Showing posts from 2018

Timber Glory Years in Minnesota

You've read in this blog about the westward movement of logging and the unique way of classifying wood products that evolved during this migration. But we've not really touched on the stories of the lumber kingdoms created and lost during this migration. In state after state, region after region, timber fortunes were made and then moved westward with the remaining timber.
The tall timber stands of virgin Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) in Minnesota in the last part of the nineteenth century were the last such stands in the country. As pine stands in Michigan and Wisconsin were harvested to build the booming cities of the Great Lakes, the timber barons looked even further afield for the majestic white pines with their strong, straight, and light lumber...and found it in the largely unpopulated state of Minnesota.

CREDIT: Halvorson, Lewis H., photographer. "Banner load, Blackduck, Minnesota : biggest load of logs ever hauled / by Lewis H. Halvorson." 1909. The Northe…

Best of Logging 2018

This one will get your blood pumping again and shake off your post-Christmas lethargy. The technology just keeps getting better every year for those who can keep their cash flowing. Best watched full-screen on your computer monitor with the sound cranked up.

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD

Turning Wood into Christmas Memories

In the spirit of the season, here's a great little story of a fellow who turned a serendipitous Christmas inspiration into a hobby, and then into a real business. The steps he uses, and the techniques he's developed, are a tribute to the determination of artists and woodworkers everywhere.

Interested? His website address is

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD

Great Designs in Wood (75) - Dreaming of that Dream Home?

Most of you that follow Go Wood have a natural preference for the surround of wood in all things...and especially in your home. If you're ready for the ultimate wood home, and you love the wild of the western U.S., you may be interested in this modest  little place.

Yeah, I could get used to that.

See the full details at

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD

Another Cold Christmas, a Long Time Ago

It was a cold, clear morning in central Pennsylvania last week, and I found myself walking a truss yard, working but enjoying life. It was 20 degrees, but the air was so still it felt comfortable. As I gazed across the adjacent field you see above, the pungent smell of liquid fertilizer rose off the field with the warmth of the awakening sun.  Its rays glistened off the frosty trusses, and as I followed the line of sparkles to the skyline, the sound of geese headed for warmer fields beckoned goodbye to the ground and its inhabitants below. I listened to them recede off into the sun, and as I turned back to my task the sound of a locomotive blowing far in the distance greeted me like an old friend, one I had known long ago...


... in a cold frosty woodlot in central Texas, back in the middle years of the last century. I had taken out Dolly, the neighbor's trusty beagle, for a morning rabbit hunt on the week before Christmas. As we walked into the woo…

Wood-Fired Hot Tub

Well, this guy has the right idea...but The Wife says I'm going to have to make some significant improvements to the concept before she joins me. Guess I'll just have to enjoy the rubber duck :-)

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 USDOption 3 $10.00 USD

From the Sawyer's Perspective: Sawing Hardwood Logs

Ever wondered how sawmill operators make their sawing decisions? Or how square-edged boards are profitably produced from round, rough logs? Well, watch this video, and you will know.

Dr. Gene Wengert, who offers his advice online as "The Wood Doctor", does a nice job of laying out the steps and decisions made by a sawyer as hardwood logs are sawn. The emphasis here as illustrated is to maximize value by sawing for as much "clear lumber" as the log will produce...because clear lumber is much more valuable than lumber with defects in the board.

This differs from softwood lumber production, where logs are usually sawn for yield, or a yield/quality combination. Softwood lumber is usually produced for structural applications, such as rough framing, where defects such as knots and wane do not impact the value of the board as much as in hardwood lumber, where furniture, cabinetry, or trim are the most profitable products.

GoWood thanks go out to Patrick Rappold, who digi…

Going Wood with Hannah Barron

What were you doing for fun last weekend? Well, Hannah Barron and her dad were throwing up a workout building. She recorded a video of it...and there's not a minute of the seventeen-minute video you'll want to miss.

Hannah is famous on social media as a "noodler"...for those of you not from The South, that's catching big catfish with your bare hands. Here's one of her best catches...

But here at Go Wood, we're even more impressed with her skill with the tools. If you've ever tackled a construction project, you'll love this one.

Lots of fascinating aspects of this video, not the least of which is Hannah's diet. Wish I could still eat like that and maintain my girlish figure.

I especially like her explanation of why they're using horizontal studs to make their board and batten siding installation go easier. This girl knows what she's talkin bout. (Now she's got me slipping back into my southern dialect.) And the best part of the vid…

Don't Worry, Be Happy...and Invest

Been out on the road again the past couple of weeks. People's attitudes are the best I've seen in years, and most companies are still seeing strong markets for their goods. Some are saying that the third quarter has been a little soft, but at least part of that is attributable to the biblical amount of rainfall we've experienced here in the Eastern U.S. this summer. In Harrisburg this weekend, I gazed in amazement at the Susquehanna River full to its brim, with some riverside parks under water. Normally, the Susquehanna at this time of year looks like a rocky collection of small streams and pools. This weekend, it looked like the Mississippi.

Managers and company owners are asking me about the economy, especially with regard to the question: Should they invest in new equipment? They're worried that the current strong economy may be temporary, and investments in increased productivity may be met with the kind of market malaise we experienced from 2007 to this past year…

Great Designs in Wood (74) - The Olde Oaken Barrel

I was giving a presentation to a group of chestnut scientists (more about that in days to come) when I showed them these slides...

The first shows shows a phenomenon called tyloses, which is a waxy build-up of parenchyma cell distensions that grow like balloons and plug up the cell lumens, or the pores, of woody cells. Tyloses grow to a slight extent in most hardwoods, but they are especially prominent in the various species of white oaks.

The second photo, which illustrates the difference between red oak wood and chestnut wood (primarily, the wide multi-cellular rays in the oak [Item G]) also illustrates why red oak isn't used for wooden barrels. As you see, the large early-wood pores are mostly free of tyloses, whereas the cell lumens in the upper picture are obviously packed with them. This packing of the cell lumens with tyloses is why the white oak species are the preferred species for hardwood barrels...they have more tyloses than all other hardwoods. What advantage is this…

Who Says Go Wood is Boring?

When I was contemplating the renaissance of Go Wood, I got lots of advice from The Wife and The Daughters, who are all social media experts. Daughter Two advised me to keep it shorter - the posts were too long to read. Daughters One and Three counseled me to be sweeter - my posts were all too serious. And The Wife gave me the best advice of all - make it sexier.

So I get it - shorter, sweeter, sexier. That's our new motto here at Go Wood.

I think this next photo is what they had in mind...

"Nothing like a great day splitting wood the old-fashioned way. Axe, muscle, concentration. While the camera takes my picture."

Well, I guess this does slightly resemble me splitting wood on a nice day. Slightly. I have the same jeans, anyway.

But I've considered their comments very deeply since then, and decided that no, I just can't diminish the dignity of Go Wood like that. We want folks to seriously consider the finer points of a Woody Life, without stooping to the lowest …

An Even Better Brazil Nut Story

As if the last post about Brazil nuts wasn't interesting enough, Michael Nee in Wisconsin sent me a colorful follow-up of his own experience in collecting and studying Brazil nuts in their native habitat.
Chuck, I enjoyed the video on the Brazil nuts. Here is a picture from a production area in the rain forest along the Rio Madre de Dios in northern Bolivia. The shed was full of Brazil nuts collected in the forest and were waiting to be loaded on a boat to go on their way to being exported. Every day the owner of the pigs would scoop out another bunch of nuts for these porkers. They say that a pig on a diet of Brazil nuts results in lard that remains liquid and won't harden.
Since no one was around these isolated sheds on the banks of the Rio Madre de Dios, we would help ourselves to a few handfuls to snack on while we were travelling up- or downstream in our boat during the month-long expedition here in northern Bolivia. When we got back to Riberalta, our base, the political si…

Great Designs in Wood (42) - The LCT1

It's beginning to get really fun watching the increasing action in tall wood buildings. Austria now boasts the LifeCycle Tower, or LCT1, in Dornbirn. This structure is architecturally designed around  passive house energy technology, and it wooden structural members of engineered spruce and silver fir are externally visible inside the building, creating that warm, outdoorsy feeling so uncommon in modern office towers.

Here's a short video of  Hubert Rhomberg, the CEO of the company that built the tower, explaining the motivation behind the tower.

And here is a great video showing time-lapse photography of the construction of the tower, built in only eight days by five construction workers, after all the components were pre-fabricated. Even the foundations were pre-built, and the second half of the video shows it all happening in the factory.

It is invigorating to watch, almost in real time, the advances in construction science, and how wood is playing an integral and primary r…

America's Last Totally Steam-Powered Mill

All of you who enjoyed the post "Woodworking in the 1940's" will love this one. The Phillips Brothers Mill and Box Factory of Oak Run, California, operates much the same as it did when newly built in 1897. What millions used to do on a daily basis, for pennies a day, now is performed by just a few gifted folks who are creating wooden products that are truly unique. And while it may look romantic, I'd bet they'd tell you there are days....

The mill has a website that provides historical detail. Here's a sample paragraph that I love...
"A disastrous accident occurred on their chute where a curve had been made on a steep part of the hillside.  The horses strained and stumbled over rocks with their burden snagging and catching as the chute made the turn.  Suddenly, a log jumped the trough and plunged downward entangling the frightened horses with chains and crashing logs.  Seven horses were killed, including Ed's favorite, Big Vick (a large black horse) th…

Don't Fence Me In

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above  Don't fence me in  Let me ride through the wide open country that I love  Don't fence me in  Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze  And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees  Send me off forever but I ask you please  Don't fence me in.
And so begins a new chapter of Go Wood.

I imagine everyone out there has run into a situation where you felt like someone was trying to fence you in, trying to make you conform to some nebulous standard which is clear only to them. It can be frustrating...but hey, that's life. It happens to us all sooner or later.

And when it does, and we jump the fence and break into the clear, it can be invigorating. Fresh wind at our back, new companions to ride with, new places to see and conquer.  A chance to listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees just for the pleasure of it. Without the constraints that hobbled us in the past...

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commence…

Those Wacky Brazil Nuts

Working on the Penn State Xylarium recently, I stumbled across a specimen of Bertholletia excelsa, which is more commonly known as the Brazil nut tree. This is another one of those examples where you see the product all the time, without really thinking about where it comes from. To me, it's just a large white nut that I knock out of the way while I'm searching out the pecans and almonds.

But now that I know all this, I'll have a little more respect for the Brazil nut.

Interesting factoid from the video...that the Brazil nut is the only commercial nut in the world that is harvested from the wild. Those are also some nice tall, straight stems. I can see why the locals are trying to optimize the combination of harvesting timber and nuts. It is also listed on the IUCN Red List as a Vulnerable species, which is why there is research going on to help conserve the habitat. From what we learn in the video, the research looks well-thought out and practical, with the research team …

A New Year from Two Different Perspectives

Welcome to 2018. A year of hope for many, a year of doom and gloom for others.

You might not be surprised that I received a very large response to my last blog post, Time to Change the Narrative. What you may be surprised at is how clearly those responses demonstrated the clear divide that exists not only in our country, but across the world.

And the division was evident not only on the issue of climate change, but on economic trends as well.

Without exception, those in the business or private sectors who responded agreed with the premises of the post that business is strong, getting stronger, and that the new administration is a breath of fresh air to the economy. And that the issue of climate change is drawing an undeserved amount of attention from academics and policy makers.

Also without exception, those in the academic and government sector who responded disagreed with the premises of the post, or attributed the resurgence in the economy to the policies of the last administratio…