Jeff Miller’s new and important book, “The Foundations of Better Woodworking: How to use your body, tools and materials to do your best work,” is now available for pre-order at ShopWoodworking.com – but I thought you might like a little preview before the book ships. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a free PDF for download of Section One: Understanding the Basics, Chapter One: The Wood.
Why do I feel this is an important book? Too often in woodworking, I think we learn how to perform an operation well, but rarely think about why or how it works. Or how we could make it work better. Maybe we never learned, or maybe we just forget foundations woodworking skills over the years through lack of practice and use.
For example, I assisting in a class this spring during which there was copious amounts of dovetailing. One student was making good headway and he was sawing to his lines…but it looked painful. He was standing with his body dead-centered on his cut, and he was using only 4″or so of the saw’s 10″ blade. So with every (small) stroke, his wrist torqued out, his elbow torqued in and his shoulder…I don’t know what his shoulder was doing – but it was a funny movement. I showed him how to align his shoulder with the cut to in effect make the saw an extension of his wrist and hand, resulting in no torquing and smooth shoulder action (and I got him to use the entire sawblade). At first, he found it a bit disconcerting because he’d been cutting (successfully) for a while using his old technique. But it only took a few cuts for him to feel the difference, and move more efficiently through the work.
It is lessons like this (and many more of them…some I hadn’t before learned and some of which I’m guilty of forgetting) that Jeff teaches in “The Foundations of Better Woodworking,” in three major sections.
• Section One: Understanding the Basics, in composed of: The Wood (the free chapter below), using Your Body, Learning to See Better, The Tools and Sharpening.
• Section Two: Getting a Better Sense of Where You’re Going, is composed of Measuring and Marking, The Line, and Flat, Straight and Square.
• Section Three: Learning as You Work, is composed of Making Mistakes, Feedback, Experimentation and Practice, and Putting it All Together.
It’s also a lovely book at which to look: hardcover with color illustrations and photos, and stunning pictures of Jeff’s amazing work that illustrate each section opener.
Why did Jeff write it? I’ll let him tell you himself:
“Over the course of a long teaching career, I have found that a large number of students – even the most thoughtful and well-equipped – lack the most fundamental level of knowledge and skills. It’s no mystery that this core knowledge is missing; most of the woodworking literature and other woodworking media pays little attention to these fundamentals. Instead, the usual preference is to dive directly into a project or the specific techniques needed to handle some element of a project. Some articles and books cover methods of work, but still tend to omit the basic principles of wood, tools and body mechanics that need to be understood before one can successfully cut to a line, plane a surface flat and smooth, or fit a joint properly.
“If a solid foundation of basic skills and knowledge is lacking, a woodworker will never perfect the techniques that he or she needs to advance….”
Download the free chapter below and find out for yourself:
p.s. If you decide to order a copy of “The Foundations of Better Woodworking,” please come back to this post to link through to the store. We have a little good-natured rivalry going on…and my cats would love it if I could afford some extra treats. And I’m not too proud to beg. Thanks!