Tag: Urban Wood

Penn State Developing Tech that Destroys Pests in Wood

Penn State scientists validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of radio frequency technology for pallet sanitation during a commercial trial held at University Park. Image: Penn State

A technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency energy to destroy destructive pests lurking within wood products is closer to reaching the marketplace after a commercial trial at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The Dec. 17 demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the radio frequency, or RF, technology for pallet sanitation.

The treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests compared to conventional heat practices, noted Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“This innovation has the potential to be transformative in required international trade wood-sanitation treatment,” said Gagnon, who has been instrumental in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program since its inception, encouraging entrepreneurship across the college.

“RF treatment is more efficient and uses fewer resources than conventional kilns and chemical drying methods, and that is not only better for a company’s bottom line, but it is also better for the environment.”

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, the patent-pending, wood-treatment system heats wood in a unique configuration by using electromagnetic wave penetration, similar to that of a microwave oven.

It heats wood from the inside out, first causing the core temperature to elevate rapidly, making it an ideal method to destroy pests that have burrowed within, noted Hoover.

“Invasive pests cause about $120 billion a year in damage to our valuable forests, ecosystems and agricultural crops, and they continue to be a problem due to increased world trade,” she said, pointing to the emerald ash borer and Asian long horned beetle as examples. Both pests found their way to the U.S. in untreated pallets shipped from China in the early 2000s; the emerald ash borer alone has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states.

Mark Hamelin, RF Kiln Technology, center, adjusts the power input for a dielectric heating cycle. He is shown with John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Karolina Szymona, postdoctoral researcher.
IMAGE: Penn State

Ensuring that wood used in international trade is pest-free is not just an ethical business practice, but it is a legal requirement, according to Janowiak. Wood packaging materials, including pallets, crates and chips, must be debarked, treated and inspected per international regulations. Adhering to these standards is especially crucial for the U.S. wood industry as 40 percent of its logs are processed into wooden shipping pallets.

For years, wood-products manufacturers have had two options to deal with wood-boring insects — traditional heat-treatment or fumigation. RF technology is poised to offer the industry another choice, one that the scientists say is faster and more streamlined than the use of conventional kilns and that can help decrease energy costs. In addition, the cost to treat wood using RF technology potentially is lower than current pallet heat-treatment practices, set at 5 cents for a standard 48-by-40-inch shipping pallet.

“Our technology has a huge economic potential that can provide long-term savings for companies,” said Karolina Szymona, a postdoctoral researcher on the project. “While saving money is important, to me the real value is that it saves energy, which means saving our natural resources and reducing the carbon footprint.”

RF technology also can replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide — a chemical that is being phased out — and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets while moving away from chemically-treated wood.

“There has been a real demand to develop suitable alternatives to replace methyl bromide, which is an ozone-depleting chemical,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Dielectric treatment is one of the leading alternatives to replace it.”

While the technology has undergone numerous tests and has received a stamp of approval from industry boards as well as the International Plant Protection Convention of the UN — the board that oversees wood packaging trade standards — the research team needs third-party validation and assistance with developing operational protocols to make its innovation “mill ready.”

To that end, the scientists are working on a bilateral agreement with the U.S. and Canadian lumber standard accreditation committees, both of which had representatives on-site for the trial in Penn State’s Forest Resources Laboratory.

“This is a safe, stable and proven technology,” said Chuck Dentelbeck, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board. “But introducing any new technology is like being in a marathon; you have to bring them [pallet manufacturers] to the starting line and let them decide if it makes sense for them. Once they know the benefits, I believe many will run with it.”

Sharing his enthusiasm is project collaborator Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology, of Midland, Ontario, Canada, who deemed the commercial trial a success. “This was a pretty big day, having these agencies witness how efficiently and effectively our process works,” he said. “There are challenges ahead, the biggest one will be convincing people in the industry who have been using a different technology for 50 years that we have a better mousetrap.”

The project has received state and federal appropriations, including continuous funding since 2003 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Methyl Bromide Transitions Program. It also received financial support from the college’s Research Applications for INnovation program, which provides funding for researchers who are ready to move toward commercializing their research.

More information about RF technology and project collaborators is available online at https://abe.psu.edu/research/bio-based-products/wood-packaging/about-research. Further, the USDA and industry partner Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology are part of a formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Penn State to advance RF technology.



Video: Fabled 600-Year-Old Oak Stars in Documentary

By Rich Christianson

Not many trees have a feature-length documentary made about their life. Nor do many trees have a website dedicated to them. But the massive white oak that once stood guard over the cemetery next to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was no ordinary tree. It died in 2017 at the ripe old age of 619. At the time of its demise it was the oldest known white oak in America.

I first became aware of the landmark tree from a March 12 article clipped from the Star Ledger newspaper, a souvenir from my wife’s trip to Basking Ridge, NJ, to visit her sister. The headline immediately caught my urban wood eye: “Everyone wants a piece of the oak.” 

The lead sentence put an exclamation point on my interest, “Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church officials will wait to see the quality of wood remaining from the iconic 600-year-old white oak tree that will be cut down during the week of April 24 before deciding how to preserve portions of the tree for its historic significance, said John Kippel, a member of the church’s planning council.”

The article further noted that a number of local artists, woodworkers, schools and other groups interested in getting pieces of the tree.

Milling the tree, however, would be anything but easy because of the extraordinary efforts that were taken to save the it from literally rotting to death in 1924.

According to information compiled by Forged In Wood, at the time the tree was 93 feet tall, with a 126-foot spread and 23-foot-diameter trunk. Tons of concrete were painstakingly poured into 72 cavities, 165 feet of threaded rod  was installed to brace the tree and concrete and 1,150 feet of steel cable were anchored to support the weight of the tree’s branches. The total price of this unique tree surgery performed under the auspices of Davey Tree Company was $2,393.08.

Having recently unearthed the article from in my files, I  searched the web to see what became of the tree and its wood. Plenty as it turns out, including:

-^- Frank Pollaro of Pollaro Custom Furniture reportedly went through 120 blades, including three diamond blades, ti create boards from the tree, some of which he used to make communion tables for the church. Pollaro and other researchers used a magnifying lens to count the tree’s rings. They arrived at an estimated birth year of 1398 – 319 years before the original Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was built.

^-^ A 5-foot tall, 8,400-pound chunk from the trunk was donated as a memorial to Rose Farms of Basking Ridge for public viewing.

-^- Last year, singer-songwriter Alan Grant performed at the site of the removed tree playing an electric guitar made from the legendary oak. More than 30 people who fought in the revolutionary war are buried there. 

Example of “merch” made from the legendary Basking Ridge white oak.

^-^ A variety of wood gifts and novelties including serving boards, blocks of decorative wood, pens, ornaments, candle centerpieces and pendant necklaces.

-^- Forgedinwood.net is a website that memorialized the tree’s long history and bonds with the community.

^-^ “Under the Great Oak,” is a feature-length documentary produced by local screenwriter Michael Reynolds. 

-^- A 16-year-old oak that grew from an acorn of the landmark oak tree at Union County College has been transplanted to where its famous “father” once stood.

Stay tuned for my 2620 update!



Urban Lumber Business Strategies Theme of May 13 UWN Webinar

The Urban Wood Network (UWN) will present part three of its Future Visioning webinar series on May 13 with “Urban Lumber Business.”  UWN invites municipalities, arborists, sawyers, woodworkers, advocates and all others interested in advancing the urban wood movement to participate in this 75-minute webinar.

The Urban Lumber Business webinar will highlight proven strategies for scaling up and marketing an urban wood business. It will include how to use the new urban wood industry standard and chain-of-custody certification to simplify a business’s processes. The presentation will also walk participants through some of the bottlenecks that exist in urban lumber processes and how to overcome them.

This webinar has been approved for 1.25 CEUs through ISA: BCMA Management, Certified Arborist, and Municipal Specialist.

UWN Future Visioning Webinar Schedule
March 11: The Urban Wood Network: Future Visioning
WATCH ON DEMAND

April 8: Urban Lumber Standards
AVAILABLE ON DEMAND SOON

May 13: Urban Lumber Business

June 10: What to Do with the Rest of the Tree(s)

July 8: Forming a State Organization: Nebraska Urban Wood
REGISTER NOW FOR ANY OR ALL WEBINARS



At-risk Youth Learn About Urban Wood

Editor’s note: The following article was written by Lekas & Levine Public Relations.

That buzzing sound recently heard throughout Allendale’s Lake Villa campus was the sound of transformation at work.

Literally, it was a large hydraulic sawmill cutting fallen trees into slabs, the first step to turning those dying white oaks into timeless handcrafted furniture.

In a deeper sense, it echoed Allendale Association’s mission of helping youth who have experienced various forms of trauma and adversity find their strength and capacity, transforming over time into healthy, independent adults.

The new, repurposed wood program is a collaboration between Allendale — a not-for-profit facility for kids with serious emotional, mental and behavioral challenges — and Jeff Clark, owner of Old School Timber Works Company in Libertyville. Clark is passionate about repurposing Illinois’ urban hardwood, as well as teaching life skills to at-risk youth.

Woodworking has long been a part of Allendale’s Career and Technical Education Program, which helps students develop vocational skills. Its wood shop instructor, Rob Serdar, a third-generation carpenter, was seeking ways to develop the program when the opportunity arose.

“Our hope is to expand our students’ imaginations and capabilities,” Serdar said, “while providing locally-sourced, high-quality wood pieces that will bring exposure to Allendale and give students a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In addition, Clark — whose company provides on-site milling services, sells repurposed lumber and creates custom wood pieces — believes students will benefit from a better understanding of responsibly sourcing their lumber.

The process is known as Tree to Table; i.e., repurposing fallen lumber into furniture and goods rather than dumping and chipping it.

“Over a billion board feet of quality urban hardwood is wasted every year in the U.S.,” Clark said.

“These kids were part of a sustainable process in which they created beautiful, white oak lumber, saving and repurposing a worthy asset. Maybe that’s a life lesson that goes beyond milling lumber.”

One day in December, Clark brought his sawmill to Allendale’s 120-acre, wooded campus. He cut several downed white oaks into slabs, while the wood shop students cleaned, transported and stacked the slabs in preparation for the next step: curing them in Allendale’s new kiln.

The kiln, a large space filled with fans and dehumidifiers that dry out the wood, was funded through a grant provided by the Grace Bersted Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee. The grant also provided for initial supplies needed to get the program running.

Days after the event, students were still talking about it and itching to get their hands on the wood. Since then, they’ve used it to make several pieces of furniture and decorative home signs. Clark is slated to share tips and techniques in upcoming classes.

As the students’ skills advance, Serdar said, they’ll start building more elaborate tables, shelving and benches, as well as cutting boards, Charcuturie platters and decorative wood signs.

Some of the benches will be placed around campus and donated to the village of Lake Villa. In addition, creations will be sold at Allendale’s community craft and floral sales, perhaps as early as spring.

The proceeds will not only fund the purchase of ongoing supplies, but benefit the students’ vocational stipends. Meanwhile, as salvaged wood products become increasingly popular, the kids are gaining the skills to secure a place in this growing field, along with an appreciation for the environment and a lifelong passion that will serve them well.



Oh No! Coronavirus!

The unsettling uncertainty gripping the world, alternatively known as the coronavirus pandemic or COVID-19 crisis, has paused life as we know it.

On a personal level, my wife and I have – sadly – gotten use to taking “no” for an answer, as plans we eagerly looked forward to have been cancelled or at the very least postponed indefinitely. Just a short list:

  • No commencement for our daughter finishing her senior year at the University of Illinois.
  • No annual progressive dinner party with neighbors.
  • No birthday celebrations with family, In fact, no family get-togethers at all as we collectively practice social distancing to stall the spread of COVID-19.
  • Rescheduling of our oldest daughter’s wedding from June 27 of this year to July 10 of next.
One “no” that we were happy to accept was when our middle daughter tested negative for COVID-19.

I know that each of you reading this post can rattle off a personal list of inconveniences created by the crisis, including possibly graver life and death matters. (I hope not.)

Just as major sporting events like March Madness and Major League Baseball have been cancelled or delayed, so have events tied to urban forestry, including, for example, Wisconsin Urban Wood’s March 25 membership meeting, the April 4 volunteer tree planting in Atlanta and April 30 Vermont Arbor Day Conference. 

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I don’t know when, but I know we will get through this and be stronger for it. The optimist in me says I will keep my date to walk my daughter down the aisle. It’s with that same resolve of moving forward that I am working with the Urban Wood Network to organize the third urban wood seminar on August 26 at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. 

As I hunker down with my family to ride out the COVID-19 chaos, I see that the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. Better days lie ahead.

Stay safe! Stay strong!
Rich Christianson

 



CHICAGO FURNITURE MAKER DIGS THE VIBE OF URBAN WOOD


Brian Keith Ellison’s passion for design steered him away from a career in real estate development and toward launching BKE Designs to manufacture one-of-a-kind furniture pieces. Many of the pieces he fabricates at his Chicago studio incorporate urban wood reclaimed from greater Chicagoland’s urban forests.

Ellison said he has been using urban wood in some of his projects for about 10 years. Two recent examples of custom furniture BKE Designs designed and fabricated with urban wood are shown here. In each case the wood was milled by Horigan Urban Forest Proctus of Skokie, IL.

The first is a conference table for which Ellison book matched a pair of 11-foot by 24-inch live-edge white oak planks. 

The second is a custom console/entertainment unit which Ellison said was fabricated using an approximately 5-foot black walnut live-edge piece.

Ellison explained why he chose to use urban wod for each of the pieces created for separate clients. “The aesthetic goal of the designs made this material most appropriate.”

Ellison, who holds a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois-Chicago, honed his woodworking skills in high school. After 15 years in the real estate development industry, Ellison made a dramatic life changing move to Amsterdam to focus on woodworking and design full time. There he collaborated with the late Dutch designer Faas van Dijk for two years.

In addition to running BKE Designs, Ellison creates public art and volunteers his time to conduct woodworking workshops including for local youth and the Safer Foundation, a non-profit provider of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records.

for Learn more about BKE Designs.



Chicago Plans to Inventory Urban Forest Canopy in 2020

Photo: Morton Arboretum

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation plans to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the city’s urban forest canopy next year.

While the stated objective of the audit is to help create a more effective tree trimming schedule, information gathered should also be of great interest to arborists and tree care professionals, as well as businesses dedicated to urban wood utilization.

In a Sept. 27 letter to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, John Tully, DOS commissioner, writes, “To continue to improve tree trimming operations, in the upcoming 2020 budget year, the Bureau of Forestry will work to develop a comprehensive tree inventory of the entire City canopy, which currently does not exist. This will provide valuable information regarding the number and location of trees as well as size and species. It will also provide information about electric wire interference within the canopy helping to inform the daily scheduling process for tree trimming and removals as well as the Department’s response to weather-related events.”

In an Oct. 30 press release, Ferguson called the tree canopy inventory a “step in the direction.” He added, however, “But (this) is only a starting point for an urgently needed generational re-assessment of the management of the City’s dwindling urban forest whose canopy is substantially smaller than many cities nationally. We strongly encourage DSS to re-evaluate the Monitor Group report the City invested in a decade ago, and work towards seriously implementing the recommendations for a grid-based approach to tree trimming. The benefits of more horticulturally precise and cost-effective tree trimming are substantial for the City and its potential for cost savings, optimized use of taxpayer-funded resources, and preventable liabilities. A thriving and healthy urban forest is critical to mitigating ever-mounting climate change concerns like the urban heat island effect and excessive storm water runoff, and recent studies have revealed stark differences across City neighborhoods that generally correlate with tree canopy percentages.”The Monitor Group report referenced by Ferguson found that DSS has largely used a reactive 311 caller request-based approach to identify trees for trimming. As a result of scheduling tree trimming on a case-by-case basis, city crews spend an inordinate amount of their time traveling to tree trimming sites, resulting in backlogs, allowing for many trees to go untrimmed for than a decade and some wards of the city receiving less tree trimming service than others.

According to the press release, OIG recommended that DSS employ suggestions found in Monitor Group’s report, which details the benefits of switching from the current reactive request system to a grid-based approach. This new approach (previously used by the City and commonplace for most municipal urban forestry programs) would make the Bureau of Forestry much more efficient, reducing the average crew’s travel time by 35% and the average cost per tree trim by 60%. It would also result in arborists determining how best to manage the urban forest rather than safety-driven resident calls, which constitutes an important added level of input to proper holistic management. In response, DSS stated that it will work to develop a comprehensive tree inventory of the entire City canopy within the next year, which will provide valuable information regarding the number and location of trees as well as size and species. However, DSS did not commit to switching to a grid-based approach, stating that it would require 15-20 additional crews to transition to this system, on a cycle of 7-10 years.



EAB Threatens 50,000 Trees in Lincoln, NE

The deadly emerald ash borer has made its way to Lincoln, NE, putting up to 50,000 public and private ash trees at risk.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the city has been bracing for the emerald ash borer’s arrival for the past three years. The wait ended when the EAB was cited within the city this fall.

According to the Journal Star, Lincoln has developed a 15 year plan to spend an estimated $22.8 million to combat the EAB invasion and its impact on 14,000 public ash trees. The plan includes removing about 1,000 ash trees a year and replacing them with other tree species. The city will spend about $10 million of the total to hire private tree care companies to remove ash trees with diameters of 18 inches or more.

The city has also held public hearings to outline its plan to residents. The newspaper reported that there is concern that many residents cannot afford to remove ash trees, which pose a safety hazard,  from their private property.

A related article by the Journal Star focused on a pair of workshops held in late November focused on utilizing some of the ash tree removals for lumber and wood products.

 

 

 

 



Share Your Urban Wood Success Stories, Photos, Videos, etc.

A lot of the best news and events items, blogs and videos about urban wood posted on this website were submitted by sawyers, woodworkers and others who are proud to share their success stories.

And we’re more than pleased to do so!

Here are just a few examples of urban wood in action that came across the transom:

Retired Teacher Focuses on Growing Urban Wood Business

Read more.

Wisconsin Urban Forest Fest Set for Sept. 15

Read more. 

Watch Tom The Sawyer Transform an Urban Honey Locust Log

Read more.

 

There are as many potential story lines as there are urban trees. If you have one to share, we’d love to hear it. Simply send a photo or two and a short write up – even a few bullet points – about the tree and how and why it was transformed into something of value for its second life. We’ll do the rest and share your story with our audience on the IL WUT website and monthly Illinois Urban Wood newsletter.

Direct your urban tree news, events, videos, etc. to Rich Christianson at richc.illinoisurbanwood@gmail.com.



Put Your Urban Wood Business on the Map

Dovetail Partners Inc. of Minneapolis is a leader in helping advance forest and wood products sustainability programs, including many tied to the urban wood movement.

The non-profit’s website includes an interactive map highlighting “Buy Local – Wood Products Campaigns” located throughout the U.S. and Canada that focus on informing consumers of the environmental benefits and aesthetic beauty of buying wood products that are grown and produced locally. Each site marker lists the campaign’s name, its parent program or organization, and a link to its website.

Dovetail Partners welcomes qualified company’s and organizations to request to be included on the map. Contact Dovetail Partners at info@dovetailinc.org.