Do It Yourself Reviews | December 15, 2005

By Karen Ellis, Director, Taylor P.L., TX


Bird, Lonnie & others. Taunton‘s Complete Illustrated Guide to Woodworking. Taunton, dist. by Random. 2005. c.312p. photogs. index. ISBN 1-56158-769-9. $29.95. DIY


Even the most experienced woodworker needs a little help. This detailed guide covers a wide array of woodworking topics. Compiled by experts in the field, who have previously authored other titles in Taunton’s "Complete Illustrated Guide" series, the book doesn’t offer much preparatory information but does include wonderful information on techniques. The arrangement is consistent and well thought out, with illustrated referencing at the beginning of each chapter. If you need more topnotch books on woodworking for your collection, this is a good purchase.


Corum, Nathaniel. Building a Straw Bale House: The Red Feather Construction Handbook. Princeton Architectural, dist. by Chronicle. 2005. c.192p. illus. ISBN 1-56898-514-2. pap. $24.95. DIY


Straw bale construction is economic, relatively easy, and the preferred building method of the Red Feather Development Group, whose volunteer workforce helps Native American families with much-needed housing in the western United States. This small but serious book serves as a manual for straw-bale home construction, carefully detailing the relevant methods. First-time author Corum runs through all the systems of a simple house, from foundation to roof, highlighting the special needs of this type of construction. Concise and useful, this handbook is recommended for specialized collections or where there is demand.


Garay, Anthony. Turf: It’s Your Space, Build What You Want. HOW Design: F&W. 2005. c.128p. illus. index. ISBN 1-55870-761-1. pap. $19.99. DIY


Homemade furnishings are simple enough to make without lots of tools and can be hip and appealing to young adults, the target audience of this new book by young furniture designer Garay. Most of the projects feature plywood furniture for smaller living spaces, such as apartments. The patterns use exploded-view details but with easy, understandable instructions; the layout is stylish and modern. While many projects are quite clever, like a bench using wire closet shelving, a few projects just look cheap. Still, this is one of the few woodworking books targeting younger adults just out on their own. Recommended for larger libraries, public and academic.


Home Storage Solutions. Sterling. (Wood Magazine). 2005. c.192p. ISBN 1-4027-1176-X. pap. $19.95. DIY


One thing every homeowner needs is more storage. This volume in the Wood magazine series can help an experienced woodworker craft those storage solutions. It starts off with an in-depth introduction that offers helpful explanations prior to launching into projects. The projects themselves include wall-mounted and freestanding cabinets, entertainment centers, bookcases, display cases, and chests, all in a variety of styles and sizes. Discussions of hardware and shelving sizes and finishing round out the book. The patterns, instructions, and organization are consistent with other books in the series. With a pleasing collection of projects, this is another great addition to any library.


Hontoir, Anthony. Making Garden Furniture from Wood. Dec. 2005. c.128p. illus. index. ISBN 1-86126-599-9. pap. $35. DIY


The garden is really an extension of your living space, so furnish it accordingly. Hontoir, an experienced woodworker and the author of six woodworking and furniture-making books, presents 13 projects in this pricey little guide. The projects range from planters to classy garden furniture, with finely illustrated construction photos. Technique and instruction really shine here, but the selection of projects is small. A better choice is Ian Howe’s Garden Furniture and Outdoor Projects or Wood magazine’s 35 Great Outdoor Projects (reviewed below). Recommended for larger collections.


Hunn, Peter. The Small-Engine Handbook. Motorbks. Internat. 2005. c.144p. illus. index. ISBN 0-7603-2049-7. pap. $24.95. DIY


Building on his childhood love of tinkering, Hunn, the author of half a dozen books on outboard motors, hopes to infect others with his joy of small engine restoration. [An interesting addition is a compilation of company histories, a bit unexpected in a repair book.] A breakdown of engine parts and mechanics is followed with six restoration case studies. Despite all the interesting side stories about small engines, the level of instruction is not for the novice. Many manufacturer-specific repair manuals, such as Small Engine Care & Repair: A Step-by-Step Guide to Maintaining Your Smaller Engine, offer much more depth. Recommended only for larger collections.


Litchfield, Michael W. Renovation. 3d ed. Taunton, dist. by Random. 2005. c.544p. illus. index. ISBN 1-56158-588-2. $39.95. DIY


Home renovation is a major project not for the faint of heart, and this thorough guidebook can help you do it. Litchfield (Encyclopedia of Home Improvement) has thoroughly revised the 1990 second edition and given it a fresh, new look. The layout and organization appear more professional, the text has been tightly edited to make it more fluent, and the photographs and illustrations have been updated. Most important, however, the book’s coverage remains complete, from basement to roof and all systems in between. Now in its more accessible format, this definitive guide on the subject is highly recommended for all collections.


Peters, Rick. Popular Mechanics MoneySmart Makeovers: Porches, Decks & Patios. Sterling. 2005. c.192p. photogs. index. ISBN 1-58816-397-0. $19.95. DIY


Designed to help readers tailor remodeling projects to their budgets, the "Popular Mechanics MoneySmart Makeovers" series continues with this volume on porches, patios, and decks. Peters, an expert in the field and the author of numerous construction and remodeling books, including the other two books in this series (on kitchens and bathrooms), continues to uphold the quality of the series. The organization is consistently excellent, with makeover examples tiered by expense. Lists of itemized costs assist with project planning. Newly fabricated materials are introduced, and there is a nice section on door replacement. The photos are large and useful, with great construction details. Be on the lookout for more in this crisp series. Highly recommended for all popular collections.


Ruffman, Mag. How Hard Can It Be?: ToolGirl’s Favorite Repairs and Projects. Beyond Words. 2005. c.216p. photogs. ISBN 1-58270-135-0. pap. $14.95. DIY


As successful comedians have previously proven, home repairs can be funny. Actress, building contractor, and TV show host Ruffman here takes the stage with renovation and repair projects. Using humor to motivate, she covers indoor maintenance issues, selected general repairs, and some home improvement, with helpful sidebar tips throughout. Unfortunately, the photos generally feature the author posing rather than illustrating a project. Most hapless homeowners want a how-to book that helps them find solutions quickly. Boasting silly chapter titles but no index, this book does not meet that need. Funny – yes; motivational – yes; helpful – not so much. Stick with Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, the bible of DIY repair books.


35 Great Outdoor Projects. Sterling. (Wood Magazine). 2005. c.192p. illus. index. ISBN 1-4027-1175-1. pap. $19.95. DIY


Part of the Wood magazine series of books, this title offers a good number of projects for the experienced woodworker. Concise instructions are given for each project, using exploded-view drawings of the construction. There is no handholding or list of needed tools; the book assumes that the reader is well equipped and already understands basic techniques. Projects include some lovely outdoor seating and a variety of arbors and pergolas, as well as other garden accessories. If your collection is in dire need of project patterns for more experienced woodworkers, this is a great addition.


Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Skills, Techniques, Projects. Landauer. 2005. c.448p. illus. index. ISBN 1-890621-79-X. pap. $29.95. DIY


Another large collection of woodworking projects, this book offers a wide variety of simple to more sophisticated patterns. From children’s items to indoor and outdoor furnishings, the book features 40 different projects. Patterns are clear, followed by instructions with photos that will appeal to beginners. Unfortunately, many photos overlap, leading to a crowded layout. In addition, some project instructions skip steps. For example, instructions for building a table with a tile top lack an explantion for installing the tiles. Some of the finished projects are very nice; others look unfinished and clunky. This is a decidedly mixed bag of projects. An optional purchase for larger collections.


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