Showing posts from September, 2013

Wood Science 101 (13) - Extracting Lignin from Wood in the Laboratory (Part 2)

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

Management by Ongoing Observation

Once upon a time, two business authors named Peters and Waterman wrote a blockbuster best-seller called In Search of Excellence. This management classic was known for many great improvements in modern management, and most companies sent their executives to seminars on the book in the 1980's. I don't think it an exaggeration to say that company management was never the same after the book.

Perhaps the best known practice that came of the book was one labeled "Management By Walking Around", or MBWA. The late eighties and early nineties saw a proliferation of bosses roaming the halls and making frequent trips through the shop or plant, making themselves available to employees, shaking hands, asking questions, and showing concern, in an effort to get a better grip on the business and break through traditional communication barriers that were recognized as a source of passive confusion at best, and active employee resistance at worst.

Well, sometimes it worked. More often…

Wood Science 101(14) - Equilibrium Moisture Content

Chuck,I'm retired (sort of) from the forest products industry and now have time for more serious activities such as archery hunting, fly fishing, grandchild watching and my furniture building hobby. I have some nice quarter sawn red oak that has air dried to 18% m.c. outdoors. I now have this surfaced stock in my shop in the house awaiting further drying before being used to make a bedroom set. I need help making a determination as to what I can expect this wood will equalize to given the 65 degree and 60% relative humidity of my house. The humidity will be closer to 30% during the winter. Can you direct me to an internet site where I can find this information? Any help will be greatly appreciated.Regards,
Jack Buckler
PSU School of Forestry - 1969

Hi, Jack.Thanks for the interesting little problem in calculation. In effect, you are asking "What is the Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) of wood at 65F and 60% RH, versus 65F and 30%RH...correct?In the old days, we used to consult…

Shine on, Harvest Moon

I was awakened last night by a bright light streaming in through the bedroom window. Slightly in a daze, I crawled out of bed and stumbled into the dining room, and then out onto the porch.

The whole yard was bathed in the sterling clear light of the Harvest Moon, that full moon that occurs around this time of year. The Harvest Moon is famous for being so large in the early evening sky, but I had missed that. Instead, I was seeing a moon high in the 2 am sky, shining so brightly I could have gotten out and mowed the grass if I had wanted to. The trees were casting shadows as clear as any noonday sun ever created.

This morning I looked up the writings of my old friend, Eric Sloane, in his classic "The Seasons of America Past".
"Poets call autumn the melancholy season, but to American farmers it was the season of fulfillment and a time of rejoicing. Why else would they have chosen September as the Season of Fairs? The only melancholy of September is experienced by school c…

Great Designs in Wood (46) - The Commercial Wood Building

I recently was asked by Keith Craig, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council, to participate in a booth presentation for the Keystone Wood Products Association at an upcoming Green Building Expo in Philadelphia. In asking, Keith mentioned that there was considerable concern that the steel and concrete industries are continuing, and perhaps even increasing, to put out misinformation about the green qualities of wood as a construction material.

My immediate thought was that this is a good sign. When your competition isn't concerned about you, they just ignore you. It's when they understand that you're making headway that they really begin to fight back. And in this case, trying to convince people that steel and concrete are "greener" than wood is sure to foster more discussion about the comparisons, and these discussions will always result in wood coming out as the green alternative. Architect Michael Green from Vancouver is at the fore…

The National Wood Collection at the Forest Products Lab

I've been quite busy with a new project this summer. This spring, I was made aware of an old collection of wood samples that had been stored away for the last fifty years in a closet at the end of a hall. I've moved the collection over to my lab and have been working to uncover the mysteries of multiple collections, old deceased wood professors, and beautiful samples of wood I've never even heard of. All together, we have something over 2,000 species of wood and 6,000-8,000 specimens here at Penn State. All partially documented in the 1950's and before.

I've been trying to build a database of the collection in order to get a better handle of what it contains. Finally, it occurred to me to take a visit to the largest such collection in North America, the US Forest Service collection at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. Headquartered in what is called the Center for Wood Anatomy Research, it is truly an interesting place to visit. The collection a…

"Fire Place"

The last post about the ecology of fires out west reminded me of a chapter I recently read in a book mentioned in the post "Why We'll Never Run Out of Energy". In the book 1491, author Charles C. Mann tells an insightful story of how our perception of Native Americans and their use of the land is distorted by modern idealistic tendencies. Especially interesting to students of ecosystem science and management in North America is this section from his chapter, "Fire Place."
"Adriaen van der Donck was a lawyer who in 1641 transplanted himself to the Hudson River Valley...[and] spent a lot of time with the Haudenosaunee, whose insistence on personal liberty fascinated him. They were, he wrote, 'all free by nature, and will not bear any domineering or lording over them.'... "Every fall, he remembered, the Haudenosaunee set fire to 'the woods, plains, and meadows,' to 'thin out and clear the woods of all dead substances and grass, which …