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Showing posts from March, 2015

Kudzu in Paradise

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I've been teaching a Forest Policy class this semester at Penn State, and the students and I have spent much of the semester looking not only at various policies, but the eventual, and sometimes unexpected, outcomes of those policies. One of those policies was the depression-era policy of recommending the kudzu plant, Puereria spp., to farmers for stopping the relentless soil erosion that led to the great dust bowl era of the 1930's. The kudzu is a fast-growing vine whose root systems stabilize the soil even while the numerous leaves shade the soil and slow desiccation that leads to erosion.

Well, it worked a little too well. And generations of folks in the US south have grown up used to the sight of kudzu monsters engulfing stands of pines and other species along the roadways where they were planted and continue to spread. And now, because of global warming, kudzu has spread as far north as southern Ontario, Canada.




Now, as a forestry student in East Texas, I learned intimate…

Great Designs in Wood (63) - The Forest Sciences Centre at UBC

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I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to travel out west to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. They had invited me out to participate in a review of their Wood Products Processing program, one of the degree programs available in their "Faculty of Forestry", as they call it. Based on the preliminary material I reviewed, I expected to see good things...but how good, I didn't even come close to imagining.

As I entered the building, a world of stunning timber construction opened up...and I felt right at home.







The Centre was built in 1998, I believe, a decade or so before our modern era of the wooden-framed tall buildings, so much of its structural core is traditional steel and concrete. However, with its engineered wood roof members and wooden cladding throughout, I have to believe that the building was the inspiration for much of the wooden building progress that has been at the forefront in British Columbia since.

The visit was not without its unique cu…

Great Designs in Wood (62) - The Violin...and the Secrets of Stradivari

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A couple of years ago now we looked at the violin, and its magnificent design, in GDiW (39) and GDiW (43). In those posts, we naturally enough focused on the wood component of the violin, and how the species and wood specimens used impact the tone of the instrument.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual Penn State Private Forest Landowners Conference, and my presentation topic was "The Wonderful World of Wood". In it, I skimmed very lightly some of the most popular wonders of wood from around the world, and one of those topics was the marvelous design of the great Italian violins. However, I was limited to only a few minutes on the topic, as always, and predictably, I could tell the audience would have liked to know much more about these great violins.

So, for those folks, and for the rest of you Go Wood readers who love the topic, I have found a lecture by violinist Rose Mary Harbison and Professor William Fry given in 2009 at the Boston Museum of …

Make Wood, Not War

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Recently, I was granted permission by the Board of Directors of the International Wood Collectors Society to re-publish in a blog format the best articles from the pre-2000 issues of their Journal, World of Wood. In late January I started that blog with the minutes of the first meeting of the Society in 1947. It's a very interesting piece of history for everyone who has ever picked up an unusual piece of wood and taken it home, just for the sake of having it or using it in some wood-working project.

This week, I shared an interesting re-print of an article entitled "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection", by a member named Dr. Wolfgang Mautz. Coincidentally, the speech by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to our U.S. congress this week gave me an interesting perspective on Dr. Mautz' contribution to the early Wood Collectors Society membership. Allow me to explain the connection in my mind of these two completely non-related events given sixty-five y…