Forest Crayons Reveal the Stunning Natural Hues of Japanese Wood

Wood is brown, right? Well, not exactly. It’s also black, umber, Sienna, ochre, red, pale peachy-beige, green and even turquoise. The color variation can be so great, you could transform the hues into a palette of crayons. That’s exactly what design studio Playfool did after discovering just how many hues can be found behind the bark of various trees. Their new product, called “Forest Crayons,” aims to inspire a new generation to gain a deep appreciation for the wonders of the woods.

But even more than that, Playfool hopes their Forest Crayons will help raise awareness about the possibilities contained within Japan’s extensive forests.

“About two-thirds of Japan is covered completely with trees, with around 40% being artificially planted after the war. To maintain the forest’s health, trees must be routinely harvested and replanted, however declining import costs have resulted in little incentive to use the country’s wood, meaning forests are left unharvested and unmaintained, increasing the risk of disasters such as landslides.”


Triangular in shape, the crayons are made from wood salvaged form Japanese lumberyards. The trees they source the wood from include cedar, cypress, walnut and oak. The designers created prototypes by grinding down the raw wood, combining it with a natural wax sourced from the Japanese Hazenoki tree and pouring it into a mold.

“Developed as part of a program supported by the Japanese Forestry Agency, we are now looking to bring Forest Crayons to market in hopes to not only breathe new life into Japanese wood, but also ignite a new appreciation for the country’s forests like never before.”

Playfool’s Forest Crayons are currently in development and will be released next year. If you’re interested in purchasing them when they’re ready, you can sign up for the studio’s mailing list.

Work in Wood: 10 Jobs to Apply For Today

Ready to change your life? Dive into a whole new career or find a new position within wood products and forestry. These 10 openings include entry-level positions, sales, engineering, forestry, lumber grading and a professorship at the University of Maine.

Sawmill Lumber Grader, East Baldwin, Maine

“Ideal candidate will be NELMA certified in grading Eastern White Pine Lumber with two years experience. Works in a two-station grading and trimming system. Candidate must be self-motivated, quality driven and able to work in a team environment. Lumber graders rotate into several other positions in the sawmill throughout the day. This position has potential for working with and supporting computer and optimization systems throughout the operation.”

Learn more and apply at the NeLMA Jobs Board.

Operations Forester, Millford, Maine

“American Forest Management, Inc. (AFM) is the largest forest consulting and real estate brokerage firm in the United States. AFM currently manages over 6 million acres of privately owned timberland and has sold over $3 billion in real estate transactions. With 273 employees operating from 49 offices located in 16 states, AFM’s team of professionals are focused on meeting client needs by providing a complete range of forestry services including land and wildlife management, land sale and acquisition services, forest inventory and design, growth and yield modeling, cash flow projections, environmental services, appraisal, forest resource data management and harvest scheduling. Our small regionally dispersed offices allow us to provide individualized services, and our large overall size allows us to coordinate teams of foresters and technical specialists for large, complex jobs.”

Learn more and apply at

Project Manager, St. Cloud, Minnesota

“The Commercial Project Managers are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating all job activities including preparing, producing, and delivering products. Responsibilities include: ensure accurate contracts and adequate notice on buyouts; read prints and specifications in order to understand all aspects of a project; communicate with purchasing dept. about product samples and delivery dates; work closely with drafters to ensure product is drawn according to prints and meets regulations. Salary $60,000-$80,000 annually.”

Learn more and apply at

Consultative Sales Representative, Remote Position

“The Consultative Sales Professional will drive revenue growth, profitability, and market share for Forest2Market. The primary function of this role is to accelerate the growth of sales of our proprietary pricing benchmarks (SilvaStat360 – Forest2Market’s Business Intelligence Platform). Success will be measured primarily on generating new sales and secondarily in maintaining subscription renewals. The successful candidate will be an entrepreneurial, hands-on, self-starter who is energetic, persuasive and well organized. This position will report to the Global Sales Manager.”

Learn more and apply at

Field Representative, Location TBD

“Primary responsibilities of a field inspector are to conduct spot audits of randomly selected mills and facilities who are subscribers of accredited agencies.  The audit is a check on the performance of the accredited agencies and their compliance with ALSC program enforcement regulations.  Every field representative is given a geographic region for which they are responsible. We are seeking a highly motivated individual with the ability to work independently. A minimum two-year forestry or wood technology degree or equivalent work experience is required. “

Learn more and apply at the Nelma Jobs Board.

Assistant Professor of Forestry, University of Maine at Fort Kent

“The University of Maine at Fort Kent is currently looking for a temporary, nine-month, full time Lecturer/Instructor/Assistant Professor of Forestry with a possible continuation beyond initial appointment, based on performance. This position is eligible to be part of AFUM bargaining group. The Applied Forest Management program at UMFK is a five-semester, Associate of Science degree program with an emphasis on technical, field-oriented, forestry education. The successful candidate will be expected to teach 12 credit hours per academic semester in support of the program and must be able to teach a diverse range of field, laboratory, and lecture courses in Forestry and Environmental Studies. Courses taught may include Forest Mensuration, GPS, Forest Ecology, Principles of Environmental Science, Careers in the Sciences, or other courses in the discipline. When determining teaching assignments, the chosen candidate’s individual interests and expertise will be considered if possible.”

Learn more and apply at

Entry Level Mill Laborer, Buckfield, Maine

“RE Lowell Lumber now hiring! Position available in our sawmill/planer mill operation. Will train general laborers and equipment operators. This is a full time position. Pay: $12-$14 per hour plus employee discount and health insurance. 8-hour day shift, Monday to Friday. Overtime and bonus pay available. High school or equivalent education preferred.”

Learn more and apply at

Drafter/Engineer, Reading, Pennsylvania

“Requirements: three plus years of AutoCAD within a custom millwork manufacturing atmosphere; basic understanding and usage of Microvellum & Excel; ability to read architectural drawing is a must; knowledge in AWI Standards is a HUGE Plus! Responsibilities include: producing shop drawing for customer approval; meet deadlines for shop drawings to meet clients’ schedules; communicating special unique items or situation to management; knowledge and or ability to research hardware and appliances specifications. Salary $60,000-$65,000 annually.”

Learn more and apply at

Inside Sales, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“A Local Lumber company is looking for a Inside Sales person that is interested in joining our fast paced environment of building material sales. Responsibilities: process customer orders and quotes, close yard and outer sales of walk-in customers, achieve a working knowledge of company’s products and services; answer incoming phone calls and assist customers face to face in a retail setting; walk customer thorough the process if needed and all materials involved for the project. Salary $60,000-$70,000 a year plus commission.”

Learn more and apply at

Production/Manufacturing Worker, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

“Pleasant River Lumber is a family owned company that always has a eye on the future of lumber manufacturing. Position overview: Fast paced positions working at different machine centers. Job positions are rotated to reduce repetitive motion injuries and improve skill diversity of the crew. Positions could be in the sawmill or Planer mill. Starting pay is $15 per hour with a $1.00 per hour shift differential for nights. Eligible for safety incentive bonus of $40 per week after trial period.”

Learn more and apply at

Image via USDA

Amazing Wooden Staircases, from Sculptural Spirals to Modern Floating Styles

One of the best things about wood as a building material is it’s so malleable. Take staircases, for instance: using nothing but wood, you can achieve an incredible array of shapes and effects. Fancy something that looks like a hand-carved work of art? You can have it (at a price, of course.) Envisioning something a little more minimalist? From floating boxes to clever storage stairs, there’s no shortage of inspiration out there to spur a creative idea of your own. Here are some of the coolest examples on the internet.

atmos stairstalk

Is this the most impressive wooden staircase on the entire internet? Maybe. Standing as a grand centerpiece at London’s HIDE Restaurant, the incredible “Stairstalk” design by Atmos Studio is absolutely breathtaking.

wooden timber stacked stairs

Reminiscent of the game Jenga, this minimalist staircase for a barn home in Flanders, Belgium by Studio Farris integrates storage space for books and other small items.

Stair slide mahogany

Can’t choose between a slide or a staircase? Have both! This design by Scott Jones was custom carved from mahogany.

atmos cnc stairs

Made of CNC-cut plywood, this gorgeous staircase designed by Atmos for a London apartment sort of looks like a tree spreading its limbs into the building’s various floors.

JDN spiral staircase

This spiraling residential staircase by JDN uses a typical metal frame you can find from staircase suppliers or at architectural salvage depots, and adds wood treads for a warmer feel. Photographed by Jack Newton.

wood spine staircase jouin

It’s hard to resist calling this design “spine-tingling.” Designed by Patrick Jouin, this design spirals the curved treads around a serpentine central support with an effect resembling twisted vertebrae. The glass and metal banister makes it airy and open, showing off the best part of the design.

plywood storage stairs

These puzzle-like storage stairs feature niches for display and giant drawers to store shoes and other items in a small apartment in Bordeaux, France by L’atelier Miel.

wooden nest stairs strasbourg

Another staircase by Patrick Jouin, this one located at Strasbourg Hotel’s restaurant in France, wraps a curving wooden staircase with strips of wood for a dramatic nest-like effect. 

void staircase guido ciompi

The Void Staircase by Guido Ciompi for the Gray Hotel in Milan, Italy features hollow steps that could also be used as shelving. From some angles, they appear to float.

Coming Soon to Mainstream Fashion: Wood-Fiber Clothing

The world is embracing wood as one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Soon, we’ll even start seeing wood-based clothing on the racks at mainstream retailers like H&M. Suzano SA, the world’s largest wood pulp maker, is collaborating with Finnish startup Spinnova to build a commercial-scale facility producing a new wood fiber that could compete with cotton. H&M joins Chanel and other fashion brands to participate in the development of the material in exchange for the honor of being among the first to offer it to consumers.

Suzano, based in Brazil, is primarily known for providing wood pulp used to make paper cups and tissues to companies across the globe, and currently has a team of nearly 100 scientists researching new applications that could replace environmentally harmful products like plastics. 

“It is not a niche market for us,” Vinicius Nonino, Suzano’s new business director, said in an interview. “We want to be a relevant player. We will compete with cotton with sustainability advantages and also with price.”

Business of Fashion notes that the pulp provided by Suzano to create this new wood fiber has one major difference from an existing wood pulp textile fiber known as viscose: it’s processed without chemicals. To make viscose, cellulose is treated with caustic soda and carbon disulfide, then dumped into a chemical bath of sulfuric acid. This is an energy-, water- and chemically-intensive process that’s also highly polluting. The new Spinnova material will be mechanically processed instead using a technology that’s been in development for 15 years.

“As well as bridging the cellulose gap, the Spinnova fibre also helps fight climate change,” says Spinnova. “Created with minimal water and emissions, it offers a solution to other huge megatrends challenging our planet and worsening the climate crisis; fresh water shortage and CO2 emissions.”

Wood Based Car Parts? Canada Moves Forward With This Innovation

Outside of subtle luxury trim and wacky wooden art cars like Toyota’s Setsuna concept, it isn’t exactly common to see wood in vehicles these days. That could change soon as a result of some innovation coming out of Canada, as Toronto-based GreenNano Technologies works on a new lightweight wood-fiber based composite material. But if you’re hoping for beautiful visible wood grain, you’re better off buying an old wood-paneled station wagon, because these parts are made to go under the hood.

The Canadian government recently granted GreenNano Technologies $1.2 million CAD through the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program to scale up its production. The project combines wood pulp with polymers to create a strong thermoplastic. According to the officials, the material has some advantages over other thermoplastics because it’s more uniform, and it could have all kinds of applications beyond vehicles, like aerospace parts, pharmaceuticals, solar panels and cosmetics.

GreenNano’s current wood-thermoplastic car parts include a cam cover, an oil pan and engine “beauty shields” and covers. They also show off how the new material can be utilized in 3D printers to create complex objects. Another Canadian bioplastic company, Advanced BioCarbon 3D, also developed a wood-based material for a similar purpose.

“Using forest products in the automotive sector is a great example of the high-tech future of forestry. Companies like GreenNano Technologies are creating good jobs and finding new markets for Canadian wood,” said Seamus O’Regan, minister of Natural Resources in a press release.

It’s an interesting concept that could potentially make use of waste wood produced as a by-product of the wood products industry. Other uses for these waste materials include paper products, biomass fuel and even wood floors embedded with wood pulp nano fibers that generate electricity when you step on them. Who said wood isn’t high tech?

Wood Stronger Than Steel: A New High-Tech Material

While nothing can be quite as beautiful as a simple, natural piece of solid lumber, recent innovations in the area of high tech wood products celebrate just how much potential and versatility there is within a working forest. Scientists have developed a new process that can transform any species of wood into a material stronger than steel – and even some high-tech titanium alloys. According to Scientific American, this new “super material” could be used to make everything from ultra-tall wooden buildings to bullet-resistant armor plates.

Abundant, renewable and low-cost, wood is already an invaluable resource, especially in its ability to store carbon, which could help mitigate climate change. But its many uses have just expanded dramatically thanks to a strengthening treatment developed by Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. Hu and his colleagues learned that a two-step process beginning with boiling wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and sodium sulfite (Na2SO3) to partially remove lignin and hemicellulose, compressing the treated wood until its cell walls collapse and then maintaining its compression as it’s gently heated encourages the formation of chemical bonds between large numbers of hydrogen atoms and in adjacent cellulose nanofibers.

The results are impressive. The team’s compressed wood is three times as dense as the untreated substance, Hu says, adding that its resistance to being ripped apart is increased more than 10-fold. It also can become about 50 times more resistant to compression and almost 20 times as stiff. The densified wood is also substantially harder, more scratch-resistant and more impact-resistant. It can be molded into almost any shape. Perhaps most importantly, the densified wood is also moisture-resistant: In lab tests, compressed samples exposed to extreme humidity for more than five days swelled less than 10 percent—and in subsequent tests, Hu says, a simple coat of paint eliminated that swelling entirely.

A five-layer, plywood-like sandwich of densified wood stopped simulated bullets fired into the material—a result Hu and his colleagues suggest could lead to low-cost armor. The material does not protect quite as well as a Kevlar sheet of the same thickness—but it only costs about 5 percent as much, he notes.

This densified wood could offer an alternative to expensive steel, aluminum alloys and carbon-fiber alternatives, even for applications like vehicles. It remains to be seen whether the scientists can scale up and accelerate the process in order to launch it into widespread use, but if they manage to do it, the possibilities for its use are virtually endless. Imagine a future in which we’re all driving wooden cars around!