Robert Ross & Shayne Martin – USDA Forest ServiceForest Products Laboratory
A year ago, the Forest Products Laboratory staff received a unique request.
That request came through a relationship built on cooperative research between the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). This connection resulted in an amazing story of a 3,000-lb stack of legacy mahogany and other vintage lumber of incalculable value being used in the restoration of many historical wood objects at the U.S. Capitol building.
While our country reflects on the attack of January 6, 2021, which resulted in the damage or destruction of many treasured historical artifacts, we also reflect on the story of the wood used to repair what was thought to be irreplaceable. That story shone as a bright light and sign of hope in an otherwise dark situation.
Wood propeller research and production was a major focus of activity at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) during World War I. During this time, the University of Wisconsin cooperated with and supported the Lab by providing the extra space needed for propeller production.
As shown in the poster below, in addition to the main location of the laboratory, the University provided space in their education buildings, soil building, and agriculture engineering building, for FPL’s airplane parts and woods laboratories, as well as an experimental propeller factory.
Laboratory staff worked around the clock to develop and manufacture wood propellers that could withstand the drastic changes in humidity they were likely to encounter. Click on each of the historic photos below to get a closer look on our Flickr page.
FPL research on propeller blades that resist warp, twist, and unbalancing with changes in humidity.
Experimental propellers produced from seven species of wood.
FPL staff involved in propeller research, 1916.
Manufacturing propellers at the FPL. Ten propellers were produced per week by workers on a three-shift-per-day schedule.