Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 5/1/98

Book Review: by Steve Garbini

Title: Fun at the Lathe
R. C. Bell
Original Publisher: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd.

Available through: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 1 86108 057 3

"Fun at the Lathe" is a book about making games on the lathe. Fun at the Lathe is about 140 pages long filled with beautiful photographs. Fun at the Lathe is divided into three parts; between centers, faceplate turning and bowl turning. Fun at the Lathe has thirty chapters, each of which has its own project. Fun at the Lathe is much more than a woodworking book.

Unfortunately, for me, Fun at the Lathe isn't really enough of a woodworking book to hold my interest. It does give detailed information about many games. Quite a few of these games are ancient and historical information is given for each game along with its rules. Consequently, about half of the book is not focused on woodworking at all, but rather on relatively obscure games. This, of and by itself, is not so awful since we all should seek to expand our knowledge and horizons. However, very many of the projects are extremely similar, especially from a lathing perspective. Before too long, the chapters began to blur together, the game names became unpronounceable (such as Sz' Kwa) and the lathing technique tips less meaningful due to repetition.

In fairness to Mister Bell, I found several projects that I may build some day for my daughter; Carpet Skittles (sort of a small bowling game), Table Quoits or the venerable Cup and Ball game. I found if I could muster some interest in a given project, the woodworking information given for it is sufficient to construct the given item. The photographs and captions of each chapter are particularly useful for this purpose. Sometimes the photographs and captions are the only woodworking information given with the actual text dealing with game history, rules or play. Had several of the more common chapters been jettisoned in favor of a few basic chapters which solidly dealt with lathing fundamentals and techniques, then the individual projects could have served to illustrate those techniques - thus becoming a proper treatise of lathing as opposed to gaming.

"Fun at the Lathe" is indeed much more than a woodworking book. If you're a bit of an Anthropology buff, a game aficionado and a woodworker all rolled up into one person, then this is the book for you. If you are primarily interested in woodworking and woodturning in particular, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

Steve Garbini

Editor's Note: WWA members freely receive books and tools from participating publishers, manufacturers and retailers in exchange for submitting reviews for the Gazette. Sterling has graciously provided many new books for review to our members. If you would like to see what other new books they're offering to woodworker's, please visit their website.

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