Books: The Forest Woodworker by Van Der Meer & Suijker

From Living Woods issue 60

Keen woodworker RICHARD HARE finds plenty to enjoy in this thoughtful and highly illustrated guide to green woodworking

A step-by-step guide to working with green wood
Sjors Van Der Meer and Job Suijker
Search Press
176 pages
ISBN: 978-1782217367

The Forest Woodworker is a delightfully presented hardback book, written by two Dutch Green woodwork enthusiasts, Sjors Van Der Meer and Job Suijker. The photos to the front and rear of the cover are representative of its contents. There are two forewords, one by renowned green woodworker Mike Abbot, who has written several books on the subject himself, and the other by Otto Koedijk. Both give an inspiring endorsement on the subject and point to the fact that this kind of woodwork, as exemplified by the authors, is more than just ‘making things’, more than just an end product, rather more of a deep connection the maker has with nature and the materials she gives up. I think Abbot even uses the word ‘spiritual’ which – as long as we don’t have to define it – seems to sit perfectly reasonably within his text!

The book goes on to introduce the traditional tools which are being restored by ‘green wood’ enthusiasts. Tools that you make as well, like the shave horse, an indispensable vice to grip your work and ubiquitous to all green woodworking camps. Contrast is made between how the trees are carefully and sustainably harvested by the green woodworker, whereas the ‘dry wood furniture maker’ may not even know which country, let alone which woodland his or her stock has come from. In a logical sequence, the book moves through the ‘magic’ of cleaving, via the mortise and tenon joint and the properties of the wood, from the heart to the sapwood, covering its movement characteristics and when and when not to use the branch knots you will discover lurking under the bark.

A further chapter is devoted to tree species, their wood and uses, and just a brief mention of the place coppicing may play in this. The book moves swiftly along to look at some of the most common woodworking techniques followed by a chapter which demonstrates how to make some of the most commonly needed tools, like a mallet and shave horse together with some projects that you can use them on. It wraps up with a section on the care and maintenance of tools, as well as the safety aspect of their use. There is a bibliography of useful books and websites at the end, but there is no index.

I really liked this book, and although there are many similar titles there is always something new to take away, some technique never tried or used before. The photos are very clear and easy to follow in the projects section.
It’s not quite a coffee-table book, nor is it a workshop manual, probably somewhere in between. It would be an ideal gift for enthusing someone new to the craft and I’m certainly looking forward to finding a use for all that wood I’ve cut over the winter.