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, July 29, 2016

How Pallets are Moved

There was a great response to last week's post "How Pallets are Made". But for complete appreciation of the role the wooden pallet plays in the low cost of your food, clothing, and pharmaceuticals, you need to understand the continuous improvements being made in supply-chain science and technology. Now, you can get a university degree in this sort of thing, there is so much to digest. But here's a couple of nice videos that demonstrate how essential the pallet is to the movement of goods around the world...and how companies are always trying to make that movement faster and more efficient. 

How about a forklift that can load and unload an entire trailer of pallets in a single move? Seeing is believing...

You'll notice that the pallets in the video above are "stringer" pallets, the first type of pallet we saw being made in last week's video of the Remmey production facility. This type of pallet serves one of two distinct major pallet markets - the one in which pallets are used as the lowest-cost, structurally-capable means of moving product from point A to point B, and ownership of the pallet is transferred from the product seller to the product buyer.

The other major pallet market is the "block" pallet, which we saw being assembled in the second half of the Remmey video. Block pallets are heavier, more costly wooden pallets specifically designed for the demanding handling requirements of automated pallet transfer systems in most of today's modern distribution systems. Because of their cost and strict control of design and manufacturing standards, these block pallets are usually rented from a pallet pooling company, which retains the ownership of the pallet. Their reliability is the key to successful use in the complex but efficient product movement systems of today. And despite the higher cost of the block pallet, the wooden version is still more cost-effective than plastic or steel counterparts.

As high-tech as the world gets, wood still holds its place...better, in fact, than human laborers. So, Go Wood, or go home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wood Science 101 (25) - Spotting Softwoods in Stained Furniture

One of the more useful woody sites on the web is Eric Meier's Besides having a nice alphabetical listing of several hundred of the most common woods in woodworking, he occasionally posts detailed articles and informative videos.

One of the most common questions I get at shows and by email is "how can I tell if a piece of wood is a hardwood or softwood?" Well, there are a bunch of ways, most of which are way too technical for most folks...but Eric does a great job in the following video of giving one of the simplest answers in a straightforward, yet technically sound wood science way. The secret is in understanding the science of growth rings.

And if there are no growth rings, or you want to be able to distinguish between different hardwoods? Well, sign up for one of Randy Wilkinson's wood identification classes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

How Pallets are Made

Earlier this week we examined a wooden component and trim manufacturer, Lewis Lumber Products of Picture Rocks, PA. That post spurred Don Remmey, President of Remmey - The Pallet Company to send me the link to a video of his Beaver Springs, PA operation. I think you'll agree with me that this video has a unique value of its own to Go Wood readers.

Over the past few years, we've had several posts about the ubiquitous yet simple wooden pallet. We examined how they are, in fact, one of the greatest designs in wood ever created; their role in international trade and the regulatory efforts to ensure their safe use; and even how they have great second lives in re-purposed uses; but I've been remiss in not sharing with you just how these marvelous things are made.

Well, Don has taken care of that. Here's a nice video that shows pallet production from beginning to end. Watch as the pallet cants (which come from local sawmills) are trimmed to proper length, then ripped into boards, and sawn into the proper dimensions for the type of pallet being constructed. These boards are then laid up as either standard stringer pallets, block pallets, or custom pallets. It's all shown here in three minutes, and the folks at Remmey do it as efficiently as anywhere I've ever seen.

That's another fine Pennsylvania wood products company setting a global standard in excellence.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Re-thinking, Re-creating, Re-newing the Company

You may remember two Penn State architecture students, Matt Fink and Jacqueline Holt, who worked with me about five years ago (was it really that long ago?) on their furniture design projects. One of the Go Wood postings was about their wood shopping trip to Lewis Lumber Products in Picture Rocks, Pennsylvania, where we met LLP President Keith Atherholt. Keith and the folks of LLP have been a great partner with Penn State for many years, and quite a few of our students have toured or worked in their facility, gaining valuable real-world experience.

The most rewarding thing about working with LLP is that as a company, they have never stopped working to improve themselves, by making themselves more valuable, available, and indispensable to their customers. Earlier this year, Keith sent me a video they made that captures the spirit of their efforts.

In this summer of renewal, I offer this video as a reminder of what makes a company successful, and keeps it that way...a passionate focus on the needs of the customer, and your company's efforts to exceed those needs. There are a lot of companies out there who can do what yours you have to do it better.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Stacking Firewood the Proper Way

The last video from Wranglerstar reminded me of one of my favorites, his video on stacking firewood the proper way. He makes use of the holzhaus design, one we've featured here before on Go Wood. But the beauty of this video is the way he trains and makes use of his captive laborers.

Mid-summer is the time to get going on firewood, if you haven't already taken care of it in late winter. It's a great way to shake off the mid-summer lazies. And like Wranglerstar shows, it's a great way to engage your young 'uns in productive exercise. My two oldest firewood laborers have grown up and are doing their own thing now, but I bet they look back on the firewood experience in a lot better light than when they were doing it.

As a matter of fact and point of pride, one of said young 'uns will be part of the U.S. Army honor guard this fall at the Seattle Seahawks' home games. Easier than stacking wood, I guess, and more people than just Dad cheering him on. Funny how things work out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Great Designs in Wood (68) - The Wind Powered Sawmill

One of my favorite YouTubers, Wranglerstar, shares this video of an ingenious design to harness the wind for sawing lumber, from Holland, naturally. It's not the fastest way to produce lumber, but you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a way that is more energy-efficient.

Just goes to show how creative we can be when we have all the modern conveniences taken from us. Makes you think that yes, just possibly, we were all smarter a couple of hundred years ago when we weren't sharing our thinking with a pocket-sized electronic device.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Great Designs in Wood (67) - Timber Frame Heaven in Texas Hill Country

If we get to pick our homes in heaven, this is what I'll be living in. Simple timber frame, simple interior design, wood so rich you can smell it right through your screen, surrounded with low-lying live oaks under a big sky. Hard to beat.

Check out the complete slide show here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Pennsylvania Clearcut - Four Years Later

Some of you may remember the post back in 2012 in which I posted a video of me walking through a recent clearcut, talking to myself like an absent-minded professor about the species of plants and trees that were re-establishing themselves after the cut.

Well, I happened to stop at the same place for lunch again earlier this week, so I took the opportunity to once again walk the same portion of the property and shoot some follow-up video. I'll post both videos below so you can watch them sequentially or simultaneously, if you care to. By a bit of luck, I noticed that if you start the videos at the same time, they sync up pretty nicely for a great comparison. You can mute either of the videos by clicking on the speaker icon in the lower left corner of the video...I muted the top one and enjoyed them that way.

First, in 2012...

Next, just this week, nearly four years later.

I think the videos speak for themselves, but I'll reiterate the main points...
  1. This was a very large clearcut, in total probably 100 times larger than what is taught in forestry school as a "sustainable" clearcut.
  2. It was conducted on a very poor upland site,
  3. It has not been re-planted or managed in any way since the harvest.
  4. Basically, this is a "worst-case" clearcut from an environmentalist's point-of-view.
  5. The site has regenerated itself naturally.
  6. Evidence of human impact, such as the densely-compacted log landing site and road, is slowly being erased by natural forces and the encroachment of the less-compacted surrounding forest.
  7. The biodiversity at this point, about ten years after the harvest, is extremely high, much higher than the remnant forest left across the road.
  8. The growth rate of this young forest is much higher than the adjacent mature forest, thereby making this large acreage a CO2-gobbling and oxygen-producing machine.
  9. The site is home, resting spot, and dinner table to a prolific number of wildlife species.
  10. The sawtimber and pulpwood that was produced from the site provided jobs and products for the benefit of mankind - and will do so again in about fifty years or so - unless it becomes "protected" by well-meaning but misguided environmental regulation.
Go Wood.