to woodworkers. Did you ever wonder how much a piece of wood will deflect when loaded? Do you know how to calculate how much a panel inside a frame will expand/contract? This book explains this and much more. I can now make simple calculations to help me design my projects. Chapters include: The Nature of Wood, Figure in Wood, Wood Identification, Water and Wood, Coping with Wood Movement, Strength of Wood, Other Properties, Machining Wood, Joining Wood, Finishing Wood, Modifying Wood, and The Woodworker's Raw Materials. I recommend it for all serious woodworkers, professional and amateur alike.
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