29 03 2010

Ever wonder what this stuff is …exactly?

Bamboo Flooring is made with giant bamboo. Bamboo is actually a type of grass, not a type of wood although it is used as a wood alternative. There are roughly 5,000 species of bamboo but it is the class refered to as the giant bamboos that are used for flooring; specifically Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) which is the giant bamboo that is able to grow in colder climates and are known as the “timber bamboos” because of their large size and great strength.

This picture gives a glimpse of the immense scale of giant bamboo.



29 03 2010

Doug Baum of Texas Camel Corp atop a dromedary or one hump camel.


Learning about camel hair first-hand!

In an effort to bring you the most scholarly information on materials I will be spending Sunday April 11 brushing camels at Doug Baums ranch.  ( Check back to see how it went!

 So the question is which would you pick; The camel with one hump (known as a dromedary)? Or the camel with two (a Bactrian camel)?


29 03 2010

Where does a materials specialist turn to for advice on materials. Well another specialist of course! Meet Royce Epstein materials maven extraordinaire! A true Interior Design insider: Royce is a LEED AP and a founding member of the national Resource Directors Association, and founder and Co-Chair of Philadelphia Product Parade, a trade show for the Philly design community – oh and did I mention she is a hell of a lot of fun! Check out her blog at

Color Statement

19 03 2010

Photo: Candace Thompson

Saffron, a rare and expensive component of the saffron crocus, has been used for centuries in curries and textiles.  Tumeric, which has a slightly different taste, is often used these days as a cheaper coloring alternative.  Both are used interchangeably in such foods as mustards, rices, and bouillon cubes.

Photo: Candace Thompson

Caramel color, made from burnt sugar, is used in many products from colas to beers, liquors, dark breads, and gravies.


19 03 2010

1. There are two main types of plywood:

Decorative Plywood is made from a decorative veneer surface (or face) with a more expensive piece of wood and is used for interior applications.

Structural or softwood plywood is “raw” plywood and is mainly used for exterior applications.

2. Plywood is typically more cost effective than solid wood and offers more decorative styles.

3. Finply (also known as Finnish plywood or Europly) is a plywood made up of many thin, light colored plys of wood, usually Baltic birch. Finply is valued for its decorative edge and has the best performance including screw hold, modulus of rupture (strength against breakage) and modulus of elasticity (strength in flexibility). It is considered a premium plywood product.

4. Marine ply is plywood that has been specially treated to be more moisture resistant and it is usually used in applications such as boat cabinetry..

5. Plywood was first developed by the Ancient Egyptians but the technology was lost until the European cabinetmakers of the 18th century revived it.

A Tree Into Lumber

19 03 2010

This video shows us how a tree is converted into useable boards. Notice how the irregular tree is cut into regular boards, using computers to optimize as much of the tree as possible. Think of how long it took that tree to grow (at least 50 years) and how quickly it is converted into board.

SAVING TREES: Why are the world’s forest shrinking?

19 03 2010

In the highlands of Michoacan, Mexico monarch butterflies are reliant upon the Oyamel Firs (Abies religiosa) for their wintering habitat. The problem is the local farmers are cutting down the trees to build houses and to use as fuel for cooking. Reduction in the number of Oyamels has contributed to the overall reduction of the North American monarch population.

It takes 15 - 20 trees like this to build a typical house in this region.

This is a typical farm house from the region.

Here a local woman cooks for her family on a wood burning stove.

Alternare A. C. is a not-for-profit organization teaching the local people to make and build with adobe bricks. Brick is much more durable than wood. In this area wood houses have to be replaced roughly every 15 years.