Tuesday Book Review: The Woodwright’s Guide by Roy Underhill

The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge

I have read dozens of woodworking books. But with this book, a novice can walk into a grove to read it, and, by the time it’s through, conceive a project, select the perfect trees for it, understand which tools will be required, the methods to employ, and (if an ax is nearby) walk out with the lumber.

The Leas of Lychten is covered with California’s native Live Oak, a beautiful species of hot-burning but unruly wood. It is not a favorite wood for woodworkers in general, but for those who love a challenge, nothing could be better.  Even with just the techniques in this short book, those beautiful oaks will become benches, chairs, arbors, wagons, trim, stables, baskets… maybe even houses.

“The Woodworker’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge” brings all the classic skills of woodworking to hand in a tutorial that weaves physics-based woodworking fundamentals into historical context. There have been quite a few books by Roy, also the host of “The Woodwright’s Shop” (one of PBS’ longest-running shows), but this one aims to bring amateurs the full joy of woodworking without the complications of modern standards. Roy makes the point that while scores of professions comprised the traditional woodworking sphere–for example, carriage makers, their suppliers the wheelwrights, and even their suppliers, the spindlemakers–a countryman woodworker must be able to make every desired wooden product to support a homestead.  That’s the aim of this book, which is why, if you’re a woodworker, a homesteader, or a historian, I whole-heartedly recommend it.

(You will also enjoy this book if you’re one of those people who wants to learn to rive billets into shakes with a beetle and froe, but that’s a rather small segment of the population, nowadays.)

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