Green Woodworking (musings on the term)

Hi again:

Green Woodworking: What is it? is it Green industry? is it sustainable? is it ecologically friendly? What is it that makes it so Green?

The same sort of woodworking is alternatively called: Country Woodcraft, Primitive woodcraft, Sloyd, and a whole slew of other titles. Green woodworking can be anything from carving spoons and whistles, to making Windsor chairs and other high quality handcrafted furniture.

To understand what Most people mean by it you have to look at the harvesting of the tree. When a tree is first cut down, it and it’s wood, is referred to as being “Green”. It is full of water (40 to 70% by weight depending upon species) in the form of Sap in the tubes and interstitial water inside the lignin and cellulose structures. It practically splashes when you start cutting it. It continues to be called green until most of this water is gone out of it.

Thus primarily Green Woodworking is working with the wood while it is still wet. Or at least starting to work it wet.

We use saws to cut lengths, then wedges and a froe to split it down closer to useful size. Then we use some sort of hatchet or other chopper to clean up the raggedy split faces and to bring it closer to the sizes of the parts we want. Then all of the green wood crafts diverge… Spoon and bowl carvers go one way, bowl turners another, furniture makers go their own way etc. etc. But it all starts with a tree freshly cut.

Is it Ecologically Friendly? Not necessarily, but it usually is. Most Spoon makers use a lot of what other people would call “yard waste”. Branches and tree removals yeild a large quantity of raw material for many Green Woodworkers. And as such prevent that material from just being buried or burned as trash.

And many of the other sorts of Green Workers also make extensive use of yard trees and logs gotten from Arborists and Tree removal services. I myself included. So since we use up a lot of wood that is otherwise wasted it is definitely ECO-Friendly.

Is It sustainable? to answer that we have to look carefully at the terms “sustainable” and “sustainability” and what they mean.

Sustainability is all about carefully using our resources without over using them, or straining the ecology of that resource. As such, nearly every human endeavor can be made “sustainable”.

Fishing is sustainable if we don’t take too many fish, Lumber is sustainable if we don’t cut the trees down faster than they can regrow. Oil and Coal are not sustainable because there is only a limited amount and what is there does not get replaced by natural processes, and once we have used them up they are gone forever.

If we (all) were to all decide tomorrow that we all had to eat off from wood plates and drink from wood cups and all of our furniture and all of our toys etc. had to be hand made from green wood, it would be a disaster. Just providing all of that woodenware and furniture would require clear cutting the planet, including all of the tropical rainforests.

But if, instead, we use the trees that are going to be cut down anyhow (city tree waste) and make useful items for others to enjoy, then it is eminently a “sustainable industry”.

be well


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