Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 162, Februart 2019
 
Book Review: Cut & Dried
by Richard Jones
Review by J. Norman Reid

Every now and then there comes a work of exceptional importance for a wide range of woodworkers. This volume, by British cabinetmaker Richard Jones, is such a book. In Cut & Dried, Jones examines a broad spectrum of issues concerning the character, qualities, and uses of wood, with particular emphasis on its application to cabinetmaking. Unsatisfied with the preponderance of books on wood technology, most of which are written by wood scientists for an audience of their professional colleagues, Jones sets out to conduct his own research into wood technology, then translates it for accessibility by average woodworkers. This book is the result.

This oversized volume packs a wide range of information into its more than 300 pages. Altogether, Jones gives us an encyclopedic perspective on the medium in which we work. His treatment of the subject is at once thorough, highly detailed and well documented. He includes numerous charts and tables reflecting the properties of wood that will not be found in most other books on the subject. At the same time, Jones makes his material approachable by employing a pleasing colloquial style.

Though many of the examples Jones cites pertain to British species and lumber processing practices, his experience working in the U.S. has enabled him to include pertinent references to U.S. materials, methods and terminology. As a result, both British and North American readers will find Cut & Dried to be both relevant and important.

Jones opens the book with a succinct history of tree growth in the U.K. He includes some fascinating facts about trees that, while not central to his main themes, are nonetheless enlightening. The subsequent chapter is devoted to the geographic distribution of trees by type.

Chapter Three introduces scientific material with a review of systems for classifying tree species and a reminder about the growth patterns and structure of trees. The following chapter reviews the range of leaf types, flowers, and germination processes, as well as the process of woodlot regeneration after logging has occurred.

A chapter on felling trees and converting them into lumber follows. Water and wood moisture content makes up the next chapter. This is followed by a consideration of wood movement and types of distortions in wood and their causes. Key tables and figures document some rules of thumb regarding wood movement and the extent of wood shrinkage that can be expected. He presents guidance on storing wood to minimize movement.

A succeeding chapter addresses processes for drying wood, including air drying, kiln drying, solar kilns and the effects of improper drying techniques. The faults that can occur include warping, staining, checking, cracking, and end splitting, and Jones offers guidance on how to avoid them.

Once dried, the lumber is ready for market. Jones discusses the processes and standards for grading wood in both the U.K. and U.S. Then he gives some guidance on selecting wood for cabinetmaking.

Next, Jones offers a brief review of the various types of fungi that affect wood, some of which are harmful, others beneficial. This section, well-illustrated with color photos, is a good introduction to what is otherwise a large subject.

Insect pests are another challenge to the woodworker and Jones reviews the major groupings and assesses their potential for damaging wood, then offers strategies for reducing or eliminating insect threats.

The characteristics of wood are considered, including grain types, figure, texture, color, luster, knots, and shakes. This is followed by an assessment of wood strength. Jones presents considerable data on the ability of wood to resist a variety of forms of stress and in doing so makes available data not otherwise readily accessible to non-specialists.

The text concludes with a consideration of ecological and environmental issues. A list of resources follows.

This beautiful cloth-bound and slipcovered book is yet another fine release from Lost Art Press. Printed on quality paper with full color illustrations and photographs throughout, the book is as beautiful to hold as it is informative to read and study.

Cut & Dried is one of the most complete and detailed works on wood and wood technology available to non-specialist cabinetmakers. For this reason, it merits a place on the reference shelves of all serious woodworkers. I highly recommend this important book.

Find out more and purchase Cut & Dried by Richard Jones


J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net.

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