A Splintered History of Wood: Belt-Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers, and Baseball Bats [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 exist.

At the same time, many of us are removed from the world where wood is shaped and celebrated every ...

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

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Overview

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 exist.

At the same time, 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 to blind woodworkers, the Miraculous Staircase to the Lindbergh kidnapping case, and many more, in a passionate and personal exploration of nature's greatest gift.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Carlsen (Readera's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual) gives a solid history of wood as he travels the world, analyzing the vast number of uses of a mundane natural resource. In doing so, Carlsen also uncovers the wide variety of personalities that work with wood every day, from the chainsaw artist appropriately named the "Wild Mountain Man" to the blind cabinetmaker who "can see things with [his] fingers that you may not see with your eyes." He uncovers places where wood golf clubs are still manufactured today; explains which type of wood is best for a baseball bat; takes readers through the painstaking process used to make the beautiful Stradivarius violins and Steinway grand pianos; he also demonstrates how the gondola is a "floating work of efficiency and ergonomic art." At one point, Carlsen visits a company in Maine that produces 50 billion toothpicks and 12 billion wooden matches each year. Carlsen includes photographs throughout this engaging and exhaustively researched work. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Carlsen explores our reliance on wood from numerous angles. A carpenter, woodworker, and author of dozens of books and articles on home improvement, he knows his subject well, and his love and respect for trees and all things made from them are evident on each page. The author includes just enough of the science of trees and wood, and of the technology of wood products and woodworking, to inform but not burden lay readers. Numerous stories add immeasurably to the book's appeal. Readers are told how a Steinway piano is built, why a Stradivarius violin is so special, about the role of the long bow in military history, and how pens and pencils evolved. In addition, there are discussions of the offbeat, including a full-scale (and functional) Ferrari carved of wood, the 36-year remodeling project known as the Winchester House, a staircase with no visible means of support, and the use of wood forensics in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Carlsen explores the extraordinary variety of woods on our planet, the profession and hobby of fine woodworking, the tools used to work wood, and the many uses of it in our lives-in music, sports, shelter, furniture, weapons, and transportation. The volume ends with a word on the highly complex issues surrounding human use of the world's forests and the consequent effects on the global environment. Black-and-white photos are included. Thoroughly researched, thoughtful, and entertaining.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA

NPR Morning Edition
“Wonderfully strange and interesting....Mixing well-researched history, trivia and humorous anecdotes, A Splintered History of Wood meanders from chainsaw artists to belt-sander races, from Steinway pianos airdropped during WWII to the first know wooden tool: the toothpick.”
Family Handyman magazine
“Engaging, informative...Spike’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is catching, and his curiosity takes him way beyond the ordinary...[Splintered History] is for anyone interested in how this humble material, and the people who work with it, have made us who we are.”
Booklist
“Who knew wood could be this fascinating?”
Family Handyman Magazine
"Engaging, informative...Spike’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is catching, and his curiosity takes him way beyond the ordinary...[Splintered History] is for anyone interested in how this humble material, and the people who work with it, have made us who we are."
Morning Edition - NPR
"Wonderfully strange and interesting....Mixing well-researched history, trivia and humorous anecdotes, A Splintered History of Wood meanders from chainsaw artists to belt-sander races, from Steinway pianos airdropped during WWII to the first know wooden tool: the toothpick."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061982774
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 600,526
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Spike Carlsen is the former executive editor of The Family Handyman and author of the Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. He is also projects editor for Backyard Living, where he pens a bimonthly column called "Ask Spike." He lives in Stillwater, Minnesota.

For every book sold, the author will donate funds to plant a seedling at the Bomalan'ombe Secondary School tree farm in central Tanzania.

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Read an Excerpt

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

By Spike Carlsen
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Spike Carlsen
All right reserved.


ISBN: 9780061373565


Chapter One

Extraordinary Woods

As I drive toward Ashland, Wisconsin, home of the company that lays claim to selling the oldest workable wood on the planet, the convoys of fully loaded pulpwood trucks I pass remind me of the rich, ongoing logging tradition of the area. I'm in Sawdustland. It's a fitting place for a company named Ancientwood to call home. I find the pole building that serves as the warehouse/store/Internet headquarters, and I find owner Bob Teisberg. He greets me by making three introductions. The first is to his shop helper, Dante; the second is to a mammoth slab of kauri wood standing by the door; the third is to his sense of humor. "Yep, we call that slab Dante's Inferno. He went through hell for two straight weeks sanding and finishing that baby. But just look at it."And when you look closely at this gigantic slab, you set your eyes on things of an unworldly nature. For starters, it's 5 feet wide, 7 feet tall, and 3 inches thick. It's sanded smooth as glass, with a finish and grain that not only glow but dance like a hologram, depending on your viewing angle. The color, figure, and texture are unlike any wood I've ever seen. And the reason is, it is a wood I've never seen. It's a wood most people have never seen. The slab is from afifty-thousand-year-old kauri tree, mined from the bogs of New Zealand.

Fifty-Thousand-Year-Old Wood Lives And Breathes Again

The route a slab of wood needs to travel to get from 48,000 BC on the North Island of New Zealand to AD 2006 in Ashland, Wisconsin, is not an easy, inexpensive, or clean one. "Originally we thought some cataclysmic event—a tsunami, an earthquake, an asteroid—was responsible for the death of the trees,"explains Teisberg, the North American distributor for Ancient Kauri Kingdom wood. "But when they sent samples to the University of New Zealand for study, they found the trees died at different times and fell in different directions, so our best guess is they died of natural causes."But it doesn't matter so much how they died as where and when they died. When most trees die, they keel over and decompose within a few decades. But these kauri trees keeled over into bogs—an oxygen-starved, fungus-free environment—that created a time-warp cocoon that preserved the timber in pristine condition, until a Kiwi by the name of David Stewart happened along.

The Ancient Kauri Kingdom's informational DVD, in which Stewart stars, shows the process used to extract the trees. Most of the trees are found in farm pastures, where they reveal their presence by a small exposed section. "If you're a farmer you really don't want these things in your field,"explains Teisberg. "Nothing grows on them, and animals can break a leg if they fall through a rot pocket, so they're just a nuisance."When they go into an area, they're never quite sure what condition or size the trees will be in; there's really nothing scientific about it. They get in there with a backhoe, give the exposed part a wiggle, and if the land 100 feet around them moves they know they've got a monster. And they've found some monsters.

The extraction process involves moving man and machine across the boggy land, trenching all around the log, then using a chainsaw with a bar the length and lethalness of an alligator to cut the log in two if it's too large to get out in one piece. The video of the process, which absolutely oozes testosterone, shows a cigarette-chomping Stewart, covered in slime, standing in the bucket of the backhoe, sawing a 60,000-pound monster in two with a chainsaw sporting a 6-foot-long bar. There are hydraulics, chains, cables, muck, and heavy machinery everywhere. The wood chips flying out of the kerf look as clean and uniform as if he were slicing through a 25-year-old birch tree. At one point he pauses to show the camera a handful of forty-five-thousand-year-old kauri leaves. Once the sections are cut to manageable size, they're winched, pushed and pulled up out of the trench, rolled onto massive flatbed trucks, and then hauled to the company's yard, where they're marked and cut into slabs. The logs have reached the 100 percent saturation point after lying in the bogs for eons, and the drying process is a long drawn-out affair as the wood finds a new moisture balance.

The crown prince of kauri logs is the 140-ton "Staircase"log discovered in October of 1994; the largest known log of any kind ever to have been extracted anywhere. The crew broke two 90-ton-capacity winch cables attempting to haul the trunk out in a single piece. They cut the tree into separate 110- and 30-ton sections, hauled the sections out, and then let them sit untouched, not wanting to cut the trunk into slabs because of its Olympic-caliber size. Four years later, Stewart built a 20-inch-thick reinforced concrete pad, placed a 50-ton, 12-foot-diameter, 17-foot-tall section of log on top of it, and went after it with a chainsaw. After three hundred hours of carving and two hundred hours of finish work, the world's largest, and surely oldest, single-piece circular stairway was complete. It's built inside the log. If you pause to count the growth rings as you're ascending you'll find 1,087 of them.

The scene in Ashland, Wisconsin, is considerably tamer. Teisberg walks me past pile after pile and specimen after specimen of imported ancient kauri. He has everything ranging from 6-foot-thick stumps to 1/16-inch-thick veneers. At one point, Teisberg stocked what he claimed to be the "largest single piece of wood available in the United States"—and I never found any challengers. The slab measured over 20 feet long, 5 1/2 feet wide, and 4 1/2 inches thick; it was estimated to have grown for a thousand years, and, amazingly, it contained not a single knot.



Continues...

Excerpted from A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen
Copyright © 2008 by Spike Carlsen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Introduction     xiii
Extraordinary Woods     1
Fifty-Thousand-Year-Old Wood
Lives and Breathes Again
In Quest of the World's Most Expensive Board Foot
Oak: The Breakfast of Civilizations
The Wood Freak Show
Bamboo: The Grass That Thinks It's a Wood
Rescuing Redwood the Hard Way
Logging the Industrial Forest
Wood: How It Got Here, How Trees Make It
The Wacky World of Woodworkers     46
A Chainsaw Artist a Cut Above the Rest
My Seven Awkward Minutes with the
Man Who Carves Ferraris
Woodworking Blind-Just Like Everyone Else
How Much Wood Would a Wood Collector Collect?
Nakashima: The Pavarotti of Woodworking Still Sings
My Almost-Perfect Interview with
Woodworker Jimmy Carter
The Tools That Work the Wood     91
As the Lathe Turns: Making Golf Tees with the Master
Tool Junky Heaven
The Table Saw That Couldn't Cut a Hot Dog in Half
Belt Sander Racing: A Saga of True
Grit, Speed, and Victory (sort of)
Wood in the World of Music     116
Stradivarius Violins: The Sweetest
Sound You've Never Heard
The Making of Sweet Baby James's Guitar
Drums: And the Beat Goes On and On and On ...
The Steinway D: Twelve Thousand
Pieces of Indestructible Music
The National Music Museum: Six Hundred Zithers
B. B. King, and One-Ton Drums
Wood in the World of Sports     153
Baseball Bats: A David-and-Goliath Affair
Golf: Persimmon Scores a Hole in One
Tossing Telephone Poles and Other Curious Sports
The Art of the Pool Cue
Tennis: The Racket aboutWood Racquets
Lumber Jacks and Lumber Jills
Wood as Shelter     185
Living in Trees: From Papua, New
Guinea, to Washington State
The History of Housing from Log Cabin to, Well, Log Cabin
Everything You Never Wanted to Know
About Construction Lumber
A Dirty Rotting Shame
Winchester House: The Thirty-Six-Year
Remodeling Project
Wood in Day-to-Day Life     208
When Wood Was Everything and Everything Was Wood
The Lindbergh Kidnapping, the Ted
Bundy Tree, and Forensic Wood
Pens and Pencils: Getting to the Point
A Barrelful of Coopers, Kegs, and Tradition
True Relics of the Cross
Fifty Billion Toothpicks Can't Be Wrong
Wood, Weapons, and War     252
Ten Great Moments in Catapult History
A Tale of Two Warships: One Unsinkable, One Unsailable
The Twang of the Bow
White Pines and War
Pine Roots versus Atomic Bombs
Wood by Land, Air, and Sea     287
The Spruce Goose Made of Birch
Go Fly a Person: Kites for Work and Play
Trains: Riding the Wooden Rails
In Search of the Lost Ark
The Song of the Gondolier
Wood in Unusual Uses and Peculiar Places     313
Venice: The City Perched on Wood
Wood Pipe Takes a Bow
Building a Staircase to Heaven
Academy Award Nominees for Outstanding
Performance by a Wooden Structure
Roller Coasters: Mobius Strips of Screaming Wood
Epilogue: Trees-Answers, Gifts, and Ducks in the Wind     349
Notes     359
Resources     373
Bibliography      383
Photography and Illustration Credits     391
Index     393
About the Author     413
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2009

    Fun For Woodworkers

    I am a fledgling woodworker of a couple of years and I just couldn't put this book down. I found the stories and facts just fascinating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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