WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Understanding Wood

Understanding Wood
Revised Edition
by R. Bruce Hoadley

Taunton Press, Revised 2000
Hardcover, 280 pp, $39.95
ISBN: 1-5615-358-8

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    As reference books go, this one probably takes first place. Updated from the twenty-year old original, the new color photography and inclusion of engineered wood products makes this volume a complete reference to the material.
     The author's forward tells us something about him: "I'll never forget the first time I saw a chainsaw in operation. The farmers and loggers watched in amazement…but I was not watching the raucous machine. I stood transfixed by those marvelous disks of wood…As I staggered through the goldenrod toward my father's car, they were unbelievably heavy…Having the disks safely home, I proudly lined them up along the wall shelf in our cellar workshop. I'm sure you know the sad ending…my castle of hope crumbled as the first few hairline cracks in the sapwood grew and reached toward the pith. Soon each disk had a gaping radial crack. In final mockery, even the bark fell off. But why?"
     Hoadley now holds a degree in Forestry from the University of Connecticut and a Doctorate in Wood Technology from Yale. He has written books and magazine articles on wood for several decades.
     'Understanding Wood' begins at the beginning, with growth rings, grain, sapwood and heartwood. It differentiates softwoods and hardwoods. It describes figure and has a full-color explanation on how to identify species. A long chapter on the strength of wood covers compression wood, shear strength, bending theory and stuctural grades.
     Clear explanations are given of free water and bound water, kiln drying and air drying, estimating shrinkage and common dimensional changes. Discussions on adhesives and finishing are included, with evaluations of finished surfaces.
     New sections cover composite panels, glulam and structural composites. Recycling and finding wood in new ways is mentioned, including using the Internet.
     Over a dozen useful tables are listed, such as grades and sizes, average green moisture content, air drying time for 4/4 lumber, face grades of plywood and abbreviations of lumber terms.
     Hoadley includes several appendices, a glossary, a bibliography and index. Even if you own the old edition, buy the new volume. The full color photography makes a huge difference

...Barb Siddiqui