November 2007


President's corner

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President's Corner

Most of us who work with wood would like to think of ourselves as craftsmen or as artists. Although most of us strive to produce something useful out of wood, we also place a very high value on producing a piece of furniture that is as pleasing to the eye as it is functional. We also strive to produce furniture that will some day, we hope, will become an heirloom. To achieve that goal we need to produce furniture that has good esthetics but is built in a way that will allow it to withstand all the forces that it will be exposed to.

Unlike working with manmade materials which can move in a predicted and measured way, wood movement is complex. Factors such as species of the wood and the climate the furniture will be housed are important factors that need to be considered if the furniture that we make will last. Electronic moisture meters can help us determine if the wood has moisture content that is reasonable for us to begin the matching process. Furniture that we ship back east has to be designed for extremes of wood movement. In the winter when the outside temperature drops, the humidity inside the heated house may drop very low. The cold outside air contains very low moisture content. Few east coast houses contain humidifiers and over the course of a winter the moisture content in wooden furniture decreases causing significant wood shrinkage. In summer hot moisture laden air results in absorption of a lot of water causing wood to swell significantly.

Many pieces of furniture that function well in the Bay Area climate would fall apart in a typical home in the Northeast. Furniture designed to survive the extremes of humidity in the east coast will do well in our climate. Most of us assume that when we design furniture for our family and friends that live near us that it will never be exposed to the extremes of climate that exist in many other places in our country. However, today many people suddenly find themselves relocating across the country when a corporation relocates or consolidates its workforce. Designing furniture that contains woodworking joints that will work in these climates may be worth the small investment in additional time. With quality hardwoods becoming more difficult to find as more species become endangered, quality furniture that we design may well become a treasured heirloom for those people lucky enough to receive them.

Bill Henzel