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I took a beginning woodworking course a long time ago, but have decided to refresh my interest. Korn's book is almost identical to the structure and pacing of instruction from my course. His project based instruction and step by step approach is exactly what newcomer's need. I also like Korn's lack of pretense when presenting tools or techniques. Many books these days wax the "poetic" of woodworking with seductive images and effusive text, being little more than a showcase of very expensive premium hand tools. Korn appears to take a more modest (and affordable) approach with essential hand tools. Although much of the machinery shown in the book may be beyond a beginner's pocket book, the alternative hand tool approach is well within reach and will drive home the fundamentals of woodworking more than machine milling will.
The first 70 pages introduce the reader to wood, joinery and (power and hand) tools. The reader learns a great deal without being intimidated by too much detail. The sections are a bit terse (particularly sharpening), but the simpler introductions are appropriate to the scope of the book. There are other books that specialize in the topics of advanced machine use, hand planes and sharpening. Korn's book has just enough to get you going without making you feel it is too complicated to proceed.
The first project, milling a board four square, is a fundamental task of woodworking that deserves the attention it gets in this book. Korn does a superb job of providing step-by-step instruction using hand tools or power tools. For me, Sharpening was the first "project" in the WW class I took since it is also a fundamental.
The second and third project is to take the boards you dimensioned and do some basic joinery (before working on any furniture). First, the basic mortise and tenon and then the through-dovetail joint. Joinery is also a fundamental, and these particular joints are the most widely used. Korn takes us step-by-step through the process with plenty of clear photographs showing the technique. The milled boards are long enough that the reader can practice the joints several times. Each time your joints will get better, and you will gain valuable experience and confidence.
The last 80 pages include two small projects, a handsome stool and a side table. These projects are big enough to introduce several more fundamentals without being too complex that the reader will never finish. The stool introduces half-blind dovetails, pinned tenons, glue-up procedure, and basic finishing. The side table introduces basic carcase and drawer/panel door construction. Again, all steps are well documented with plenty of photographs.
Good information for new Woodworker's or for Woodworker's who want a refresher.
One complaint I have at the author. He says to try to find a place you can pick through the stacks of wood and select your own boards that is the way he does it. He then complains about the quality of even FAS wood not being very good. As proof he offers that he once picked through a thousand feet of cherry and only found three "excellent boards". Guys who will pick through a thousand board feet and then buy three lousy boards are the problem. The reason often the only thing that is left is twisted and knotty are because of guys like this author.
Wood is a natural product. You take the good with the bad then you cut around the imperfections or better yet hide them on the inside.
If everyone only bought the best boards, think how many more trees would need to die in order for everyone to fulfill his wood needs. Now I'm by no means a tree hugger but I don't think wasting is right and I don't think leaving all the bad stuff for the next guy is right either. I am guessing this author is a democrat since he has no ethics about what he leaves in his wake or the amount of time he takes in the store being in the way while other people may want to buy lumber, but by the way he acts about cutting trees until he finds the perfect one you would never know it.
When I buy boards I take pretty much what is on top and buy extra so I can deal with the imperfections in a natural product. I get my stuff, get out of the way, and leave the pile in good shape for the next customer so it doesn't fall on top of him. I request my fellow woodworker's behave in a similar civilized manner.