Doug’s 5 Favourite Green Woodworking Books
As part of my work with Original Outdoors, Richard asked me about the Green Woodwork books that I thought were worth recommending to everyone and which ones were my favourites. This lead me down a road of looking out many of my old favourites and looking at them again in a new light and asking myself what made a really good green woodwork book. Should it be instructional, inspirational or just a great read? The original list was way longer than the 5 Richard asked for but after a long process of reading and re reading I came up with my list of 5 favourites.
What is green woodwork?
Before I start out on telling you all about the books I should probably try and tell you all what I think green woodwork is as this effects which books I choose. Green woodwork at it’s most basic level is all about using timber when it is fresh. As wood is kept it dries out and becomes harder. By using green wood it makes it easier to cut and shape and thus eliminates the need for power tools and makes it possible to make everything from spoons to houses with only pretty basic tools. This amazing diversity of possible projects is part of what has kept me interested in green woodwork for the past 10 years or more and I hope that it will mean that there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
Swedish Carving Techniques (Willie Sundqvist)
An absolutely fabulous book that was first printed in English in Feburary 1990 and has been a much sought after book for a very long time. After a long time out of print it was re issued in the last year or so making it once again accessible for a reasonable price. Bushcrafters and Green Woodworkers alike have sought this book out and used the information inside to improve their skills with axe and knife.
This book is packed with information on tools, their care and sharpening, safe use of both axe and knife as well as some projects and a lot of information on carving spoons (something of a passion for me). The book is well written and really inspired me to improve my work with the most basic tools available to me. Many green woodwork books talk about numerous devices and tools and this one really goes back to basics and in these cash strapped times it’s a great place to start off green woodworking as the tools are basic and many people have something that they can use tucked away in their shed or cupboard that they can use to start with.
The Encyclopedia of Green Woodworking (Ray Tabor)
This book has a bit of everything you can think of that is to do with green woodwork. It really does deal with everything from planting your own trees to the finished products that you can make. Most importantly the thread that runs through this book is about the wood itself. The properties of green wood and the problems that using green wood causes can be serious for your final projects. A bowl or spoon that has a big crack in it won’t be a lot of use when you go for your bowl of soup. This book really is about understanding the need for using green wood and then working around the problems that that causes and even using those properties to your advantage.
Almost everything you would want to know about green woodwork in on book. A great reference book and one that I refer to a lot.
Living Wood: From buying a woodland to making a chair (Mike Abbott)
Mike Abbott has long been known as one of the people who made green woodwork popular in our modern day. Mike has written may great books but I think this one is my favourite. This book isnt just an instruction manual it also tells a story of how Mike started out in Green woodwork and how he came to be a full time green woodworker. He talks about his experiences and the development of green woodwork. The book includes plans for shave horses and pole lathes as well as details of how to make an amazing green wood chair, Mike has specialised in green wood chairs and the pole lathe for most of his working life..
Woodland Crafts in Britain: An account of the traditional uses of trees and timbers of the British countryside (H L Edlin)
A bit of a departure from the other books as there are no instructions on any of the crafts included within it. This book is special to me as it was the first to show me the breadth of what I was starting to get into. This book was something I bought second hand for 50p and I would certainly recommend buying it yourself. Sadly it’s out of print to my knowledge but there are plenty of sellers on the internet that sell second hand books and I really hope you can find a copy of it.
The book covers a great deal from timber felling and the uses of timber for fuel and charcoal to all the craft uses for timber generally laid out in order of species of timber that best suits the crafts. Edlin describes the crafts and the people that carried out these jobs in a readable way that left me wanting to find out more about many of these crafts. Not an instructional book like the ones before but great bed time reading and highly inspirational.
The Bodgers Gazette – Newsletter for the Association of Pole-lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers.
OK so this one is a bit of a cheat because this one isn’t really a book. However it is an amazing publication and something I think anyone interested in Green Woodwork should get and read.
It is only available to members of the Association of Pole-lathe Turners and Green Wood workers but it’s beautifully produced and has loads of great stuff in it. The Quarterly Bodgers Gazette comes as part of membership of the Association and that’s only £20 a year and also includes the chance to attend the Bodgers ball where hundreds of green woodworkers get together and show their skills and wares. It also allows you to take advantage of special offers that are open to members like the combined insurance policy for demonstrators and teachers of GWW.
The Gazette itself includes articles written by the members. These are about all different aspects of green woodwork from the goings on of local groups to specific skills and instructions on how to do different projects or make specific items. In a particular favourite edition of mine called Tales from the wood (this is a collection of some of the best articles) I found an article that described how to turn a green wood bowl on a home made lathe using your own body to power it. The article was written by Robin Wood and was the start of an obsession for me and I’m still trying to turn the perfect bowl a good few years later.
I recently managed to buy a CD with copies of all the bodgers gazettes on it and I’m still trying to wade through all the information on it and I don’t think I’ll get through it any time soon and then I have to try it all out!.
Learn more at: www.bodgers.org.uk