Friday 23 October 2015

Woodworking Book review: Using Woodworking Tools by Lonnie Bird

First published in 2004, this is not a newly released book, so why are we reviewing it? Well, basically, because the contents are related to working with wood. Plus its combination of hand and power tools is still as relevant today as when it was originally penned.
Whilst this is a book primarily about tools and their use, the first section has some of the clearest instruction on the nature of wood — that ever-moving, shrinking, expanding, twisting, unstable but beautiful material we choose to work with. The skills of buying the right wood for your project, storing it correctly and choosing the right grain orientation for the task are often overlooked by the eager novice keen to create their first masterpiece. 

What I really enjoyed with this book is thinking about starting over in a new workshop. Taking the book in order, you start by thinking about your workbench and the key considerations when buying or making your own home base in the workshop. The plan continues with thoughts on clamps, vices and bench dogs, as well as some tips on making your own work supports such as bench hooks and shooting boards. Basic rule of this section, you can never have too many clamps.

When talking about tools, it’s easy to forget one of the critical components of many projects and that’s the glue that holds much of your project together. There is a huge array of modern adhesives available, many of which are described here together with some of the basic joints and the best way to clamp them up to achieve a great first-time fix. Though, as the development of high-quality adhesives seems to move forward very rapidly, this is an area of the book that could probably benefit from an update.

Then we get into the meat of this book — hand and power tools. As is traditional with these types of book, hand tools come first, which makes perfect sense. As most power tools are mechanised versions of a hand tool, you should really to get to grips (literally) with what you are trying to do by hand before reaching for something with an on button. There are sections on measuring and marking, saws and chisels, planes, files and rasps together with clear descriptions and excellent photography of key joints and techniques for use with each tool. There is also a really easy-to-understand explanation of sharpening, one of the best I have seen as a short section.

The power tool section is a good guide for terminology, basic technique and safety guidance with sections on table saws, jointing and planing, band saws, shapers and routers, and drilling and morticing machines. As a first look at powering up your workshop, it’s not a bad start. Of note in particular, there are some really good guides and infographics to help you understand the various blade types for the table saw and tooth forms for band saws. To be clear, it’s not an in-depth report detailing all the options and, as with the adhesive section, it is worth remembering that this book is nearly 12 years old and things have moved on significantly in terms of what’s available out there in the market. This is a good book to look over if you are thinking of getting into woodworking and as a guide to the essential elements of your tool armoury. However, it is not a long-term reference as there are many more specialist volumes on the individual elements which would offer greater support if you really get serious about woodworking.

Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Using Woodworking Tools by Lonnie Bird is available from and other retailers online. ISBN 978-1-63186-085-0


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