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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 21


The old home of the U. S. Forest Products Laboratory on University Avenue
now houses the Mining
and Metallurgy department of the College of Engineering.
          Because of just a few Forest Products Laboratory achievements,
it's estimated that every
    year $70 goes back to the U.S. government in taxes for each dollar spent
on wood research.
              This doesn't include the value of new jobs created, the increased
living standards, nor
the better conservation and forestry practice that is coupled with good wood
utilization.
  Four years of global war, moreover, had built up tre-
mendous pressures for peacetime goods. The Laboratory
once again shifted emphasis, therefore, to help find means
of "catching up" with civilian needs as quickly as pos-
sible. Among the most pressing was the need for housing.
  In the immediate postwar years, much of the housing
research was done in cooperation with the Housing and
Home Finance Agency. One of the Laboratory's jobs was
to test new materials and constructions that burst in wide
variety on the market. Among them were new floorings,
door constructions, molded wood-fiber window frames,
assorted fibrous sheet materials for walls and ceilings, in-
sulation, vapor barriers, new ideas in nails and other fas-
tenings. They had to be evaluated before HHFA could
accept them in houses bought with Government-insured
credit.
  The war-introduced resin-treated paper overlays for
plywood likewise found peacetime markets. The next
logical step was to try them on lumber. Results were even
more promising    than  anticipated. Besides providing
smooth, weather-resistant surfaces for such products as
house siding, the paper sheets demonstrated unexpected
ability to restrain wood's tendency to swell as it absorbed
moisture. Their prospective use over low-grade wood for
furniture, cabinets, and built-ins has thereby been en-
hanced.
   Matching these significant developments in composites
 have been those in the field of fiberboards. Expanded pro-
 duction of these versatile sheet materials has been due
 largely to changing economic conditions, notably the
 mounting cost of stumpage that has stimulated more in-
 tensive efforts to use every possible particle of wood. Cull
 trees, thinnings, branches, tree tops, sawmill refuse, and
 other forms of wood fiber once ignored are being chipped
 to feed the paper and board mills.
   However stimulated, the postwar trend toward more
complete utilization of trees and forests has proved bene-
ficial in many ways. It has made better forestry both a
"must" and practical. But only research "know-how" has
made it possible-research that permits utilization of new
species, poorly formed trees, and the offal of the logging
camps and the mills.
Because of the versatility thus made possible, wood has
remained in the forefront of our economic resources dur-
ing the postwar years--often in new forms, but none the
less wood.
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