Book Review: 'Complete Woodworking' by Chris Tribe

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10 Apr 2017
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Chris asked me a little while ago to read and review his book.

Chris Tribe is a name familiar to all woodworkers who are passionate about making fine furniture. He has been designing and making contemporary pieces for over three decades; his work has been viewed with highly favourable acclaim in galleries and exhibitions nationwide. However, he now concentrates much more of his time on teaching a series of courses from his workshop in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, details of which are available on the website at http://www.christribefurniturecourses.c ... k-courses/

In 2016, Chris published his first book ‘Complete Woodworking’ which is intended primarily for the would-be woodworker who is interested in starting, but who may not know quite how to go about it.
The word ‘primarily’ is deliberately chosen because as you will gather from this review, it’s a book that will appeal to all levels of woodworker and not just those in the first, hesitant, exploratory stages.
On receiving the book, one prominent feature that becomes immediately apparent is that it’s quite a weighty hardback; none of the flimsyness associated with soft cover publications that become dogeared and ragged in a very short space of time. This is not a book to stuff into a back-pack to read on the train; it deserves a place on your bookshelf and should be savoured and absorbed at leisure accompanied by a decent tincture or three of the red. For a workshop copy that you can afford to get dogeared, there will soon be a paperback edition.

The book is printed on good quality paper; on first opening it, the reader also can’t fail to be impressed with the sheer volume of annotated photographs and diagrams, leaving the woodworker in little doubt about the correct procedures to follow; all sequenced in numerical order. Chris writes in an easy, straight forward and occasionally jocular style which ensures an informative as well as entertaining reading experience.

The book’s content is pitched directly at the enthusiastic newcomer, but the level of detail within each chapter means that more experienced woodworkers will find something of interest as well. It begins with a section on Workshop Safety, followed by Wood and the Workshop, Using Hand Tools, Using Power Tools, Routing, jointing, Veneering, Finishing and finally a chapter containing five projects, some of which are a lot more difficult than others. The very last section contains a useful Glossary and Index.

As is to be expected there is no mention in the book about setting up or using machinery such as a table saw, planer thicknesser or band saw.
The chapters are very comprehensive and Chris goes into a lot of detail in each. The two that are particularly good are the ones on routing and veneering, the latter being an excellent treatise and one area with which the woodworking newcomer may not be familiar. Although power tools are discussed at length, great emphasis is placed on the correct use of a router, as it’s the most useful and versatile of them all.
The only area in the book that caused a little concern is the method of referencing the biscuit jointer off the fence. Although I used this method for very many years, I found it caused some misalignment problems. I now reference the machine off its base rather than the fence which seems to make it more accurate. Both methods are entirely valid and like much else in woodwork, it’s up to the craftsman (or woman) to decide which one to use to provide the best results.

The feature that makes ‘Complete Woodworking’ unique is that there are ‘Clinics’ at regular intervals throughout each chapter. Things can go wrong in the workshop with alarming regularity and it can be a perplexing business for a newcomer to try and work out exactly what’s happening and why. In each of the clinics, Chris outlines various scenarios where mistakes could be made and the ‘fix’ needed to correct them.
As well as the Clinics there are little ‘Try This’ snippets throughout each chapter. These are useful tips, tricks and shortcuts that have been accumulated over the decades, all of which make life a little easier for the aspiring craftsman.
A Resources Section can be found on Chris’s webpage at http://www.christribefurniturecourses.c ... odworking/
which includes Sketchup drawings, cutting lists and other information for the projects as well as additional help and guidance for the newcomer.
In addition, the web page also contains a chapter on the Design Process which is particularly informative and well worth studying in more detail.

When I first started woodworking in the early 70’s I asked a very well known maker who lived near me about a book which I ought to buy. His instant reply was to purchase Joyce’s ‘The Techniques of Furniture Making’ which I subsequently did and still have today, though it’s been much read and is now almost falling apart. Since that time, many more good books have been published but the number of really great ones can be counted on your fingers. The ‘Complete Woodworker’ should be one of them.
Published by Quarto Press
Price £20
Available from all good bookshops or if really necessary...Amazon.