WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Woodworkers' Essential Facts, Formulas & Short-Cuts

Woodworkers' Essential
Facts, Formulas
& Short-Cuts

by Ken Horner

Cambium Press: 2003
Paperback, 310 pp., $24.95
ISBN 1-892836-15-7

     This new release from Cambium Press is destined to become one of the most shop-worn, beat up, bookmarked, dog-eared tools in any woodworker's shop. More than a compendium of formulas and pre-figured lists and tables, this book is a collection of traditional woodworking knowledge about things like 'splitting the difference' when arranging parts using a spacing block, like how to line up three tape measures to find the radius of an arc on the jobsite, or how to cut a sloped-sided box using only a bevel and miter gauge on the tablesaw, avoiding pesky math problems.
     The math formulas and basic shop geometry are all here, including those for circle divisions (as for seven spokes in a wheel), arc radii (figured for a domed lid) and how to determine the spacing of cuts for kerf-bent woods. "I have dispensed with trigonometry tables," says Horner, "and have instead included, when appropriate, the step-by-step use of a calculator to solve a problem." Hallelujah.
     There are eleven pages on the drawing of an ellipse, with seven different methods illustrated, including the advantages and drawbacks of each. The author specifically covers the problem of constructing a butler's tray table. "Mathematically," he says, "every ellipse can have an infinite number of rectangles drawn inside it. But there is only one ellipse that fits around a specific rectangle, touching all four corners." He then shows how to develop it, and includes 1/4" spacing to allow for hinges.
    Charts abound in this volume: inch fractions to metric equivalents, golden ratio numbers, conversion of linear feet to board feet, the run and rise of stairways, whether straight or with a landing, tap and thread diameters, minimal air movement for dust and chip removal for various woodworking machinery, and open or closed time for various glues used in bent laminations.
    There is too much information here to even list, and the wonderful thing about this book is how well organized the resource is. I tested it by the 'ask a question' method, using several arcane criteria I've had to search for in recent assembly dilemmas. In each case, I was quickly led to an answer, often with alternatives, using both the index and the table of contents.
    From enlargement and reduction of photos and plans, to miters, bevels and crown moldings, or deflection of shelf loads, Horner has included answers on everything essential to the woodworker. Separate chapters cover motors and three-phase electricity, 'real and imagined' horsepower, pulleys and speeds, and dust collection systems. The dust collection chapter is quite specific, with pipe diameters, machine CFM and duct size, how to measure statice pressure and much more.
    An appendix includes various tables of specific gravity and weight of woods, equilibrium moisture content, nail and screw sizes, decimal and millimeter equivalents and general conversions. Clearly illustrated with uncluttered black and white drawings, this reference book will be a lifesaver for all but the most experienced engineer/woodworkers among us.

. . . Barb Siddiqui