Who remembers this kind of scene?
If you were a kid in the Northwest in the 1950s and ’60s, you’ll have your hand up. Trucks like this used to roll down the highways with one giant log on its way to the mill. They moved them on the rails, too, tucking a couple of little trash logs in under the big one, like in the photo below, from the Oregon History Online website.
If you needed, say, a roof beam, someone went out and looked for a piece of a tree big enough to make one for you. These days, I doubt there is a mill in the Northwest that could handle a tree like that. No one then would have imagined trucking a load of little pencils like this one:
And if you needed extra long boards, why, those could be found, too:
If you come across old dimensioned lumber from back then, you’ll find that a two-by-four measured 2″ by 4″,” which might seem normal unless you’ve been lumber shopping in the modern era. Today they are 1 1/2″ by 3 1/2.” And if you want that piece more than 24 feet in length, it will now be finger-jointed together from shorter stock.
I am not suggesting we enjoy a lesser quality of wood since then. If anything, let’s consider those memories of a time gone by to be evidence that we were pretty careless of our resources. There was so much of it! Everyone could have what they wanted from the forests!
They make use of otherwise wasted wood remaining after the milling of conventional lumber. Other parts of the house have arrived on the site in what is called Engineered Wood.
Engineered wood is plywood, Gluelam, particle board, wafer board, Masonite… any number of products we’ve become accustomed to seeing in homes. They’re made by taking forest logs and peeling them, shredding them, blowing them apart, smashing them, or collecting up the waste bits of them, and gluing them back together into various forms and shapes. They make use of timber that would be otherwise useless as structural material and, a big plus, the various forms have properties that are predictable in ways not found in natural wood. I admit, I find “real wood” to be more desirable than glued up pieces of wafers and chunks. But we’re past the time when we can indulge the luxury of pillaging our forests for its giants. A managed timber stand of Douglas Fir is harvested at about 40 years of age. The mills are now tooled for trees of modest dimension. Those 40 year-old logs are too valuable to be used wastefully.
So, last week we saw the delivery of a load of I-joists made from engineered wood:
These joists, to hold up a conventional subfloor or roof, would have been solid two-by-twelves. These measure 2 inches across their laminated bases and are 14 inches tall.
And this arrived as well:
It’s the roof beam of the house. It measures 8 3/4 inches by 32 1/2 inches, by 48 feet. Look down on it and you can see the finger joints.
Look at the side, and you can see the, umm, whatever kind of joints these are. C’mon. I’m a woman. How should I know?
And here’s a piece cut off the end (the beam arrived a little over-long). That’s glue in there between the pieces.
This beam is so far from what these men
might have contemplated, it’s mind-boggling.
Meanwhile, the house now has gables (the better to hold up that beam)!
Suddenly it looks less like a suburban medical office and more like… maybe the ruin of some ancient house? Appearances are deceiving. It’s not ancient; it’s just right for today.