Sunday, December 7, 2008

Conversations about wood, with Ben.

Ernie..." I saw some nice tanoak board floors when Wild Iris Forest Products was making it in Briceland. I did buy flooring for a place in Salmon Creek tho someone else laid the floor. It looks great today. The best looking one I have seen is out at the Wilson's in Briceland."

It's a shame that the women in our lives, that seem to appreciate beauty more than us guys, just don't seem to appreciate technology, so this post will be for the guys and the more technologically minded women.

Jan Iris (Pronounced Yon, and he was a guy, for those that didn’t know him) used a refrigerated lumber dryer, so I was familiar with his operation. I really believe that if Jan still with us we would have a viable Tan Oak industry. He was a remarkable person that didn’t know the word “fail”.

The flooring product that Jan produced, was not produced by the Coombs operation, because they deemed it to be an inferior product. It was deemed inferior because of the high rate of expansion and contraction that it had in comparison to Red Oak. Red Oak is the oak that standard oak flooring is made from.

What Coombs failed to consider, or was maybe reluctant to risk, was the fact that Tan Oak is drop dead beautiful, and people would tolerate cracked edges on their flooring for the beauty. The other factor nowadays, is that our houses are tighter, better insulated, and sealed, than the houses in the sixties and seventies, The humidity and temperature stays much the same, and the fluctuations are moderated, so the joints don’t crack as bad as they thought that they would.

Now, to get to the really fascinating part of Jan’s lumber dryer. It was a plain old, off the shelf, heat pump. Some of you are aware of my love for machinery, so you will have to forgive me while I ramble. The dryer was so simple that I’m amazed that it wasn’t thought of, or used more by small lumber operations years ago. Jan’s lumber dryer was a highly insulated room that was heated slowly from room temperature to 160-180 degrees. That is the temperature required to dry lumber and kill wood bugs. The air was heated by the heat pump, and the electric heat strips that are standard equipment in heat pumps.

I’ll try to describe it in simple terms, so the non-refrigerator types can follow. A normal heat pump works by refrigerating outside air, and returning the greatly chilled air back outside, while taking the heat gained in that process and running the inside air through a radiator, and blowing the much heated air back inside. When it is real cold outside the heat pump will kick-in regular resistance electric heat strips for supplemental heat.

With Jan’s lumber dryer, it ran the room air into the cooling coil first, then ran the cooled air through the heating coil to reheat the air, then through the electric heat strips to increase the temperature up to 180 degrees, then back into the room. By running the room air through the cooling coils first, it condensed the wood vapors and moisture from the wood, and drained the condensed water outside. Then the air was reheated by the heating coils back up to the original room temperature. Then heat was added to the room by the electric heat strips to raise the temperature to the dying and bug killing temperature. The temperature, humidity and the rate of heat and final temperature is all controlled by a computer that tells the machine what to do.
The only problem being, that a standard heat pump won’t work in those high temperature extremes, due the fact that the pressure gets too high at that high temperature and simply overloads the heat pump.

Okay, now here’s where the “Genius Factor” kicks in. Voila! Eureka! And Ain’t life wonderful stuff; By simply changing the refrigerant from the standard heat pump refrigerant, to another off the shelf refrigerant, the heat pump runs at much reduced pressures, and it is exactly like shifting your truck into a lower gear to climb a hill that it wouldn’t normally climb! Dang, I love machinery! The best part is, that it is all affordable stuff for the small lumber mill operator.


capdiamont said...

What did he replace the refrigerant with?

I wonder how that would work with a cooking oven setup.

Ernie Branscomb said...

They replaced the Chlorodifluoromethane (Refigerant-22) with Dichlorodifluoromethane (refrigerant-12).

No, it wouldn’t work for cooking. Not hot enough. The refrigeration part of the system is to remove water vapors at 160 degrees.

Hey! I was trying to keep it simple!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben, Here's a link to someone who is walking the walk. He has an advantage to a ready market in the bay area. We have an advantage to a ready supply of Tan Oak and many defunct mill sites.

I can't belive that the Eel river canyon is out of the logging business. This canyon was designed to grow trees, you couldn't kill them out if you tried.

Kym said...

My parents' house was built in the early fifties and the foundation is only post and pier but they had tan oak flooring put down in the mid nineties and they love it. And it is beautiful. They've never had any problems with it. It really takes a beating. It is in the Kitchen and every path through the house crosses it. They have a dog and haul wood across it. They have had to refinish it a couple times but it looks wonderful. It hasn't moved or shrunk or cracked. I want to have it myself and so does anyone who has ever seen it.

capdiamont said...

ha ha, made it more complex.

Actually I was curious, because awhile back there was a person trying to make a solar powered regular oven(non electric). I thought it was neat, but haven't heard anything more about it.

ben said...

So Ernie... The whole thing was a big dehumidifier. I had no idea. Isn't that the most beautiful floor? We go off to Costco or wherever and buy bamboo flooring that's been shipped huge distances and ultra processed (laminated, prefinished) and has no figure. There has to be a market for tanoak. I was never crazy about Mal's parquet. It delaminated pretty easily. We had it on the floor at Astrinsky's and it took a hell of a beating. Maybe the flooring we had was seconds.

spyrock said...

i had a couple of houses with red oak floors. i found these guys that smoked a lot and looked like precious on harry potter. they did a real good job on the red oak floors so i let them talk me into letting them lay carpet and do lino. they really messed up both the carpet and the lino and they couldn't even lay the squares down in a pattern in the bathroom which i redid myself. but i just told them that they did a good job and that i appreciated their work. maybe a few years ago i would have been a bit critcal. but i just accepted the work. the next thing you know, one of the guys was in the local paper on the front page as a hero, it turns out that even though he was on disablity, he hauled 3 people out of a burning trailer and saved their lives. so i do appreciate good work, and high tech work, and cool work, but i also appreciate somebody trying to do their best or not. i just appreciate them. and it seems to help them do a better job the next time.

ross said...

good to see that spyrock is still around!

woodworker said...

Ernie, we have known each other for 30 years, but I have never known you to come by Whitethorn Construction and take a tour of our hardwood facility. Maybe it is time. Call me and make an appointment and I will take the time to give you the tour. We give tours by appointment all the time. This occasionally includes the local schools. We have been producing products from local hardwoods for over 30 years. We have over 100,000 board feet of local hardwoods in stock for sale or in various stages of drying at all times. We deal only in native California hardwoods and the wood we sell the most of is Tan Oak. I will try and send you some photos of products we have made here as soon as I can do so.
We have Jan's kiln here at our place along with two Koetter kilns that have been working for us a long while now.
Most of our sales for the last decade have been out of county and out of state. We sell both flooring and cabinet woods along with slabs and mantle pieces. We have a limited supply of turning stock and carving blanks. Some of the other woods we provide are madrone, pepperwood, black oak, chinquapin, live oak, maple, cypress, and California claro walnut.
The flooring that Jan Iris produced was made here at Whitethorn Construction on our molder. We have expanded production, added new equipment, buildings, and a newer molder over the years. Our website brings us inquiries from far and wide. Our involvement with the Forest Stewardship Council regarding sustainably harvested hardwood has also brought us clientele over the years.
Local hardwoods are not easy to dry but when properly dried they can be used for anything. We are not the only ones who have dried and used the local hardwoods successfully.
Ernie, I will get off now and I look forward to your comments. I especially look forward to you coming by to see what we are doing. And that invitation is of course for anyone who reads this blog. thank you, ken

Anonymous said...

Since you are talking about hardwood I have a question. How much does a cord of green madrone weigh?


Indie said...

Woodworker, that sounds so interesting. I am going to take you up on that offer next time I'm out that way.

Ernie Branscomb said...


Thank-you for the invitation. You've got a deal. Also, I'm sorry I snubbed you. I know you guys do quality work and have a quality hardwood product.

I'm posting a link to your website. There is nothing that I would rather do than to see you guys make more sales. Maybe someone that sees this blogsite will inquire about your product.

Whitethorn Constuction Hardwood products division

Ernie Branscomb said...

Hi Oregon, The rumor that you died must have been an exageration.

A cord of green Madrone weighs Thirty-three and one third percent more that Seventy-five percent of a cord.

spyrock said...

my nephew tom is the one who works with wood. barbosa cabinets. he has his own shop as well. where my girlfriend lives is mostly cedars and oaks. the acorns are still falling and the deer are coming around to eat them and drink out of my pond.
i've been driving a fork lift since i lost my printing job to a computer. we use heat treated pallets for everything going out of the country and for people like costco. i guess i could do any number of other jobs but i like driving a fork lift. its sort of like being a cowboy and riding a horse all day herding the cattle all around.
we've got to take some trees down that are too close to the house because of the fire danger. anyone know of a good chain saw to buy or a good wood splitter?

Robin Shelley said...

I don't know, Oregon. How much does a cord of green madrone weigh?

woodworker said...

I am not in the firewood business but in the course of our business I was told that dead green madrone firewood weighs 7680#. Now, that is more than my pickup will hold.

Anonymous said...

Robin, that was a question not a quiz. I was sure with all the smart people that post here I would get an answer. Ernie's answer didn't count.