Bamboo Flooring in Action

July 7, 2011 in Installations, Uncategorized

This video was posted by Kaiser Permanente and it is of their recently opened Center for Total Health – User Experience Tour. Not only is this an incredible effort at improving the health of individuals and encouraging walking, it’s also truly incredible to see what effort went into the design and how strand bamboo flooring is incorporated so effortlessly. It’s great how they’ve incorporated the touchscreen video into the user experience of the tour. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the D.C. area.

Thank you Kaiser Permanente for sharing such an informative video!

For more info about the Center for Total Health in Washington D.C. visit the website at: http://www.centerfortotalhealth.org/ .

How Green is Bamboo Flooring?

June 30, 2011 in Bamboo Forestry Series, FAQ series, How Green is Bamboo?

To understand why bamboo flooring is a “green” choice, one must first understand a bit about the bamboo from which it is made.  Smith&Fong Co. makes its bamboo flooring, plywood, and veneers from Moso bamboo (Pyllostachys hedrocycla pubescens).

There are well over a thousand species of bamboo.  Each of varying heights, thicknesses, and applicable uses.  Out of all of the types of bamboo, bamboo flooring, veneers, and plywood are all made out of Moso.  It’s thickness in diameter, overall hardness, widespread availability and extreme height make it one of the most commercially viable species for construction. Moso bamboo, didn’t get the nickname “timber bamboo” without reason!

Interesting fact – bamboo isn’t actually a wood, it’s a grass.

Moso is an excellent candidate for building materials.  It grows quickly (as in 70 feet in 3 months!), and is fully mature and ready to harvest in 5 years.  Compare that to 20 to 120 years for various hardwoods.* Moso bamboo, when at maturity is incredibly strong.  Because it is such a hefty species – very tall, hard, and quite thick, it is, hands down, a great choice for flooring.

Because Moso grows so quickly, 20% of the bamboo forest canopy can be harvested annually leaving behind 80%.  Over a five year period, 100% of the forest can be sustainably harvested. An added assurance that the canopy will be left intact — only mature bamboo culms (poles) are heavy enough to get a good price at market.  It isn’t advantageous to cut too often or too young, which benefits the farmer and the environment. An extra advantage to this system is that bamboo does not need to be replanted once harvested.  It regenerates annually.

So we know that Moso bamboo is rapidly renewable and super strong, let’s consider other factors that make this a superb choice as your current or future floor.

In its native environment, Moso bamboo doesn’t need irrigation or fertilizers. Since this particular species (and so many others) is naturally resistant to pests, it doesn’t need pesticides.  That means no pesticide run off or other chemicals are involved in the growth process.

Interesting fact – According to the World Wildlife Fund, Bamboo can sequester up to 70% more carbon per year than a hardwood forest.

Rapidly renewable bamboo is one of many reasons Smith&Fong Co.’s Plyboo brand bamboo flooring is a great choice for your home.  Check back next time to learn about FSC® Certified flooring and why Formaldehyde Free matters as we continue the exploration about “How green is bamboo flooring?”

Interview with Joel Scilley of Audio Wood

June 28, 2011 in Interview, Uncategorized

Smith & Fong Co.: So Joel, could you tell us how you got started?

Joel Scilley: Well, I started designing things like the aerodynamic truck in kindergarten, but I’ve been a designer/builder with wood for about 15 years now.  And then about 4 years ago I built my first wooden turntable, just for fun.  It was pretty popular with friends and neighbors, so I went with it, and started Audiowood.

S&F: I noticed a lot of what looks like found wood pieces, how’d you transition into using Plyboo, or simply, what drew you to the product?

J.S.:Plyboo really opens up design possibilities for me, as I’m a big fan of using solid hardwood for my designs, but have been limited by warping, expansion and other issues associated with the use of conventional lumber.  Plus, sustainable production is a central concern of mine.  I love being able to buy what is essentially a super-uniform sheet of “hardwood” that is ready to go.

S&F: What inspires your designs?

J.S.: Hard question to answer.  I think I’m most inspired by raw materials.  I suppose I’m lucky that I can actually make things out of twigs and stumps!  In the case of Plyboo, I’m inclined to make things that are very modern, but that have the warmth of wood.

S&F: Do you find it simpler to get consistent designs with the Plyboo product versus wood?

J.S.: Absolutely.  You’ll never catch me saying much against wood, but the consistency of Plyboo is unparalleled.  It’s not that I couldn’t do similar things in solid wood, but for doing things in numbers, Plyboo seems indispensable at this point.  Also, I love to integrate curves into designs at times, and having a multi-ply solid-material sheet makes this simple, with no edge-bands, grain issues, etc.

S&F: How long does it typically take you to build a system?

J.S.: Well, I wish I was plagued with this problem more often!  Usually, I’m building single pieces for people.  Some of my new designs, including most of the Plyboo things, are CNC machined by Woodlane Cabinet Co. in Tallahassee, and then hand-assembled and finished.  This process saves a little time for some things, but the minimum for a turntable is still about 4-5 hours to get it ship-ready.  On the other hand, I’ve spent 100 hours on a single piece of furniture.  If I were to build a stereo system with amp, speakers, and turntable, I imagine about a week would do it.

S&F: I see that you’ve taken a bit of a departure with your new line.  What directed you towards complete media centers, iPad mounts, etc.?

J.F.: I figure I’m making things the world can’t live without!  I guess we’ll see about that, but I’m trying to make some things that haven’t been seen before, and make them properly, with quality, sustainable materials, and domestic production.  In the case of the Aerie home theater console, I feel that there are no modern consoles out there that have integrated quality speakers, much less that wall-mount, allow for wire-free aesthetics, and are constructed out of green materials.
Similarly, with the iPad2 shelf, I don’t think there is anything out there that allows for wall and tabletop use, improves the sound of the iPad, and that doesn’t look like a Battleship “Goplastica” device.

S&F: The iPhone nest is very cute.  Would you say that it’s a good holiday gift?  Who do you feel responds best to it (what type of customer)?

J.S.: Hey thanks.  I guess if someone doesn’t want an entire audio system, then the iPhone Nest is a great alternative!  I imagine most of my things in very modern environments, where they are either integral pieces or accents.  In the case of the Nest, I imagine it will appeal most to the person who wants something handmade instead of a generic piece of plastic.

S&F: Tell me more about Glow Audio.  How did you come together to work on the bamboo stands?

J.S.: I’m a retailer for a few lines of audio equipment in addition to making my own stuff, and Glow is one of these lines.  I’m interested in audio stuff that is fun or beautiful to look at and environmentally friendly, in addition to sounding good.  Glow hits on all these points: their little tube amp sounds awesome and uses only 38 watts of power, and their Voice One speakers, made out of recycled scrap wood, are a genuinely brilliant design, inside and out.
The limitation of the Voice One orbs was that they could only be used as tabletop speakers in their stock form.  So, Glow contracted me to design several stands that would allow for more flexibility.  Again, with the help of Woodlane Cabinet Co. and their fantastic CNC, I was able to make desk, floor, and subwoofer stands that allow these great budget speakers to be used almost anywhere.  I’m especially pleased with the floor stands that are a nice blend of organic and modern, and have a cable-hiding channel up the spine (made possible by using 3-ply Plyboo for this piece).

S&F: Do you have any upcoming plans with Plyboo products?
To be honest, I’ve expended a huge amount of energy getting together this little line of bamboo things, so I’m happy for the time being.  However, I’m a tinkerer by nature, so you never know.  I would love to do some variations on these pieces, but I have to see how the initial designs do and whether the marketplace will allow me to take on other things.

J.S.: Where are you sold?
I have a few small retailers, mostly in the Southeast, and Anthropologie sells a couple of my designs.  I also have a Paypal webstore linked to my website which has most of my non-custom things listed, plus a few thing by other manufacturers.  But much of my business is still based on people calling me up, telling me what they want, and making things to order.

S&F: Which markets would you be interested in doing retail?

J.S.: I would love to have stores that are genuine fans of what I do in the major metro areas of the US and some spots abroad.  It’s a little tricky, as many of the things I do are hybrids of audio tech or just plain tech and decorative home accessory.  But I hold out hope that folks in the design world will take notice of technology that is fun to look at and use, and that audio/techy folks will realize that metal and plastic black boxes are not the only way to go.  Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, SF, and LA would be great starts!  Today Grand Ridge, tomorrow the world!

Special thanks to Joel Scilley for making this interview possible!
*All photos by Joel Scilley

Spring in the Bamboo Forest

April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

There’s such magic at this time of year that cannot be ignored. The days grow longer, life springs up all around us at lightning speed, and undeniably, we feel more connected to each other and everything around us. Very recently, Dan Smith, of Smith&Fong, spent a few weeks enjoying the awe-inspiring splendor of the bamboo forrest. The following account is from Dan’s experience of the sights and sounds in China:

Spring is a very special time all over the world and no less so then in a timber bamboo forest in China. Spring expresses itself most profoundly with the shooting of the bamboo in late March. Shooting is one of the most miraculous aspects of a bamboo forest. This is the period when bamboo does its most rapid growing. A shoot can come out of the grown at 6” to 7” in diameter and reach full height in 50 to 60 days. At top speed, bamboo has been clocked at an inch an hour over a 24 hour period. This is also a time when bamboo culm harvesting is limited as well as entry into the forest itself creating a temporary shortage in supply. To get through this period manufacturer’s typically stock up before the Chinese new year and this allows them to keep production flowing through this time of shortage. Here are a few shots from my recent trip to the forest.

Maozhu (moso bamboo) shooting in spring.

Bamboo forest in spring. The yellow bamboo is the new growth that shoots in the spring from late march to late June.

Freshly cut crown section remains from culm harvest. A culm can be taken down with as few as 3 to five swings of a bamboo forester’s machete. Typically the diaphragm, the inner seal of the bamboo culm is tapped with the machete or bamboo knife to create a puncture that allows the decomposition process to progress more rapidly, nourishing the bamboo rhizome system to support next years’ growth.

A year old crown section working its way to full decomposition in the bamboo forest.

A shoot just breaking the surface. This one was later harvested for our lunch. Shoot harvesting is pretty much over by mid-March and so this lunch shoot, constituted a late harvest. A week later there would be no further harvesting of shoots until the fall season.

Maozhu, or moso bamboo forest in spring. Bamboo forests in Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces take up vast areas of mountainous lands providing both a food source as well as a raw material source to fuel many different bamboo industries including our own, bamboo plywood and flooring.

Wear marks in the stone pathway from many years of dragging Maozhu culms down the mountain to the weigh station for sale.

Mountain path in bamboo forest in spring

Bamboo forest in spring.

Weather shelter for bamboo foresters during both monsoon summer months and cold winter days when temps can drop into the 20s (Fahrenheit).

Lao Tu, is an old friend whom I have know for more than an 15 years. He is a retired bamboo weigh man for this forest. Everyone here knows him, as he has been a fixture for more than 60 years. We have climbed these mountains, cut culms, hunting for shoots together and in previous years have done some famous drinking of the locally distilled baijiu or Chinese vodka.

There are many facets and subtleties of the bamboo forest. The seasons, harvesting techniques, working a living from the land, even the people of these mountains have their secrets shared only over time, plied with much good local food, spirit and friendship.

Dan

What do you do with Plyboo Bamboo Flooring and Plywood?

April 18, 2011 in Interview

From time to time, we receive images of projects and installations of what individuals build with Plyboo’s plywood. It’s inspiring to see so much talent and such a diverse set of applications. Bamboo is such an incredible material, and very appropriate to utilitarian and aesthetic ends. Today’s post focuses on an incredible craftsman: Miro Buzov.

Plyboo: Miro, so that you know, I’m a huge fan of yours. I saw a photo of the wine rack and the cut-outs repurposed for coasters. Wow! Was it your original intention to do that?
Buzov: Nicole, thank you it means a lot to me. Yes it was my original intention to do that. It actually serves several purposes, the cut outs can be used as coasters but also give the guest of the cafe the option to touch and look at the material used for the cabinet. Another thing about this is, I always respect the money my customers invest in a project. In case of the cabinet which the referred wine rack is a part of, Durapalm was used and at it’s price point I feel my customer should get as much of the material they paid for.

Plyboo: Are there any designers in particular that you keep in mind when designing?
Buzov:I was born, raised and educated in Germany, there are many who influence my designs but not really anyone in particular. Generally said I prefer modern European designs and bamboo gives me the option to introduce warmth to designs which by others not familiar with this style often are referred to as minimalistic and cold. I find bamboo products to be the perfect medium to break through this barrier. And yes come to think of it, there is always Michael Cheng.  Love his stuff, not to mention what he does with concrete.

Plyboo: What attracted you to Plyboo’s materials?
Buzov: Gosh, I have to think back a long time. I don’t want to give false dates but it really all started sometimes in the early to mid 90’s when Plyboo introduced (or at least I found out about the company by then) flooring in Germany. I used Plyboo back then for flooring and early on I actually made my own plywood out of the flooring boards, as sheet goods where not offered at this time. I just simply love the look and feel of it. It machines well with any equipment I have, it finishes up with as little as just some oils if needed and is super durable. For sure, sustainability was a major factor as well, even so many years ago.

Plyboo: I saw what you did with the bar/cafe with the alternating color bands. Seriously, how did you do it? I’m in awe!
Buzov: I always keep every single little bit of material, so often I consider some waste from other jobs for new projects. I have been making counter tops and cutting boards for years using left over Plyboo plywood strips. So, for the drum design I decided to go into my stash of goods. We build a tapered form and individually glued on 3/8″ thick bands alternating amber and natural Plywood. It also took a lot of sanding to get it all to look right. Here again the strength of the material itself allowed us to build it this way.

Plyboo: Do you typically work with bamboo, or do you use other materials like metals and plastics?
Buzov: I work with all media. Wood, metal, plastic, glass, acrylics and concrete as well. In a nutshell anything out there can be turned into something, new or reclaimed it does not matter. I do however prefer to use Bamboo and wood. That said, for a long time there was not a big market for bamboo plywood, for example it was hard to turn customers onto something new. That likely also has something to do with the are of North Carolina I operate in. Some things just take a little longer to get here if you know what I mean.

Plyboo: Back to repurposing, do you typically use waste or design using as little material as possible?
Buzov: I don’t particularly design projects with using as little as possible in mind, often it is just simply not possible in order to create the right look. However, since I always use everything which is possibly usable. You could say it is a little of both.

Plyboo:Do you have any other projects in mind using Plyboo?
Buzov: Currently I am in the process of designing a Sushi bar as well as a Banquet/Event hall. Plyboo like always is my first choice of materials presented to my customers. I hope to be able to use it for both projects in some way or the other.

All photos were taken by Miro Buznov