Showing posts from October, 2013

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.

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Great Designs in Wood (48) - The NWFA 2013 Wood Floors of the Year

Wooden floors run the gamut from utilitarian planks in camp houses to the finest pieces of wooden art one can imagine. These winning floors from the National Wood Flooring Association's 2013 Wood Floor of the Year competition fall in the latter Click on the link above to see and read about all the winners. One is even in the Hermitage, the Winter Palace of the Russian czars, and it looks the part. Think of the history that floor has seen.

All the floors are breath-taking, but one in particular caught my attention: the winner of the Commercial Collaboration category, executed by Gaetano Hardwood Floors, Inc., of Huntingdon Beach, California. Naturally, a zig-zag striped floor of alternating wenge and maple strips will catch anyone's's stunning. But I really liked this floor because it showcases so well what can be done in the commercial environment, and the benefits of doing so. The custom furniture client's customers are presumably put in…

October Morning at Penn State

Thank goodness, another weekend is here. The fall weather in central Pennsylvania is one of the best things about this part of the country. My walk in to work this morning really felt like Halloween was closing in, so I shot some video, first from my deck, then on campus. Warning: you Penn State alums out there will probably get homesick watching it.

Have a great weekend, wherever you are. More great wood next week.

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Grown in Britain, from Tree to Table

Here's an interesting video produced in the UK by several wood products companies, explaining their commitment to and strategy for marketing home-grown and produced wood products. It's one of those feel-good videos that makes you hope for their success, even though the realities of the marketplace may be telling you otherwise.

We have a similar iniative here at Penn State, called the Penn State Elms Collection. Like the effort in the UK, the collection is a niche market developed specifically for folks who value the local, historical ties of the trees from which the wood is taken. And for some, that intrinsic value is just as important, if not more so, than the functional value of the product, and those folks will pay the extra price of that intrinsic value.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but in its own way, a great way to Go Wood.

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Great Designs in Wood (47) - The Caravel

Today is one of the oddest, I think, holidays of record. Here we know it as Columbus Day, but it has other names in other parts of the Americas. Most Americans simply regard it as a day in which we don't get our mail, since, in 1934, our famous Progressive president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, declared it a federal holiday, but forgot to give the rest of us the day off. But loyal Italian-Americans have some nice parades and festivals in honor of the great Italian explorer, Cristobal Colon, otherwise known as Christopher Columbus, who in 1492, sailed the ocean blue, and crash-landed on a rock on an island that came to be called Hispaniola.

In the ensuing five hundred and twenty-one years, Columbus and his feats have become the focus of perhaps the most far-reaching and widely-disputed discussions on the beginning of what we now refer to as "globalism". To some groups, Columbus is the hero that led the rise of European civilization in the name of God, as depicted in the fa…

Ghost Cities Update, and the Mystery of the Biggest Building in the World

It's been a couple of years since we initially looked at the "ghost cities" of China. At that time, there was a feeling that the development just couldn't go on forever.  Well, maybe not forever, but it has continued at least this long. As the following report on Australia's "60 Minutes" TV show illustrates, the cities are still going up, although at least one mega-city project has been put "on hold" for the time being.

And if you've been put off by our government throwing its weight around by shutting down parks and monuments in the current shutdown, wait till you see how the Chinese government respects property "rights" that stand in the way of the development. Wow.

Now, at least one western investigator claims that in fact, these ghost cities are just future cities that are running slightly ahead of their occupancy...and that the people will come, and are coming. If he's correct, then it perhaps gives us some insight into …

On National Wood Heating Policy and Woody Biomass Conversion of Boilers in the Eastern United States

From Collin Miller at the Northern Forest Center I received this...
Dear Friends and Colleagues:Ever wonder why more U.S. homes, businesses and institutions aren’t heating with wood? In fact, 84% of the fossil fuels consumed in the Northeast are used to heat buildings. Yikes!We’re trying to change that but we need your help…Click here to sign onto our letter by October 11th to show your support for federal policies that give biomass (chips, pellets, bi-products of ag/forestry co-products) a fighting chance as a renewable thermal energy source.  Read on for more context…. The letter goes on to provide background on the organizations and the justification for their lobbying effort on behalf of biomass thermal heating. Specifically, the letter we're asked to sign is lobbying our national government to:
Provide tax credits for the installation of woody biomass energy systems.Fund the Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Grants Program to advance the design and engineering of biomass…

How Big is Our World, Really?

Researching a different topic, I stumbled across a website that really made me stop and think. Click on it and see if you agree.

The True Size of Africa

I've known since grade school that our schoolroom maps distorted the sizes of countries, depending on how close they were to the poles...the closer to the poles, the more artificially inflated they appeared on the maps. Which is why we grow up thinking that Antarctica and Greenland are the largest places on Earth.

But reality is in the reverse...that the countries that are nearer the equator appear smaller on the maps than they really are. Which means that Africa and South America are really the geographic giants of our planet.

And since they are also two of the least densely developed continents on the Earth, it would seem that the future growth in markets, resources, and populations are destined to be on those two continents.

I don't know how that may relate to your company, policy beliefs, or other future plans, but it's…