Woodwork and carpentry have been around almost as long as humans have. It’s an industry that for many years barely saw any real noteworthy advancements in its technology. Many of the common tools and processes that were used were older than the people using them. The astounding boom in technology in the last few years however, has changed all of this. We are now starting to see incredible new technology for woodwork that is revolutionising the most intrinsic aspects of the craft and industry at large. Let’s take a closer look at some of these advancements and their implications.
One of the key aspects in wood processing is treatment and preservation processes. Much of the wood we use is not, in its natural state, capable of lasting very long under strenuous conditions or when exposed to water. Traditionally treatments and preservers such as creosote, arsenic, and different chemical pesticides have been used to protect wood from the elements, fungi, pests, and other threatening conditions. The biggest problem with most of these is their blatant threat to the environment. Many of these preservers and treatments are also dangerous to humans. Many governments around the world are cracking down quite seriously on these products and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume most of them will be banned globally in the near future.
Cue the good news. Technological advancements recently have opened up the doors to many new current and future solutions to the need for preservation and treatment. Solvent and emulsion based solutions have come a very long way thanks to new technology. And better solutions are still in the pipeline.
There is a large amount of research going in to natural and bio-organic repellents that would serve as a natural alternative to our current man-made repellents. There is also much research underway to investigate alternatives such as the use of resin, chemically changing wood to become hydrophobic, combining common weaker wood with more durable wood, and even genetic manipulation.
Drying wood is an obvious need which, in previous years was limited in its array of viable method options. In recent years technology has allowed us to move from the slow and tedious method that utilised the kiln, to faster high-temp drying solutions. These new solutions are aimed at weaker, softer wood with a lower moisture content and are far superior to the old kiln.
For dense and hard wood, developments are currently being made to allow high frequency and vacuum heating. Hard or dense wood takes much longer to dry and these developments open a whole new range of methods to accommodate this.
- Composite and Reconstituted Wood Developments
The advancement and availability of new technology has had a very positive impact on wood composites that are used worldwide for single piece boards and other composite applications. We are now able to use offcuts, and other previously useless by-products to create composite wooden boards. This allows the wood in a single tree to go far further and cuts costs in many areas of production. It’s also worthwhile to mention that the combining of plastic and unused sawdust has paved the way for more durable composite materials.
- Glues and Coats
In recent years the industry has had to come to the hard realisation that many of the chemicals used in the production of glue are in fact hazardous. Low-formyl product development was the response to this realisation and has seen a successful replacement of many dangerous glues with better, safer and more various glue products.
Coating wood, be it with a varnish or paint, is a necessity we are all familiar with. Previously the industry grappled with this due to the problems that accompany organic solvent based solutions. Recently however, technology has made it possible to greatly improve and capitalize on the use of water based and dry based products. We have also seen a longer lifespan added to coats by way of anti-UV additives.
- Sawmilling and Related Machinery
Sawmills are responsible for the processing of wood from its most raw unprocessed form into usable pre-specified cuts of wood such as planks or poles. This is where the quality and cut of the wood is decided and checked. Recent developments in technology have introduced the use of sensors, infrared, and other types of scanners that can assess the quality of the wood, its hidden defects, and even its moisture content. This allows for a much faster rate of production as quality control has become a data-specific science instead of general judgement and estimation.
In addition, the introduction of computer guided tools and benches allows for a much greater yield from the same piece of timber. The more precise the cutting, the more usable wood is salvaged from a timber unit.
- Power Tools
It’s important that we do not take for granted the electrification of woodworking tools. While this may not be a particularly recent development, it remains the most revolutionary. Power tools have essentially shaved off as much as 8 tenths of the required manual labour. As such production time, versatility, and precision have been made possible in ways previously not dreamt of. You can visit this website to know more about these tools.
- Advanced Mechanical Saws
Speaking of revolutionary tools, let’s give the mechanical table saw the credit it deserves. Before this loved piece of equipment existed, potential cuts, designs and crosscuts were limited to what a carpenter could do with his bare hands. Advanced woodworking projects were for the most part, a dream. This staple woodworking tool opened up a whole new world of precision, design, and cutting. Almost anything your mind can think up in the workshop can be accomplished with a mechanical table saw. Add computer software to that, and you aren’t even doing the work.
- Availability of Raw Materials
Not every specie of wood grows in every country on earth. As such, in times gone by, people would have to use whatever they could cultivate locally. This put limits on what could be made as well as how creative one could potentially be in the workshop. Advances in the world of logistics and shipping have made it both possible and quite affordable to source whatever species of wood you seek from wherever in the world it’s grown. This is another somewhat underrated revolution that has had a massively positive impact on the woodworking industry.
- CNC Machines
A CNC machine or, “computer numeric control” machine, is a flagship piece of technology when talking about recent advances. A CNC machine allows you to put in very precise numeric values into the computer and have the entire cutting process be conducted and precisely guided by that computer. This eliminates failed cut attempts, time wastage, and labour. It also promises a level of precision we as humans simply cannot accomplish by hand.
- The Internet and Easy Communication
The availability of forums, tutorials, peer sites, and the like on the internet, which provide access to learning and being exposed to new and advanced woodworking techniques, has also revolutionised the woodworking industry. Knowledge is power, and knowledge is so much easier to acquire with the use of the net. The availability of instant communication mediums where one can quickly consult a friend or professional for advanced woodworking tips, advise on tools, etc., has also made quite the difference.
- Other Noteworthy Advancements
The above mentioned are but a few of the many advanced woodworking developments that are reshaping and improving the industry. There are many other advances such as that in the world of prefabrication, which have a major role to play in the future of the industry. There are also simple advances that still make all the difference, such as improved composite blades and cutters that make work smoother, easier, and more aesthetically pleasing. The problem of dust and sawdust collection has even been greatly improved on due to advances in vacuums and filters designed for greater efficiency. Many studies are also going on to make woodworking a safe and hazard-free task. Trust me, the list goes on.
Technology and its advances in recent years have clearly had a very profound impact on woodworking, from the most humble hobbyist through to the biggest international companies. New woodworking technology is fast becoming common place and it is safe to say that as research and developments gain momentum, we are set to see and enjoy ever-improving tools, methods, and woodworking technology.