Timber Tech: Even Gadgets Can Be Made of Wood!

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Who says gadgets have to be made from throwaway, environmentally unfriendly plastics? Just as with furniture, decor, household items and even architecture, they’ll last longer – and look a lot more beautiful – when they’re hand-crafted from high quality wood. Timber tech might seem like a gimmick upon first glance, but it’s actually a step in a more sustainable direction, and these gorgeous items are just as functional as their more conventional counterparts.

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Take for example this multitouch trackpad and numerical keyboard, each constructed from a single piece of wood. Compatible with any Mac OS, Windows 7 or 8 computer, these items connect wirelessly via Bluetooth and are available at the Design Boom store.

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The wooden Tok Tok ‘Trobla’ speaker consists of a system of detachable wooden pieces designed to fit different generations of iPhones and other smartphones. You simply insert your phone in the top, and the sound is amplified through a special chamber that enhances the stereophony and low frequencies.

wooden boombox

Maybe you can’t actually push any of the buttons or adjust the other ‘controls’ laser-engraved onto this fun wooden boombox, but you don’t need to – you control it through your phone or computer. Connect via Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio input to project sound through two 3-inch full-range speakers.

World’s Tallest Wooden Building Set for Construction in Norway

world's tallest wood building

Stretching a full 173 feet into the sky, a 14-story tower made primarily of wood is set to be built in Norway, making it the world’s tallest. With so many wooden superstructures on the docket, the title is constantly up for grabs, and this sustainable housing project in Bergen may not hold onto it for long. But it’s a testament to just how popular wooden towers are getting as governments around the world relax their building restrictions, paving the way for a whole new world of wooden architecture.

Ole Kleppe and Rune Abrahamsen didn’t intend to create the world’s tallest building when planning their cost-efficient, modular high-rise, which is primarily prefabricated. But after their project was approved, a competing bridge close by meant additional height was needed. Norway previously only allowed buildings nine stories tall, so the team had to simultaneously push for new laws and innovate a safe, strong structure.

It’s fitting that this kind of record-setting innovation using wood should occur in Norway, where wooden buildings up to 800 years old are still standing. The architects took their inspiration from Norwegian timber bridges, basically flipping the truss structure vertically.

“We have a lot of experience building large timber bridges in Norway,” says Pbrahamsen. “We were confident that with this tech we could build tall.”

The project, called Treet, is currently under construction. It could be surpassed before long as the University of British Columbia is planning an 18-story student housing project made of wood, scheduled to be completed in 2017. Read more about the tech and building processes involved at the Journal of Commerce.

Wood Innovations: New Veneer Can Be Sewn Like Fabric

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This quilted material isn’t fabric that’s printed to look like wood – it’s actual wood veneer. The innovative new invention from Berlin-based designers Anastasiya Koshcheeva and Oya-Meryem Yanik is soft enough to be joined with thread rather than glue, and can be used alone or in conjunction with plywood.

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The material is called ‘Chester’ and it’s more than just a decorative finish for products like the stool pictured above. The quilting method of joining the layers of soft, moldable plywood creates a cushioned surface.

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The resulting product can be cut to size and has potential for use in the furniture, transportation and industrial industries. It’s an interesting new way to look at wood, a product generally perceived as being very solid and inflexible, potentially opening up a whole new realm of possibilities for the material.

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“I explore each material’s unique potential, aesthetic features, and haptic qualities in an experimental way and turn my insights into design concepts,” says Koshcheeva. “My work is characterized by the combination of contrasting textures, colors, and skills. I create products with character that have a story and tell it through the design.”

New Milling Process Turns Waste Wood into Architectural Trim


After eight years of research and testing, Georgia-based timber company Gilman Building Products has devised a way to transform sawdust and other wood manufacturing waste into value-added products like architectural trim. Pine remnants like immature trees and brush that are too small to be milled conventionally, which would normally go to waste or be used as fuel, can also be salvaged using the new process.

Aiming to use as much of their product as possible, cutting back the 25-40% yield loss that’s typical during the conventional milling process, the company developed a proprietary patent-pending kiln system that can bring the moisture content of this leftover material to commercial standards and turn it into engineered wood products. This reportedly reduces yield loss by 50% or more.

The scraps of wood typically produced as a byproduct of the lumber industry doesn’t go completely to waste when it’s not used in a high-tech new process like this one, however. Industry waste wood goes to sustainable biomass plants that burn it to produce clean, renewable energy.

Photo by Horia Varlan

Trend Watch: Wood is the Most Advanced Building Material

Cross Laminated Timber

There’s a lot of talk about the building materials of the future, as technology makes all sorts of hybrid and nano-materials (which can be made of wood, too) stronger, cheaper and more accessible than ever. But for all of those advancements, one of the world’s most ancient building materials remains at the top of the list: wood. Popular Science features an in-depth examination of why wood is the most advanced building material of them all – and how it’s going to transform city skylines around the globe.

The biggest step forward is the development of CLT, or cross-laminated timber. This isn’t some kind of plasticized or artificial wood product; it’s simply parallel strips of wood that are placed atop each other perpendicularly and then glued together to create enormous panels with steel-like strength.

CLT is cheaper, easier to assemble and more fire-resistant than steel and concrete. In an age of heightened environmental awareness, it’s also more desirable for the fact that wood is renewable and acts as a carbon sink. The strength of CLT beams make it possible to build wood structures taller than ever before, and many countries are changing their building codes as a result.

Much of the CLT that’s currently produced comes from sustainable forests, and a good percentage is made of beetle-damaged pine. Pine bark beetles are the single biggest threat to pine forests, but CLT ensures that the trees affected by this scourge aren’t lost. That makes it an ideal way to get a practical and lucrative use out of what might otherwise be considered a waste material.

Check out plans for large-scale wood skyscrapers and learn more about the top threats to Eastern White Pine and how these majestic, useful trees can be preserved and protected.

Image via: greenspec