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

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  144 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Collins, 2008, 1st edition, As New., Unused, in dust jacket. Bright, clean, tight. Remainder mark, otherwise new. Out-of-print and antiquarian booksellers since 1933. We pack and ship with care.
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 26th 2008 by Harper
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Mar 25, 2011 Sesana rated it liked it
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
Jul 20, 2009 Simon rated it it was ok
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
May 27, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2015 Sara rated it liked it
As much as I love Spike Carlsen, this book was...... well, I only finished because I started it and because it was Spike Carlsen. It was extremely splintered -- far too much, with too little transition -- and the splinters weren't nearly interesting enough.
I didn't really have any expectations for this, only that it would be good... and it... well... meh.
Dec 18, 2016 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Another book recommended by my Dad. It's surprisingly interesting, and it keeps you turning pages. Spike Carlsen's casual, conversational style makes the book fun and light. If you enjoy trivia about everyday things, you'll enjoy this book. In it, you'll learn interesting tidbits about baseball bats, trees, boats, gondolas, bridges, railroads, furniture, and much more.
Aug 15, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This microhistory of wood includes the chapters: Extraordinary woods (including a scientific explanation of what wood is) ; The wacky world of woodworkers (including blind woodworkers, chainsaw art, Jimmy Carter) ; The tools that work the wood (manual and power, including belt sander racing) ; Wood in the world of music (violins, pianos, etc.) ; Wood in the world of sports (baseball bats, caber toss, etc.) ; Wood as shelter (log cabins, Winchester house) ; Wood in day-to-day life (pencils, barre ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Chris rated it it was ok
"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
Dec 11, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it
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,
Sep 10, 2009 Mjackman rated it liked it
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
Jul 15, 2010 Diane rated it liked it
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
Jan 11, 2013 Bill Sides rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2014 Kim rated it liked it
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
Barbara Gregorich
Dec 28, 2014 Barbara Gregorich rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Jun 11, 2009 Gyoh80525 rated it really liked it
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.
Timothy Riley
Nov 09, 2015 Timothy Riley rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, science
Dull is how I would describe this book. There was some really good information, but little excitement given that this topic has so much potential. There was lots of good building information but I could've done less of the interviews with craftsmen and more on the trees and practices. I had the temptation to find some salvaged wood and start working on a project, so for that the book was a good kick in the pants.
Sep 29, 2011 Greg rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 20, 2010 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jill Kandel
Jan 19, 2011 Jill Kandel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-reads, 2010
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.
May 24, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
This is certainly not a broad recommend, but if you, like me, enjoy working with wood and a bit of history, it's an easy sell. Very readable and interesting, with lots of cool information and philosophical reflection on one of the most ubiquitous materials in human society.
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!

Oct 08, 2012 Meotzi rated it really liked it
Everything you ever wanted to know about wood. More than everything you ever wanted to know about wood. But it was really interesting.
Sep 09, 2009 Glenn rated it it was ok
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.
Ali Winter
Ali Winter rated it it was ok
Sep 20, 2009
Tiffany rated it liked it
Jun 13, 2010
Matthew rated it really liked it
Feb 11, 2016
Apr 06, 2013 Tim rated it really liked it
Enjoyable and easy to read, this book lends insight into everyday things we all take for granted.
Barry rated it really liked it
Sep 09, 2015
Jennifer rated it liked it
Aug 17, 2011
Chris Howarth
Chris Howarth rated it liked it
Sep 17, 2009
Jul 30, 2012 Eliel rated it really liked it
An interesting and diverse look into the various ways wood has been used.
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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 about Spike Carlsen...

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