Showing posts from 2013

More Christmas Shopping Ideas for the Wood-Wise

This Christmas season finds me a jollier old elf than usual. In past years, I inclined more to the thought that Scrooge had a point.
"Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew.  "You don't mean that, I am sure.""I do," said Scrooge.  "Merry Christmas!  What right have you to be merry?  What reason have you to be merry?  You're poor enough.""Come, then," returned the nephew gaily.  "What right have you to be dismal?  What reason have you to be morose?  You're rich enough."Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said "Bah!" again; and followed it up with "Humbug.""Don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew."What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this?  Merry Christmas!  Out upon merry Christmas!  What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding you…

Let the Buyer Beware

I spent an interesting day Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But not doing what I had planned...

We had a couple of guests over for Thanksgiving dinner, a Penn State sophomore far from his home in Nebraska, and a doctoral student even further from his home in India. It was a nice meal, everyone was cordial, and all were stuffed by sunset. However, as we lingered at the table over conversation, and the setting sun caused us to turn on the overhead light fixture, I noticed a couple of tiny insects buzzing me at the table. They were bigger than fruit flies, but smaller than anything else I could readily identify. Odd, I thought. It was freezing outside and Pennsylvania is not especially known for flying insects this time of year.

The mystery was solved the next day. The Wife woke up in a Christmas decorating frenzy that Friday morning. One of the first things she decided to do was to re-decorate the sideboard in our dining area, and she started out by cleaning off the top and pushing i…

Great Designs in Wood (50) - Monticello

Last week, on the way back from Fort Stewart, I made a detour to a place I've always wanted to visit...that place on the back of the nickel. Otherwise known as Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Even though the place is much smaller than I expected, I wasn't disappointed in the least. In fact, the dimensions of the property and the home made it feel somehow much more real, and in doing so, made the great man himself much more human in my mind. The interior of the home was intimate and warm, with each room holding some delight in woodworking or mechanical comforts unique for the time. Each new discovery led me to understand that in some ways, Mr. Jefferson was not much different than any other proud homeowner...he was always looking for ways to improve his castle. In fact, the history of Monticello is divided into two phases: Monticello I, which was mostly a brick-and-mortar sancturary from the elements of this remote late-18th century Virginian hilltop; and Monticello I…

Royalty of the Southern Forest

I've already told you about my favorite deciduous tree, Platanus occidentalis, the distinctive American sycamore. It seems to grow everywhere in the country, and with little effort. Just about everyone who cares about trees can identify the mottled bark of a sycamore tree, and that's part of its charm.

But my favorite conifer has been seen and recognized by far fewer people, and grows within a far smaller range, in regional pockets. The king of the southern forest is the longleaf pine, Pinus palustris. This magnificent pine once covered most of the Gulf region, encouraged in its dominance by the annual fires set by The People, our native Americans. Longleaf is fire-resistant both in its early and mature life. It spends its first few years in what we call its "grassy stage", when it looks like a large clump of long, stiff grass sticking up off the forest floor. In this stage, a forest fire passing through will consume the forest litter surrounding the seedling, thereb…

More Progress on Pellets

Last month, I shared a report with you on a study that looked at the potential for conversion of oil and coal boilers to wood. The bottom line: that potential conversion projects vary by state, and that the more populous states have far more potential for reductions in fossil fuel consumption for heating - but that rural areas will probably continue to lead the way in adoption.

The second part of that conclusion continues to hold true. For example, New Hampshire wound up far down our ranking of conversion potential, just behind its sister state of Vermont (in 25th and 26th place), primarily because of lack of population density and heating consumption. But nevertheless, they have the wood, and they're all for fossil fuel reduction, and so they are more open to wood as a replacement fuel.

Here's an excellent article from NPR New Hampshire that shows how wood pellets are changing attitudes in The Granite State. I suggest you click on the "Listen" bar below the picture..…

The Rock of the Marne

On this Veteran's Day, I find myself especially grateful to our military and those who have sacrificed in the protection of our freedoms. Especially, I say, because this weekend we will head south to Fort Stewart, Georgia, to welcome home our son Charlie and his fellow soldiers of the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division from their latest deployment on the fighting fields of Afghanistan.

The stories Charlie has shared with us on his occasional calls home were sometimes comforting, and sometimes not. His mother and I were amazed to hear of the many 'overseas contingency operations' his unit has been engaged in in the past nine months, with no mention at all of the battles in our American media. It's hard to believe we've reached the point in our society where we can conduct wars all over the world, and hardly even take notice back here at home.

While we've prayed for all the soldiers in his outfit during this deployment, I think there is one in particular I will …

Potatoes and Wood Panels

One of the major tussles in the wood industry over the past decade has been the effort by the EPA to ban formaldehyde-based resins in the production of particleboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), oreiented-strand board (OSB) and other wood products. Industry groups have understandably resisted the EPA's effort, since these resins have proven to be reliable, low-cost binders of wood particles for decades, and companies have been able to consistently improve the properties of their wood panels and products using them.

Many new resin systems have been explored as potential substitutes, since a small percentage of people are adversely affected by formaldehyde emissions, and formaldehyde itself is thought to be a carcenogic compound if a subject is exposed to it in sufficient quantities over protracted periods (a qualification, by the way, that does not apply to wood panels and products as manufactured and used these days). Nevertheless, EPA continues to push for a complete ban on …

Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians

That great title comes directly from a recent New York Times article of the same name. It seems that one well-meaning Norwegian author inadvertently tapped into the subconcious passions of millions of fellow Norwegians with his 2011 best-seller Hel Ved (Solid Wood: All about Chopping, Drying, and Stacking Wood - and the Soul of Wood-Burning).

From the author's website, and as translated by my Google Chrome browser, are these details that bring the art of firewood preparation to life for vedfolk everywhere...
"The response after the release has been pleasing great. A plethora of nice readers have shared their own experiences with wood, especially if stacking methods and axes - in fact, I have also received acknowledgments from owners of old Partner saws, as thanks for the book restores these saws status as a professional tool, and not as one hobbysag! But first and foremost, the response has shown the importance of burning wood for Norwegians. There is a hushed, rational part …

Great Designs in Wood (49) - The House on the Rock

Ever feel like you'd really like to get away from it all? Well, if you had a place like this, you'd probably be there already.
 This cabin is a long, long, way from anywhere.
"Katja and Adam Thom’s cabin, on an exposed postglacial archipelago in Canada’s windswept Georgian Bay, is more than eight miles from the nearest road. The building, quite literally off the grid and far from inland neighbors on a long and slender granite outcrop, is only accessible by boat—or perhaps by seaplane if you’re aerially inclined." What kind of people would invest so much of their creativity and time into a dream so far off the beaten path, where very few are ever bound to wander? Not surprisingly, they are city-dwelling architects.
"Adam, a Toronto native, and Katja, from Denmark, met while studying at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles. Both had backgrounds in sculpture, and the architectonic skills and abstract formal ideas that they picked…

Pallets and Bonfires on All Hallows' Eve

Some folks will find a use for pallets on any occasion. And when you put pallets and Halloween together, good things happen...behold, the Halloween wood pallet fence.

You might be surprised that wood and Halloween have a long relationship. From the earliest pagan festivals, bonfires were used to ward off evil spirits and the dark of winter.
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead calledParentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain", which comes from the Old Irish for "summer's end". Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-in) was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated in IrelandScotland and the Isle of Man. It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same …

Timber Theft: Little Noticed, but Serious Illegal Drain of Forests

Timber theft goes on wherever forests stand. We like to think that it is a phenomenon that occurs only in the wilder, more remote backwoods of the world. But in fact, I've had several folks relate to me about illegal logging activity off their land right here in the United States.

The following video is an eye-opening report by the Wall Street Journal on timber theft in far east Russia. It gives one a sense of how serious this issue can be when you're down at boot level. I witnessed the same feeling several years ago as a forest marshall in Bulgaria described to me his frequent shoot-outs with timber pirates in that country.

The investigator in the video makes a good point...that once timber is sawn, it is nearly impossible to tell legal from illegal timber. Thus, the secrecy you see in the video at mills "operating on the edge." And there is another good point made...that permits to access stands specifically for small-diameter harvesting or thinning can be used to …

When You Learn Something, You Learn It

These have been interesting times, lately, with folks cussing and discussing issues relevant to our Constitution and its intent. And of course, it's nice to know that we've all been ingrained with the principles of our founding document from our earliest schooldays.

Good ol' Barney. What a guy.

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD