Book Review of “Understanding Wood” by R. Bruce Hoadley

The second edition of R. Bruce Hoadley’s “Understanding Wood” is a hardcover book that I would highly recommend for every woodworker. While it’s not the type of book you’ll spend much time reading while lounging in the La-Z-Boy (unless you’re ready for a nap), it is a resource that you’ll likely refer to quite often. The text is scientific in nature, so it tends to be a very dry read. Think of it more as a college-level textbook rather than a “how-to” manual.


  • It contains an excellent chapter on wood identification.
  • Tips for coping with dimensional changes in wood is a must-read for any woodworker.
  • Includes over 40 pages on raw materials, and where to find the species of wood you want.


  • If there is a bible on why wood reacts the way that it does, Understanding Wood is that book.


  • Very scientific. Reads like a college textbook.

R. Bruce Hoadley, who holds a degree in Forestry from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in wood technology from Yale, is the Professor of Wood Science at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. There may not be a more knowledgeable person on the planet on the subject of the properties of wood.

When you want to know how and why wood behaves as it does, particularly with respect to environmental changes, Understanding Wood will provide the answer. This information is particularly necessary when designing some furniture pieces such as a dresser, with it’s sliding drawers that may move very loosely in one season, but stick and be difficult to open and close in another. Additionally, if your piece is being built in one environment (a humid area, such as Miami) and being shipped to a very dry climate, such as Phoenix, you may discover that the piece encounters some problems with expansion and contraction of the materials. Consulting Hoadley’s book in advance will help you prepare for such difficulties.

The Second Edition of “Understanding Wood: A Craftsman’s Guide to Wood Technology” is printed by The Taunton Press, and has a list price of $30.09 on Amazon. This is one book that would be a value even at twice the price.