Chair Making with Green Wood

Green wood is a term for wood that is still “wet” and has not yet been dried. It is not a term meant to refer to its ecological benefits. Though it does have several benefits for the environment when using it in stead of the alternatives.

You have probably given thought to the impact of a tree being cut down on our environment. If you have the option no doubt you choose to buy only wood products taken from sustainably manage forests, otherwise know as FSC Certified woods. But have you ever given much thought on the impact to carbon emissions by how wood is dried?

Consider how long it takes to dry a piece of two inch thick wood. This is the size that most round chair parts start from. It would take about 3- 4 months in a natural gas kiln to dry a piece of wood this thick. Yes that is right, months, not days. Otherwise this same piece of wood would take about 3 years to dry in the open air. It is not surprising that our modern society demands kiln dried wood.

However it is not necessary to use kiln dried woods to produce fine furniture, especially chairs. In fact some traditional chair makers still produce amazing chairs with green wood (see picture below). To do this it requires a very good understanding of wood, how it shrinks and expands with moisture content. When thinking of “traditional built” furniture in this way don’t think “rustic” think sophisticated, because it actually was and is. The chair making process can actually take advantage of green wood characteristics to make them stronger. I will talk more about the use of “wet/ dry” joinery in upcoming blogs.

There is an additional benefit to the producer when working with green wood. Wood dust is a health risk to the worker that inhales it. However, wood that is cut while being high in moisture content prevents much of it becoming airborne and then being inhaled.

At Kapel Designs we produce our chairs with green wood that is air dried at every chance we get. Since many large saw mills don’t want to bother with offering green wood we have spent much time in just acquiring this material by working with small local saw mills that appreciate what we are doing to contribute to better made furnishings and a commitment to our environment. Yes, this takes special effort to produce furniture this way. But we think it is worth all the effort. We hope you do to.

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