A craftsman's guide to wood technology.
by R. Bruce Hoadley
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This book was first published in 1980 by Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Woodworking Magazine. Its author, R. Bruce Hoadley, is a wood technologist who has spent a great deal of time researching the properties of wood. The purpose of the book was to give non-scientist woodworkers a solid understanding of the properties and characteristics of the material we deal with.
If you intend to go farther with woodworking than just building a few projects now and then, this book is required reading. It explains in detail and in readable English the nature of the material as well as why it does what it does. Why does wood shrink and expand? Why does it cup, warp and twist? What's the difference between cup, warp and twist? What's the difference between figure and grain? This book was intended to be and remains the basic reference for woodworkers on these kinds of questions.
Some of the book goes a bit farther than you will need building furniture. A chapter on the strength of wood contains info on compression, tension and shear characteristics in wood which you will never bother calculating to build a table. As well you don't need to know about wood's thermal conductivity or fluorescence, though these things are interesting to read about.
But the majority of subjects covered will have application in your craft. You need to know how wood and air-borne moisture interact. Hoadley's explanations of how machines cut wood will help you get the best out of your machines. His treatment of joinery will help you make strong joints. He also gives a basic discussion of finishing wood as well as a chapter on finding wood and how it is measured and graded.
This is the best book available for understanding wood.
The Nature of Wood
Figure in Wood
Water and Wood
Coping With Wood Movement
Strength of Wood
The Woodworker's Raw Materials
Afterword: Forests Past and Future
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