Joe Harmon is bringing wood into the fast lane with the creation of the Splinter, a wooden supercar.

A 3-D computer rendering of what the Splinter will look like when completed.

The world of custom woodworking races ahead with the Splinter, a wooden supercar that leaves the competition in the dust, sawdust that is.

Joe Harmon, a graduate student in the Industrial Design Program at North Carolina State University, fulfilled his dream of designing cars when he designed the Splinter. But why use wood?

“When you look at wood’s physical properties, like a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel or aluminum, plus the sustainability for use in composite construction, and combine it with the satisfaction of working with a natural material, it seems like a no-brainer,” Harmon says.

“Wood is a material with properties and constraints that must be designed for, just like any other material. When implemented properly in a thoughtful design, wood’s capabilities are equal or greater to aluminum, steel or fiberglass, and very competitive, even with carbon fiber,” he adds.

According to Harmon, there are approximately 20 species of wood used in the car. “Maple, birch and hickory are our utility woods, while cherry and walnut are our main decorative woods,” Harmon explains. “We also use tessellated balsa as a core material in some of our body panels, along with woven bamboo to conform to compound curvature. The most specialized of the species in the car is osage orange, which is commonly used in bow-making.”

Much of the wood used in the construction of the Splinter is either salvaged or donated from veneer manufacturers.

To make the body panels, a layer of tessellated, end-grain balsa wood is sandwiched between an inner layer of woven bamboo and an outer layer of woven cherry veneer. Harmon and his team weave the veneers themselves.

The chassis in progress in the workshop.

Delta and Porter-Cable are the official tool sponsors, providing Harmon and his team with machinery, portable tools, router bits and saw blades.

The Splinter will make its debut at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta in August, although it will not be road-ready at the show. By the time of its debut at IWF, Harmon and his team will have worked on the car for approximately 26 months.

“The Splinter will be a show car only at that point. But after the show, we will finish installing various odds and ends and do some testing to make it driveable,” Harmon says.

How will the car compare to a similar car built from traditional materials? “We feel the weight, strength and performance of this car will likely rival that of a traditional counterpart,” he says.

“Our hope is that the lessons learned from this build will open dialogs amongst people about wood’s applications outside of the traditional realm,” remarks Harmon.

For more information on Joe Harmon Design or the Splinter, visit

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