Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

At the wood products fair in Albany last month, I was thrilled by the sight of so many creative uses of local wood. Although still a niche market in Oregon, we have many beautiful local hardwoods.   Handcrafted products such as bowls, cutting boards, boxes and other household items were on sale that featured many woods including walnut, maple and also the less-familiar cascara, ash and chinquapin. There was rough wood available too, blocks and boards to be taken into workshops and saved until just the right use is found by people who have “the wood sickness”, and boards of Oregon white oak and ash that would make floors you’d almost be ashamed to walk on….

Yew wood bowl.  Photo by Dick Powell
Yew wood bowl. Photo by Dick Powell

Wood and wooden things bring warmth and beauty into our homes and our lives when used and displayed as household items and architectural elements. Never out of fashion, wood is nonetheless making a bigger splash lately in its architectural applications. Long used visually in homes and public buildings as paneling, cabinets and trim, wood is becoming more visible in its functional and structural roles in stairways, posts and beams too. Much of that is our local Douglas-fir.

New engineered wood products, such as cross laminated timber are changing the way architects and builders think about wood. This is taking wooden buildings to new heights – literally – and offering viable alternatives to non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete.

Abundant display of architectural wood gives OSU’s Hallie Ford Center an inviting feel.
Abundant display of architectural wood gives OSU’s Hallie Ford Center an inviting feel.

The creative production and use of wood is a sub-theme of the 2015 Starker Lecture series. This year’s title is “Douglas-fir: The legacy and future of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic tree”. The remaining lecture (April 16) and Capstone Tour (May 14 ) will explore the culture and functions of Douglas-fir. This wood is featured prominently in architectural wood use because of its dual characteristics of strength and beauty. Join us in celebrating wood.   Note: You can also catch the Starker Lecture series on a Live Video Stream, or see the ones you missed on demand by following links on the Starker Lecture Series website


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