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Understanding Wood

Title: Understanding WoodA Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology

Author: R. Bruce Hoadley

Publisher: The Taunton Press



Book Review

R. Bruce Hoadley’s book, Understanding Wood, takes a refreshingly scientific approach to the study of wood. Too often I find many books or web sites devoid of actual quantitative information. This book fills the void with information and charts on topics such as the strength of wood, wood movement, and wood identification, among many other topics.

The chapter on strength of wood discusses topics that go beyond what I thought of as wood strength. In this chapter, the author introduces topics such as compression, tension, and tensile strength of wood. These topics can be useful when determining how well a wood may perform as a baseball bat, shelf, or chair leg.

The scientific approach to wood identification is not the highlight of this book. The book focuses on close up pictures, referred to as macrophotographs, of the end grain. While this may provide definitive proof of a wood species it is not very practical for my woodworking hobby. When I’m identifying a wood I’m generally looking at the face of a board or the edge of a board. Most wood can be easily identified using unscientific method. I don’t think I’m alone when I see a board that looks like cherry I usually just assume that I’m correct and skip the process of planning down the end grain to get a good look at it.

One of the most useful yet often misunderstood areas wood is the lumber classifications and grading of hardwood lumber. This book contains the most complete quite to hardwood lumber grading. After reading a few of these pages I feel a whole lot better walking into a lumberyard.

Overall this book is great for the scientist side of woodworking. I’ve only mentioned a few of the topics mentioned in the book. If you really want to take your woodworking hobby or career to the next lever this book will help you achieve that goal. If you just like to cut wood and don’t really care about what you are doing then you’ll find this book goes a little too deep into the topics. Not a “page turner” but a very valuable book to have in your collection.

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