You don’t need a degree in dendrology to build a desk. But you do need intimate knowledge of how our raw material grows and – more importantly – how it responds to its environment after it has been cut and dried.
This knowledge allows you to tame the wood into the shapes that you have envisioned in your head. And it ensures that your furniture will endure the seasons and age with grace and aplomb.
That is why I am particularly pleased to announce the latest book from Lost Art Press: “With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood” by Christian Becksvoort. This is the book about wood that I wished I’d had when I started woodworking.
It is, above all, succinct, easy to understand and perfectly suited for the furniture-maker. As important as what is in its 144 pages is what is not. It’s not a detailed analysis of cell growth. It is not a heap of tables and equations for figuring truss loads in residential construction. It is decidedly not a scientist’s approach to the material.
Instead, “With the Grain” contains the facts you need to know at the lumberyard, in the woodlot and in the shop. It gives you enough science so you understand how trees grow. It explains the handful of formulas you have to know as a furniture-maker. And it gives you a hearty dose of specific information about North American species that will inspire you. Becksvoort encourages you to use the trees in your neighborhood and makes the case that just because you cannot find catalpa at the lumberyard doesn’t mean it’s not a good furniture wood.
You’ll learn to identify the trees around you from their silhouette, leaves and shoots. And you’ll learn about how these species work in the shop – both their advantages and pitfalls.
Becksvoort then takes you into a detailed discussion of how wood reacts to it environment – the heart of the book. You’ll learn how to calculate and accommodate wood movement with confidence and precision. And you’ll learn how to design furniture assemblies – casework, drawers, doors and moulding – so they will move with the seasons without cracking.
There’s also a chapter on how to manage a small forest or copse of trees – how to care for them, encourage them to thrive and harvest them. You’ll learn the basics of cutting, stacking and drying the wood, if you should ever have the privilege of harvesting your own lumber.
“With the Grain” is a major revision of an earlier work by Becksvoort titled “In Harmony with Wood.” While a lot of the raw data on trees hasn’t changed, Becksvoort updated the text, drawings and photos to incorporate more details and strategies for dealing with wood movement.
Like all Lost Art Press books, “With the Grain” is printed and bound in the United States on acid-free paper. The binding is Smythe sewn. The book is hardbound with a green cotton cover. The book is $25.
“With the Grain” is at the printer now. If you order it before the publication date (Feb. 20), you will receive free domestic shipping. After Feb. 20, shipping will be $7.
Order “With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood” in the Lost Art Press store.
— Christopher Schwarz