Showing posts from November, 2013

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…