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


Friday, June 28, 2013

A Beautiful Violin Postscript

The previous violin posts featured the finest woods, the finest instruments, and the finest craftsmen in the world. So how do you top that?

Only with the power of the human spirit, which can be as powerful in the least of us as it is in the greatest, if only sharpened with care, patience, and love.

Although the only wood used in these instruments comes from discarded boxes and pallets, I don't think music ever sounded better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wood-Turned Lampshade Threatens the Destruction of the Pine Rainforest

Another neat video shared by Go Wood reader Tom Donnell. This time, it's a wood-turner producing a wooden lampshade from a section of pine. There are a lot of great wood-turning videos out there, and I like them all, so I haven't posted one yet that I can recall...but this one has great production value, and is among the best I've ever seen, so here it is.

There is a side issue controversy about this video that I think is worth considering. For some reason, many people who viewed the video expressed concern about the issue of "wasting wood" in the process...enough people, so that the person who posted the video felt compelled to post the following defense:
" !!! Please before you write a negative comment about the waste of wood, please realize, this is fast growing pine, it had already been cut down to be used as firewood, the centre of the log is sap wood and is very poor quality, and all the wood chips are reused in another way, for heating, or in the garden. We appreciate your care for nature, and assure you that we too have the same regard for what our planet gives to us."
I browsed the comments on the video to ascertain what the protesters were actually concerned about. And there were quite a few who expressed this concern. I have to say, the logic that was put into these comments shows a level of comprehension of the subject that I can only describe as sheer ignorance. Several earth-righteous commenters made the assertion that the shade could have and should have been made from veneer.

Could have, true, sort of. But it would have an ugly seam, and would not have the rigidity of this product.

Should have...just missing the point of wood-turning and being an eco-ignorant bully.

Another commenter actually stated...
"As far as carbon footprints go, his is huge! How much electricity was used in the time it took for him carve this down?"
I suppose this defender of the earth would have preferred the turner to chisel the shade by hand.

Here's another brilliant observation...
"Although I don't know much about carpentry, he is wasting wood material by carving out all the inside of the log instead of cutting out the core."
Don't you love it when someone starts a sentence with "although I don't know much about the subject..." and then proceeds to give you their opinion anyway?

The sad part of this otherwise idiotic series of exchanges is that they sound very similar to climate change and related progressive justifications for a wide range of regulatory controls over the actions of millions of citizens who are otherwise just going about their own business trying to enjoy and get a little benefit out of a productive life. Well, I'll tell them this....(chortle)...(blood pressure check)...(pop a Xanax)...(ok, ok)...(aahhh).

Well...have a great day, and be careful to be extra sensitive to the environment next time you sharpen a pencil. Use a hand-crank sharpener, and be sure to compost the shavings. We must be mindful of efficient use of our rare natural resources. (Big Smiley Face.)

And Go Wood, if you really have to Go at all, that is.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Great Designs in Wood (44) - The Roentgen's Berlin Secretary Cabinet

Fred Deneke of Arizona sent this along, and an amazing piece of mechanical woodworking it is.
"One of the finest achievements of European furniture making, this cabinet is the most important product from Abraham (1711--1793) and David Roentgen's (1743--1807) workshop. A writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, it features finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. Owned by King Frederick William II, the Berlin cabinet is uniquely remarkable for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size. 
This cabinet is from Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens. 
Footage courtesy of VideoART GmbH and Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

As you might imagine, the person who commissioned this walnut-veneered masterpiece must have had a bit of money. It was, in fact, the desk of King Frederick William II of Prussia, the well-fed fellow at the right, who ruled during the turbulent years of 1786 to 1797.

While we here in the newly-formed United States of America were struggling to feed the army and were making simply elegant but strictly functional wooden furniture, the heads of state over on the continent were still living the good life while most people were slowly starving. Frederick William went down in history as incapable of dealing with the political turmoil of the time, but nevertheless, a great friend of the arts. In the secretary cabinet above, we see that he clearly had a taste for flair in even something as theoretically simple as a desk. I'm sure his cabinet makers, the Roentgen brothers, appreciated his taste for the extravagantly exceptional, and the money it undoubtedly brought in.

His greatest contribution to the world of the arts, however, is one that you may be a little more familiar with. He commissioned the design and building of The Brandenburg Gate, which was completed in 1791. The Tor, as it is known in German, it a focal landmark of Berlin and has been an ironically glorious silent witness to many of the key moments in history: the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Cold War, and German re-unification. Intended by Frederick William as a monument to peace, it represented to many of the time the insensitivity of royalty to the plight of the masses while they, the royals, were enjoying the peak of their power.

Napoleon passing through the Brandenburg Gate after the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (1806).
Like so many things created by well-intentioned but tone-deaf leaders, the Gate outlived its builders to provide a quite different context to events. Fifteen years after its completion, and only nine years after Frederick Williams death, the People's Army of the Republic of France under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte marched through the Gate, spreading the slow but sure death knell for the royalty on the continent.

And while the Brandenburg Gate remains as a testament to the fragility of man's design for the world, the Roentgen's masterpiece in wood reminds us of the durability of man's creative genius.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

4FRI Update

You may remember what I called "the Most Promising Wood Industry Story of 2012", the public/private partnership between the US Forest Service, community groups, and the Southwestern timber industry. Patrick Rappold, the Wood Utilization and Marketing Specialist for the State of Arizona, recently shared some nice follow-up on the project.
"Just wanted to pass along some interesting news from Northern Arizona.
The Vaagen Brothers hosted an open house on Wednesday May 29, for the opening of the Four Corners Forest Products sawmill in Eagar, AZ. A mobile HewSaw is being used to process small diameter trees that are being removed as part of the White Mountain Stewardship Contract on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The open house for the mill coincided with the two year anniversary of the Wallow Fire. What eventually became Arizona’s largest wildfire; the Wallow Fire devastated 538,049 acres of forests. While most of the acres burned did occur on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the fire did cross over into New Mexico and also burned some forests managed by the White Mountain Apache. Salvage of the timber is still ongoing.
The HewSaw [operation] is not associated with Pioneer Forest Products and the mill is exclusively utilizing material from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The Forest Supervisor for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (Jim Zornes) was instrumental in bringing the operation to Eagar, AZ. Current timber management plans for the Forest allow for existing industry to coexist with the HewSaw. Several large diameter sawmills still operate in the region and are taking most of the larger logs from the Wallow Fire Salvage operation.
The Vaagen Brothers are operating the mill using a batch system. An onsite log merchandising system sorts the logs based upon diameter, sweep, and length. At the open house on May 29, the HewSaw was primarily producing pallet cants. The yield looked pretty good. The clean chips produced from the HewSaw are being marketed to different businesses. There is wood heating pellet plant nearby that is currently turning the chips into pellets. When the 24MW biomass fueled electrical plant (Snowflake Power) comes back online, chips will likely be marketed to that operation also. 
Below are some production numbers for the mill:
This Hew Saw has the capabilities of producing over 100,000 board feet of lumber per shift.  That amount of lumber is roughly 20 log loads per shift, producing lumber and chips to go into the local markets. This Sawmill will employ 15 to 30 people directly; the number of logging jobs in the forest will be approximately 25 to 50."

Timber production, jobs...a good thing.

Nice to see that the effort has yielded some fruit. Harvesting and utilization of small diameter logs and forest restoration are one of the most daunting natural resource tasks, and one of the greatest economic and ecological opportunities, we face here in the US.  Hats off to the Vaagen Brothers and all the loggers that have committed to the joint effort, and for putting in the extra effort to make sure that the expectations of all the stakeholders are met. We will be watching closely to see if this experiment can be made to work on our western frontier, and what, if any, lessons we can learn in order to make this work in other regions.

Here's hoping the venture, and others like it, are financially successful in a hurry. You home builders out west, keep throwing them up! We need your business.

Thanks to Patrick for the update and pictures.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why We'll Never Run Out of Energy

Here's an excellent discussion with the science/history author Charles Mann. After viewing the video I went out and bought his book 1491, and am really enjoying reading about the Americas prior to the coming of the European. Understanding what the Americas were really like, not the romanticized vision of it that we have all been brought up to think, gives one a different perspective on natural history and stewardship of our natural resources. I highly recommend 1491 and his most recent book, 1493.

The video is a long view (slightly less than an hour), so find a good time and comfortable spot, and prepare to be presented a slightly different view of the world than you get from CNN. Description of the video from the YouTube site.
"Tierney and Mann discussed why the industrial revolution wouldn't have happened without imported rubber (1:40); why the locavore movement (of which Mann counts himself a member) is a fraud (3:58); how China screwed up its agriculture (8:30); Mann's debate with best-selling writer and agricultural determinist Jared Diamond(16:20); why humans won't exhaust all resources necessary for their survival (as a zebra mussel might) (21:20); how new methods for extracting methane hydrates, which are natural gas molecules trapped under the seafloor, could double existing energy reserves (23:00); and whether he's concerned about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracking (54:33)."