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


Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of the Beginning

2012. It was to be, according to an obscure piece of stone tablet, the end. Many people around the world bought into the idea of our world ending in one big cataclysmic event, and many more made some money by selling the idea. I wish I had invested in the dehydrated food business about ten years ago.

But most people just waited for December 21st to pass, and then shrugged.

Like so many other things, 2012 turned out to be more bark than bite.  A much anticipated national election resulted in, well, not much of anything. As did elections in other parts of the world. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Unrest here, oppression there, and not enough money to go around. Never has been, never will be.

But things have been especially tough lately, not just in the wood and building industries, but in most of the industries, countries, and homes of the world. The few things that have upward trends (US housing, lumber prices, Chinese and Indian standards of living, etc.) started from very low places, and had nowhere to go but up.

But since the world didn't end this year, and since we weren't visited by our other-world progenitors who were to explain the whole mess to us and set us at peace, we will muddle on. And frankly, 2013 doesn't look a whole lot better than 2012.

But it seems to me, that like Prime Minister Churchill's Britain of 1942, the battle will be fought on a different level from now on. Great Britain of that year was the sole remaining bastion against Hitler and his war machine, and they had been steadily yielding ground while regrouping and trying to convince Americans to join the fray. But with decisive victory at El Alamein, Britain had finally reached a point where the defeats were balanced by a semblance of hope. Mr. Churchill put it all in perspective with a remarkable speech that included one of his most memorable statements.
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
- Winston Churchill, November 9, 1942
As I reflect on the past several years, the faces of dozens of folks who lost their jobs as sawyers, salesmen, cabinet makers, truss assemblers, forklift drivers, and mill managers still weigh heavily. The shuttered plants that used to be the home of so many fine old companies rest like metallic skeletons in the desert sands of Northern Africa. Though shooting wars with tanks, bullets, and bombs no longer seem to threaten most in the world, the toll in decreasing security and human dignity remains.

The old business cultures and methods that we like to remember fondly are no more, and the world around the corner seems unfamiliar and threatening in many ways.

But the fundamental transformation that we are experiencing, not just here in America but in countries around the world, is one being led not by politicians, but by entrepreneurs around the world, hard-working folks who have the amazing power of technology at their disposal. Even as old business models fail, new models spring to life, and in them are the sparks of ingenuity, energy, and self-realization that often remained dampered in the old economy.

For try as central planners might, they are always a step behind the innovators of the world. The battle for control of resources will continue, and it will certainly leave its ugly watermarks in the coming months and years. But like those embattled Britons of late 1942, we can take hope in the value of right, and the power of economic opportunity.

When I started Go Wood two years ago, I had an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind that I might run out of interesting topics to write about in a few weeks or months. But the fuel for these postings have been the events of everyday life, much of it provided by a social network of like-minded Woodites who have found the blog and become part of it with their contributions and comments.

Amazingly to me, the growth of the site continues on an exponential curve...sometime today the 200,000 reader will click on Go Wood. 2012 saw a 50% increase in the numbers of viewers over 2011, and almost all of that growth is from people who are not on the Go Wood mailing list.

I think that is because, like so many other fields of interest and endeavor, the world of wood, its people, products, and potential consumers, continues to become more connected through the Internet and next-day delivery. Even though many wood products are not the easiest thing to inspect, purchase, or ship via on-line methods, the process which delivers information of fine wood products and their inherent value to society is becoming so detailed and useful that the next generation of consumers is sure to be more aware of wood than any time since the invention of plastics.

Since global extermination is quickly receding into the history of the quirky, and most of the world finds itself in a situation of dire economic straits, but armed with the miracles of modern technology, beauty, durability and practicality will more and more find value in the world. And wood will be there.

May you find in 2013 the hope and inspiration of seeing things in a different, and brighter light.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wood Science 101 (7) - Water Movement in a Tree

Well, now we a tree sucks up all that water...and what happens to it.

While focusing on the physical process of water movement, this intelligent young man mentioned that this process is what biologists call "transpiration".  Wikipedia explains transpiration in excellent and concise detail and complements the video nicely.

My favorite part of the video comes at the 6:00 mark; we get to watch the moment when he "gets it."

This video is a great demonstration on how the process of education is being changed by technology and social networks.  Give students a challenge, a computer, internet access, a network of smart friends (like Jeff Wartluft, who shared this video) and teachers to chat with. The education will take care of itself, to the degree of motivation and capability of the challengers and the challenged.

Aren't we all students now, really?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Most Promising Wood Industry Story of 2012

What is it? According to Time Magazine, it's The Great Housing Rebound of 2012.
"Without a doubt, the U.S. housing market has been the most successful sector of the economy this year, and Wednesday’s Case-Shiller home price index report — which showed a fifth consecutive month of year-over-year increases in home prices nationwide — was a late Christmas present for homeowners across the country.
The housing market “bottom” was one of the biggest business stories of 2012. After years of falling home values, the data clearly showed that the bleeding stopped somewhere in the first part of 2012, and that home prices have actually begun to slowly rise since then. In addition, other indicators like housing starts, new home sales, and foreclosure statistics all point toward a healing housing sector. 
These dynamics have gotten some economists and market analysts excited about the growth prospects for the U.S. economy in 2013. Robert Johnson, director of economic analysis for Morningstar, called housing, “the big change factor in 2013,” and believes that “direct housing investment will be a meaningful contributer” to economic growth in 2013. He also sees industries related to housing — like furniture manufacturing and sales — adding to economic growth in 2013 as the housing market begins to pick up."
Not mentioned was that the Case-Schiller report included the news that even though there was indeed a fifth consecutive month of year-over-year housing price gains, 12 of the 20 cities in the survey reported lower prices in October than in September. In other words, prices are better than last year, but they're still soft in most places. And they have a long way to go to recover the price paid for most homes purchased in the last decade.

There was a lot of this type of hype about the "housing recovery" in 2012, but mostly that is all it was...hype. The (slightly) increasing number of housing starts is being fueled by investors taking advantage of ultra-low interest rates and an upturn in multi-family housing for rental property. Most Americans, however, are still absent from the housing market, buyers due to extremely tight credit conditions and sellers due to the still-suppressed pricing of housing in most regions of the country. Annual housing starts data, which showed an increase of more than 10% in 2012, is still only about half of what used to be considered a healthy level of housing activity.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

But there was at least one story that developed in 2012 that does seem to reflect hope for the future of the wood products industry in the United States. That is the story of the rising support for "forest restoration" and specifically, the story of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative in northern Arizona.

Apache-Seagraves National Forest. A forest ecosystem under attack from fire.

Forest restoration has arisen out of the great work by various industry and community groups in the West to recognize that past management of public forests, which emphasized fire exclusion and priorities on endangered species habitat, had created vast acres of overly dense, small-diameter timber. And that these stands are the primary reason we've been witnessing so many large forest fires in recent years. Forest fires that tended to not only damage the habitat being protected, but also threatening the lives and homes of local communities.

These practices, which severely curtailed forest harvesting and drove up log prices in many areas, also had the unintended (?) consequence of shutting down local timber industries. In northern Arizona alone, ten different operations producing nearly 300 million board feet of lumber and over 600 million tons of wood pulp closed in the last twenty years...and all closed before the current economic downturn.

But local interests and their partners in the US Forest Service worked hard to find a way to turn around the flawed policies of the past and get the forest resource of the area, specifically, the ponderosa pine forests of the four national forests in the region, back to work for the good of the folks.

The result was the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI. Under the initiative, more than 2.4 million acres will be "treated" for restoration, the primary component of which will be commercial thinning of small-diameter stems by local forest products industries. The principle industry partner is the start-up firm Pioneer Forest Products, which has started construction on a sawmill to process the small-diameter stems into lumber for finger-jointing into components that can be sold into the furniture markets. A certain portion of the biomass harvested, that not consumed by the lumber operation, will be processed as fuel for the operation of the company's dry kilns and eventually, for bio-diesel.

The project has been years in the planning, and now participants are beginning to see tangible progress. More than 1,000 jobs are projected to come to the area in next decade, as Pioneer is scheduled to start-up its logging operations next summer and the mill in the fall. And local community groups appear to be in support of the concept of "industry-supported forest restoration".

The project has a murky side. Pioneer's business plan for vertical integration of the operations from forest to furniture and biofuels sound good, but faces a daunting challenge in today's depressed and hyper-competitive marketplace. Some supporters of forest restoration seem to view industry participation simply as a way to come up with funding for environmental goals. And the details on the contracting agreement between the Forest Service and Pioneer seem to be proprietary, so I'm not sure whether the financial arrangement for the "treatments" will hold up over time. But Pioneer's management team seems to have a solid business background and experience, and the concept makes sense to me if the Forest Service has in fact given a contract to Pioneer under conditions necessary to make the business viable over the long-run.

The 4FRI is a new model for forest utilization, one similar in many ways to European timber-industry models. It remains to be seen if it can work here on our nation's more than 322 million acres of public forests. With that much public forest to manage, we need to find a model that will allow sensible harvesting, both for the benefit of local community economies and the health of the forest ecosystems. And we need a vibrant economy to consume the wood products, or no industry cooperation will be sustainable.

If "forest restoration" is the vehicle which re-kindles our nation's interest in practical and beneficial forest harvesting, then let's ride that horse. Who knows, the idea may grow, and someone may be able to make a profit somewhere along the way.

Here's hoping that 2012's most promising story of the year turns into 2013's success story of the year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Santa's Sleigh Damaged; GoWood Team Moves in To Save Christmas

Earlier this week it was reported to GoWood headquarters that a problem had developed at the North Pole. The venerable old sleigh of Santa Claus, conveyor of jovial jiggle and childish cheer, had developed a structural problem that endangered the delivery of millions of gifts world-wide.

It was discovered on the routine pre-Christmas Eve shakedown flight Santa takes  in early December. Somewhere over central England, the oldest elf noticed a slight vibration...followed by a violent shake, and a loud crrrrraack, then snap.

"It was quite an impossible situation for a few moments," said Santa, shaken but not stirred by the incident. "The sleigh veered out of control, and the reindeer were thrown asunder like bowling pins on a Friday night. Rudolph's nose, fortunately, switched into high mode, and we were able to land roughly, but safely, near a mall in the merry olde town of Leicester.

Startled citizens of the town rushed to unhitch the dazed reindeer, which were led away for a rubdown and some warm eggnog by some local carriage drivers. Others helped push the sleigh out of oncoming traffic, while motorists, somewhat surprised but greatly annoyed by yet another holiday traffic jam, honked their horns and urged the pushers to "get a move on."
Shortly afterward, GoWood headquarters got the call that changed our week. Catching a quick flight to Rovaniemi, Lapland, we boarded a train for Santa Claus Village on the outskirts of that far northern Finnish city. The sleigh had been taken there so that non-elvish engineers and woodworkers without security clearance for the North Pole could begin the arduous but essential task of sleigh stability and safety evaluation.

Our GoWood crew gets its bearings at Santa Claus Village.
What we found there was not to our liking. Engineer Leonard Bibbo was the first to examine the sleigh. "What we've got here is a combination of structural fatigue induced by aerodynamic stresses on the airframe and various forms of wood rot to different areas of the sleigh," Len opined. Penn State wood Professor Emeritus Bob Baldwin added some surprising analysis. "I have identified seventy-two different species of wood from around the world in the sleigh's construction. Fourteen have various stages of brown rot, twenty-three have white rot, and six have soft rot. Examination of the rotted material under the microscope revealed that traces of Daedalea, Lenzites, Fomes, Poria, Polyporus, and Stereum fungi are present...which is surprising, because none of these fungi have ever been found north of the arctic circle."

Forest pathologist Dr. Eric Allen of the Canadian Forest Service concurred. "These fungi, while quite resistant to cold temperatures, need warm periods to incubate and spread, conditions not likely to be found at the North Pole. We can only conclude that the fungi must have been picked up on Santa's annual sojourns around the world, and carried back to the North Pole where they could have survived in the heated, humidity-controlled climate of the Christmas Sleigh Barn. This, I'm afraid, is conclusive proof that Santa's exemption to international phytosanitary standards will have to be revoked, and he will no longer be allowed to fly over Canadian air space."

We had reached a crisis point, and it seemed that Christmas 2012 was sure to go down as one of the saddest in history. But cooler heads prevailed. Cabinet master Patrick Kennedy of Superior Woodcraft stepped up to suggest a remedy.."Look, I know things look bad, and there's no way the elves can build a new sleigh with all their last-minute toy-making. But I believe we can re-furbish this old chariot in time to get Santa air-bound by Christmas eve. Let's make a few calls."

The first call was to Keith Atherholt of Lewis Lumber Products in central Pennsylvania. "Keith, we've got a problem here. We've discovered that Santa's sleigh is constructed of seventy-two different woods from around the world, and we need about twelve board feet of each by Thursday morning. And each piece has to be FSC-certified to make sure that Santa isn't arrested in certain countries. Can you help us out?"

Keith said he would have to check his inventory, but he thought he could get the necessary material together in time...but his drivers were all on the road making deliveries, and he didn't know how he could get the lumber to the airport. But a quick call to Martin Melville solved the problem.. Martin promised to cut his current logging job short in time to get up to Picture Rocks and then to JFK in time to catch the last flight to Lapland.

And were we relieved when Martin showed up in Santa Village with the load of wood! Patrick and his crew wasted no time beginning the reconstruction of the intricate cuts to replicate exactly the original sleigh construction. "Fortunately, the sleigh was designed with perfect mortise-and-tenon and dovetail joinery, with no antique hardware. Sure, the rein-hooks, rails, and steps are ancient brass, but we can shine them up and make them look as good as new. Our biggest problem will be getting the different species of wood used in the side and front panels and the seat glued and dried perfectly in time."

But thanks to some improvised radio-frequency drying technology rigged up by Ben Wilson, the panels were perfectly cured in time for final construction. Nevin Stauffer had his engineers and crews back at RigidPly Rafters design and build some new sleigh runners from the choicest pieces of Sitka Spruce shipped to them by Kevin Cheung of the Western Wood Products Association, and John McLeod of the NWPCA contributed a great pallet-based design for the seat and bag support frame. Jay O'Laughlin certified the sleigh environmentally friendly, and Mike Messina concluded that the sleigh's design would pass all political correctness tests it was submitted to. It was looking great, but it needed a couple of finishing touches.

First, bio-composites professor Nicole Brown suggested a nanocellulosic skin for the sleigh that would not only improve the aerodynamic profile to "stealth" level, but would protect the wooden structural components from any further invasion of fungal pathogens. After extensive testing of the new skin, Dr. Allen relented and issued a permit for Santa to resume flights over Canada, thereby greatly relieving the elves' concern over their large inventory of new hockey sticks and moose calls.

Loyal Go Wooder Tom Frydrych, who had been evaluating the customer satisfaction aspects of the modifications, added the piece d'resistance. Santa had complained that his hot chocolate dispenser added by the elves back in the nineties was constantly malfunctioning, the result being that his hot chocolate, and therefore his frosty old nose, was always cold. Tom solved that by installing a mini-keg of Boston Lager behind the seat, with the comment that nothing keeps him jollier than a pint or two of Samuel Adams' finest on a cold winter night.

Allie and Crew Boss prepare to take the reins.

And to make sure Santa didn't drink and drive, The Wife, who had joined the team as Crew Boss to make sure that all was done properly, volunteered to be Santa's designated driver, as long as Go Wood team cheerleader Allie Clark would ride in the back, keep the wood-fired foot warmer stoked to the max, and keep yakking to keep her awake. Allie cheerfully agreed but wondered if Santa would still visit her house if she wasn't tucked in asleep when they got there.

Santa smiled when he saw the finished product, thanked us all and assured us that the job was well done, and that we would all be transferred to the Nice List for this year. The satisfaction of another job in wood done right swept over us all, and the real spirit of Christmas rang true once again.

And we heard him exclaim, 'ere he rode out of sight.... .

Merry Christmas to all, and Go Wood this fine night!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (36) - The Kamppi Chapel of Silence
When it comes to unusual, and creative, uses of wood, you have to hand it to the Finns. It seems that their culture causes their mental juices to flow naturally to wood as a first solution for just about everything you can think of...and some that you never would. Such as a chapel of...silence. That's right, the good citizens of Helsinki constructed an edifice of wood which has silence as its primary function. You go in, sit, or walk around, look at the wood, and...look at the wood.

In this case, you'd be looking at glue-laminated spruce from the hinterlands of Finland.

"The most prominent space of the building is a timber constructed 11.5 metres high sacral space. It creates a calm space, in which the lively surroundings seem distant: the defining elements include indirect light flowing down from above and the warm timber surfaces on the walls and fittings. The total area of the chapel building is 270 square metres housing the sacral space, an information lounge and spaces for one-to-one discussion.
Originally, the idea of an urban chapel came from the City of Helsinki. The client is the parish union of Helsinki. The parish unions of Espoo and Vantaa have participated in planning the future activities in the chapel."
- City of Helsinki

image © tuomas uusheimo
When I was in Helsinki, I didn't notice it to be an unusually loud fact, quite the opposite. No honking cars, police whistles, sirens in this pacific city. And yet, the Finns are thoughtful enough to build a shelter for those who just have to have SILENCE to think. Nice of them.

I know what I'd be thinking of...mental calculations of the number of lineal feet of timber used in the building. And looking for knots. And wondering what the place cost. I know, typical American.

On second thought, I don't think the idea is that original, anyway. I think they got it from watching classic old American TV re-runs. The original "Cone of Silence"...

Thanks to Jayo in Idaho for another Great Design in wood.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

O, Christmas Tree

There was a time, before Christmas tree plantations and plastic trees from China, when all the trees sold in cities were "natural" trees, grown of their own initiative and independence. Buyers from the city traveled into the country to acquire them from farmers who often had no choice but to sell them. The poet Robert Frost told of one such encounter in 1920.

 I had a chance last week to sit down with Dr. Henry Gerhold, a retired Penn State forestry professor who spent his entire career of over 50 years primarily researching Christmas trees. Henry earned his doctorate at Yale University studying the discoloration of Christmas trees in New Hampshire in the late 1940’s, and his work brought him to the attention of Dr. William C. Bramble, who had been studying Christmas trees here at Penn State since the Great Depression.

It was in the Depression that real interest in Christmas plantations and tree species started developing. President Roosevelt had created an agency called the Civilian Conservation Corps, which put out-of-work men to work building state and national parks and making other general improvements in the countryside. It was in these camps that it was learned that the Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) was the easiest of all conifers to successfully plant and grow to reclaim deserted farm lands. This reputation brought Scotch Pine to the attention of Christmas tree growers, who were looking for a tree species that would have better survival and improve profitability.

So for the next thirty or forty years, Scotch Pine was the iconic symbol of Christmas here in the United States, and Pennsylvania became the leading state for Christmas tree growth in the country. But the 1970’s brought in changing tastes in clothes, hairstyles, and Christmas trees…the country turned tacky, and plastic trees replaced the dazzling space-aged aluminum trees that were so popular in the 1960’s. They were marketed as inexpensive, easy to assemble, and forever.

This is the Christmas tree I remember...Same blue balls, same colorwheel.  It was mesmerizing to watch with all the lights turned off. Looks kind of scrawny now, doesn't it? Source: 
And they have caught on, to the point that about half the Christmas trees in the country are plastic. Now they’re pretty nice…look pretty real, pre-lighted to magnificence, and can be set-up in about ten minutes or less.  Perfect for modern man with his superficial appreciation of all things traditional.

But let’s face it, they just aren’t the same as having a fresh, piney-smelling, green tree in the house. So, as we seek desperately to find something real in our lives, real Christmas trees are making a comeback. And the masses are just discovering that, surprise! – real trees are “greener” than the plastic impostors. Who would have thought?

Henry’s work at Penn State resulted in, among other initiatives, the development of PennTIP, the Pennsylvania Tree Improvement Program, which has resulted in the continuing improvement of live trees for the market. Tastes have evolved from Scotch pine to Douglas-fir and more recently, Fraser Fir. Better logistics, including the trend toward family visits to Christmas tree farms, guarantee most buyers a tree that has been freshly harvested and smells great.

And here at Penn State, you can participate in a tradition that started decades ago, when forestry students started selling trees from Henry’s research farms for fundraisers. Their 2012 edition of the traditional Christmas tree sale is being held Friday from 3 to 6, Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 3 in the parking lot of the Forestry Research Laboratory on the corner of University and Hastings Road here on campus.

So, pitch that worn-out old plastic abomination, get out with the family, and have some fun by Going Wood.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Real Firewood Stacking

If you're nice and cozy by your wood stove, and feeling good about your own energy and stamina in splitting and piling all that wood for the winter, then good for you. But don't get too impressed by your own firewood prowess until you consider these Herculean efforts. My friend Sandy Smith here at Penn State sent me these photos to keep me humble.

Remember the holzhaus(en) we discussed back in September? Well, those were woodpiles that mere mortals would build. But real wood users need a real stack of wood, one to be proud of. And the young lady below certainly can be proud of her woodpile, and whoever built them.

No need to stop at two when you're stacking big woodpiles. You never know how long it might snow, especially if you live near the Arctic Circle...

Of course, stacking wood is always better with a partner - especially if you're building a pile that endangers local air traffic.

And there just is no better way to display your national pride than building a wood stack flagpole.

Of course, you can always stay practical with your wood-stacking skill.

Or you can go whimsical. I believe these were built by Hobbits.

And as long as you're going to build an imaginative woodpile for imaginary people, don't forget about their imaginary pets...

And don't forget the feminine touch to soften up your apparent insanity.

Speaking of insanity, try building a human maze out of firewood. Or is this a wood circle?

But if you're artistically inclined, and have a lot of firewood and time on your hands, you can always try "firewood impressionism".

But I'm sure most of you Go Wooders out there would never go that nuts over firewood. No, you'd probably keep within common sense and just use firewood for its best natural use, as cove storage in your apartment.

Man, I just looked out at my woodpile. As Sarah explained so well, I'm experiencing feelings of inadequacy.

Next year I'm going to have to get serious.  My chiropractor will welcome the extra business.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (35) - The Phoebe Table

Wow. This table is more proof that unique innovations in design can, and frequently will, include wood to make them special. The Phoebe Table is the masterpiece of Mr. Bob Huskey of Saturn Design in Seattle.
"The Phoebe Table is composed of up to 24 crescent leaves plus a round Terminus for open shapes that can be set on each other within a 30 degree range of arc. The smallest circle is 60” diameter with 12 leaves, the largest is 90” with 24 leaves. It is 18’ long and 30” wide as a straight line with all 24 leaves. There are 30 legs available."
View the rest of the design document here.

And these are his thoughts about the mahogany veneer he used to highlight his creation...
"The top is veneered with quartersawn mahogany that is highly chatoyent with a subtle crossfire. I came across it 15 years ago and have been saving it for a piece worthy of its beauty. Each crescent leaf, as well as the terminus, is veneered as though it were a starburst radial patern. This patern originates at the implied center of the cricle of the outer edge of the crescent. A starburst pattern with a highly chatoyent wood is very active when you walk around it. The flashes and changes in color follow you as you move. That effect is multiplied in this design. Each leaf flashes incrementally differently because you are in a slightly different angle to each one. You see the starburst from twelve angles at once and the flashes all move as you do. The effect is dazzling and mesmerizing."
As is the video Mr. Huskey produced to introduce the Phoebe Table. If you like out-of-this-world design, and excellent classical guitar, this video is for you.

Phoebe's Table Dance at Saturn Design from Saturn Design on Vimeo.

Another great designer who has Gone Wood.

Thanks to the Woodworking Network for sharing this.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (34) - The Cascade Timber Frame Home

If you're familiar with timber frame home design, you won't be surprised by the awe-inspiring home you're about to see. If you're not, be prepared for an onrush of envy.

Wikipedia has a nice introduction to timber framing...
"Timber framing and "post-and-beam" construction is a general term for building with heavy timbers rather than "dimension lumber" such as 2"x4"s. Traditional timber framing is the method of creating structures using heavy squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs (larger versions of the mortise and tenon joints in furniture). It is commonplace in wooden buildings from the 19th century and earlier. The method comes from making things out of logs and tree trunks without modern high tech saws to cut lumber from the starting material stock. Using axes, adzes and draw knives, hand powered auger drill bits (bit and brace), and laborious woodworking, artisans or farmers could gradually assemble a building capable of bearing heavy weight without excessive use of interior space given over to vertical support posts. Since this building method has been used for thousands of years in many parts of the world their are many styles of historic framing. These styles are often categorized by the type of foundation, walls, how and where the beams intersect, the use of curved timbers, and the roof framing details. Three basic types of timber frames in English speaking countries are the box frame, Cruck frame, and aisled frame."
The rest of the article is really good and has some nice photos of historic post-and-beam houses in Europe.

If you're interested and want to take on a new dream, check out the website of the Timber Frame Business Council, headquartered in Gettysburg, PA. Warning, though...timber frame dreaming is highly contagious.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoughts about "Invasive" Species

"Chuck – What would be nicer than being able to utilize invasive species for some good?  Here are some examples with Autumn Olive.  Of course Norway Maple and Tree of Heaven have been used successfully for firewood for years.  I have also used Autumn Olive and Honeysuckle Bushes for firewood.  I recently read how delicious Autumn Olive berries are in pies and fruit candy.  And there is a local beekeeper who praises the flowering schedule of Japanese Knotweed.  He even offers a Japanese Knotweed honey.  The bowls and firewood (except the bottom front) in the photos are Autumn Olive.
Have a memorable Christmas,
Jeff Wartluft
Jeff has proven the old adage that one man's trash is another's treasure. The plates pictured are beautiful, and the AO firewood will burn just dandy.

Courtesy: Jeff Wartluff

Courtesy: Jeff Wartluff

Pretty nice for a species that many land managers would like to exterminate. Maryland Master Gardener Ellen Nibali explains why in the video below. Her complaints are: that the Autumn Olive is too successful as a bird food, which leads to its prolific natural seeding process; it fixes nitrogen and makes the soil too rich so that certain poor-soil plants are excluded; it blooms with a fragrance that is so sweet that it is "almost nauseating"; and since only some birds like the berries, others which don't move away and thereby reduce the diversity of the bird populations in the neighborhood. Hmmm, must be a Republican plant.

Comments on the YouTube site where this video was posted indicate that quite a few folks disagree with the negative connotations ascribed to the Autumn Olive in the video, for the same reasons Jeff points out...the plant does have its redeeming qualities. A few of the commentators agree with Ms. Nibali that species which tend to out-compete the "natives" should be eliminated because they tend to thrive and change the landscape and the inhabitants thereof.

So the battle of man versus nature continues...the earth continually changing, man continually trying to control that change. We pick the species composition of landscapes we prefer to "save", while the species themselves fight for independence and the right to "invade" and inhabit. Bugs and disease continue to take out certain tree species, while other trees move into the landscape to replace those that are killed. We battle to stop natural evolutionary processes brought about by changing climate. And if we can't stop the bugs and diseases, then we'll stop the climate from changing.

Or we won't. The earth doesn't seem to mind us too much, either way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ten of the most unusual wooden products ever made

Here's a link to a nice article we like to see reported in the mass media. 

It shows ten items the article authors considered to be unusual uses of wood. We at Go Wood know that almost anything you can make, we can make better with wood. One great example is the Vespa scooter below.

This wooden Vespa is handcrafted like fine furniture by Carlos Alberto.
That's the sort of thing I ought to be puttering to work in. According to the article,
"When you think of scooters it is hard not to think of Mods with flashing chrome and wing mirrors. But this wooden Vespa is handcrafted like fine furniture by Carlos Alberto. He came across a Vespa that was in complete disrepair, so he gutted it and carved a body from wood, which he then coated in a multitude of beautiful steam-moulded veneers with stunning results." 
The thing that is stunning to me is the amount of time and love that woodworkers put into their work. Visit the article to be equally stunned by nine other items.

Thanks to Craig Rawlings at the Forest Business Network for the lead.