Monday, February 25, 2013

The Lumber Industry

I often wonder how those who grow the wood in which we love to use to build and sculpt with fair in markets that are seemingly dead. Today, we see that holding on to your timberland is a good ideal for many reasons particularly because the industry is seeing a slow positive progression to recovering. Although timber prices are not in sync with inflation we still have to hand it to those who are willing and ready to keep their timberland while the industry becomes more and more satisfactory.

Chuck Ross, author and founder of the Go Wood blog, received an email that summarizes this concept to a perfection.

"I'm a tree farmer in Southern Indiana and Central Kentucky. I think that one of the biggest problems that the NRDC and other environmental groups have in understanding forests is that they think of timber as being a natural resource instead of a agricultural crop. The only real difference between raising a crop of timber and a crop of corn is the length of time to maturity. By classifying timber as a natural resource instead of a crop, they set it up for being idolized instead of being used. 
Markets for hardwood timber stumpage in my area are so bad, and have been for a long time, that I am starting to think that long-term timber management is not economically possible and is purely pie-in-the-sky. Stumpage prices for timber in Indiana and Kentucky are the same as they were 30 years ago, and inflation has increased more than 100%. 
I'm in the process of seriously considering liquidating my holdings and putting my investment elsewhere. Even if wood demand tripled over night, I'm not sure if I would begin to get back what I've lost to inflation. What is your opinion as to what is going on in the marketplace, and is my assessment of timber economics correct? 
Ross responded with great insight and bits of encouragement as well. I'd like to take my turn in doing the same. Here are some great pictures of timber/lumber crops. They are not just beautiful but truly and utterly useful and thus no one ever complains about the years these crops take to reach maturity.
Alley Cropping USDA Forestry

NC Timber
North Carolina timber sales. 

Men standing in a timber crop.
County Agent O.H. Phillips instructing about timber crops. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Step Away

This is a fantastic video clip of a fellow Lumberjock building a staircase. He's innovative, works in hyper speed ;-), and does a nice job with seemingly little effort. It gives you a nice feel of what a stair case starts out as and what it becomes. Not bad! Not bad at all!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Patriot Ledger Interviews Brian McAlpine

The most fantastic thing about woodworking is the variety. You have the timeless artist, the modern engineer, and the classic woodworker. We see wooden flowers, dining room tables, rocking chairs, and window cornices. The variety is truly admirable and often times down right breathtaking!
Brian McAlpine at Eternal Furniture

I found a wonderful and fascinating interview with Brian McAlpine! He's a modern woodworker with an engineering background. You can't get more original than can you? ;-)

Patriot Ledger did a wonderful interview with Brian McAlpine. It's impressive, inspiring  and highlights one of my very favorite concepts: reusing and re-purposing wood.

In 2006, he attended the North Bennett Street School in Boston’s North End for a three-month woodworking course. Two years later, he opened up his Braintree woodworking shop.
“Everything has an artistic blend to it, and everything also has an environmental, positive message,” McAlpine said. “Most of my wood is storm-damaged wood or recycled wood. The finishes are natural and environmentally friendly.”
McAlpine gets his inspiration from the late Japanese-American furniture maker George Nakashima. The “Legacy” line in Eternal Furniture’s collection was inspired by Nakashima’s work from the 1940s to the 1950s.
McAlpine’s furniture ranges in price from $700 to $4,000. It takes him about 40 to 50 hours of manual labor to complete each piece. McAlpine uses modern machinery as well as pieces from the early 20th century in his woodworking.
“Hopefully, in the future I will be able to expand and do metal work as well (in addition to my woodworking) because I like the juxtaposition between wood and metal,” McAlpine said.Brian McAlpine at Eternal FurnitureMcAlpine works out of a large warehouse space in Braintree with a small display of his work along with some of his interior designs. He also doesn’t have any immediate plans to hire any employees, preferring to keep the business simple and focused on the woodworking for now. That could change, though, if he moves to a different location.
“I’d love to have a storefront,” McAlpine. “It’s just a matter of the money to invest (in it). One of my main passions is interior design so hopefully that can be something I can branch off to in the future.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Dimensional Effects of Wood

Today I want to share an article provided by it explains the dimensional effects of wood and how it expands, shrinks and then sometimes it repeats the process because of high humidity environments. The key is to understand how this process takes place in wood and then simply expect and plan for it. ;-) 

Moisture content (MC) takes the form of water vapor in the air, and in every wood cell. In wood, it generally takes two forms. Bound water is held in wood cell walls, while free water is held within the cell cavities. The MC at which the cell walls are saturated but no free water remains in the cell cavities is called the fiber saturation point (FSP). This matters greatly to anyone interested in the long-term health and performance of the end wood product. 
Rain on wood

The FSP is important in the kiln drying of wood for the following reasons: more energy is required to evaporate water from a cell wall than from the cell cavity, a wood cell will not shrink until it reaches the FSP, and large changes in many physical and mechanical properties of wood begin to take place at the FSP. 

Wood loses or gains moisture until the amount it contains is in balance with the surrounding environment. The amount of moisture at this balance is called the equilibrium moisture content (EMC). The EMC depends upon the relative humidity (RH) and temperature of the surrounding air.  When the RH drops, wood releases moisture and this can possibly cause shrinkage in the end wood product and when the RH increases wood absorbs moisture and thereby an end wood product could swell in certain circumstances.    

This MC process is entirely natural, so wood lovers must continually monitor the MC of wood. Put simply, poorly managing and monitoring the wood product’s MC can possibly cause product failures or future product service problems.

Dimensional Effects in Wood

Some wood species have stable dimensional properties while others exhibit extreme wood shrinkage and swelling during MC fluctuation. Shrinkage of wood is a basic cause of many problems that occur both during the kiln drying process and in service. When water leaves the cell walls at 25-30% MC, the cell walls begin to shrink. Drying stresses develop because wood shrinks by different amounts in the radial, tangential and longitudinal directions.  

Even after drying, wood will shrink and swell in service as the RH changes. MC change equals wood dimension change. Why does this matter? Imagine your cabinet drawers changing dimension severely during the higher humidity of the winter months, or your wine casks wood shrinks during summer heat. Any time wood pieces are fitted together, wood will continue to lose or gain MC until it reaches its EMC.  

There are two solutions here: First, learn the dimensional characteristics of the wood species, and second, manage the wood product’s MC to minimize the effects of dimensional change. The alternative is a continuous battle with moisture-related issues.

Choose Wood Species Well

Teak, Tectona grandis, is a deciduous tree which grows in mixed hardwood forests native to south and southeast Asia, mainly India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma. Teak is a yellowish brown timber and it has good grains and texture. It is used in the manufacture of products where weather resistance in important. Teak is used as a material in the construction of both indoor and outdoor furniture. Teak’s high oil content, strong tensile strength and tight grain makes its suitable for outdoor furniture. Teak’s natural oils make the timber termite and pest resistant. It is also used in boat decks as it is extremely durable and requires very little maintenance.   

Honduran  Mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, is an important timber in Latin America. The heartwood color can vary a fair amount from a light orangey brown when freshly cut to a deep mahogany color as it fully ages. Honduran Mahogany has excellent weathering properties, which makes it a popular wood for boat building and window fabrication. It is resistant to brown rot and white rot fungi. The color is relatively consistent, making it an excellent wood for staining. Its easy workability combined with its beauty and stability have made this lumber a favorite in the furniture, cabinetry, musical instrument and boat-building industries.

Monitor Well
Whatever wood species you choose for your wood product application, use a wood moisture meter, a tool for the assessment and management of the woods MC. Lumber mills, wood installers and consumers utilize some form of a wood moisture meter to ensure that the MC is stable. Wood manufacturers kiln-dry "green" lumber in order to reach its EMC. Savvy contractors allow newly-delivered wood bundles to equalize to its environment so that any new changes in MC do not jeopardize subsequent wood installations. Building inspectors harness wood moisture meter technology to assess the MC in wood and other buildings materials. Wood flooring owners now utilize wood moisture meter products to maintain a healthy MC in their flooring as the seasons change.

By understanding the effects of MC on wood dimensions, combined with the ability of continually measuring the wood with a quality moisture meter avid hobbyists can also ensure that their wood projects stay on track.

The era of widespread wood moisture meter application has begun: air, water and wood- in harmony. Finally!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unsung Woodworking Heroes

Older Man Working in His Wood Shop

Sometimes we must pause to recognize the unsung woodworking heroes. We need to always recognize their quiet art, appreciate the beauty of their work and dedication, and embrace it as our own.

This image speaks for itself. This is my "shout out" to the unsung woodworking heroes. Many of them are the reason the craft survives. The reason its stood the test of time and has paved the paths for us more "modern" woodworkers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cabinets and Woodworking

Who would've thought that cabinets were fantastic for studying the art of woodworking. Cabinetry is beautiful and detailed and requires quite the craftsmanship. I took the liberty of finding a few of these craftsmen and exhibit them here.

When deciding to build cabinets there are techniques, skill sets, experience  and overall common sense necessary to be successful. The most fascinating thing I discovered was that moisture content affects whether the cabinet will splinter, crack, or shrink as it ages after installation. So there is a lot to consider when looking into cabinets.

One shouldn't just observe the finished product and the way it looks but also the way in which its made and the procedures used during that process.

Eudy's Cabinet Manufacturing has been around since 1963! They create beautiful works of functional art...the best kind of art in my opinion! 

Custom Eudy's Kitchen Cabinets

Custom Eudy's Bathroom Cabinets

Custom Eudy's Living Room Cabinets

Andrew Pitts was a finalist fours years running at the NICHE Awards. The competition recognizes outstanding craft artist whom produce work for galleries and retail stores. He has a great step by step on YouTube on measuring moisture content or EMC. Naturally it's featured here!!! 

Here is some of his work as well! :-) Once again impressive and exquisite functional art!!!

Andrew Pitts Casework

Andrew Pitts Stands

Sometimes understanding what we do and why we do it helps one see the end vision. I stumbled upon a great sort of Q&A session here on the web. You may find the original question and source here.  

Cabinet design requires an imagination, a heart of understanding, and an appreciation of our human character train of wanting to be unique in our choices. No two kitchens are the same thanks to cabinets makers like Allen David. Allen David Cabinetry is one of those cabinet makers that sees the potential in every space and taps into it successfully.  

Allen David Cabinetry Kitchen

Allen David Cabinetry Kitchen

Allen David Cabinetry Kitchen

Friday, December 14, 2012

Monitoring Moisture Content

Knowing the moisture content in wood during any project can be crucial to its success. From the mill floor to the final installation, wood’s moisture levels do not stay in a static state until they are sealed.  The same porous cellular arrangement that gives wood its ability to demonstrate beautiful grain patterns when stained also means that ambient humidity, limited airflow, surface moisture or sudden temperature changes can all contribute to changes in the wood’s moisture content. So to use any wood without having an accurate picture of the moisture levels is to gamble on the end result.

Wood Floor Needing Repair
For large lumber interests, this moisture level is crucial. A mill’s drying process has a target moisture range that is necessary in grading the finished lumber and an overdry or overwet charge means losses of real business dollars. For the contractor, dimensional lumber or wood flooring that has a high moisture content can buckle, crack, cup or splay after installation. If a finish, such as a carpet, is applied over a wood base with a high moisture content, mold can also become an issue.

In the professional or hobbyists’ shop, too, wood moisture issues can also lead to frustrating, costly and time-consuming challenges.  Swelling, gaps at joins and cornices, cracks, warping and even finish failures can all be traced back to moisture-related problems.

Fortunately, measuring the moisture content in wood doesn’t have to be a gamble.
From the hobbyist to the professional, from small interests to sawmill operations, a variety of wood moisture meters can make moisture content easier to monitor and to maintain. 

While in-line systems are efficient for large lumber operations, most wood moisture meters are portable handheld meters which typically fall into two types:

“Pin” meters take their readings by penetrating the wood with two or more sharp probes that pass a small current between them.  The moisture measurement is determined by the wood’s resistance to the current. Obviously, this process leaves small holes in the wood so it is not always the best technology choice for finish contractors or woodworkers.

“Pinless”meters use electromagnetic signals to measure the moisture content. Some brands are susceptible to surface moisture although technological advances mean some are able to determine an accurate depth reading even in the presence of surface moisture.

Finding the right moisture meter can give any wood worker better odds at hitting the sweet spot for their wood project. And those are odds you can bet on.