The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees

The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees

Book - 2016
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WW Norton
Out of all the trees in the world, the ash is most closely bound up with who we are: the tree we have made the greatest and most varied use of over the course of human history. One frigid winter morning, Robert Penn lovingly selected an ash tree and cut it down. He wanted to see how many beautiful, handmade objects could be made from it.Thus begins an adventure of craftsmanship and discovery. Penn visits the shops of modern-day woodworkers—whose expertise has been handed down through generations—and finds that ancient woodworking techniques are far from dead. He introduces artisans who create a flawless axe handle, a rugged and true wagon wheel, a deadly bow and arrow, an Olympic-grade toboggan, and many other handmade objects using their knowledge of ash’s unique properties. Penn connects our daily lives back to the natural woodlands that once dominated our landscapes.Throughout his travels—from his home in Wales, across Europe, and America—Penn makes a case for the continued and better use of the ash tree as a sustainable resource and reveals some of the dire threats to our ash trees. The emerald ash borer, a voracious and destructive beetle, has killed tens of millions of ash trees across North America since 2002. Unless we are prepared to act now and better value our trees, Penn argues, the ash tree and its many magnificent contributions to mankind will become a thing of the past. This exuberant tale of nature, human ingenuity, and the pleasure of making things by hand chronicles how the urge to understand and appreciate trees still runs through us all like grain through wood.
The story of how one man cut down a single tree to see how many things could be made from it.

Baker & Taylor
Chronicles the author's experiences cutting down an ash tree and determining how many handmade objects could be made from it, detailing the history of woodworking using ash and its impact on society.

Book News
Penn, a writer and journalist, offers a memoir of his exploration into woodworking that began with an investigation of ash trees on his property. He describes his visits to woodworking shops and talks with artisans in Europe and the US who make items like toboggans, wagon wheels, and ax handles using ash, and describes his own experiences. Along the way, he details woodworking techniques and the characteristics of the ash tree. Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

A history of the role of ash trees in the English-speaking world draws on expert understandings of ash's wide-ranging properties, revealing the thriving existence of ancient traditions in ash craftsmanship while exposing threats to today's remaining ash forests.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 2016
Edition: First American edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780393253733
Branch Call Number: 684.08 P38m
Characteristics: 244 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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SnoIsleLib_BrianH Nov 29, 2017

A fascinating look at the uses of wood throughout the centuries. In particular wood from the ash tree. Author Robert Penn determines to fell a single ash tree with the purpose of seeing how many useful things can be made from that tree. Starting with a search for the perfect specimen to fell and following the path of each piece as woodworkers ply their craft, in some cases using traditional methods passed down over the generations, each piece made provides a story in itself.


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