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One Man's Junk (rootsofprogress.org)
86 points by brudgers 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

Maybe not totally on topic, but both the OP and the first article the author links in the text claim there are no natural resources, but both are seemingly not addressing one of the most frequently used natural resources: wood. In the text of "there are no natural resources" the words "tree" and "wood" do not appear.

In most cases we are indeed shaping the wood to be what we need, but obviously nature isn't going to grow door frames or rafters for us. It sure grows wood, though. No need to smelt it or refine it or really even figure out how to use it properly. It's not a "highly inconvenient form."

We get sheets and blocks of plastic shipped around that aren't in their final form, but they are the final refined substance, just as wood is.

Not highly inconvenient? You don't just cut down a tree, rip it into planks, and use them. Their dimensions, and physical properties like hardness and density, change as they dry. That takes either a good deal of time, or a good deal of infrastructure and processing work - the latter of which is actually required, if you want the kind of repeatable, predictable results you need to produce the dimensional lumber with which we're all familiar today.

Hell, you can't even burn green wood without a lot of effort, smoke, and the occasional steam explosion - and not very much useful heat. Have you never cut your own firewood? Unless you're smoking meat with it, you want to give it a good long while to dry out, ideally a season or more, before you use it.

So, no, by the article's definition, wood is no more a "natural resource" than iron ore. In both cases, ingenuity and effort are required to convert the raw material into a reliably usable form. The same is even more true of plastics, which require a great deal of complex refinement to go from original feedstock to nib or rod or wire or billet that can be cast, machined, or 3D-printed into finished products.

>You don't just cut down a tree, rip it into planks, and use them. Their dimensions, and physical properties like hardness and density, change as they dry.

Not to mention that you get very different results depending on how you saw the tree into planks. Flat, quarter, rift sawn wood have all kinds of pros and cons. You will get more wood from flat sawn, so it will be cheaper, but it will be more likely to warp.

Almost all wood that is intended for use cases where warp is a problem is engineered wood.

Do you mean as in building homes? I suppose that's true, but I do woodworking - things like custom furniture - where warp matters but we don't use engineered wood.

Custom furniture is art, not engineering. As for building homes you will find engineered wood in trusses and almost all sheet. 'Sticks' are used for framing where a little warp will be corrected for by the sheeting on both sides, and might only come out as a few mm of wall thickness variation which nobody will notice unless you look directly along a wall. Use a grazing light to see how bad this can be and then compare to standing around looking at the wall. Works well for ceilings and floor too.

> Custom furniture is art, not engineering.

Out of curiosity, could you expand on this? Is it because of the scale or something else?

Custom furniture is the work of craftsmen (and women) and something to be treasured the way you would treasure a work of art. Very few wooden structures such as houses or bridges would be made to the same standard. I have the privilege of knowing two especially gifted woodworkers and even though I'm sure that their work will stand the test of time it is not engineered in the same way that a load bearing structure would be. Form is almost if not more important than function whereas in engineered structures function takes priority.

Not to mention how the moon influences how long the resulting beams will last

Interested in hearing these details

Structural beams, for roofs or boats for example, are cut during certain phases of the moon cycles, to ensure they are as void as possible of sap. This supposedly prevents shrinkage and fracturing.

"You don't just cut down a tree, rip it into planks, and use them. Their dimensions, and physical properties like hardness and density, change as they dry."

Log cabins seem mostly immune to this effect, and are usually built on-site with freshly-chopped lumber.

Log cabins aren't built from lumber. They're built from logs, whether whole or roughly split. They're also typically notched together, rather than nailed, because notched joints can withstand a degree of shrinkage and warping that'd tear nails right out of the wood.

Well, you can, and here is a guide for building a house with green wood:


While it's not wood, per se, you can do it even simpler with bamboo. A lot of poor people in SE Asia build houses with nothing more than a machete (could use a simple stone tool if you like) and access to bamboo and often use organic ties (e.g. waxy leaves) instead of nails to hold it all together. There's no real reason why you couldn't use a similar strategy with wood to allow for some shrinkage.

Right, real big green logs were once used, but actually constructing a timber frame home requires quite a lot more skill for joinery than working with lumber, which is just nailed together. Timber framing is still around, but way, way less frequently used, since it's so expensive. It's awfully hard to work with large green wood that results in a safe structure.

Don't get me started on more modern engineered wood, e.g., plywood, or stuff like cross-laminated timber. You can create your own plywood pretty easily, but it is hardly a convenient process.

I think it would be fair to say that the results you get from wood vary depending on available tools and skill level, but that it remains a useful material for rudimentary construction even to those that have neither tools nor any particular skill in carpentry.

I mean, I like trees. You can sleep under a tree. It's useful, and funges against industrial uses e.g. housing. It's definitely an inferior good, I prefer structures made from wood. But like, trees are themselves useful.

Regarding that claim - I've always thought it was kind of the opposite: all resources are natural.

It's interesting how often two statements that seem completely opposed can both be true.

What about water? Isn't it a more obviously natural resource?

> nature isn't going to grow door frames or rafters for us

If I'm not mistaken there is a special kind of rake that used to be grown in its characteristic shape out of a single piece of wood.

Oxygen, water, sun light and time are additional resources that don’t fit the OP article’s narrative.

Sand might be a better example.

but you need a decent ax to use them. you cannot use wood with your bare hands

I can't help but feel that "One Man's Trash" might have been a better title with less connotations.

Changing it for that reason would be a bit nannyish. Let's control ourselves instead.

OTOH, part of a designer's job is too see all tits, asses, dicks and cunts in the design that are possible, so that users don't see them later. Though this is more a lament to the author.

What if, you guys, what if, hear me out, you guys, what if the pun was intended?

Well, let's check the text.

> It is a resource to someone who can look at it and understand its use and value

So true. I love to be misled and click on links editorialised with low effort puns.

One man's junk is another woman's treasure. Here, I modified the statement to be gender-balanced.

I, on the other hand, came here to read about someone's penis and was disappointed.

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