When it comes to building materials, wood doesn’t always draw the most attention as the strongest in the bunch. That honor usually goes to concrete and steel – steel embedded in concrete provides support and a foundation for tall buildings, while concrete increases tensile strength and can be formed into a variety of shapes with the help of rebar. Wood, on the other hand, decays and is vulnerable to moisture damage and fire.
That’s not necessarily the case anymore, thanks to the development of advanced timber. New materials like glulam, or sheets of timber bonded with moisture-resistant structural adhesives, can be produced using two to three times less energy than steel, making them environmentally-friendly alternatives to other building materials. Granted, this requires the beams to be burned at the end of their lifespan, but glulam still has an equivalent or better environmental profile compared to steel, not to mention a lower cost.
Among engineered wood, there are some varieties more commonly used among hobbyists – MDF, plywood, or particle board for instance. Others, like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) are more common among building materials. While CLT buildings have existed for decades, recently major cities like Stockholm and Vancouver have seen a resurgence of timber construction. Since wood can theoretically store carbon for the entire length of its lifespan, up to 0.8 tons in a cubic meter of spruce, some architecture firms like Oslotre are building houses with a negative carbon footprint.
Projects like Sidewalk Labs and Masthamnen are proposing entire neighborhoods and skyscrapers built from advanced timber. Compared to International Style architecture, characterized by gray concrete, shiny metal, and glass, this movement could be a step towards returning to natural architectural forms. Given the stress reducing effects of green spaces in cities, engineered wood buildings could bridge the gap between modern architectural styles and natural woodlands.
Audacious times generate audacious efforts, especially when national pride and security are perceived to be at stake. Such was the case in the 1950s and 1960s, with the Space Race that started with a Russian sphere whizzing around the planet and ended with Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the Moon. But at the same time, other efforts were underway to answer big questions of national import, such as determining how durable the United States’ strategic assets were, and whether they could withstand the known effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy that could potentially disable a plane in flight. Finding out just what an EMP could do to a plane would take big engineering and a large forest’s worth of trees.
Continue reading “How To Test A B-52 Against EMP: Project ATLAS-I”
The title of ‘maker’ is conventionally applied to the young-adult age group. In the case of 84 year-old Ralph Affleck, a lifelong sawmiller, ‘maker’ perhaps undersells the accomplishment of building a fully functioning sawmill that can be operated by a single individual.
Starting in the trade at the age of 16 under his father’s tutelage, fifty years of working in sawmills saw him still loving what he did as retirement loomed. So, with pen, paper, and a simple school ruler he designed the entire shop from scratch. Decades of expertise working with wood allowed him to design the machines to account for warping and abnormalities in the timber resulting in incredibly accurate cuts.
With no other examples to guide his design — aside from perhaps old style steam-powered sawmills, and newer portable ones that he feels are inadequate for the job — much of the shop is built from scratch with scavenged parts. And, that list is impressive: four hydraulic cylinders from a Canberra bomber, levers from an old locomotive, differentials and gearboxes from a MAC and 1912 Republic trucks, a Leyland engine that operated for 13 years without the need for maintenance, and an assortment of old military and air force vehicle parts. This is complimented by his log skidder — also custom — that would look at home in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Built from two tractors, it combines three gearboxes for 12 forward and 8 reverse gears(what!?), and can hit 42mph in reverse!
Continue reading “Mechanized One-Man Sawmill”