wood cycles + convivial tools

fun with wood: material collection, testing & continued prototyping

with one comment

team floor pauses to admire their handiwork

This week groups from both sites continued to create prototypes and experiment with materials and construction methods.

Part 1: Team Abundance

The group working with Abundant Life Ministries received feedback on their proposals and is moving full speed ahead with several different projects: a modular deck, benches composed of different wood pieces, as well as stackable benches that can be grouped to create storage. These elements will come together to extend the front porch/public space of CALM, as well as creating the proposed Magic Schoolport.

Kara and Kelly (Team floor) made several trips to Redbrook Lumber, where  they met with owner Robert Howard to discuss the availability of reclaimed/waste hardwood at his facility. Red Brook is located near Monticello in the idyllic countryside outside of Charlottesville.

a barn full of wood at Red Brook Lumber

Red Brook specializes in hard wood lumber as well as making decking, moldings, and flooring. Team Floor was fortunate to get an assortment of hardwood pieces that went into their first modular prototype, which was based directly on a model Kelly made which experimented with joining two pieces of deck, as well as methods for composing different species of hardwood.

From Red Brook, Team Floor also secured reclaimed heart pine from a building that once stood near the Prospect Street neighborhood and spent the rest of the weekend prepping this material for use in the construction of more deck modules:

don't be deceived by the roughness of this pile of Heart Pine

the pile was sorted into "good" and "burn pile"

sunday was spent removing nails and prepping wood for construction

eye's on the prize through a hard days work: beautiful Heart Pine - smells delicious!

Mike, Lauren, and AJ, Team Bench, are currently prototyping their piece.  After a trip to Gaston and Wyatt in Charlottesville, they are planning to use strips of waste wood to compose the top of their bench.  The pieces will be glued and laminated.  The legs will be either similarly constructed from these strips or might be made from concrete to increase the longevity of the pieces.

Abigail is working on prototypes to try and see where detailing issues are likely to crop up and to test out proportions.  Her next move will be looking more closely at what materials she will use for the final product and to to start playing with miter joints to create a more fluid look at the stool’s base.  So far the interlocking system has proved to be the trickiest part of the design and the place where the most adjustments need to be made.  However, she has gotten the proportions down pretty well.


Part 2: Team Mountainside

Team Screen worked out many details this week concerning materials, form, and hardware. We will probably primarily use dimension lumber end cuts provided by Abrahamse & Company construction sites in addition to dismantled pallet wood. The form has evolved quite drastically from the original pallet. We paid a visit to Quality Welding located in Charlottesville to discuss custom hinges for this project, and developed several new prototypes of detachable hinge connections.

Ryan and Delia (Team Table) have been working on mocking up a joint to attach the table legs to the apron.  They are experimenting with materials: heavy vs light sanding, with or without planing first,
etc, and investigating ways to attach a tabletop to the base.  There are several issues they are considering at the moment: 1) how to use reclaimed materials outside without allowing them to rot, 2) how to construct the table pieces so they can be assembled on site, and 3).  how to make the table sturdy enough that it can resist significant weight and force.  Finally, the pair are still determining the feasibility of using the shake mosaic for the table surface.

Written by karalynn83

April 18, 2011 at 6:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Part 3: Mountainside Living Group Prototypes Away

with one comment

Team Mountainside Living met with June King and Tammy on Monday to briefly present the Table and Screen ideas. June King and Tammy were very receptive to our ideas and asked us to move forward with both of them. So we did.

Team Table: Delia + Ryan

Continuing on with the shake cut experiments from last week, Delia and Ryan made several more cuts in order to work out how to avoid the knarly warps that occur from drying. They are also moving forward in terms of the rest of the table through material acquisition trips to construction sites owned by Abrahamse & Company. Our contact there, Leslie McDonald, has been incredibly helpful by finding sites and providing contact info. Thanks Leslie!

Team Screan: Sydnor + Sophia

Sydnor and Sophia have been looking at pallets as a means of constructing the screen. It not only provides structure, but also is a good proportion and shape for the purpose that they set out to achieve which is creating a safe edge in the backyard. They explored the shape of the screen through sketches, physical models, and Rhino. Team Screen has also been experimenting on a salvaged pallet through surfacing techniques (testing the conviviality of industrial hand sanders vs. jack planes and block planes) and the attrition of other salvaged woods to create painterly compositions.

While this team was at Mountainside Senior Living, they also tried prototyping the screen to get a feel for height and location. If sitting at the existing picnic tables, they noticed that about 4′ (130 cm) is pretty good because it covers the parking lot but not the mountain views in the distance.

As an aside, Team Screen was also very interested in the Pallet Floor built by no other than Rotor itself:

Final aside: there is a short article about Rotor on the front page of Metropolis Magazine.


Written by sjlarch

April 10, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Part 2: Abundant Life Ministries Prepares Board Presentation

leave a comment »

Team Abundant Life has been hard at work to provide integrated careful insertions to improve the qualities of the outdoor space by this facility. Each team has developed a series of proposals for review which we will glimpse briefly below.

Team Stumpin’: AJ, Lauren, Michael

This proposal addresses conditions in the front yard that detract from its desired use as Community Space. Presently, it lacks a boundary between the road and yard rendering it dangerous for ball play and the planting bed blocks easy access to the porch.

To improve the edge between the road and yard, this team has designed a buffer zone using existing on-site tree stumps that would be cut to about seat-height and arrayed in a linear fashion. They would remove the planting bed from in front of the porch next to the stumps to further thicken the edge and discourage ball-play near the quieter sitting zone.

Team Outdoor Playground: Kelly + Kara

Kelly and Kara teamed up to work on an outdoor space for play and gathering.  Their proposals are based primarily on construction  of a vertical living framework and a horizontal stage. These are based on some basic observations and discussions with Rydell:

  1. They noticed the potential for bringing learning space outside, providing more room and a different learning environment for kids involved in the tutoring and summer programs.
  2. There was an expressed interest in enlivening the front yard and making it more welcoming to neighbors and the CALM community.

Taking these observations, they propose creating outdoor spaces for play and gathering, with the simple understanding that the joining of two planes can make a space. They are still working out what will be constructed and hope that these proposals and survey will lead to our next step.

Team Ottoman + Shelf: Abigail

Abigail has been looking at space creation from the most basic furniture molecule that then aggregates into large spatial systems. The first is an ottoman which is detailed such that it stacks into a shelf. She has been rigorously studying methods of manufacturing these modular units that could in theory be mass-produced.

Good luck with the presentation everyone!

Written by sjlarch

April 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Part 1: The End of an Era

leave a comment »

Alas, all things are transient and fleeting. Against many desires, we took down the Woodflows Exhibit this past Monday.

Everyone in the studio has been amazed at the positive feedback we have received so far. Amongst many of its accomplishments, it has shown the true potential of the Naug space. We have already heard that this space now feels quite barren without our work there.

Woodflows, rest in peace.

Written by sjlarch

April 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Design Development and Client Meetings

leave a comment »

This week both groups have been developing project options to prepare for initial client meetings.  Below is a summary of some of the design explorations and some images from the two groups.

Mountainside Living Design Studies

The second client meeting is this afternoon where we will present our initial site analysis and several options for projects.  Our thinking is that to create a more accessible and flexible outdoor space on this site, a wheelchair accessible table and a screen could be very helpful.  We will find out today if our client agrees…

These hinge studies examine different options for creating a flexible edge that can be easily adjusted, repositioned or collapsed.

This group has also explored the material properties of Shake, the split ends of hardwood intended for structural timber.  Cutting a one inch slice across the grain and then planing and sanding the resulting slice….

1 Inch Slice across the grain of Shake from Dreaming Creek

Brought us this lovely sample that could be an element of a mosaic table top….

Top View of the Grain Pattern and Cracks in the Shake Slice

but after a day we noticed our table top was warping into a fruit bowl….

Bowing of the Piece after Curing Without a Clamp

Our next step is to use our underutilized automobile dashboards as solar dryers to cure the slices clamped to a cured piece of timber.

Abundant Life Ministries Group

The abundant life ministries group met with their client late last week and are continuing to develop schemes for the “detached porch” and the front porch and yard.  The images below are development models and drawings for the front yard…


This model explores aggregating cut tree rounds to create a thickened but welcoming edge between the house and the street.

A perspective sketch looking from the front porch towards the street.

A model exploring different forms of aggregation along the edge.


A diagram exploring possible changes to the front porch in this scheme.

Written by ryanives2

April 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

And then it all came together…

with one comment

This week has seen a series of culminations of the studio’s work towards the exhibit “Woodflows: tracking VA forest products from whips to waste.”  As such, it has been a rather hectic week, but also a very rewarding one.

On Monday, we all printed our wood process diagrams from our various site visits, as well as put finishing touches on our lexicon, materials, and model booklets.  The three display panels in the Naug were measured and everything pinned up.  The work went up without any mishaps, except that Kelly decided to make a section cut of her thumb while working on sample boxes (thankfully, she is recovering quickly).

On Wednesday, we began the final stage of the semester with a visit to Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries which is headquartered near 5th Street in Charlottesville.  We had a chance to speak with the director, Rydell Paine, who was gracious enough to take us on a tour of the site and give us an overview of some expectations that the group has for interventions in the site.  These included moving children’s play from the front of the house to the back, creating a welcoming front area which would be attractive to community residents but would deter vandalism, and creating outdoor meeting areas.


Studio visits abundant life

Members of the studio talk with Rydell Paine at Abundant Life Ministries

The next stage of this project will consist of brainstorming and drafting a general presentation to the Abundant Life board of proposed interventions in the site.  Of course, we will be using salvaged wood as a primary material and as formwork for concrete modules.

On Thursday, our co-instructor, Lionel Devlieger, returned from Belgium and took a quick tour of our exhibit as we put the finishing touches on the map and book display shelves.  We rehearsed our presentation on Friday, as Ryan and Delia’s video was unveiled to wide-spread fascination and wonder.  On Friday we also discussed our two reading texts of the semester, Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality and Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World.

On Saturday, our instructor Lucia Phinney graciously invited us to her home for a studio dinner.   We took a tour of some of the groundbreaking additions to the home and its grounds, and ate delicious salmon and other dishes prepared by our host.  The evening ended with the viewing of the brightest moon in eighteen years.

studio dinner at the Phinney-Dripps houseWalking around the Dripps-Phinney house

the grounds

Finally, this work culminated in Sunday’s gallery talk in which we presented our work and discussed potential futures.  The attendees included Charles Becker from the Virginia Department of Forestry, faculty members (Dean Tanzer, Peter Waldman, Robin Dripps, John Quale, Karolin Möllmann, Melissa Goldman, Jana VanderGoot) and many students.  The discussion was very fascinating as it touched on the following questions:

What can be considered waste?

How can one create a demand for more sustainable wood products?

How does one follow the story of wood products into the realm of the consumer?

How can one avoid downcycling?

How can the research be expanded and distributed to those who can use it?

Is this the start of a new approach to materials in the design professions?

Kelly presents...Sydnor presents...Michael presents...monstersOf course, there are many more questions to ask, and many potential venues for inquiry.  Hopefully, this research will be the catalyst for much more in the future.

Written by ajartemel

March 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sophisticated CNC-joints for flooring

with one comment

Check out this link for an example of CNC used to minimize use of materials for the production of flooring (made out of curvy logs).

Bolefloor makes hardwood floors that eschew the wastefulness of straight lines. Instead, they use computerized analysis to calculate puzzle-fit lengths that follow the curves and irregularities of the uncut logs, producing an organic, irregular mosaic that I find much preferable to the straight lines of traditional wood floors.”

Link to Bolefloor website.

Curvy wood floor from Bolefloor

Written by Lionel Devlieger

March 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.