Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 7/21/02

A Book Review by Sheldon Grand

Title: Turned Boxes, 50 Designs

Chris Stott

Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 1-86108-203-7
Price Softcover: $19.95
192 color pages

When this book was offered to prospective reviewers, I was captivated by the title's hint that I would find projects to make on my wood lathe which might be both decorative and useful (my own design capabilities are best described as challenged, particularly in the area of relative dimensions). The hint was accurate and I did find such projects.

The book is divided into three main parts. The first 45 pages are devoted to tools, tips, and techniques; these pages should be required reading for any amateur undertaking wood-lathe work, no matter how expert they might think they are. One suggestion I found particularly sensible was to use a paper towel on any part of the work where one might be tempted to use a cloth rag - to eliminate the possibility of injury from a cloth pulling hands or fingers into the revolving workpiece. Another thought that got my attention is the author's philosophy relating to the sanding of lathe work: "The shine should always be on the wood before it is sealed in. No amount of applied finish will disguise sanding scratches or tool marks."

Part II of the book is 100-plus pages devoted to the 50 projects described in the title; most of the projects have one or more variations, making far more than 50 total ideas. Each project is accompanied by a description of, and instructions for completing, the project and a drawing setting out dimensions; the drawings are rendered in a format which should easily allow scanning into your computer and consequent re-sizing to allow any reasonable size to be produced in "real-time" printouts.

The third and final part of the book is a twenty page picture gallery of box work turned out (pun intended) by various craftsmen other than the book's author; the work pictured is often complex, sometimes memorable, but I think far too challenging to be undertaken by me.

One minor reference by the author has proven most difficult for me to understand; he states that he believes in the old (English - like in Britain) saying "a two penny head and a farthing tail." I've looked everywhere I can think of on the web, but still can't pin down the meaning; perhaps a reader could enlighten me.

Update 10/1/04: Chris Stott stumbled upon this page and sent us this email:

Hi Chris Stott here,
I thank you for the kind comments re my book. As to the phrase Twopenny head and a farthing tail. This was a saying my mother used and as far as I understand it means something or someone that is all show and no go. A bit like wearing a fancy coat over a shirt with holes in it. Let me know if this helps you understand it.

Regards Chris

If you enjoy working on a wood-turning lathe, the book belongs in your personal library.

Sheldon Grand



Here's somewhat of a reference:


I don't know if your author got it twisted or if the author in my link played on the original expression. I can't find anything with two penny as a lead.

Chuck Ring

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from Barnes And Noble

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