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Man-Made Boards have changed the way things can be made


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Man-Made Boards

 
Man-Made Boards
Many years ago, great difficulties were encountered when trying to span an area in timber; the problem being that there are many limitations to what extent a single piece of timber could be reduced to in thickness in relation to its width across the grain. For example, consider a standard door opening, how difficult would it be to make a door out of a tree trunk? To begin with, you would need a tree at least the width of the opening; it would need to be cut down to a thickness. A piece of timber 1m wide, 2m high, and 75mm thick would be quite a door! There would be great difficulties picking it up, let alone hanging and using it. It would also be very unstable and likely to bend, split and warp. The only way to further reduce its weight would be to make it thinner, but by the time it would have reached a manageable weight it would be so thin that it would break in two along the grain. This problem is dwarfed when you consider covering a great expanse of wall with timber from floor to ceiling.
As you may have already concluded, it is possible to make doors out of wood, but not by using one piece! It's also possible to span great areas.
It was know in days gone by that it was possible to reduce a piece of wood in thickness producing a small panel as long as it is wasn't too wide, but the problem was finding a way of joining a number small thin panels together to cover an area, and for it to be held in place, and strong at the same time. The answer is to make a frame using relatively small lightweight timber members, so that the thin lightweight panels can be housed within it, as in a panelled door, as shown here on the left, which is not so different to wall panelling. Panelling then is a framework that is joined together using mortice and tenon joints, sub divided so that it produces neat uniform sized openings, and is grooved to its edges so that thin loose panels can be fitted within them. The result, a wall covered in timber, and a light door to fit any opening!
Many today are of the opinion that the modern woodworker is no match to the old tradesmen because they do not produce such fine work as panelling. Well, this is not strictly true; the reality being that the old tradesmen had to produce such fine work because of the limitations of materials they had to use, they had no other alternative, where today the need for such work has diminished due to modern materials such as sheet material which changed the way that things can be made. 
Sheet material started life as plywood, and I seem to recall that from my college days that the ancient Egyptians first came up with this idea, and produce plywood of sorts, but we had to wait until more recent years for the plywood we have come to know today.

Plywood is made from a log that is softened using steam, and then mounted and revolved on a lathe, slicing the wood with a large wide blade into extremely thin layer of wood in a continuous veneer sheet, rather like using a pencil sharpener, but to its full length. Once dried, a thin veneer sheet like this is quite stronger and pliable in one direction along the grain, but very weak in the other, across the grain. By bringing and bonding these thin layers together, the thickness of the board is achieved, but the true strength and qualities of plywood lies in the direction in which the grain of each thin sheet runs. By stacking them so that the grain of each sheet runs perpendicular to the next, the panel is extremely strong in all directions.
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