I have a problem with wood. Wood furniture, wooden finishing in houses, wooden gismos and wooden people.
In the previous centuries, wood was awesome. It was common, cheap, versatile and easy to work. All you needed was some basic equipment like a saw and chisel. People lived in wooden houses, they used tools with wooden handles and they even ate with wooden cutlery. They also used candles for light and had their houses burn down every now and then.
Just like we do not use candles for light anymore, I think we should stop using wood in our everyday lives. Here’s why
- Wood that is not sanded has splinters.
- Wood is flammable and poses a fire hazard.
- Wood cannot be left outside without it degrading and needing constant maintenance.
- Wood is much more limited in the possible shapes that you can form while steel and other materials are more mouldable.
- Wood changes with the humidity. This can result in warping, doors getting stuck and creaking sounds in the night.
- Wood gets old quickly unless treated with complicated processes such as oiling, painting or a regular sanding followed by varnish.
- Wood is only available in a limited number of forms, so either you have to work within the narrow limitations of how wide the tree was, or you have to join different pieces together, creating weak points in the structure.
- Wood has to be grown, using a lot of land and water.
- Alternatively, you have to destroy natural forests, causing ecological damage and soil erosion.
- Wood is strong, but only in some directions and there are materials that are a lot stronger.
I am not suggesting that you use metal or glass for all the functions that wood performs currently. Wood can feel warmer to the touch than metal and glass. Especially for furniture, a natural feel is frequently preferred. Yet is a natural feel is truly what people desire, why are there so few chairs covered with animal skins?
For many applications, metal is a lot lighter and longer lasting than wood. It is also a lot easier to create specific forms in metal with machines. If you combine metal with textiles or bamboo then you can have something that looks nice and feels comfortable without many of the disadvantages of wood.
There are also plastics that come close to simulating the characteristics of wood, and I am sure they will create more and better types in the years to come. If you really want a “natural” material you could use bamboo, which is a lot stronger and cheaper to grow than wood.
My final criticism for wood is that most of the products created with wood are not beautiful. They are utilitarian pieces that are not products of art, but rather of industry. Sure, you can have beautiful furniture made of wood and by a true craftsman. Then I have no objection to using wood. The medium of wood still contains possibilities not found in other materials. Most things made of wood do not take advantage of these unique characteristics, and should not be created in wood. For the hidden internal supports in furniture, there is no good reason to prefer wood above plastic or metal rather than wood? Price is the exception. But a large part of an item’s cost is determined by the volume in which it is consumed, so if people start using the alternatives, wood would lose its price advantage.
To happiness, and beyond!