Remarks & Reviews

“A rollicking wild ride for all who love wood”
-TOM CASPAR, editor of American Woodworker

“Spike Carlsen’s history of wood may be splintered, but it sure makes for smooth reading. Taken together, the book’s parts tell a fulsome story of the ubiquitous material and of people who work, play, and live with it.”
-HENRY PETROSKI, author of The Pencil

“A good book for woodworkers and those who enjoy their art.”
-JIMMY CARTER, president, carpenter, woodworker

“Spike Carlsen can fix your deck, porch or patio, but he can also spin one ripping cellulose-based anecdote after another – about spalting, eight-fingered chainsaw artists, or life on the belt sander drag-racing circuit. His writing is smart, witty, and not at all wooden.”
-MICHAEL PERRY, author of Truck: A Love Story

“Considering the fact that wood may some day become a material of the past, an outdated and endangered species, this book is a much-needed eulogy to the life of trees and our dependence on them as co-inhabitants of our planet. We humans need to be reminded of our dependence on nature and natural objects, and of the myriad ways in which wood has become an integral part of our existence. Mr. Carlsen has drawn on many diverse sources for creating an imaginative, amusing an authoritative account of man’s interconnectedness with the life and death of trees. His informal, conversational style of writing draws the reader into experience in a charming, intriguing manner, and is sprinkled with his own photographs to illuminate his observations.
-Mira Nakashima, George Nakashima Woodworkers

Carlsen gives a solid history of wood as he travels the world, analyzing the vast number of uses of a mundane natural resource. In doing so, Carlsen also uncovers the wide variety of personalities that work with wood every day, from the chainsaw artists appropriately named the “Wild Mountain Man” to the blind cabinetmaker who “can see things with [his] fingers that you may not see with your eyes.” He uncovers places where wood golf clubs are still manufactured today; explains which type of wood is best for a baseball bat; takes readers through the painstaking process used to make the beautiful Stradivarius violins and Steinway piano; he also demonstrates how the gondola is a “floating work of efficiency and ergonomic art.” At one point, Carlsen visits a company in Maine that produces 50 billion toothpicks and 12 billion wooden matches each year. Carlsen includes photographs throughout this engaging and exhaustively researched work.
-Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2008

Who knew wood could be this fascinating? Who knew that perfectly preserved, enormous pieces of wood, dating back 50,000 years or more, are being pulled out of New Zealand bogs? Who knew that the oldest piece of non-petrified wood is about seven million years old? Who knew that there exists a large, diverse, and rather enthusiastic group of wood connoisseurs who can tell you everything you want to know, and even more besides, about the differences between the various types of wood (and there are a lot of varieties)? According to the author, a carpenter, woodworker, as well as a writer, wood has had an enormous effect on world history and the evolution of humankind. Clearly, when you think about it, he’s right: wood can be made into a toothpick or a city; it can be used for building things or making art; and has survived as long as human beings themselves. As Carlsen tells the story, wood is a wondrous thing.”
- Booklist, September 1, 2008

[Should I] lug A Splintered History of Wood by Spike Carlsen with me [on vacation]? I’ve dipped in, and what I’ve read suggests beautiful, lively writing. It’s oddly compelling to me that someone “has been immersed in the world of wood and woodworking for more than 30 years,” and that this author is going to explain to a non-woodworking individual like me just how baseball bats, golf tees, kites and whatnot are made, and by whom, and where. I’m sure I will like the book. I’m sure my sons will. It will be a great book for us to share together – a great book to have read.
- Maureen Mackey, from “Which Books to Bring on a Vacation? A Personal Dilemma (and Final List of the Summer),

If you’ve ever taken wood for granted—and who hasn’t?—the former editor of Handyman magazine (Note: should read: former Executive Editor of The Family Handyman magazine) will get you going with the grain. He introduces us to a tabletop made from 50,000-year-old wood, the Italian artist who carves Ferraris from wood, the world of baseball bats, belt-sander races and more.
- Billy Heller, from “Required Reading,” New York Post,

Wood. It’s not something you pay much attention to, unless you’re getting estimates for residing your house. But Stillwater writer Spike Carlsen clearly loves wood in all its forms, from toothpicks to tennis rackets, and he tells us all about it in his new book “A Splintered History of Wood: Belt Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers and Baseball Bats.”
While Carlsen was working on “Splintered,” he traveled thousands of miles and interviewed hundreds of woodworkers and enthusiasts. In the book, he looks at 50,000-year-old Kauri wood found in New Zealand’s bogs and competes in the world championship belt sander races. He discusses practical uses of wood, from making pencils to pianos, and he urges readers to protect and respect trees.”
-Mary Ann Grossman, St. Paul Pioneer Press



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