Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of blog posts by Richard Jones, who has written a detailed book about timber technology. The book is scheduled to be released in early 2018.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
I didn’t set out to write a book on timber technology. Doing so was an accident of circumstances. In 2003, I closed my furniture business in Texas, moved home to the UK and started teaching furniture undergraduates at Rycotewood, which I mentioned here. I was given the task of introducing the students to the craft furniture maker’s primary material of wood in the Timber Technology module. I possessed a relatively good expertise in the subject but I’d never prepared and delivered learning materials on it. It was a challenging sink-or-swim moment for me – well, more of an ongoing fight against drowning throughout a 12-week term. But it got easier with practice and as the years passed.
In 2005, I started creating illustrated Timber Tech PowerPoint presentations as learning tools. From that, I converted the PowerPoints into articles to sell to woodworking magazines, a sideline of mine. At some stage in this article production I decided the topic was too involved to be covered adequately in a series of articles in several magazine issues. So, being a bit bloody minded, I decided to create a manuscript covering the key issues relevant and of interest to me as a woodworker. Further, I decided to write it in such a way that non-specialists could understand some of the more challenging elements, and my students were the model non-specialists. Of course, this meant I was writing speculatively, without having a publisher on board – but more on that in a later post.
Most books on timber technology are written by timber technologists for wood scientist colleagues, or students of the topic. They’re consequently a difficult read for the general reader, something probably true of most woodworkers, myself included. Wood science authors assume a certain background knowledge in their expected readership. And why not? They’re generally singing to the choir, or at least aspirant wood scientists. It doesn’t really help the non-scientific woodworker who wants a better understanding of their material as simply as possible. In creating my manuscript I took pains to try and make some difficult science accessible and useful to all woodworkers – carpenters, joiners, furniture makers and so on.
An oak tabletop, such as the one shown above, 1100 mm (~43-1/4″) wide with end clamps (aka breadboard ends) needs allowance for expansion and contraction on the main panel across the grain. A tongue and groove, incorporating three tenons worked in the main panel fit motices in the clamps. The central tenon is glued, and the two end tenons are free to move side to side in extended mortices, but held tight in the main panel with dowels passing through slots in the tenons.
– Richard Jones
14 thoughts on “Richard Jones: Why I Wrote This Book”
Great looking massive table.
That’s very kind of you Royce. It’s not my design, I was just the paid freelance maker hired to make it, but I rather like it too, even though it’s a back breaking monster to move!
Hi Richard, what would you say are the differences between your book and the classic “Understanding Wood” book by R.Bruce Hoadley?
I think the main difference is that I wrote as a woodworker for other woodworkers, not as a wood scientist for woodworkers. For instance, there are scientific elements in Hoadley’s book where I always felt there was knowledge either expected or assumed of the reader. I’ve tried to explain from where technical terms are derived, and why. I’ve used analogies and examples to help the general reader to follow principles.
Topics I cover aren’t covered in other texts on the subject. For example I look at the history of trees, historical socio-political issues concerning trees and forests, balanoculture, ancient examples of deforestation and its effect on society, and so on. These are not necessarily core topics such as felling, conversion, calculating yield from round logs, drying or seasoning, insect and fungal interactions with trees, and current ecological/ deforestation subjects that I cover, but they do add to a sensitive woodworker’s knowledge of their material.
My text incorporates a wider spread of measurement units than does Hoadley, i.e., I use in the book metric and Imperial measure, SI Units, Fahrenheit/ Centigrade, etc. I was mindful of the fact that most countries use measurement systems that aren’t limited to Imperial (feet, inches, pounds), but they do use metric or SI, and I included conversions or equivalents so that readers from different countries would (hopefully) feel comfortable.
My text is lightly academically referenced using Harvard Referencing. You can go to my source material through consulting the references at the end of each chapter or the bibliography, and read it for yourself if you choose to go and get that source material. I hope that helps.
Posted the above in the wrong place in error. It was meant to be a response to Paul. I apologise for that.
I’m really looking forward to your book. I’ve always had kind of a “geeky” passion for knowing the science behind whatever it is I am involved in and your book sounds right up my alley.
Just out of curiosity, I’d be interested in seeing a picture of the underside of the table shown above, showing the stretchers and how the top attaches.
Hi Patrick, I’ll try to resize a couple or three pictures I have of the construction that shows how the top is attached to the legs in the next few days – I’ve been really busy this last few weeks and I just haven’t had time to properly process the seventy or so production photos I took. But basically, the pedestal leg is like a big I with a foot and a bearer at the top of the pedestal. The bearer is attached to the underside of the top with slot screws. Do pop back in here from time to time and I’ll let you know when the photos are available to see, and where to go to see them. If I ask nicely perhaps LAP will put them up here for me.
I truly hope the book satisfies all (maybe just many) of your ‘geeky’ needs regarding wood when it’s released, ha, ha.
Hi again Patrick. I’m going to try and include an image here to illustrate what I described above. I’m not sure it will work, but if it does I’ll add some more in a follow-on post.
It didn’t. I’ll see what else can be engineered – sorry.
Hi Richard. I appreciate the effort, but don’t go to too much hassle just to satisfy my curiosity. I suspect that responding to these comments can become a big time-drain.
Hi Patrick, I’ve been updating my website to include information about this table so it was no extra bother: it was something I needed to do anyway. Pictures of its construction, including attaching the top to the bearers appear at this URL: http://www.richardjonesfurniture.com/Articles/refectory-table/refectory-table.html If that link doesn’t show up here as a working link you could go to my website, richardjonesfurniture.com, Articles, select the table article. Hope that helps, and the stuff about attaching the table top to the bearer is very near the bottom of that webpage I’m afraid, so a bit of scrolling is required.
Thanks for the link, Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed the article and look forward to reading some of the other articles on your website. Also eagerly awaiting your book.
Look forward to purchasing this book.
Thank you Will.
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