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A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers, and Baseball Bats

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3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  96 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In a world without wood, we might not be here at all. Without wood, we wouldn't have had the fire, heat, and shelter that allowed us to expand into the colder regions of the planet. If civilization somehow did develop, our daily lives still would be vastly different: there would be no violins, baseball bats, chopsticks, or wine corks. The book you are now holding wouldn't ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 26th 2008 by Harper
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Sesana
I think that it's only my somewhat irrational love of commodity biographies that kept me reading this book. Carlsen obviously loves wood, and loves writing about it, and is quite good at it... if you already share his interests. This is very much a book for people who already have experience in and knowledge about woodworking. There are terms used that I'm sure are very common and basic woodworking tools, but I don't know them. And when the title says the book is "splintered", it isn't lying. It ...more
Simon
My original intent in reading A Splintered History of Wood was to pick up some trivia and increase my knowledge of the subject generally. In this, the book was more than satisfying; it presents a diverse survey on the history of wood(working), complete with colorful histories, curious etymologies, and unique biographies. However, the presentation of the material is unbalanced. Despite Spike Carlsen's preface warning readers that the book is a splintered (incomplete) history of wood, it's obvious ...more
Anne
Description: Many of us are removed from the world where wood is shaped and celebrated every day. That world is inhabited by a unique assortment of eccentric craftsmen and passionate enthusiasts who have created some of the world's most beloved musical instruments, feared weapons, dazzling architecture, sacred relics, and bizarre forms of transportation. In A Splintered History of Wood, Spike Carlsen has uncovered the most outlandish characters and examples, from world-champion chainsaw carvers ...more
Kim
Although not the best written book of its type, I found the arcana attached to wood extremely interesting. But of course, I've had a lifetime love of wood anyway. But I learned lots that had me annoying my husband reading things out loud. Did you know that the first instance of using wood analysis in forensics solved the Lindbergh kidnapping? This section alone was fascinating and satisfying. The book is filled with stuff like this. Spike is an engaging storyteller, but his humor often fell shor ...more
Steven
I'm a sucker for all of these natural history how-the-world-was-changed-by-[enter animal, mineral, vegetable, invention:]-and-how-life-would-suck-without-it books. The author is very aware that this is another one to throw on that pile.

I enjoyed this. The topics surrounding wood, its properties and it use, were rather broad, but interesting specific examples were brought in for each one. An avid woodworker himself, his interest in a wide range of things about wood was as infectious as -- well,
...more
Chris
"Who knew wood could be this fascinating" says the Booklist blurb on the back of the paperback edition. Um, I did. And it is fascinating when Spike Carlsen is talking about, for example, the building of pianos or the construction of gondolas. Unfortunately, Carlsen's writing style is so hackneyed, so cliche-abundant, that the few times when he falls into his own reverence for wood are scattered, while he otherwise writes dopey gags, inconsequential stories about himself, or stretches for some bo ...more
Mjackman
Fun, author knows his stuff, enjoyably breezy, finished in a few days. The only thing is, I am vaguely irritated by the way books such as this zoom in on one subject and therefore avoid taking in the full sweep of history. By zooming in with a microscope (sometimes literally), we never have to encounter clearcutting, spiking, Earth First, fincas, colonialism, etc. Sort of the same way gender studies classes allow academics to get into great detail of individual experience without ever getting to ...more
Barbara Gregorich
I found some of the articles in this book very interesting, such as the ones on baseball bats, boomerangs, catapults, and gondolas. Others I found less interesting.

As a whole, the book seems to lack a story, the way Salt has a story. The individual pieces don't progress in any particular order. What's missing for me is a driving force, the story of how humans have related to wood over tens of thousands of years. I wanted to care deeply about wood, but these articles arouse only a mild interest.
Diane
This is a bit like reading Ripley’s Believe it or Not, an Encyclopedia, and the Guinness Book of World Records. I enjoyed parts of the book a lot and kept reading passages aloud to Roy. Some parts were just not of interest and I gave myself permission to skip them. I liked the chapters on woodworkers, woodworking tools, wood in sports (especially baseball, tennis, and, strangely enough, pool), the Spruce Goose, barrel making, and some others. In general, I enjoyed pieces that involved interviews ...more
Bill Sides
This book had just come out in a trade edition and I heard a story about it on NPR. Coincidentally I was starting to learn how to work with wood so it was bound for the top of my reading list.

By choosing to present just parts of the history of man's use and love of woodworking the author gets to cherry-pick the stories. This is great for the reader in two ways: No filler, just interesting, fun stories all around and the book isn't 14,000 pages long.

Although certainly some stories interested me m
...more
Jay
Jun 16, 2014 Jay rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memory
A little silly, but a good read overall.
Gyoh80525
This book is a really easy read. The book is set up like a string of magazine articles about wood. Each one is fascinating and you don't need to read one to understand another. In fact, I don't think there was a single reference across "articles". Because of this, the book is easy to pick up and put down. The only problem is that I kept staying up late reading just one more "last article".

I recommend this book.
Greg
I really wanted to like this book, but throughout the whole piece, the word that kept coming to mind was "smug". The author wanted to be funny, but it just didn't work for me. He had lots of really nice nuggets, but they just weren't presented very well. Some parts would have benefited from greater detail and explanation while others were definitely overly drawn out.
Bob
This was really fun -- a series of very short articles on entertaining aspects of wood and its products, with a good set of "resources" to take you further in those that interest you. I found the style occasionally wonderfully funny, and occasionally annoying, so suspect it was actually my own mood!
Ryan Young
I have to say, this book makes great bathroom reading. Most people can't just sit down and read for hours about the intricacies of wood, wood products, and all things tree, but in small doses, wood is actually quite interesting.

Thanks Joseph!



Thanks
Jill Kandel
Loving this book so far. Absorbing details from the most expensive woods in the world, to the rarest, to the oldest, to the most poisonous. Fascinating details. Well written! Too bad the cover isn't more attractive.
Glenn
Lack of running chronology bothered me. Could be good if you want to pick it up and open to any chapter, but there wasn't much of a point to reading start to finish.
Meotzi
Everything you ever wanted to know about wood. More than everything you ever wanted to know about wood. But it was really interesting.
Tim
Enjoyable and easy to read, this book lends insight into everyday things we all take for granted.
Suzie Diver
Much more interesting than you would expect! Belt sander races and Jimmy Carter. Who knew??
Eliel
An interesting and diverse look into the various ways wood has been used.
Don  Kent
Everything you wanted to know about wood, but not much else.
Mike
interesting but very short story's about wood
Lynn Calvin
Amazon received,for B
Jenn
Jenn marked it as to-read
Apr 07, 2015
Ameryn
Ameryn marked it as to-read
Apr 03, 2015
Sarah
Sarah marked it as to-read
Mar 28, 2015
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Spike is an editor, author, carpenter and woodworker, who’s been immersed in the world of wood and woodworking for 30 years. He’s author of the award-winning "A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers and Baseball Bats" as well as "Woodworking FAQ" and "Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects."
He’s written for Men's Health, Backyard Living, Make, Old House Journal, Fine Ho
...more
More about Spike Carlsen...
The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects: 76 Useful Things You Can Build to Create Customized Working Spaces and Storage Facilities, Equip the Garden, Store the Harvest, House Your Animals, and Make Practical Outdoor Furniture The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects: 76 Useful Things You Can Build to Create Customized Working Spaces and Storage Facilities, Equip the ... and Make Practical Outdoor Furniture Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects: Great Looking Furniture Anyone Can Build Woodworking FAQ: The Workshop Companion: Build Your Skills and Know-How for Making Great Projects A Splintered History of Wood

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