I am pleased to announce that Lee Valley Tools, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and Tools for Working Wood will be carrying Christian Becksvoort’s first book with Lost Art Press: “With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood.”
The book should be in our warehouse (um, John Hoffman’s garage) in the next two or three weeks.
You can order “With the Grain” from the Lost Art Press store for $25 with free domestic shipping until Feb. 20. After that date, shipping will be $7.
If you haven’t read about the book, check out our announcement here. And I wrote a follow-up here.
Let’s say, for example, that you really like the taste of armadillo meat.
You love it poached, pan-fried and in a white wine sauce. Your taste buds can tell when one had nibbled on some acorns.
But let’s also say that at the zoo, you can’t distinguish a live armadillo from a peacock.
I know, that seems crazy. But when it comes to trees, most woodworkers can’t tell the difference between red oak and white, an ash from a birch, and on and on. Most woodworkers – no lie – are lucky if they can distinguish between a tree and an ornamental tree-bush thing.
Is this important? I think so.
Trees have always been this continent’s greatest natural resource. And our close relationship with trees separate us from almost every other culture on the planet. The North American civilization was built on trees. They are the backbone of our homes. Their abundance is the reason that woodworking is so popular here. They are still one of our biggest exports and one of our greatest resources.
And that is why my kids can tell the difference between a maple and an oak and a freaky osage orange (the brain tree). If you know a little about the black cherry, the sugar pine or the hardy catalpa, then working with that species is more gratifying and awe-inspiring. You’ll know when you have a piece of wood on your bench that grew quickly, or struggled in rocky soil. You’ll be able to identify when some unscrupulous lumber merchant has sold you reaction wood from the branches of a tree. You’ll see knots and other structures in a whole new light – not as a defect necessarily, but as part of the tree that you can work with or work around.
To be sure, this book is 100-percent practical. There’s no swooning over grain patterns in its 144 pages. Instead, it is an examination of the material from a furniture-maker’s perspective. And Becksvoort has three important lessons:
1. Know the trees around you and know that they can be used to build furniture.
2. Understand how wood moves and how to use the simple formulas and charts that can tell you exactly how the stock on your bench will change with the seasons.
3. How to build your projects so they allow the wood to move without splitting the wood or destroying your joinery.
All this is told in a concise, clear and direct manner – illustrated with hundreds of photos and line drawings. If you have ever wondered about the relationship between the trees in your neighborhood and the wood you use to build furniture, I think you will appreciate this book and the way it links everything together.
“With the Grain” is available for $25 with free domestic shipping (until Feb. 20) from our store.
A little knowledge about trees goes a long way toward improving your woodworking.
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.
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.