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Sustainable plywood or plywood substitutes.  RSS feed

 
Atom Dari
Posts: 22
Location: New Orleans presently
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Hey all.

I'm a designer and artist, and I'm working out the details of starting a furniture business in the southeast, probably central florida. I need to work with plank boards at least 7' x 4' x 3/4". I'm trying to find the most sustainable thing that can hold up to weight and still be affordable and not ugly as sin.

my first place i called was quoting boards of carbonized bamboo plywood at $ 175 a sheet, which is just too high to be cost effective, regardless of how much i like it.

If anyone has any ideas or contact they know, please give me a heads up, because i'm really hoping to start this project soon, and i havent found much through research yet.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Atom,

Within the first few words I thought, "bamboo plywood," but as you pointed out, at $3.00 to $6.00 per board foot, any project made from the stuff is going to be expensive. It is the only truly green sustainable ply product out there. I have been researching wood sheet goods for a few years now. A lot of the stuff marketed as green, just isn't when you really look at it closely. Some of the chip board, (osb) is good at fitting the sustainable part but they don't have the adhesives quite right yet to call it green, they are getting close.

So when I need a specialty sheet good, I either go with bamboo, make it myself from a lower grade lumber clad in a finish lumber or, if money is tight for the project budget, I go with birch plywood. Could you share what you are thinking of doing, or is it proprietary? Good luck.
 
Atom Dari
Posts: 22
Location: New Orleans presently
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it's a simple platform bed design. really minimal, but made as a jigsaw puzzle style, where the parts fit together and don't require any tools or adhesives. the parts just interlock and hold it all together until you need to move or store it away, and then you just pull it all apart and toss it into a closet or a moving truck.

i'm really interested in woods that will be able to hold up to a good bed jumping (after all, who wants a bed that collapses when you're wildly porking on it?), as well as things that should be able to last a generation or two in a family.

if it works out, my goal is to build up a fabrication business for more furniture, as well as other products. I'd really like to use something that i know wills tand up, but i cant afford much at all, at least for my first run.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Now I understand a little better. I'm a timber wright for the most part these days, so I build entire buildings the way you have described the bed. Actually one of my students just finished a timber frame style bed with wedge and through tenons. It is completely knock down, but when together, it is very sturdy. So I guess I would have to recommend either, make your own sheet goods or birch plywood.

I'm a little curious about your plans, I have seen so many different traditional beds in the shaker or Asian style that knock down really easy, are elegant when together, all wood joinery and have the cleanest lines, that you would think they came from the future. What new edge are you putting on your bed design that will draw customers to it over what is currently available.? Do you use Sketch-up CAD software, if so do you have a model?
 
Atom Dari
Posts: 22
Location: New Orleans presently
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Its only a roughed model in sketchup right now. I based it off a design that I used for my bed for 2 years. I'd have to beta test this design to make sure that its safe and sturdy. I can share the design in a pm or an email if you'd like.

In the end I'd like to do is to make this with a laser cutter or automated mill, but I'm hoping that the laser cutter would work out, so I can do etching of my own designs across the pieces of wood.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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You seem to like tech a lot, is your theme ultra modern? Lasers sure have come a long way but maybe you should consider a CNC machine if you are going for the automated approach. Your mention of sustainable earlier has me at a bit of a loss, concept wise, regarding your project. With the current market trends, most folks are trying to move away from automation and heavy industrialization approach to there consumer goods. Why worry, in your case, about green or sustainable if you are going to mass produce a product and apply your designs via a machine instead of your hand, why really bother with sustainable and do what just seems good for your design approach. (Note, I just re-read what I have written and it sound really "snarky," ignore that. It isn't meant that way.)
 
Atom Dari
Posts: 22
Location: New Orleans presently
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I am going toward an eames style in what ways I can, and I do really love tech. My feelings are that tech and designers are going to play a huge part in curbing us back from disaster as a world. I want to do my part in that, but I still care a lot about environment and production ethics. My goal is to have as sustainable, cheap, long lasting, and good looking product as possible, that is made in the US, and somebody could be proud to own.

If I can do all that, and still compete well enough with Ikea or Walmart enough to get by, then I'm happy. I don't intend to make millions of these in mass production, as much as a one off for every request. Like an etsy for sweet modernist furniture. My time will be devoted to writing my book, making more art, designing other products, and doing interior designs and remodel plans for houses to make them much more sustainable and functional.

the money i get put in this is going to go to getting more equipment, and building a fab lab, probably in either lakeland florida, or savannah georgia. Whichever place it is, i hope to do as much as i can to really foster community, as well as use the land for forest gardening as well as whatever else i can do with it, probably even some beehives. Any extra money after that goes directly into helping others start up local businesses with similar ethos.

I have felt for a while that the permaculture community has had some serious problems in the abrasive, "all or nothing" attitude when it comes to tech and non permie lifestyles. Many people I meet are very enthusiastic about doing what little bit they can, and I do as much as possible to support that.

..alright I'm getting away from myself.

Style wise, I see that hand carved movement rise and fall every few years for people with money, but also a lot of other really interesting sea changes. Versatility and nomad design have been on the rise for the past five to ten years, and we're reaching a point where the minimalist movement is getting really strong. I'm just hoping to make something that can support all those ideals while being viable as a product for people.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Atom,

Your explanation was actually quite perfect. I am familiar with Eames's style which was all it's own kind of modern, (and relativity labor intensive to manufacture, except out of plastic.) His techniques had been some of the ones I used to make my own custom plywood. Alas the Chinese and Japanese are really ahead of us, executing your Eames's style of design, they have the bamboo, and the Chinese has a government, (minus it's environmental and human record,) that would back a project like yours in a heart beat.

I'm guessing but I believe we have a bit of an age difference so we see things from acutely different angles. The look you are going for I grew up around. My mother, a working artist/sculptor, didn't care for it so I grew up with a bias for the natural and traditional flavors, (doesn't hurt that I was raised in the old traditions as a first nations child, ergo the last name.) When the one's raising you are all born in middle and late 1800's you get a different perspective on things.

As for "hand carved," style coming and going, I'm not sure I could agree with that. It may be true in certain isolated locations or with certain products at any given moment, but since the 70's, when I became an apprentice to three Amish barn wrights, I have only seen the timber framing movement grow exponentially, and the number of young timber framers knocking at my door each year to learn the craft and general traditional life skills is ever increasing.

Now for the question of sustainable and heavy industrial application, (i.e. Ikea/Wal-Mart.) I don't think they can ever go hand in hand. Your projected product will have to be a balance of hand work done in a modern styles and avoid heavy industry application if it is going to keep the sustainable mantra true. As soon as you start having a machine do more work than a human on any given product, you loose touch with the essence of the item being made, and it just becomes another widget, in a consumer world. Don't miss understand me, I'm not a luddite, nor do I think that every thing the industrial revolution brought is evil or wrong. I just think, for the future to be saved we still have a long way to move away from tech in our day to day lives before we come close to homeostasis. I know it is a horrible example, but it just keeps jumping into my head, that Frank Herbert's "Dune," (the book and first run of the movie,) capture in some good ways the future, but hopefully not so dark and sinister. They had space ships fashion on the inside like old sailing ships, computers had been meshed into the human condition as a biological extension and the ships warp engines were also organic in nature. The furniture, clothing and spirituality all seemed to be trying to reach a balance of old and new.

I think, if you keep a balance within your approach methodolgy you will be successful, please keep posting with updates and let me know if I can be of further assistance..

 
Atom Dari
Posts: 22
Location: New Orleans presently
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i think you're right about the future of tech, in a sense.as the sustainability movement and the tech world start to dovetail together, its going to be increasingly common that we reach out to nature for inspiration and answers. this is a terrible example, but I can see "the last mimzy" being a sort of example, where we reach design and creation on a particle scale, and can fuse organic methods into our production stream.

I don't know how dune-y we'll be, or what other sci-fi things we'll create in time, but I'd imagine that we'd be hard pressed to want to just give up nature, since most can agree that it is still so important to some part inside of us.

I'll definitely post photos of the process as it go along.

 
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