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Entries in wood (15)

Friday
May062011

material world: eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a diverse type of flowering tree within the myrtle family. There are over 700 species, most of which are native to Australia, and only about 9 can’t be found there.

Eucalyptus are favored as a fast-growing sustainable resource, similar to bamboo, and all of the tree—it’s wood, leaves, flowers—are broadly used.photo by: Umesh Behari Mathur

First, the flower blossoms provide nectar for insects, birds, bats, etc. and essential oils from its leaves contain natural disinfectants so it’s used in cleaning products, deodorants, toothpaste, decongestants and cough/cold medicines.

Its also a key food source for some koala and possum who are tolerant of those chemicals which can be toxic in large doses.photo by: puuikibeach

On both a positive and negative note, eucalyptus trees require lots of water.

In swamp-like areas, planting them can reduce soil erosion and malaria bearing mosquitoes—ironic considering its inherent insect repellent properties—but in normal to dry or non-indigenous areas, they can prohibit other plants and native plants from thriving.

Such is the case in California where eucalyptus trees were introduced in the mid 1800s with the hopes that their fast growth would offer a vast supply of railroad ties as miles of new tracks were laid during the Gold Rush.

Unfortunately, wood from younger trees warped dramatically and wood from older trees was so dense that nails couldn’t easily secure them in place—both characteristics sealed its fate.

Although its favored as a windbreak and for curbing erosion, it’s disliked for its role in feeding forest fires (read on) and regenerating from mere trunks, so currently measures are being taken to reduce its population there.

Types of eucalyptus plants and trees have been carbon dated to tens of millions of years ago—around the time charcoal deposits have been dated as well—which is interesting since they share a common trait.

As a living plant, and at high temperatures, eucalyptus oil can be emitted as a vapor—which creates the characteristic blue haze of Australia’s landscape, shown above—but it can also be highly flammable, like charcoal.

But the wood becomes more dense—and therefore stronger, much like teak—so it’s also prized for its durability outdoors while those same natural oils help protect it from the elements.

Like most woods, eucalyptus weathers to a soft silvery grey but tung oil can be applied periodically to help preserve its original patina.

Wednesday
Sep292010

one of a finds: chop chop table

Using wood that’s harvested within the Chicago metro area—due to the effects of nature such as age, wind or storm damage—chop chop not only reduces the demand on our nation’s forests, they’re fabricated locally thereby minimizing the carbon footprint between the source, mill and production.

Designer Paul Pettigrew, Studio Associate Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture, pursued this project in response to a surplus of felled ash trees in our urban forests.

Collaborating with Horigan Urban Forest Products, each piece is stripped of its bark and squared into rectangular logs. Then they’re kiln-dried, sanded, oiled, and protective feet are added.

The natural variations in grain, dimension and color of trees that define the urban forest mean each table is unique. Kiln-dried to reduce moisture content, wood checks (ie. splits or cracks) may appear as the wood acclimates to its environment—expands and/or contracts—but they enhance each table’s special character without affecting its structural integrity.

Congratulations to Horigan Products’ co-founders Erika and Bruce Horigan, who’ve been recognized by the Illinois Arborist Association for advancing the cause of wood recycling and by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Waste Management and Research Center for significant achievements in protecting the environment.

harvesting a damaged treecut logs ready for milling
raw tables drying in a kiln

Thursday
Jun032010

watch: split logs

Piles of split logs in these racks and fire pits create one-of-a-kind sculptures highlighting the natural beauty of raw wood.  Repetition is key, not to mention the variety of color and texture of the different species.

All the reasons we love the darjeeling table which is made from reclaimed railroad ties. Each section has its own individual beauty which enhances the whole and makes it truly unique.

Wednesday
Jun022010

watch: wood

We’re always amazed when a trend hits all categories at the same time: home, fashion, movies… when was the last time you saw so many clogs?

Natural, chunky wood has been a refreshing change from dark wenge finishes we’ve seen these past few years. It’s a surefire way to bring nature indoors—to help us reconnect as we admire the beauty of each unique piece.

Obviously they aren’t created overnight so if we could ask for your patience, we hope you’ll be as excited as we are to introduce a one-of-a-find this July which was inspired by these stunning examples.

Wednesday
Aug052009

one of a finds: jain monk bowls

This exquisitely refined set of jain monk bowls is handmade in Rajasthan, India by the Kharadi muslims for use by the Shwetamber sect of Jain monks. The white-robed Jain monks take five ethical vows—this includes renouncing all wordly possessions, including their name—owning only these nine alms bowls presented to them by their followers. In a journey of humility, the monks travel on foot with only their nesting bowls, going door to door, village to village, seeking followers who fill them with food.

Now an almost extinct woodworking art practiced by only 30 families in the region, the begging bowls or “bhiksha patra” are lathed from local rohida wood, prized for its dense grain and strength. No wood is wasted, with each of the nine bowls scooped from the heart of the bowl before it.

Artisans apprentice for years to make these bowls by first making simple coasters and progressively improving their skill level once each has been mastered. In addition to the difficulty of carving a smaller bowl from the heart of a larger bowl, the walls are only 1/16-inch thin which further tests their skills.

As a continuation of their vow to renounce worldly possessions, when the bowls are no longer of use they are broken into pieces, buried and returned to the earth.

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