Trees: What Should a Woodworker Know?


Live oak, Houston, Texas

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts by Richard Jones, who has written a detailed book about timber technology, which is scheduled to be released in early 2018.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl

What’s the best way to approach writing a book for publication? Well, probably not the way I went about it.

So what did I write about? At the end of 2007, I’d perhaps created a manuscript of about 15,000 words and devised a list of key headings. Writing as a woodworker for other woodworkers, not as a wood scientist, I’d decided the following list of topics covered what I, as the model woodworker in this exercise, ought to have a pretty good grasp of, and this probably applied to all serious woodworkers, both professional and amateur:

• Tree Classification, Growth and Structure

• Roots, Leaves, Seeds, Flowers, Germination, Transpiration

• Felling, Conversion and Yield

• Water, Water Vapour and Wood

• Coping with Wood Movement

• Seasoning or Drying of Wood and Drying Faults

• From the Kiln to the User (Storing, Transporting and Selling Dried Wood)

• Fungi

• Insect Pests

• Wood Strength and Structures

• Ecological and Environmental Issues

There were additional topics I felt it important to cover to round out the knowledge of the thoughtful and inquisitive woodworker, such as tree history, tree distribution, a section on the oaks in particular, balanoculture, ancient deforestation, socio-political and historical issues concerning trees and their use, the Latin-binomial system of identification, tree oddities and migration, and so on. All might be considered ‘soft knowledge’, but awareness of these topics contributes to being a well-informed woodworker.

In 2007 I met a publisher of craft books I knew at a woodworking show in the north of England. We talked about my writing project and he indicated he was interested in offering me a contract to write the book. I turned him down gently saying I didn’t want to work to a publisher’s deadline because I’d be writing under pressure and too many mistakes would occur, or important subjects might have to be omitted to meet their deadline. So, there I was, writing at my own pace with no deadline to spur me on, and no-one on board to publish whatever I produced. I’d made a decision that contributed to enabling what I believe is a better book, but left me with the challenging task of finding someone to publish my, er, well, I guess, labour of love.

I’m very pleased Lost Art Press is taking my raw manuscript to the next stage. And maybe I’ll tell the tale of my convoluted path to finding a publisher in a later post.

– Richard Jones

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20 Responses to Trees: What Should a Woodworker Know?

  1. welshfurniture says:

    From one Richard to another, we surely saw each other walking down the same road


  2. ajgodet says:

    can I just order this book now?


    • Richard Jones says:

      I think LAP’s main method of letting people know about release dates is through their blog posts, but I’m not sure how that translates into things like pre-ordering. Sorry I can’t help you more on that specific point.


  3. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    Ha! I know that exact live oak tree. >


    • Richard Jones says:

      Hi Caleb, I guess you’re familiar with Sam Houston Park, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I took that picture.


  4. Eric from Dayton says:

    Title suggestion: “Tree Knowledge for Woodworkers”.
    Looking forward to this book.


  5. Lucas hein says:

    We musnt forget to check for nails or other foreign objects…a standard metal detector works great. Especially on tree from urban areas or old fencelines.


    • Richard Jones says:

      Hi Lucas, funnily enough I do touch on a related subject in the book where I briefly discuss the use of cast iron cages that used to be put around the saplings in parkland estates intended to protect said saplings from deer. It is, however, only sensible to be suspicious of certain locations from which timber might be sourced, e.g., as you mention, hedgerow grown trees that commonly harbour bits of metal such as staples, barbed wire, and the like.


  6. Barron says:

    It’s been years since my Dendrology, Silviculture and Plant Physiology classes so I am really looking forward to this book. I need a refresher.


  7. Robert DeHarrold says:

    Great insight regarding the tension of an artisans desire and our human sufficiently/insufficiency to accomplish (our) plans. Ambition and rest go hand in hand. As green and red lights do in an intersection. Thanks for your blog.
    Robert DeHarrold.
    Carpenter/ Woodturner


  8. Dona says:

    What about replacement of trees used, and destruction of trees for paper for your book. Make it an ebook better for the environment. The old growth trees are hard to get like the one on the cover.


    • Paper is not made from old-growth trees. It is made from softwood by-products. And it is an infinitely recyclable and renewable resource. As is the soy ink we use.

      Not to mention that books can last for hundreds of years. Unlike data storage devices (my first novel was stored on a Syquest drive….).

      For those who prefer ebooks, we offer them. For those who prefer books that are made to last generations, we offer those.


  9. Rodger says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of working in the shade of that tree…


    • Richard Jones says:

      Hi Rodger, I guess you know the tree more intimately than I do. All I’ve ever done is walk around whilst looking at the collection of historical houses in the park, and thought that tree and a few others there were worth photographing – those live oaks tend to be rather beautiful trees, especially when the branches sweep down to the ground.


      • Rodger says:

        I absolutely agree; they are beautiful! I did some restoration work on the “Old House” a couple of years ago and would often stop to admire the trees’ calm swagger.


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