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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #920: McDonald, Kent A. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (April 10, 2008)

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00:11:56 - 00:16:00 Lumber-Grading

Lumber-Grading, World War II, sawmilling, publications, Washington Forest Service Office; Bulgring, Erv; Hallock, Hiram; computer

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And, I guess, were there any particular projects that you found particularly interesting?


Well, I'd have to say that they were [all] interesting because they were projects that I helped initiate, in areas that I thought were important to the [objectives of the] Forest Products Lab. [Early on], there was a need to [update] a publication on hardwood lumber [yields] from standard log-grades. There were a lot of data collected from over the years, mostly in the '30s, that [were held] in the vault, but had never been published because of World War II and a lot of other things. When I [came] on board, they I [wanted] to update the publication. That was one of the interesting jobs, to gather all that information and compile it and get it into a rewrite of a publication, which was the publication, [FPL 63].

And [around] the same time, there was interest in [the] Washington [Forest Service Office] to have that kind of work transferred to another location within the Forest Service, and a lot of pressure from that other location to have it transferred. So, we got involved in some [mild competition] to try to see who would [publish first]. [FPL] had a sawmilling project at that time, and there was interest in Washington to close that research down because they thought [we] had gone as far as [possible] with what could [be learned] with sawing wood. With that in mind, I and two other fellows Erv Bulgrin and Hiram Hallock, sat down to try to look at what a future program for the Forest Products Lab could be, and what would make sense and what was important.

My suggestion was to look at using computers in making decisions in the sawmills. So that the computers would actually take into account all of the things that were in a log and decide how best to cut that log up to get the most material out of it. Sometimes it was a two by four, just for construction. Sometimes it was a graded board, to get a piece of furniture wood out of it, and so forth. So we sat down and put that program together. And there were several around that really wanted to see us not get something like that going. And they were very skeptical that there ever would be a computer in the sawmill. But, we put together about a ten-year program as to what research needed to be done in order to reach that goal. And lots of spin-off came from that.

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