A long over due post detailing that final push of my Master degree project, Just Wood. I left the last post basically describing all the resaerch I had compiled and how I could pull it all together into one perpetual cycle of growth, harvest, waste, process, product and back to growth again. It was a rabbit hole that I was reluctant to leave and with hindsight (it is a wonderful thing) I was causing lots of conundrums for myself. That's what happens when you can do anything. So here's how I went from my first successful sample of Lignin Board (glueless wood material made by compressing waste chainsaw shavings - blog post here) to a process that generates strong, formed components for use in furniture, all in my wood somewhere in the depths of North Cumbria.
I knew the basic principles of compressing cooked shavings will work, I had a very exciting sample. The next job was up scaling that set up so I could perfect the process, see what works and what doesn't and hopefully produce a production line for manufacturing a component of some description.
Off I went to find a Blacksmith. The wonderful thing about Cumbria is that you're never to far away from someone with a shed, making anything or everything in metal, or wood, or clay or wool etc. Fortunately, 15 minutes away in Gilcrux lives David Watson. A blacksmith who specialises in fabrication and Norman forges. It was through his hard work, unwaived patience and endless cups of tea that I was able to push my leftfield ideas.
A little butane blowtorch didn't seem to be the job, and my fears were confirmed when the mould was prized open. The shavings were still damp. The pressure did not seem to have been enough however, were the biscuit tin had a seam or corner the shavings were looking more like one material. Not the best result, but enough to get me thinking there was something in it... I had to go bigger.Welcome to the Woodland Laboratory! (aka Pip Towers) My home for the next few months.
I had a new re-useable metal mould made up. A box with drainage holes, removable bottom and top pressure plate. Along with a proper butane blowtorch, I was ready to go full kelter and perfect my process.
I have to say, I had never used a 20 tonne bottle jack or blow torch before, and certainly never together, at the same time, in close proximity to each other. To say I was tense and nervous would be an understatement. Safety marshal Chris was on hand - somewhere behind a large Ash tree. After all the varied ways I did this process and all the things I learnt each time, the fear of something bad happening never left. Don't try this at home is all I can say!