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, January 24, 2014

Vaya con Dios, Temple-Inland

Walking across a yard near Philadelphia earlier this week, I had a twinge of nostalgia as I saw this bundle of Temple-Inland lumber. It may be the last one I ever see.

As you may recall, Temple-Inland was purchased by International Paper in 2011. Last year, Georgia-Pacific purchased the portion of the company that was formerly called Temple-Inland Building Products Group, and for the employees employed at the Temple facilities, the process of being integrated into the larger G-P began in earnest. I haven't heard what the schedule is for re-labeling the various Temple products as Georgia-Pacific products, but I'm pretty sure this bundle of lumber may be one of the last I ever see with the Temple-Inland brand.

Well, so it goes. The folks I worked with at those Temple-Inland mills were some of the best, and I hope their new bosses at G-P treat them right. Perhaps G-P can show the rest of the world that there is a beneficial, productive way to employ newly-acquired assets and the folks who run them. That is a story I would love to write about.

Adios, Temple-Inland. Vaya con Dios.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Great Designs in Wood (51) - The Cob Palace of Devon

While on the subject of self-supporting roofs and unusual designs, I have to share with you all the story of this, possibly the largest and most original cob house in the world. While cob is a non-wood building material, the roof beams on this home are huge glulam timbers implemented in a roof design that you have to see to believe.

While the video is long (it is an episode from a British cable program), and it took me three days to find the time to watch the whole thing, I was smiling the whole time I watched. I can't even find words to comment on the have to watch it yourself.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Looking Back, Living in a Wooden Future

Walking through our School of Architecture yesterday, I noticed a display in the entryway that caught my attention.

Sacred Spaces Sweat Lodge
This cool little building was designed by students in the PSU AIHI course series. A 15 point reciporical roof frame honors the 15 poles in a Northern Cheyenne TeePee. This building was constructed in one week, with the help of a great group of guests from all over the US.
Intended Use
A "sweat" is an important and sacred cerimony for many American Indian tribes. This building will provide protection for a sweatlodge that is shared by many tribal members, and graciously maintained by the folks at the Prayer Lodge on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.
Key Features
The building is 20 feet in diameter, and has an open skylight to let in light, and vent heat created during the ceremony. Glass beads and symbols designed by tribal members adorn this unique building.
- Professor David Riley, the Penn State American Indian Housing Initiative 
The lodge has an interesting architectural feature called a reciprocal frame roof, one that is created by overlapping three or more members supported initially by a center pole, which is then removed after the overlapped rafters are tied together at the top. Our classic American Indian teepees were built with skins, grasses, or bark covering different varieties of reciprocal frames. The resultant hole in the center was, of course, handy for allowing smoke from small cooking or heating fires to escape the lodging.

The reason I snapped the picture of the student project was that I had recently viewed the following video from a group called Living in the Future. These folks create and occasionally attempt to live in what they call Ecovillages, villages created in a minimalist way in order to create as small an ecological footprint as possible. The first line of the video had stuck in my mind...
"Reciprocal frame roofs have only been around for about twenty years..."
 Which goes, I suppose, to show that everything old eventually becomes new again.

Anyway, the video is interesting on many levels. Ancient construction design and techninques, implemented with modern tools. Tremendously inefficient division and utilization of labor, in the name of sustainability. The chicken sisters (6:40 of the video). The apparent belief that this group exercise of primitive communal living is the way of the future. And the short spiritual ceremony at the successful raising of the roof (13:40), once again confirming that people have an innate bond to things of the earth, to each other, and to a higher power.

Another way to Go Wood. To each his own.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Road Maintenance, the Old-Fashioned Way

Traffic jams and bad weather in the news lately got me thinking about traffic problems in the old days. Back then, too much competition for road space wasn't the issue...rather, it was hard enough to find a passable road, period. In winter, especially, roads tended to disappear, buried under the tons of snow that used to fall here in the Northeast way back before Global Warming.

But the old-timers, used to finding wooden solutions for almost every problem, found one for snow-covered roads.
"January was usually the season for winter road-work in the northern states when the snow was packed and graded to make the sledding season as long as possible. Snow was shoveled into melted or otherwise bare spots by snow-wardens, fed into covered bridges, and packed down with giant snow rollers by the road commissioner to keep the sleds going. Snow rollers are among the rarest of antique vehicles - perhaps no more than eight exist in America. Snow roads of a century ago were nursed along during the wintertime, just as modern ski-runs are, and when March winds melted the snow of the northern countryside, most of the old-time roads were still snow-packed."
- Eric Sloane, The Seasons of America Past
 What? Snow rollers? Can you imagine what those must have looked like?

Fortunately, Mr. Sloane provided us with one of his famous drawings to help us imagine. And naturally, wood played a part...

From Eric Sloane, The Seasons of America Past

And if you think these snow rollers could be a lot of fun under the right conditions, guess what? You're not alone. As usual, the Canadians are way ahead of us in the realm of the unusual.

Now that's what I call Going Wood With Style.