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The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge Paperback – November 17, 2008
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""The Woodwright's Guide" captures the true glory and mystery of the material that built this country, from the first swing of the axe to the final shaving of a smoothing plane. Roy Underhill's impressive technical knowledge, respect for traditional methods, and amusing storytelling make this his finest effort to date. I devoured every word and enjoyed it immensely."
-- Christopher Schwarz, editor of "Popular Woodworking" and "Woodworking Magazine"
"I own all of Underhill's books. . . . So it is no small thing when I say that Underhill's new book (his first in 12 years) is his best. . . . Unlike his previous books . . . "The Woodwright's Guide" is focused entirely on technique. . . . Underhill's other great strength is his ability to explain extremely complex ideas in a way that makes it feel like you've suddenly achieved Buddhist enlightenment."
--Christopher Schwarz, "Woodworking Magazine" Weblog
I own all of Underhill's books. . . . So it is no small thing when I say that Underhill's new book (his first in 12 years) is his best. . . . Unlike his previous books . . . The Woodwright's Guide is focused entirely on technique. . . . Underhill's other great strength is his ability to explain extremely complex ideas in a way that makes it feel like you've suddenly achieved Buddhist enlightenment.--Christopher Schwarz, Woodworking Magazine Weblog
The Woodwright's Guide captures the true glory and mystery of the material that built this country, from the first swing of the axe to the final shaving of a smoothing plane. Roy Underhill's impressive technical knowledge, respect for traditional methods, and amusing storytelling make this his finest effort to date. I devoured every word and enjoyed it immensely.--Christopher Schwarz, editor of Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine
Top customer reviews
Woodworking with "wedge and edge." I suppose every woodworker realizes that when dealing with wood you are either cutting it's fibres or splitting them. I did, but the book actually brought that line of thinking/idea into true clarity to me for the first time. This really did change the way I saw, use a chisel, and even use power tools, so at that the book helped a great deal.
Much of the book centers of the process of creating furniture from tree to finished product. It is less of a how-to book and uses a bit of storytelling to get the knowledge across, which worked for me though some may not enjoy it as much. Towards the end of the book there are plans for a workbench and a lathe that I thought could have been more clearly presented. The workbench in particular interested me, I just didn't care for the plans.
Overall I liked the book though I'm not overly sure if I would purchase another book by Roy Underhill. Other reviewers on Amazon and other sites have stated that this book is quite similar to prior books of his. As I said, I thought it was enjoyable and I learned from it, but I wouldn't pay for it twice.
I do have an axe to grind, however. The Product Description above says "A special concluding section contains detailed plans for making your own foot-powered lathes, ...." Aah, I thought, I'll finally get plans for building that treadle lathe Underhill has been teasing me with for five books. If you, like me, think "detailed plans" will give you true shop drawings, lists of materials, and instructions that, if you follow them will give you a working lathe at the end; then you, like me, will be very disappointed. He does give you more than in the past, but be prepared for much head scratching and trial and error. If I do go ahead and try to build one, I'm going to make sure I have at least three of everything on hand.
Over all, this is perhaps his best book yet. I just don't understand why he's so stingy with his plans.
As some of the previous reviewers point out, this book does repeat a lot of information that is scattered throughout Underhill's earlier books. For those who have read and digested his previous books, there won't be a lot of new information or techniques here, although there is some. But the advantage to Underhill's approach in this book is that he takes more time to explain techniques in detail than he has in the earlier, project-focused books. Want to know how to make a lapped dovetail joint in a timber frame with just a saw and axe? A hidden dovetail in a miter joint? Or a rule joint for a drop-leaf table? This books gives you the details, complete with line drawings that show important steps. I should emphasize, though, that these are not the step-by-baby-step instructions of conventional woodworking literature. Underhill is content to explain the crucial principles, guide you around common pitfalls, and let you work out some of the details on your own. But that has always been his ethos, and anyone already familiar with Underhill, either through his TV show or his books, will know already. Implicitly, the book shows that once you master the basic principles of a process, you become free to improvise at any number of levels.
Readers of Underhill's previous books will no doubt recognize a lot of the drawings, many of which are rendered from photos that appeared in the older books. I happen to like the drawings better, since they tend to be clearer and less visually cluttered. Plus, there are a lot more images than in previous books, so the book is on the whole much better illustrated than previous works. The layout is very effective, with the images confined to the wide margins and the text in a single column. If you happen to be in the habit of annotating your books, the layout offers amble opportunity.
An added bonus is a short essay, "The Great Wheel," which originally appeared in Woodworking Magazine. The book's appendices have some otherwise hard-to-find information on making taps and dies for wooden screws, as well as spring-pole and treadle lathes. (There is also an appendix on making two traditional workbenches, which are helpful if not revolutionary.) The lathe "plans" are minimal; Underhill sets up the crucial details and lets you figure out the rest yourself. Many woodworkers are uncomfortable with this approach, but I think that any experienced woodworker should be able to build either lathe successfully without further directions. Underhill's spirit in this book is very consistent with his earlier work--he combines historical research, traditional techniques, and American-style improvisation to inspire the woodworker to discover woodcraft afresh.