Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees by Robert Penn

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With an arborist mindset and smooth, poetic prose, the author reflects on the usefulness and the living splendor of trees, which he believes “summon us to witness nature; they are closest to its heart.”
-Kirkus

Synopsis

The story of how one man cut down a single tree to see how many things could be made from it.


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.

 

About Robert Penn

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Robert Penn has worked as a lawyer, waiter, contractor, DJ, photographer, and journalist—and has biked to every single job. He writes for the Financial Times, the Observer, and Condé Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. Penn lives in Wales with his wife and three children.
 
Published July 26, 2016 by W. W. Norton & Company. 256 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Crafts, Hobbies & Home. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees
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Kirkus

Good
on May 04 2016

With an arborist mindset and smooth, poetic prose, the author reflects on the usefulness and the living splendor of trees, which he believes “summon us to witness nature; they are closest to its heart.”

Read Full Review of Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees | See more reviews from Kirkus

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ed Cumming on Nov 15 2015

There is something special about the stuff...From his tree Penn has made a lovely book: part elegant history, part anxious lament.

Read Full Review of Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees | See more reviews from Guardian

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