Book Review, woodworking
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Asa Christiana’s “Build Stuff With Wood”

There is no question what this book is about. The title is super direct; super simple: Build Stuff With Wood. Asa Christiana’s new book from Taunton Press could one day become a “must have” book for aspiring woodworkers. Why? The mission of this book is to help woodworking newbies gain confidence and new skills by building stuff that looks good and requires only basic tools. This isn’t a book about building bird houses (not that there is anything wrong with that). Rather the projects are simple, varied and have been designed with a dose of style. Yet, the thirteen projects are a natural progression of skill and material choice and are meant to move the woodworker along in his/her path with sawdust.

Asa Christiana is best known for his time as editor of Fine Woodworking magazine. As such Asa rubbed elbows with some of the finest woodworkers around. Hence the forward by Nick Offerman who wrote the cover article for Fine Woodworking #222, Nov/Dec, 2012. Concerning Asa, Nick Offerman compared the editor of perhaps the best woodworking magazine this way: “In superhero terms, he was Professor Xavier to the X-Men (and women) in the pages of FWW, and so I was as giddy as a dancing faun to make his acquaintance.” Nick had met Asa on the set of Martha Stewart’s TV show.

About Build Stuff With Wood, Nick says: “My favorite aspect of this book is the flat-out fun that courses through the creation of every project. Asa suggests some really hip furniture designs, but it’s also readily apparent that you can alter his plans to meet your own desires.” “With Asa’s clear and affable writing, a simple set of tools, and the affordable materials available at any home improvement store, the world is indeed your oyster. Have fun!”

Getting started the practical way
Build Stuff With Wood begins with a realization of what motivates creative types to make. Asa confidently talks about getting started in woodworking, to approach the craft with an open mind and a willingness to challenge the rules of design and material options. In fact the book takes a good look at design options on several of the projects included.

Project 1: A circular saw guide.

Also early on, Asa includes a chapter on tools and lumber. He came up with a list of 11 tools with which you can build 100 projects. While the woodworker can begin buying big-ticket tools, the list and the chapter on tools is realistic for the beginner. For example a table saw is not even listed among Asa’s 11 tools. For ripping stock (one of the main tasks a table saw does), the first project is a circular saw guide for ripping and trimming wood.

While project lumber or plywood can be acquired at the local home improvement store, Asa introduces the reader to the lumber yard and the world of luscious lumber. Projects in Make Stuff With Wood include a cutting board made from quarter-sawn white oak and a table made from live edge lumber. Crisp photos show the enticing grain of ray flecked oak and the deep, seductive color of walnut. Asa talks about sourcing such material making this task much less intimidating.

The initial work surface.

More about the projects
Project two – the rolling workstation is an example of the practical approach Asa commends to us. What you see in the photo above is a surplus cabinet in which Asa added the beefy top and rolling base. He painted the sides a nice bright color and the result is a good initial work surface with adequate storage and something that adds a shot of color to the workshop (I’m a fan of color in the workshop).

In addition to the circular saw guide and the rolling workstation, the thirteen projects found in the book include a creative twist on a bottle opener, handy cornhole platforms, a contemporary outdoor bench and planters, a white oak cutting board, two options for a modern coffee table…

Note the medullary ray fleck in this handsome cutting board.

Design options for a modern coffee table.

…also in Build Stuff With Wood, the live edge table with two leg options, floating shelves, a hanging lamp with veneer shade, a table design which can double as a stackable bookcase…

The hanging lamp with veneer shade.

The table/bookcase project (note the wedged dowels).

The book closes out with a cool smartphone holder/speaker project which actually has some challenging construction steps.

Conclusion
Build Stuff With Wood is a really interesting book and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about getting started woodworking or even if you want to get some nicely designed projects completed quickly. Nick Offerman called Asa’s design style as “hip” and I agree (examples: especially the hanging lamp, coffee table and slab table). Along with the handsome look of the projects and the materials used, the “stuff” in this book are constructed with simplicity in mind and don’t require you to load up your credit card with tool purchases. This book goes on my list of things recommended for new woodworkers and more experienced types as well.

You can purchase Build Stuff With Wood at Amazon.com.

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