Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Woodwork Visualized: shop class in a book. [book review]

Woodwork Visualized by Ross Cramlet is a book of illustrations detailing everything you should have, could have, or did, learn about woodworking in your high school industrial arts program.

[TLDR version: fledgling woodworkers should get a copy of this book or read it online for free.]


Ever wanted to predict which way a stick of lumber will warp? Curious why heartwood is more stable than sapwood? Cramlet crams much useful information about how trees grow, why and how lumber warps, how timber is cut into boards, how to measure board feet, and tips on selecting the strongest wood for handles (use fast grown, straight grain, wood); all in just four pages packed with pictures.


The bulk of the book is about tools and how to use them. Sounds stale because every woodworking 101 book has a section explaining that circular saws are saws that go in a circle. But you won't find power tools in Woodwork Visualized, it's about human power. The real difference is Cramlet teaches you how the tools are used as he introduces them. Some of the basics are very basic, like how to read a ruler. But there are plenty of wise nuggets like how to set your bevel square to 30, 45, or 60 degrees without a protractor. And much more like:

  • How to lay out common shapes with a compass. 
  • Transferring designs with graph paper. 
  • Setting up, tuning, and using hand planes.
  • Basic chisel cuts.
  • Filing. Rasping. Shaping. Sawing.
  • Several sections on wood joinery, marking, cutting, and fastening.
  • Sharpening. You know we woodworkers like to obsess about that.
  • And basic finishing.


There are a few projects at the end. Beginning with a simple box and working up to a saw bench, wall cabinet, workbench, tool box, and basic furniture. Projects may vary by edition.

I own the Second Edition ©1974. The online edition is ©1950. The Second Edition has 178 pages, 20 more than the online edition. There are minor differences in page order and projects shown. Pages above are from the 1950 edition.