Wood Cars

Young boys years ago made wooden cars and raced them in the pinewood derby. I recall mine was held in the basement of my home church. My car was fast but not fast enough to win. I never imagined that wood would someday be used to make or fuel cars.

Now, the use of wood in cars has gone one step further. Japanese researchers and auto component makers are working on a material made from wood to help in the assembly of cars. The material weighs just one fifth of steel and can be five times stronger. The material is cellulose nanofibers and could become a viable alternative to steel in the decades ahead, they say, although it faces competition from carbon-based materials, and remains a long way from being commercially viable.

However, in recent years as gas prices increased there was a resurgence of interest in bio-based fuels for automobiles, diesel engines, and jet engines. One of the fuel sources that has been widely explored is wood.

Reducing the weight of a vehicle will be critical as manufacturers move to bring electric cars into the mainstream. Batteries are an expensive but vital component, so a reduction in car weight will mean fewer batteries will be needed to power the vehicle, saving on costs.

Researchers at Kyoto University and major parts suppliers such as Denso Corp, Toyota’s biggest supplier, and DaikyoNishikawa Corp, are working with plastics incorporated with cellulose nanofibers – made by breaking down wood pulp fibers into several hundredths of a micron (one thousandth of a millimeter).

Cellulose nanofibers have been used in a variety of products ranging from ink to transparent displays, but their potential use in cars has been enabled by the “Kyoto Process”, under which chemically treated wood fibers are kneaded into plastics while simultaneously being broken down into nanofibers, slashing the cost of production to roughly one-fifth that of other processes.

 

“This is the lowest-cost, highest-performance application for cellulose nanofibers, and that’s why we’re focusing on its use in auto and aircraft parts,” Kyoto University Professor Hiroaki Yano, who is leading the research, told Reuters in an interview.

“We’ve been using plastics as a replacement for steel, and we’re hoping that cellulose nanofibers will widen the possibilities toward that goal,” said Yukihiko Ishino, a spokesman at DaikyoNishikawa, which counts Toyota Motor Corp and Mazda Motor Corp among its customers.

Automakers are also using other lightweight substitutes. BMW uses carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) for its i3 compact electric car as well as for its 7 series, while high-tensile steel and aluminum alloys are currently the most widely used lightweight options because they are cheaper and recyclable.

Yano said he was inspired in his research by a photo of the “Spruce Goose”, a cargo plane made almost entirely of wood in 1947 by U.S. billionaire entrepreneur Howard Hughes. At the time, it was the world’s largest aircraft.

“I thought that if Howard Hughes could find a way to use wood to build a massive plane, why not use wood to make a material that was as strong as steel,” he said.

Analysts say high-tensile steel and aluminum will be the more popular alternative for many years to come, considering parts makers would need to overhaul production lines and figure out ways to fasten new materials like cellulose nanofiber onto other car parts.

Anthony Vicari, an applied materials analyst at Lux Research in Boston, said it “would be a big deal” though if Yano’s projections prove to be correct. But for now, it remains “a very big ‘if’”, he said.

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Matching New Stain to Old Wood

As seen on woodmagazine.com

My house was one of thousands that flooded in 2016 in the Baton Rouge, La area.  I did not have time to elevate any antique furniture, family heirlooms, etc before leaving the house.  So, upon return all of my furniture had a water line about 14 inches up from the floor.  Most of my neighbors panicked and throughout anything, including priceless antique furniture and family heirlooms, that had come in contact with the water. 

Now, a few points.  If your furniture contained any type of composite panel, particularly particleborad, fiberboard, or hardboard, it swelled and needed to go.  I had a round dining room table that was made from solid red oak.  It was nothing fancy but was unique in that it was hand made by Amish men in Pennsylvania.  I did not want to strip and refinish the entire piece.  So, I began looking at options on how to restain the bottom 14 inches to match the rest of the table.  Ditto for the chairs. 

I waited for the wood to dry back down to 6-8% moisture content, then I removed the exisiting stain on the bottom 14 inches.  I sanded it down by hand and eventually finished with steel wool. 

Matching paint is a simple process but stain is not so easy.  Go to your local hardware/paint store and get a stain wheel also known as a finisher’s color wheel.  It is a round shaped wheel that spin to try to locate the best visual match to your exisiting stain.  The wheel represents common pigments such as umber, cordovan, sienna, and ochre.  These are nothing but elaborate names for common stain colors –brown, red, orange, and yellow. These colors are printed on the rim of the inner wheel, and again on the outer wheel. When you line up different pairings on the rims, small windows in the inner wheel show how the mix creates a third color.

Line up cordovan on the outer wheel with raw umber on the inner wheel, and you’ll see in the window approximately how they mix.

Look for a close match

The windows might reveal several blends that come close to your target but rarely are perfect. If one looks too light and the other too dark, choose the lighter, because stain, like paint, is easier to darken than lighten. Now, decide which off-the-shelf stains come closest to the two stains that you selected from the wheel. Note that the grain or color of your wood may affect the results.  Some manufacturers sell inexpensive stain samples the size of ketchup packets perfect for experimenting.  Now, that you have two samples you need to mix the two together at different ratios to find the right combination.  A few tips:  Do your testing on the same wood as your project.  If not possible, then get a piece that is as similar as possible in species and sanded to the same grit.  Stir your stains well because pigments tend to settle in the bottom of the cans.  Do not make a decision on match until the test sample has dried.  Apply a topcoat to your test board.  The choice of finish will affect your results. For example, even crystal-clear finishes will alter the stain’s final color.

Darker stain

The first option to darken the color of the stain is to add another coat of stain after the first has dried. Stain is different from paint because the binders that help stain adhere to wood form a mild seal coat, which limits the absorption of excess stain. Another option is to wait to wipe off the excess stain. The time delay darkens the color because more of the stain’s solvent evaporates, increasing the ratio of colorant to liquid.  Many people incorrectly think that with increasing time the stain will penetrate the wood deeper and thus darker the color.  Without pressure, as with pressure treated wood, the penetration will be minimal.  A few words of caution.  Stain is meant to enhance the natural grain.  A heavy layer of pigment can obscure the wood grain.   

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Wood Staining – Lessons Learned

Slow Down and Do It Right

I love to stain wood.  It is relaxing and rewarding to see the finished product, especially when it comes out nice.  I have blogged before about the importance of patience when doing any wood working project, especially staining.  I recently purchased some beautiful 1x12x8 white pine lumber to use for bookshelves in my home office.  I bought Minwax Polyshade Classic Oak stain and went to work to apply two coats on both faces and the edges.  I don’t stain the ends because they will not be visible.  I stain both faces so I can then decide later which side looks best and install it with the best face turned upwards.

I set up a “work station” in my backyard using trash cans as work benches.  As usual, I was in a hurry with so many other things to do.  So, I made many mistakes that I would like to share with you and myself! 

Mistakes – The Ones That I Can Remember

I did a poor job of preparing the surface.  I did not rub the board faces with fine grit sand paper or steel wool before the initial stain application and I did not wipe the faces clean with mineral spirits before the first coat or between coats.

I set up a lousy work station.  I used old trash cans as work benches in my back yard.  This is fine but the problem is that my backyard is partially shaded so the stain dried unevenly.  Also, the boards were left to dry overnight and a heavy dew the next morning was not helpful.

I applied the stain too quickly and drips and runs formed on the edges, which I was too busy to notice.  The runs have now hardened and can be removed with a finger nail but the resulting stain will be uneven.

I let the boards become bone dry and then dead stacked them in my carport.  I hope that the high temperatures and humidity do not cause the boards to stick.

Take Away

So, I guess the question is what I have learned?  Well, to be honest the answer is nothing.  I already knew the dangers of doing a rush job on any wood working project.  However, I was more in a rush to get it done fast rather than to get it done right.  The faces will be covered with books, and I can retouch up the visible edge as needed, and as time permits, once the shelves are installed.  So, I will soon install the shelves and use them as a teaching lesson to myself and visitors.   I have previously refinished sentimental pieces of furniture that were handed down to me by my parents.  These pieces were done slow and steady and came out beautiful.  So, I guess I have proved that I know how to stain wood correctly and incorrectly!

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Are Wood Preservatives Safe?

Public interest in wood preservatives

I have worked on wood preservation R&D for over 25 years and one of the more frequent questions I have received from the public regards the safety of wood preservatives.  The public is interested in two-fold safety:  (1) Is this product safe for myself and my family? and (2) Is this product safe for the environment?   The EPA has always been concerned with wood preservative safety and all preservatives that make a claim regarding wood decay must carry an EPA label.  The labeling process is lengthy, expensive, and includes a wide array of testing to determine if the preservative is toxic to vertebrates, marine organisms, and the environment.  

The initial concern was focused on chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood.  In 1998 the Florida Center for Solid & Hazardous Waste Management (FCSHWM) sponsored CCA research at the University of Florida and the University of Miami.  The following year arsenic was discovered in the soil at a Gainesville, Florida area elementary school playground.  This discovery led to several newspaper articles throughout Florida and eventually in the USA Today.

CCA phase out for residential use

In 2001, the treated wood industry agreed to new voluntary warning labels on CCA treated wood.  The environmental group Beyond Pesticides, Communication Workers of America, BANCCA.ORG and others joined together to sue the EPA to ban all forms of toxic treated wood, including creosote, pentachlorophenol and CCA treated wood in 2002.  Their efforts were unsuccessful.  The controversy came to a head when the EPA announced the finalization of the voluntary ban on residential uses of CCA, to take effect on December 31, 2003.  It should be noted that the EPA did not require or suggest that any existing structures, including children’s playground equipment, should be removed from service.  CCA continues to be used for non-residential uses such as poles, pilings, and posts.

My experience has shown me that CCA is a cost-effective effective preservative with excellent efficacy against most organisms with the exception of mold fungi, which do not impact the structural integrity of a wood member.   The metals in CCA treated wood are generally resistant to leaching when the wood is placed in service. The leach-resistance of CCA is a result of the chemical “fixation” reactions that occur to render the toxic ingredients insoluble in water. The fixation of CCA is a complex process, but the essence of CCA fixation is the reduction of chromium from the hexavalent to the trivalent state, and the subsequent precipitation or adsorption of chromium, copper and arsenic complexes in the wood substrate. Some of the these reactions, such as the adsorption of copper and chromium onto wood components, occur within minutes or hours, while others are completed during the ensuing days or weeks. The length of time needed for fixation is greatly dependent on temperature, and the reactions may proceed slowly when the treated wood is stored out-doors in cool weather.   So, yes CCA is safe for people and the environment and is a much better environmental choice than steel or concrete. 

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Wood Is Good Medicine

Non-Traditional Medicine

However, my curiosity was really peaked after reading a study “Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments” by Sally Augustin and David Fell which was published in 2015.  The goal of the report was to attempt to draw a link between the use of wood in the built environment and positive health outcomes.   The researchers reported that “early evidence suggests that the human relationship with wood is similar to previously investigated responses of 

I have been fascinated by the recent non-traditional means to improve patient recovery.  Over the years I have read about the benefits of natural sunlight, plants, water elements, rooms with a view of nature, and even the color of the room and design of the bed.  As an animal lover, I have been intrigued by the “pet” therapy in which cats and small dogs are brought to patients to hold and pet. 

humans to other natural materials.  Wood is believed to be a biophilic material that reduces stress reactive when present.  The biophilia hypothesis also called BET suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.”

Wood for Healing

The Augustin and Fell report reports that “the mind and body are looking for a connection with nature when it is absent the type of nature and the type of building are secondary.  Wood is a natural building and finishing material and therein is the fit with using it more in healthcare settings.”  The goal of any natural material in a health care setting is to reduce stress.  I think people associate wood paneling and flooring with a natural, warm environment and feel better connected to nature.  In our modern society there is something intrinsically attractive about simple inherent natural beauty.  This could be found in natural sunlight, puppies, and even wood. 

Europe for candles and soap.  It is also used as a salve and taken internal as a remedy for gum ailments.  If I end up in a hospital room, please get me a room with a view of a park, knotty pine flooring, and a cute puppy to pet!   We all know that wood is good.  Now, we now that is also good medicine.

You may be familiar with some of the traditional medicines that have come from wood.  For example, one of the major uses for Brazilian sassafras oil is the synthesis of the perfumery material heliotropin.  A potential but unrealized market for heliotropin is in the synthesis of dopa, a pharmaceutical used for the treatment of degenerative diseases in Latin America.  Cinchona alkaloids from the bark of Cinchona sp. Produce quinine for malaria and quinidine for the treatment of heart arrhythmia in Latin America.  In Southeast Asia, about twenty different species of the genus Shorea carry the illipe nut, whose oil is used in  

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

End Cracking of Round Posts

1. My mailbox from the road.
2. The top of my mailbox post

My Mailbox

My mailbox has been hit by passing cars several times in the past few years.  The last one was a good one so it was time to get a new mailbox.  The new post is pressure treated for ground contact with ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) and was set in concrete to be sturdier.  I was concerned about having a flat exposed surface so I cut it so that water cannot sit on the top surface of the post.  I did not field treat the post because there was complete penetration of the preservative so I felt that field treatment was not necessary.  I did not determine the moisture content of the post at the time of instillation, but it was dry to the touch, and I proceeded with the assumption that the post had been kiln dried to approximately 19% moisture content.  After about one year of service, the exposed end of the post is severely cracked. 

Wood Shrinkage

An annual application of a water repellent would have helped but this situation was probably inevitable for two reasons.  The first reason is due to anisotropic shrinkage.  This is a fancy way of saying wood shrinks, and swells, at different amounts depending on the grain direction.   For example, in a flat sawn board, the thickness is the radial direction and the width is the tangential direction.  The opposite is true in a quarter sawn board.  The tangential shrinkage is typically twice that of the radial shrinkage.  This is the reason you often see cracks on the end of a log that resemble spokes in a bicycle wheel.  As the wood is drying, internal stresses develop and a crack develops when the stress is greater than the inherent strength of the wood.   My mailbox post has been exposed to several cycles of hot and cold, wet and dry which leads to swelling and shrinkage.  This repeated cycle inevitably will cause checking, particularly in round stock (posts and poles). 

Polyethylene Glycol

In my opinion, the most effective solution and mostly widely used is to use a wood stabilized such as polyethylene glycol (PEG).   The PEG solution penetrates the wood and keeps the wood at the same moisture content and stops the cyclical shrinkage and swelling cycle that causes cracks.  It works by “bulking” the cell wall.   This prevents the cell wall from gaining or losing water molecules.  If we can control the gain and release of water molecules in the cell wall, we can control the dimensional stability (i.e., shrinkage and swelling) of any wood member.   PEG is expensive and the resulting wood surface may not accept the finish of your choice. It also takes extra time to apply and may require additional equipment to make it work correctly.  However, PEG is very safe to use and is non-toxic to humans and the environment.  It has a long history of use by wood workers that need to stabilize wood for making items such as duck calls, wooden eggs, bowls, etc.

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Maintaining Your Wood Cutting Board and Knives

Wooden cutting boards and knives are my most used kitchen tools.  Obviously, as for myself, we use all-natural wood and not polypropylene or polyethylene (plastics) cutting boards.  I don’t buy organic food but I try to avoid products produced from natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing, and feedstocks derived from crude oil refining (i.e., plastics).

Wood or Plastic?

Wood because it’s the best choice for maintaining a knife edge and wood cutting boards and knives simply look nice.   Most chefs will tell you that they find most plastic boards quite ugly, especially over time as they stain and get roughed up. Eventually plastic boards need to be discarded, whereas I’ve had some of my wooden cutting boards for over 30 years.  Wood cutting boards and knives need about 5 minutes of love each month.  There are many options for maintaining your wooden kitchen items, but I use a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax.

Process

Wooden cutting boards need to be kept clean and the best maintenance is washing with hot soapy water after using.  Do not clean wooden kitchen items in your dishwasher.  This will dry them out and cause cracking.  Initially, the cracking may not be visible to the naked eye but rest assured it is there.  You should never soak your boards or knives in water.  You run the risk of cracking because the moisture content of the wood is increasing quickly while uner water and then decreasing quickly as it is removed.  To sterilize your wooden kitchen items, you can use a very diluted bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide to clean their boards after they’ve been used for cutting raw meat as a precaution against bacterial contamination.  

You should oil wood cutting boards and spoons to help maintain their surface and keep them from cracking. I try to do this monthly.   You may need to do it more or less often.  You have many choices to use for oil.  Whatever oil you use must be food grade and not prone to rancidity.  Mineral oil is an inexpensive and popular choice, and is readily available.  The boards must be clean and dry before oiling.  The oil should be rubbed on with a clean cloth or paper towel and allowed to soak in as long as possible.   A good practice is to apply the oil in the evening after cleaning up from dinner, and then gently wipe off any excess oil on the surface the next morning.   If the wood has an unpleasant odor, apply a small amount of beeswax or lemon oil to the oil.

You should oil wood cutting boards and spoons to help maintain their surface and keep them from cracking. I try to do this monthly.   You may need to do it more or less often.  You have many choices to use for oil.  Whatever oil you use must be food grade and not prone to rancidity.  Mineral oil is an inexpensive and popular choice, and is readily available.  The boards must be clean and dry before oiling.  The oil should be rubbed on with a clean cloth or paper towel and allowed to soak in as long as possible.   A good practice is to apply the oil in the evening after cleaning up from dinner, and then gently wipe off any excess oil on the surface the next morning.   If the wood has an unpleasant odor, apply a small amount of beeswax or lemon oil to the oil.

Theory

Wood is a hygroscopic material, which is just a fancy way of saying that it will gain and lose water depending on the ambient conditions.  Wood is also an anisotropic material, which again is a fancy way of saying its properties, in this case shrinkage and swelling, are different in the different directions (width, thickness, and length).    Changes in wood moisture content between 0-30 percent will result in either shrinkage or swelling.  Changes above 30 percent will not affect the dimensional properties of wood.   Wood will swell or crack as a result of rapid changes in moisture content.  Food grade oil will coat the surface.  The purpose of the oil is to penetrate the wood and saturate the wood fibers to stop any other liquids (water, blood, etc.) from soaking into the board. A well-oiled cutting board 

or knife will keep the same shape when the wood fibers are saturated, so it will not expand and shrink and therefore will not crack or warp.

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.