110 Years of FPL: Fancy Flooring of the ’50s

In celebration of 110 years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we are revisiting blog posts that detail some of our most interesting historic people, places, and projects. Enjoy!

In the 1950s, FPL researchers were challenged with how to use waste wood as flooring.

During the wood flooring manufacturing process, many of the cut pieces were too short to be used as conventional flooring, so researchers demonstrated ways of combining short pieces of wood into designs that could be installed in decorative ways, just like tiles.

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110 Years of FPL: Early Fire Retardant Treatments

In celebration of 110 years of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), we are revisiting blog posts that detail some of our most interesting historic people, places, and projects. Enjoy!

In the early days of developing fire-retardant treatments, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) investigated about 130 treatments. Combinations of chemicals were used to obtain the best performance for both fire resistance and other performance properties, such as corrosion, leaching, gluing, finishing, and cost.

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Throwback Thursday: A League of Their Own

Baseball bats have been a focus of research at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in recent years, but in our early days, they were the focus of fun, too.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

These fantastic photos dated July 28, 1919, show an FPL women’s softball game in full swing, along with the team photos. The teams were named the Wings and the Propellers as a nod to the important research on aircraft that was conducted at FPL during World War I.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

Click image to see larger in Flickr.

Special thanks to Julie Blankenburg in the FPL Library for finding and sharing these gems!

Throwback Thursday: Fun in the Sun

Wisconsin may be well known for cold winters, but summertime in the Badger State can be hot. Lucky for us, the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) is located just a short walk from Madison’s Lake Mendota, and decades ago employees took full advantage of the opportunity to cool off in the clear water.

1919swimmers

Click to view larger image in Flickr.

These photos from 1919 show it wasn’t all work and no play at the Lab. Employees participated in swimming matches, with many spectators watching from the banks, cheering them on.

1919swimspectators

Click to view larger image in Flickr.

Afterwards, of course, it was time for the workers to dive back into their endeavors of helping to turn the Lab into the powerhouse research facility it is today.

Throwback Thursday: Colorful Solution Saves Time and Money

Red oak and white oak logs can be difficult to tell apart, but only one group is susceptible to the devastating fungus that causes oak wilt.

In the 1980s, to prevent importation of oak wilt-prone red oak wood into the European market area, all oak logs had to be fumigated before shipment, since it was difficult to distinguish between the two groups. Fumigation was a costly, time-consuming process.

Enter Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers, who developed a quick, simple commercial test that used a chemical solution to separate white oak from red oak.

Researchers found that spraying a 10 percent solution of sodium nitrite on the ends of oak logs differentiates red from white oak by the color that results after applying the solution.

Sodium nitrite test: dark purple to black indicates white oak, orange indicates red oak.

Sodium nitrite test: dark purple to black indicates white oak, orange indicates red oak.

To verify the accuracy of the method, 10,000 oak logs among 17 white oak and 18 red oak species at 30 sawmills throughout the eastern United States were tested. FPL research passed the test with flying (purple and orange) colors!

The tests fulfilled the importation requirements by the European Economic Community Commission, saving time and money.

This and hundreds more interesting historic tales of FPL research can be found in Forest Products Laboratory 1910-2010: Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments.