The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (27) - The Dalen Hotel of Norway

Still trying to come up with that perfect getaway vacation, and want to live it in wood? Be hard to beat the Dalen Hotel in Telemark County, Norway, to accomplish both. Built in the traditional Norwegian dragon style, or "dragestil" that evolved from the traditional Swiss chalet, in 1894, the hotel has endured some wonderful highs and lows in its history, and is once again at the pinnacle of its wooden glory.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (26) - Forte' of Melbourne

You may remember a Go Wood blog post from about a year ago that introduced the concept of wooden high-rise buildings. Well, the good news is that the momentum of that movement continues to gain strength, one great project at a time.

The latest to be announced is the Forte' building of Melbourne, Australia. It was announced as the tallest building in the world to be built of cross-laminated timber. And while this design still exhibits the boxy squared-edged lines that we saw in the London building of the earlier post, the designers of the Forte' project have incorporate more relief into the external appearance, which makes the building seem more "normal" for high-rise projects of its type.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (25) - The Curves of Robert Harvey Oshatz

Glulam wood is unlimited in its application, unparalleled in its projection, and unmatched in its ability to unify man's dreams with his environment. One need look no further than these home designs by Robert Harvey Oshatz to understand what glulam wood brings within the reach of man.
The first picture is my favorite view of the Chenequa residence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I love the way the roof (is it justice to call that a roof? It reminds me more of a fashionable hat on a dainty movie actress of the 1930's.)...the way the roof forces us to glance unwittingly to the heavens to acknowledge the source of its inspiration. Click here to see a slide show...

The second is a view from the deck of the Wilkinson residence in the hills over Portland, Oregon. This is a place where I could while away many an evening, letting the wooden members surrounding and supporting me in the treetops release me from the cares of the day.

A slide show of the Wilkinson residence can be seen here.

The last two shots are exterior and interior views of the Fennell residence, a floating home also in the Portland area. Men have known for most of their existence that wood and water make uneasy yet inseparable partners, and where you find a waterside, you will find wooden structures. The outside view facing the shore seems to project defiantly back at the shore, "I've captured the spirit of your wood in my hull...come claim it!" While the interior view demonstrates the clean, calming lines that wood, properly done, will always provide, even in the forecastle of a nautical vessel.

The slide show is here...

I'll let Mr. Oshatz speak for himself on the inspiration for his style of design...
"An architect is an artist, creator, logician of evolving aesthetic structures; a designer of not only the visual but the internal space. I see architecture as a synthesis of logic and emotion, exploring and fulfilling the dreams, fantasies and realities of my clients, whether they are individuals, corporate, or community identities.
Except for the basic elements of design composition, dominance, transition, and identity; I stay away from design theories. They seem to be too transitory and irrelevant to my work. Design theories tend to outshine their author's performance, becoming limiting concepts, prejudicing the mind while tying one's hands behind one's back. They are roadblocks to new ideas. While subscribing to a particular theory of design an architect must solve problems within the parameters of that theory; this is limiting at best.
Without architectural theories the process of designing a structure remains in its purest form, simply solving a given problem. Design becomes a process of integrating its key ingredients… program and environment. The program (problem to be solved) is what makes a project unique, and the seed of a solution is found within the problem itself. An opportunity exists within every design to develop a unique solution. The environment is the source of a projects poetic sense. Every site has its own character; the challenge to the architect is to capture that character and translate its spirit into architectural poetry."

The proof  of one's approach to work, or to life, is in the fruits of their labor. Mr. Oshatz needs no further proof of his personal insight, than these.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Forest Biomass Economics 101

Dr. Jay O'Laughlin holding...wood.
If you've been more than a little interested in the biomass energy posts here at Go Wood, but have had a hard time getting your arms around the why's and wherefore's of the issue, then you'll benefit from taking an hour to view an excellent online presentation entitled "Forest Biomass Residues: Opportunities and Challenges in Idaho" presented by my friend Dr. Jay O'Laughlin of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources.

The last blog post showed you biomass harvesting up close and contrast, this presentation is a great view of the biomass energy issue from 40,000 feet, and answers all the basic questions related to the industry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Forest Biomass --- The Rest of the Story

As I mentioned last week, the biggest portion of questions I get refer to biomass supply and demand. And while people asking these questions are usually interested in the quantitative aspect, I find that the qualitative benefits of biomass harvesting are often under-appreciated.

I've touched on them before: improved forest health, better ecosystem diversity, better utilization of forest products, energy security, and retention of dollars in the local economy. Here's a nice video by the Biomass Energy Resource Center that touches on all of these points using real people, and real wood, in the biomass supply process. There's one quote in the video, by a local forester, that I think, really expresses the innate goodness of the biomass harvest that many foresters and landowners feel after the harvest...
"What I enjoy about my job is the health of the forest and when I'm finished, seeing how everything looks...and how the light comes into the forest, and how the trees are properly spaced..."
More reason to Go Wood...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chinese Construction Slows With Economy; Will U.S. Lumber Prices Respond?

There are more signs that China's economy is showing signs of stress. Their central bank moved once again to reduce the ratio of deposits to loans that banks in the country are required to carry, a move that is seen as an effort to "stimulate" the flagging construction industry and capital investment in other sectors.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why Some Folks are Loggers

I'm not a real big fan of the cable show Ax Men, although I love the topic and respect the work done on the show. But I think it's sort of the nature of reality shows to make folks look bad, and those guys come off looking like real doofuses at times. I've been around loggers and logging jobs for a good part of my career, and I've only worked with a very few who would make some of the unwise, dangerous decisions and throw temper tantrums like those made on the show. I'm sure even the participants of the show would admit their portrayal is a compilation of "worst case" moments. I'm just as sure you could find a lot of west coast loggers that feel the same frustration with the show.

Which is why I like the following video so much. This thing is a real-world work of art, and it helps explain why some folks are driven to such a hard way of life. There is an intangible benefit of working in the woods, and this video really puts the best possible perspective on it. Watch the whole thing, the scenery gets even better, if that is possible. And turn up the sound if you're able, even the background noise makes you feel good.

Man, if every tree was as idyllic as this one, people would be lined up to be loggers. Unfortunately, they're not all like this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Energy Crisis? What Energy Crisis?

If you've never heard British politician Daniel Hannan speak, you've never heard the art of the speech at its finest. I've been a follower of Mr. Hannan for three years now, ever since I heard what I consider to be the finest short speech since the Gettysburg Address. But since his realm is politics, and not directly relevant to my commentary on Go Wood, then I've never thought to introduce him to the Go Wood audience.

Now, however, he has given a one and a half-minute speech at the EU that is right in the spirit of our Go Wood energy policy posts. That is, he has addressed the issue of high energy taxes and economic growth, or lack of it, that they are currently experiencing in the EU.

Mr. Hannan makes specific reference to the difference in results between the EU's policy of fuel tax increases (which stifles economic growth) and the benefit we here in the states have received due to the boom in natural gas harvesting like that of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

The "carbon tax" enacted by the EU is a direct reason why European countries are leaders in biomass energy utilization. It has effectively doubled the price of fossil fuels, and the taxes collected have gone into development of renewable energy production, mostly of wood chips and pellets, wind energy, and biodiesel. And some there think that additional taxation of carbon is a better way to solving current economic problems than "austerity" measures in government budgets. But thinkers like Mr. Hannan have observed that the price for alternative fuels has been a tremendous burden on the economies of the EU, and are effectively preventing the EU from growing its way out of its current economic woes.

Fortunately for us, we're following in Europe's footsteps, and have the opportunity to avoid the problems they've encountered. That is, we can pursue the American way of free markets, instead of the European way of government-controlled markets through targeted taxation and regulations.

That is what we're doing, right?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Biomass Markets and Sustainable Harvesting Guidelines

Last week, I received an interesting call from a new investor in wood pellet production. He, like the many others I've met with over the last few years, was interested in knowing how much biomass was available to his company within the regions he had chosen for his wood pellet operations. I was not surprised to find that he had some gaps in his knowledge of how current biomass markets are driven, and especially by his lack of understanding of how pulp and paper companies run their procurement operations. That is a fairly common knowledge gap for bioenergy entrepreneurs when they first get started on their projects.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Log Driving and Sawmilling in Old Maine

By far the most popular post on Go Wood is Logging the Redwoods back in the Good Old Days. The video in that post is great for its focus on the hardships endured and overcome in delivering the wood back in the days when the country's demand for wood seemed insatiable.

Well, although the trees were smaller, the hardships endured by loggers back east were about the same. Here are a couple of great videos of log driving and sawmilling in Maine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wood Science 101 (4) - Nanocellulose

Here's an excellent introduction to the concept of wood nanotechnology, courtesy of TAPPI and the US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory. If you're a traditional wood producer or user, you may wonder why wood should be processed into even smaller and more fundamental units. After all, we make enough products from wood now, right?