The National Wood Collection at the Forest Products Lab

By Chuck Ray | Posted: 11/18/2013 2:41PM

 

I was kept quite busy with a new project this summer.

Earlier this spring, I was made aware of an old collection of wood samples that had been stored away for the last 50 years in a closet at the end of a hall. I've moved the collection over to my lab and have been working to uncover the mysteries of multiple collections, old deceased wood professors, and beautiful samples of wood I've never even heard of. All together, we have something over 2,000 species of wood and 6,000-8,000 specimens here at Penn State. All are partially documented in the 1950s and before.

I've been trying to build a database of the collection in order to get a better handle of what it contains. Finally, it occurred to me to take a visit to the largest such collection in North America, the U.S. Forest Service collection at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI. Headquartered in what is called the Center for Wood Anatomy Research, it is truly an interesting place to visit. The collection amassed there is overwhelming... I could get lost in there for weeks just looking at blocks of wood. Click here for an interesting write up of the collection, which consists of over 100,000 specimens of some 14,000 species. I consider this collection one of the rare jewels in the world of wood, and it's great that the U.S. Forest Service has preserved it for posterity.

Mike Wiemann, a botanist who has worked with the collection for the past 12 years, was my host on this visit, and as he explained various facets of the collection it occurred to me to shoot a video of Mike showing us around the collection.

He kindly agreed, so watch my video. Sorry, the auto-focus seemed to fuzz out in the second half of the video. I'll take better care in the future.

Mike helped me understand the whole concept of institutional wood collections and the relationship between them. As I work to resurrect the Penn State collection, I'll be working in collaboration with the Mike and the FPL to ensure that our labeling and organization is consistent with professional standards. And of course, I'll keep you posted on interesting aspects of the collection as I uncover them.

 

About the Author

Chuck Ray, PennState, Associate Professor of Wood Operations

Chuck Ray

Dr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at cdrpsu@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at http://extension.psu.edu/woodpro and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at http://gowood.blogspot.com.

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