By Christian Becksvoort
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.
That is why we are particularly pleased to offer the third revised edition of “With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood” by Christian Becksvoort. This is the book about wood that we wished we’d had when we started woodworking.
It is, above all, succinct, easy to understand and perfectly suited for the furniture-maker. As important as what is in its 160 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.
Like all Lost Art Press books, “With the Grain” is printed and bound in the United States on acid-free paper. The binding on this 8-1/2" x 11" book is sewn. It is hardbound with a green cotton cover. For the third revised edition, Becksvoort added details on 10 North American trees that were not in previous editions. The species added are tamarack, white spruce, Douglas fir, true poplar, black willow, pecan, American hornbeam, live oak, mulberry and red maple.