One of the more interesting phenomena of today’s world is the insulation we have from the source of our sustenance, or raw materials. Many modern folk would have a hard time explaining where the natural gas in their home comes from, or how bread is made, or even what the very walls around them are made of.
So when Mike Wolcott sent me some nice photos of what I call a “lumber log,” that is a re-constructed log made of the lumber and bark sawn from it, I thought it a good opportunity to share just a little bit of the story of lumber.
This artistic work by Vincent Kohler is a nice way to demonstrate in a visual way just where lumber comes from. One sees many different sizes of boards, and a cant in the center of the log; it begins to give one a sense of how many different products can be produced from a log depending on how the log is sawn up. And the placement of all cuts, and therefore the size and value of each board produced, depends most importantly on the very first cut into the log.
In the early 1970s, the U.S. Forest Service developed a computer program that mathematically calculated the highest volume of lumber that could be sawn from a log of specified dimensions based on what it called the “best opening face.” Soon, computerized sawing equipment incorporated this computer algorithm into their equipment along with scanning technology that allowed the log to be spun and scanned prior to sawing, thereby allowing the computer to determine just exactly where that first critical cut should be made. The resulting “face” of the log then, would produce the widest pieces of lumber, and subsequent narrower lumber would be produced as the log is turned. In the photograph above, the sawyer, or the computer he operated, determined that the best first cut would be on what is the top of the log in the picture.