Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Woodwright's Guide, by Roy Underhill

I had high expectations for this book.  Famous for his PBS show, The Woodwright's Shop, Roy Underhill is the master of traditional American wood working techniques.   The notion is this book is "working wood with wedge & edge" -- in other words from cutting the tree to working the wood into a piece of furniture.

So what went wrong?   Most of the material is interesting, especially the early sections that cover skills that are foreign to my experience -- such as felling trees.   But there's no material on the different cuts of wood (e.g., radial, quarter sawn).

Things go downhill fast.   The good news:  Mr Underhill covers each successive tool in the progression to finished product.  The bad news:  the illustrations are terrible line drawings.    Contrast this to the wonderful photographs in Jim Tolpin's books.

The descriptions are of varied quality; many are cursory.   The section on how to use a framing square to set angles was completely incomprehensible to me -- and I'm not afraid of math.   It felt as though Mr Underhill could check off the list, "yep, I gave some info on how to do that one, what's next" as opposed to fully explaining things.

I did take some good out of this book -- primarily the names for tools that I'd never before fully understood, like the beetle, devil, or travisher.

All in all though, I'm not about to bother with another of this author's books; still like the TV show though, and I might check out his school if I find myself in North Carolina.

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