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Richard, George (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 59, Number 5 (Nov. 1957)

The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory,   pp. 16-21


Page 19


ter, faster ones were needed; and, to get them, a better
understanding of how moisture moves through wood
must be gained.
  Engineeringwise, pressing problems included strength
variability among species, joints and fastenings (always
the weak links in structures), and the properties of a
promising new material called plywood. Chemically, there
was the challenging enigma of wood's fibrous structure-
what it consisted of-how its molecules were formed and
linked together. The wood anatomists and pathologists
had come up against fresh puzzles involving peculiarities
in its physical structure, the fungi and diseases that at-
tacked it.
  Here was meat for many trained minds to feed on. In-
evitably, the research program was deeply affected; and,
in the peacetime years that followed, the staff pursued
fresh trails to knowledge through the labyrinthine intri-
cacies of wood.
  First came brief reports, articles in scientific and tech-
nical journals. As new knowledge accumulated, however,
it was distilled and published in more widely available
form, notably Department of Agriculture manuals and
bulletins.
M EANTIME, CONGRESS had changed its legislative
     mind about the Laboratory, and in 1930 ground was
broken for a bigger building. And when, two years later,
it was occupied, the country was in a depression that
called for new approaches.
  How does research help a nation whose economy has
suddenly slipped into low gear? Well, one way is to
stimulate enterprise by developing, new, better, cheaper
products and processes. Toward this objective "Cap"
Winslow now directed his engineers, chemists, physicists,
and technologists.
  Since the big markets for wood were in construction,
new structural ideas became prime game. How could you
use wood more effectively for housing, schools, churches
-buildings of all kinds?
  It was a stimulating challenge. But research is no Alad-
din's lamp from which processes emerge full-blown. To
bridge the gap between an idea and a moving production
line takes time and hard work.
  Nevertheless, before the decade was over some of the
ideas that were explored in the early thirties had been
transplanted into going 'industrial concerns that have since
blossomed and yielded rich fruit.
  The semichemical pulping process developed by the
Laboratory in the 1920's, for instance, helped revolution-
ize a segment of the pulp and paper industry. This process,
which involves a chemical softening of wood chips and
a mechanical fiberizing of the softened chips, opened new
supplies of pulpwood to the American paper industry.
The scrub hardwoods and resinous southern pines, long
thought useless for papermaking, could now be used to
good advantage.
  There was also the prefabricated house. Drawing on
World War I aircraft research, George Trayer proposed
adapting the concept of the "stressed-skin" wing for walls,
On the timber mechanics test floor of the U. S. Forest Products Labo-
ratory, the basic properties of wood and wood products are probed.
Scientists at the U. S. Forest Products Laboratory have developed a
technique for overlaying 4ow-grade lumber with paper to provide a
smooth, paintable surface as in one section of Camp Randall Stadium.
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